Stella Madzimbamuto (nee Nkolombe) was born in Cape Town’s District Six in 1930. She attended St. Phillips Primary School and Trafalgar High School, before enrolling for nursing at McCord Hospital in Durban. She met, and later married her husband Daniel Madzimbamuto, who came from the then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
Born and bred in District Six of Cape Town, and later training as a nurse at McCord’s Hospital in Durban, Stella was set for a reasonably comfortable life as a state registered nurse in South Africa. Stella, however, chose a less obvious route. She met and later married her husband Daniel Madzimbamuto, who came from the then Southern Rhodesia. Spurred by the memory of her step-grandfather, who had wished to go on a Christian mission to Southern Rhodesia, Stella welcomed the opportunity to see her husband’s home. From that point on, the story of Stella Madzimbamuto’s life is abounding with twists and turns that weave a thread through the history of the subcontinent. From the humble beginnings in District Six in the 1930s, to challenging the legality of the Rhodesian Government at Her Majesty’s Privy Council, Crown Court of the British Empire in the 1960s, as well as tending to an illustrious nursing career, Stella Madzimbamuto has left an indelible mark not only in international legal history, but also in the hearts and minds of those she met along the way
Hoping to settle down and to start a family and their careers, they moved to the then Southern Rhodesia. No sooner had they arrived in their new homeland, than Daniel got sucked into the politics for the liberation of Zimbabwe. She specialised and worked as a neurosurgical nurse, and later as a night matron at Harare Central Hospital (now Sally Mugabe Hospital). While Daniel Madzimbamuto, one of Zimbabwe’s longest serving political detainees was incarcerated in many of Rhodesia’s detention camps, Stella played multiple roles as she juggled raising a family, pursuing a demanding career and aiding the liberation struggle. She returned back to live in Cape Town upon the passing of her husband in the free Zimbabwe.
After the death of her husband Stella continued to serve the legacy of her husband faithfully. She deposited her late husband’s papers with the National Archives; a feat without precedence among families of former nationalists.
Almost single handedly she took the Ian Smith regime in one of the fiercest legal challenges ever mounted in this country. Between 1965 and 1968 the case that was heard in the Salisbury High Court, in the Appealate Division of the High Court and in the Privy Council, seized the imagination of the world. It was a case in which Stella Madzimbamuto challenged the constitutionality of the Smith regime and its emergency regulations and detention orders.
Stella died on 1 July 2020.