Ruth Chinamano: Selfless, unwavering cadre
Cde Ruth Lottie Nomonde Chinamano, a Zanu-PF Central Committee member and a widow of the late veteran nationalist Cde Josiah Chinamano, Died on January 2, 2005. She was a dedicated, unwavering and selfless party cadre who was committed to the liberation of Zimbabwe and its development. She was 80.
Cde Chinamano was born on February 16, 1925, in Griqualand, Cape Town, South Africa. She grew up in a family of five: four girls and a boy. Her father, Ben Impiayipeli Nyombolo, was a teacher who fought in the World War 1 before becoming a politician.
Ruth’s mother, a graduate of Lovedale Institute in the Cape Province, was also a teacher. Young Ruth attended primary school in Queenstown where she lived with her aunt, Mrs Mcanyangwa.
At school, she was impressed by stories told by her teacher, Miss Minah Sogah, about Mahatma Gandhi’s self-sacrifice and powers of leadership. She was awarded a scholarship to study at St Matthew’s College, an Anglican Mission School in Keiskamahoek, in the Cape Province.
She did not stay long enough to complete her education as she was expelled together with a group of girl students after protesting against a white principal they accused of spoiling an African school girl. She then worked as a domestic servant for nine months before she was admitted at Maria Zell Teacher’s College in East Grinqualand. In 1948, Cde Chinamano started teaching at Lourdes, a school located at the Cape Natal border in Umzimkulu.
The following year she met her husband to be, Josiah Chinamano, while on holiday in Port Elizabeth. The two got married the following a year in King William’s Town on September 30, 1950. Cde Chinamano and her husband moved to the then Rhodesia after Cde Josiah Chinamano had finished studies at Fort Hare University.
In 1955, Cde Chinamano accompanied her husband to Birmingham, United Kingdom, where she took part in a number of political meetings. She studied and practiced community development for six months when her husband Josiah Chinamano returned to Rhodesia.
She later travelled to London to study social work but soon found herself distracted by such spectacles as the orators in Hyde Park. She returned home and became a teacher at Waddilove School in Marondera, together with her husband.
Cde Ruth Chinamano’s political career cannot be separated from her early life. As a young girl, she used to accompany her late father to political meetings and most of her political feelings were inspired by her father as she recalled in 1980.
“I used to go with him when he addressed mass meetings of the uneducated, the educated laughing at him.”
On completing her Junior Certificate, she could not write her mathematics examinations because she had joined in mass demonstrations against a college principal in East London, South Africa.
Cde Chinamano started showing her true political colours while in East Griqualand where she was pursuing a Primary Teacher’s Higher Course.
She immediately challenged the colour bar and discrimination against blacks which was in practice at the institution.
Cde Chinamano’s political life cannot be complete without the role of Margsaret and Stanley Moore, who introduced her to veteran nationalists James Chirekerema and George Nyandoro, before asking her to join the African National Congress (ANC).
She stepped up her fight against discrimination during her stint at Mutare Teacher Training School and the Waddilove Institute, where she taught renowned politicians such as Dr Sydney Sekeramayi and the late Dr Herbert Ushewokunze. Together with Mrs Parirenyatwa and a few other women, Cde Chinamano staged the first black sash demonstration against the detention of veteran nationalists Chikerema, Madzimbamuto, Nyandoro and many others.
Cde Chinamano got the real nudge into politics when they were addressed by the late Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo at Waddilove. She became one of the founder members of the National Democratic Party and when she opened her shop in Highfield in 1961, she offered the back to be used as the NDP office.
When NDP was banned that same year, Cde Chinamano was already politically mature, and she immediately joined Zapu. She was instrumental in organising women, often using her own car to transport them. In 1963, Cde Chinamano was elected secretary of the Salisbury district of the Zimbabwe African Women’s Union (ZAWU), Zapu’s Women’s League.
At the same time, she headed women’s wing as secretary of the Highfield branch of the People’s Caretaker Council (PCC). When some Zapu members left to form Zanu, she remained with Zapu. On 16 April 1964, Cde Chinamano was detained at Gonakudzigwa together with her husband, Cde Josiah Chinamano, Cde Joseph Msika and the late Dr Joshua Nkomo.
They were the first four inmates of Gonakudzingwa, she being the only woman. As the numbers swelled later, she was joined by Jane Ngwenya.
While in detention she participated in the Gonakudzingwa education programme for political detainees and also ran a clinic for local people.
Together with her late husband, she was later transferred to Wha Wha prison where they remained until 1970 when they were released. This was not total freedom as they were confined within an 8km radius restriction. The restricted freedom was not long lived as the Chinamanos were arrested again in the same year, following the people’s violent response to constitutional proposals made by the Ian Smith regime. They were held at Marandellas Prison only to be released in 1974.
In 1975, Cde Ruth Chinamano travelled to England to visit her children. While she was abroad, a special Zapu congress held on September 27 and 28, 1975 elected her as secretary for women’s affairs and a member of the Central Committee.
Her election in absentia bore testimony to the stature she had built as a trusted cadre of the Liberation Struggle. Consequently, she was one of the delegates representing PF Zapu at the Lancaster House conference in 1979.
Cde Ruth Chinamano worked tirelessly as a PF Zapu Central Committee member and at the first parliamentary elections in 1980 held under the proportional representation system, she became the first women Member of Parliament (MP) for Lupane. She was also a non-constituency MP during the Third Parliament from 1990 to 1995. Cde Chinamano distinguished herself as a dedicated fighter for national unity, social justice, national development and gender equality.
She participated in the Unity Accord negotiations until unity was achieved. As a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament in 1991, she advocated the abolition of local authority bylaws that were put in place by colonial governments and were not in conformity with African culture.
She called on Government to abolish all beer halls situated near schools and turn them into domestic science centers where women could learn to look after their homes. During the second reading and committee stages of the Harmful Liquids Amendment Bill, Cde Chinamano advocated a ban on beer, arguing that it was a cause of many problems including breaking up of families.
Cde Chinamano fought against all forms of social evils, especially rape and prostitution.
Source: A Guide to the Heroes Acre.