Enoch Dumbutshena
Enoch Dumbutshena, Enoch Dumbutshena, Zimbabwean nationalist
Enoch Dumbutshena
BornEnoch Dumbutshena
(1920-04-25)April 25, 1920
DiedDecember 14, 2000(2000-12-14) (aged 80)
  • Freedom Fighter
  • Lawyer
  • High Court Judge
  • Chief Justice

Enoch Dumbutshena was a Zimbabwean nationalist that fought for the freedom of Zimbabwe. He became Zimbabwe's first black judge in 1980 and served as the first black Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe from 1984 to 1990.


Enoch Dumbutshena was born on 25 April 1920 at Marshall Hartley Mission near Makwiro. His father, Job Dumbutshena, was a member of the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union1 during the 1930s. His mother, who was prominent in the Methodist Church, was divorced when Enoch was very young and it was his only sister, Anne, who gave up her own chances of education so that funds could be available to send her brother to school.[1]

He worked at Chegato High School.

Legal Career

Dumbutshena trained in law in Britain and he practised as an advocate in the High Court of Rhodesia in 1963. His specialized in defending black nationalists opposed to colonial rule and this led to his exile in neighbouring Zambia four years later. He was a senior advocate in Zambia until 1979, when constitutional talks began on Zimbabwe's independence.[2] After Zimbabwe attained Independence, Dumbutshena was appointed Zimbabwe's first black judge in 1980. He was promoted to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on 29 February 1984.[3]. He retired in 1990 after he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.[2]

In 1983, while still at the High Court Dumbutshena acquitted six white air force officers charged with sabotage after ruling that their confessions were made under torture. He criticised the government after the officers were re-arrested and detained for two more years before being freed.[4]

Political Career

In 2000, Dumbutshena formed an opposition party called Forum, to challenge Robert Mugabe's ruling party in national elections. However, the party folded after winning no parliamentary seats. Dumbutshena had campaigned for political reform and criticised President Robert Mugabe for undermining the independence of the judiciary and using sweeping presidential powers to overrule court judgments.[4]

Soon after the elections, Dumbutshena was declared bankrupt after a state-controlled bank revoked loans borrowed by Dumbutshena to run a small farm outside Harare. The bank insisted he had defaulted on loan repayments. Members of his disbanded Forum party showed evidence that the Zimbabwe Banking Corp. allowed ruling party officials to default on much larger debts. [4]


Dumbutshena died at his Harare home after a long battle with liver cancer on the 14th of December 2000. He was 80. [4]


Enoch Dumbutshena would be a part of African National Congress, National Democratic Party, ZAPU, Industrial and Commercial Workers Union during his lifetime.

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Positions Held

  • Vice President: African National Congress,
  • National Democratic Party: Executive Member,
  • ZAPU: Executive Member
  1. African Nationalist Leaders in Rhodesia - Who's Who, Robert Cary and Diana Mitchell, Retrieved:20 March 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 Judge Enoch Dumbutshena Dies, Washington Post, Published: 16 December 2000 Retrieved:20 March 2017
  3. Four judges eye Chief Justice post, The Legal Monitor Edition 363-1 page 3 Published: November 21, 2016 , Retrieved: March 21 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Zim's first black judge dies, News24, Published: 16 December 2000 Retrieved:20 March 2017