Gordon Chavunduka

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Gordon Chavunduka
Gordon Chavunduka.jpg
BornGordon Chavunduka
(1931-08-16) August 16, 1931 (age 90)
DiedJanuary 11, 2013(2013-01-11) (aged 81)
  • Academic
ChildrenAlyce Chavunduka (daughter)
Parent(s)Solomon and Lilian Chavunduka
RelativesMark Chavunduka, Dexter Mark Chavunduka (brother)

Gordon Lloyd Chavunduka was a Zimbabwean sociologist, academic and traditional healer. He is mostly known for having been the Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe from 1992 to 1996. He was preceded by Walter Kamba and succeeded by Graham Hill.


Gordon Chavunduka was born at St Augustine’s Mission in Penhalonga, on 16 August 1931. His parents came from Wedza. His father was originally an agricultural instructor but subsequently became a farmer and a priest of the Anglican Church.[1]

In 1940 he went to St Faith’s Mission in Rusape for his primary education. After passing Standard IV in 1944 he was sent to a South African school in Durban, where he studied for two years. When he returned to Southern Rhodesia (as Zimbabwe was known then), he went to St Augustine’s Secondary School from 1947 to 1949, obtaining his Junior Certificate. He later to Goromonzi School for one year to for his Ordinary Level.


Career in Agriculture

After secondary education, he trained at Alvord School of Agriculture near Chipinge between August 1951 and June 1954. After receiving his Diploma in Agriculture he joined the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and was sent as an Agricultural Supervisor to the Experimental Station at Msengezi.

He also wrote articles for a publication called The Harvester in which he criticised the condition of African farming. He believed that the Land Husbandry Act was excellent in concept2 but that the training given to persons such as himself was on far too high a technological level to provide any communication with, or motivation for, ordinary peasant farmers. In an interview many years later in 1975, he said that the mishandling of the implementation of the Act gave the African nationalists a “golden opportunity” to rouse the people against the Government, an opportunity they were quick to take even though the legislation was designed to be in the people’s long-term best interests.[1]

Career in sociology

His articles in The Harvester caught the attention of Prof. J. G. Mitchell, Professor of Sociology at the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland in Salisbury who wrote to Chavunduka asking him to join him at the university and train as a sociologist. Chavunduka left the civil service and went to the University. He got his A' Level by external study with the University of London. He later went to the University of California (UCLA) in 1962 and studied there until 1964, graduating B.A. After finishing his degree Prof. Mitchell advised him to go to Manchester University, he studied there from 1965 and 1966 and got a Master’s degree. He immediately returned to Rhodesia and became a Lecturer in Sociology at the University College of Rhodesia.[1]

Political Career

During this time he began to be involved in small ways in politics. Between 1968 and 1972 he worked for a Doctorate of Philosophy with the University of London spending the last year of this period in England.[1] In 1969, He was active in politics becoming President of the NPU at the congress held in Rusape in June. The banning of ZAPU and ZANU and the detention of almost all the earlier nationalist leaders had left a large political gap and the NPU was able to attract to its ranks most of the eight African MPs, including the then leader of the opposition, Percy Mkudu. The new party, however, suffered a severe jolt the following year when seven of the eight African seats at the General Election went to the Centre Party candidates.

In 1972, following his return studies the UK, he was invited to become a member of the ANC which had been formed a year earlier. Some months later, when John Chirisa was arrested and detained, Chavunduka was asked to take over his position as Secretary-General of the ANC. He was considered to favour ‘a peaceful path to majority rule, embodying the creation of a black middle-class which could ensure the continuance of civilised standards` and the ‘long-term security of white Rhodesians’.[2][1]. In 1974, he joined Eshmael Mlambo to join him in England for talks with the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. He was involved in several negotiations inn the following months.

He served as a member of Abel Muzorewa's delegation to the 1979 Lancaster House Conference that led to Zimbabwe's independence.

On 26 January 1976 in discussions with David Ennals, Minister of State at the British Foreign Office, Chavunduka denounced the negotiations then in progress between Joshua Nkomo and lan Smith as ‘talks between two minorities’.[3] On 21 September 1976 Chavunduka said that attempts by the Rhodesian Government to reach a settlement with Nkomo ‘will not be tolerated’.[4][1] In January 1977, Chavunduka was charged with allegedly encouraging a crowd of 500 people at Dombotomba Township. The trial was held after a long time and the judge found the allegations unproven.

Chavunduka resigned as Secretary-General of the ANC (Muzorewa) in March 1977.[5][1]

Chavunduka described himself as “a reluctant politician”, saying that he has joined political movements only at the request of other people.[1]

Prof Gordon Chavunduka

Joining the MDC

Chavunduka became a member of the MDC and at the time of his death was in the MDC-T Guardian Council, a platform for elders in the party to give wisdom and direction to the leadership.[6].

Career as Academic

Prof. Chavunduka was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe from 1992 to 1996.

Zinatha Presidency

After his retirement from university life, he served as president of Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association (Zinatha) the organisation that represented traditional healers.


Chavunduka died on 11 January 2013 at the age of 82 in Harare, after a short illness.


  • Social Change in a Shona Ward (UR. 1970).
  • Traditional Healers and the Shona Patient (in preparation).
  • Papers in various scientific journals.
  • African National Council (Occasional Papers, Nos. 1 and 2, 1975).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 DR GORDON CHAVUNDUKA, Colonial Relic, Retrieved: 5 November 2018'
  2. Sherwell, Jawing it instead of Warring it, Page:16
  3. The Rhodesia Herald, 27 January 1976.
  4. The Rhodesia Herald, 30 March 1977.
  5. The Rhodesia Herald, 30 March 1977.
  6. Gordon Chavunduka passes on, NewsDay, Published:12 Jan 2013, Retrieved: 5 Nov 2018