Ruth Chinamano

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Ruth Lottie Nomondo Chinamano
Ruth Chinamano.jpg
BornRuth Nyombolo
(1925-02-16)February 16, 1925
Griqualand, Cape Town, South Africa
DiedJanuary 2, 2005(2005-01-02) (aged 79)
Resting placeNational Heroes Acre
EducationSt Matthew’s College, South Africa
Known forBeing a liberation war heroine and wife to the late national hero Josiah Chinamano
Spouse(s)Josiah Chinamano (Late)
  • Ben Impiayipeli Nyombolo (father)

Ruth Lottie Nomonde Chinamano was a Xhosa woman born in Cape Town and also a Zimbabwean national liberation war heroine. She was a initally a ZAPU member, running in Highfield against Robert Mugabe in 1985, but later joined Zanu-PF and became a Central Committee member. She was the widow of the late veteran nationalist Cde Josiah Chinamano. [1]

Personal Details

Lottie Chinamano was born on 16 February 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 World War 1 before becoming a politician. Ruth’s mother, a graduate of Lovedale Institute in the Cape Province, was also a teacher.

School / Education

Young Ruth attended primary school in Queenstown where she lived with her aunt, Mrs Frances 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.

Service / Career

In 1949 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 30 September 1950. Cde Chinamano and her husband moved to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) after Josiah Chinamano had finished studies at Fort Hare University.

In 1955, Ruth 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 High School in Marondera, together with her husband.

Political Life

On her return to Rhodesia she quickly resented the difficulties she encountered in finding employment as a social worker. Her sense of resentment, however, did not lead her into active politics until one day she heard Joshua Nkomo speak at Waddilove where she and her husband were teaching. The experience was to lead her to a full commitment to political life and to an admiration for Nkomo that has lasted ever since. She became one of the founder members of the National Democratic Party (NDP) in 1960 and when she opened her shop in Highfield in 1961, she offered the back to be used as the NDP office.[2]

While working at Waddilove she pioneered the first multi-racial YWCA in Rhodesia and also formed a number of women's clubs in the Chiota TTL. When NDP was banned in 1961, 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 Gonakudzingwa Restriction Camp which was modelled to South Africa’s Robben Island for secluding Political Prisoners. She was detained together with others such as her husband Cde Josiah Chinamano and fellow Highfield residents, the late Dr Joshua Nkomo and Paul Tangi Mhova Mkondo.

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.

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 Margaret and Stanley Moore, who introduced her to veteran nationalists James Chikerema 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.

In 1975, Ruth Chinamano travelled to England to visit her children. While she was abroad, a special ZAPU congress held on 27 and 28 September 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.

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.

In the Zimbabwe 1985 Parliamentary Election, Highfield returned to Parliament:

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.

She is buried in the National Heroes Acre, a burial ground for Zimbabwean heroes and heroines which is located about 5km from Harare CBD and which was designed and built by North Koreans.


  1. [1], The Herald, Published: 5 August, 2014, Accessed: 15 April, 2020
  2. [2], Colonial Relic, Accessed: 15 April, 2020

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