James Chikerema

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James Chikerema
James Chikerema
James Chikerema
BornJames Chikerema
(1925-04-02)April 2, 1925
DiedMarch 22, 2006(2006-03-22) (aged 80)
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town
  • Politician
Known forBeing leader of FROLIZI
Parent(s)Joseph Dzerera Dambaza (Father), Antonio Sekai Dambaza (Mother)

James Robert Dambaza Chikerema was born on 2 April 1925 and he died on 22 March 2006. He was the son of Joseph Dzerera Dambaza who was a teacher and Antonio Sekai Dambaza. He was a politician, a staunch member of the Roman Catholic Church, the nephew of Robert Mugabe who argues to have paved Joshua Nkomo's path into politics. He was instrumental in the formation of the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI) in 1971 composed of Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front(ZANU PF) and Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) members. His political career temporarily ended in 1980 when he had contested against Mugabe in the 1980 elections after he had formed his party the Zimbabwe Democratic Party which never got seats. In 1993 he bounced back into politics by becoming a member of the Forum Party of Zimbabwe. This however failed to make an impact in the 1995 elections.

Early life

For his primary education, Chikerema was enrolled at Kutama Mission where his father had become the first African teacher.[1] When he was thirteen, he went to St Francis College for his secondary education.[1] He went on to finish his secondary education in South Africa at Marianhill in Natal.[1]

Political career

Chikerema began his political career at Marianhill after joining the South African National Congress.[1] He relocated to Cape Town when he was enrolled at the University of Cape Town from 1940-1950 for his Bachelor of Arts Degree of which he never completed.[1]

In Cape Town, together with Maurice Nyagumbo, they formed the Central African Social Club whose aim was to teach Rhodesians residing in Cape Town politics and the history of colonialism and its effects.[2] Chikerema is said to have joined the Communist Party whilst in South Africa and this made him to know people like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo.[2]

According to Nyagumbo’s Autobiography. In 1953, Nyagumbo and Chikerema were sold out to the South African Home Office by their fellow countrymen in South Africa who were more concerned about establishing themselves in South Africa and were more inclined to the Social life, partying, drinking and ballroom dancing with the South African women. This resulted in Chikerema being expelled from University of Cape Town and being deported and returned back to Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe) with Nyagumbo. Chikerema went on to launch his political career. Upon his return, he was employed at a certain factory in Norton as the chief clerk.[1] He was however fired for organising a strike which was successful.[1]

Two years after being fired, Chikerema is said to have initiated the establishment of the African National Youth League together with Edson Sithole which was eventually launched at Mai Misodzi Hall in Harare.[1] The following year, he was elected to be the president of the league.[1] In addition to that he became the editor of the league's journal which was called Chapupu.[1]

In early 1957, Chikerema joined the Inter-Racial Association.[1] In the same year he became a member of the Southern Rhodesia African Nation Congress (SRANC)after the City Youth League joined hands with the Bulawayo based African National Congress. He was also accused of slandering Sir Patrick Fletcher who was the then Minister of Native Affairs and was fined 100 pounds.[1] On 26 February he was arrested and detained.

In 1959, the SRANC was banned and in 1960, the National Democratic Party was formed and Chikerema was also a member of the party. He was however arrested and when ZAPU was formed after National Democratic Party (NDP) was formed, Chikerema was in prison but he was however appointed as a member of the executive and he was released in 1963.[2] Joshua Nkomo advised him to leave the country and he did so and he toured China and Russia.

In 1964, Nkomo was arrested and Chikerema became the acting president of ZAPU. He is credited for establishing offices of the party in Tanzania and Zambia. [2] He is also said to have signed an agreement with Russia where he agreed to sell the country's minerals to Russia when the country had attained independence and in turn Russia was to provide arms and ammunition needed to topple the Smith regime.[2] Chikerema is also said to have been a member the ZAPU's war council which planned the Wankie-Spolilo Campaign of 1967-68 which nearly crippled ZAPU.

Formation of FROLIZI

In 1971, Chikerema formed FROLIZI and thus becoming its first chairman.[3] Chikerema argued that he was so much concerned about the growing rift between ZANU PF and ZAPU. FROLIZI was composed of what can be termed as former ZANU PF and ZAPU officials. It has been argued that the formation of FROLIZI came about as a result of the split of ZAPU in 1971 and instead of realigning with ZAPU, Chikerema went on to form FROLIZI. In his eulogy at the burial of Nathan Shamuyarira, Mugabe criticised Chikerema for trying to lure members of ZANU PF like Shamuyarira to join his FROLIZI which was ill informed.[3] This was true to a certain extent as FROLIZI was short lived. Mugabe described Chikerema as someone who viewed himself as Mr know it all and as someone who wanted to control everyone whom he worked with.[3] He even castigated him by saying that he even claimed to have built Nkomo's political career.[3]

Aligning with Abel Muzorewa

After the collapse of FROLIZI, Chikerema aligned himself with Abel Muzorewa'a United African National Council (UANC). In December 1974, he together with Muzorewa, Nkomo and Ndabaningi Sithole signed the Unity Accord which was organised by Kenneth Kaunda who was the then president of Zambia. This never really worked and it was brushed aside.[2]

In 1976, he was one of Muzorewa's delegates at the Geneva Conference.[1] After the conference, Chikerema went into oblivion and only resurfaced during the negotiations of the Internal Settlement of 1978. Chikerema participated in the settlement and he was appointed co-Minister for Transport and Power.[1]

In 1979, Chikerema parted ways with Muzorewa and his UANC. He argued that Muzorewa was favoring his own Manyika tribe at the expense of the Zezurus and he accussed him of running a 'tribal mafia' which had ransacked Chikerema's house.[4] Chikerema went on to form his own party, Zimbabwe Democratic Party which was supported by nationalists such as Enoch Dumbutshena and Steven Parirenyatwa among others.[2] Chikerema's party contested in the 1980 elections though it never won any seats in parliament and Chikerema was also defeated for the presidency and this signalled an end to his political career.

Career After Independence

After his defeat, Chikerema became a forgotten hero. He was never heard of until 1993 when he returned into the politics arena after joining the Forum Party of Zimbabwe which however failed to make an impact in 1995.[2] In 1999 he served on the Constitutional Commission which was rejected by the people in 2000.[2] Chikerema is said to have been haunted by debt collectors and this forced him to work for his friend Tiny Rowland to settle his debts.[2]

It has been reported that Chikerema never really wanted to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. Chikerema stated that he despised being laid to rest at a place which is infested with crooks and sycophants who have destroyed Zimbabwe. [2] The ZANU PF politburo rejected to confer hero status to Chikerema and Mugabe stated that Chikerema had failed to remain consistent to the end hence he was not fit to be declared a national hero.[5] Chikerema was buried in Zvimba.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 , James Robert Dambaza Chikerema, "Colonial Relic",retrived:24 June 2014"
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Trevor Grundy, Death Of A Hero - James Chikerema 1925-2006, "The Zimbabwean", published:30 Mar 2006,retrived:24 June 2014"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Staff Reporter, Mugabe belittles James Chikerema, "Bulawayo24 News", published:7 Jun2014,retrived:24 June 2014"
  4. Zimbabwe-Rhodesia: James Chikerema, Centre Of Row In New Ruling Party, Holds Celebration To Thank Supporters., "ITN Source", published:21 May 1979,retrived:24 June 2014"
  5. Staff Reporter, Mugabe defends denial of hero status for Chikerema, "New Zimbabwe", published:11 Dec 2009,retrived:24 June 2014"

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