The Sunday News
Richard Runyararo Mahomva
Stella Madzimbamuto (nee Nkolobe) is no more. This warrior woman set the inaugural precedence to challenge the legality/illegitimacy of Smith’s UDI in a court of law.
To this very minute, the Madzimbamuto versus Lardner Burke landmark judgement is a global point of reference in cases of sovereignty, territorial and state conflict.
In 1959 her husband, Daniel Madzimbamuto was imprisoned under the first state of emergency laws in colonial Rhodesia.
He was among the pioneering political detainees/restrictees at Khami, Marandellas, Selukwe, Gwelo, Salisbury, Wha-Wha and Gonakudzingwa between 1959 and 1975.
Daniel Madzimbamuto served in the Harare City Youth League led by George Nyandoro and James Chikerema.
The Harare City Youth League existed in the turbulent formative years of the road to the armed struggle which led to Zimbabwe’s independence.
Madzimbamuto’s arrest was part of the imperialist counter-strategies to repress nationalist movements from the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress right up to the formation of Zapu — which became a formidable force of imperialist resistance under the able leadership of the late Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Nkomo.
In 1964 Madzimbamuto had acquitted himself as a member of the Zapu Central Committee. After his final release, he joined the armed struggle in Zambia. He assumed leadership in Zapu’s external affairs secretariat, logistics department and legal affairs.
Between 1965 and 1968, Stella Madzimbamuto challenged the legality of detention orders effected to repress nationalist activities.
Her case was heard in the then Salisbury High Court, in the Appellate Division of the High Court and the Privy Council.
The ultimate position of her appeal challenged the legitimacy of the Smith regime.
To date, the Madzimbamuto versus Lardner Burke case remains a widely applied precedence in international justice.
To this end, her legacy is transcendent of the Zimbabwean political-historical landscape.
She is a global anti-imperialist ironwoman whose story stands the test of time. Stella Madzimbamuto belongs to the unique breed of African radicals who defied the conservative order of imperialism.
Most nationalists’ spouses are celebrated for their emotional presence and comfort to their husbands during their incarcerations and brutal victimisation under the colonial system.
In most instances, the defenceless nationalists’ wives would helplessly give nothing but loyalty to their imprisoned husbands.
Over and above, Mrs Madzimbamuto’s footprint in Zimbabwean history proves that colonialism had a super-imposing effect of disempowerment and prejudice to Africans.
Colonialism’s gross insensitivities to human-rights manifested in various forms and its vestiges in this regard are still entrenched in our liberation memory which has been predominantly patriarchal.
Beyond her “othered” role within the patriarchal matrices of the liberation memory, Stella Madzimbamuto remains a giant forerunner of Zimbabwe’s liberation movement.
As she goes to meet her ancestors — and her husband — the late nationalist, Daniel Madzimbamuto, Stella Madzimbamuto leaves a legacy of the fundamental and most relevant need to question, challenge and deconstruct the vestiges of the constitutional dehumanisation of our people.
Her untimely departure on 1 July, follows the protracted neo-imperial constitutional illegalities confronting Zimbabwe as a result of the imposition of the Zidera and EU Sanctions in the early 2000s.
Today, none of our lawyers in politics have challenged the hegemonic imperialism vetoes on Zimbabwe launched to demoralise our agrarian revolution.
Since then, our “lawyers” predominant Movement for Democratic Change parties have produced the founding fathers of the sanctions regime.
MDC and its lawyers’ contribution to Zimbabwe isolation invites an urgent rethink of the notion of sovereignty and promotion of human rights in post-independent Africa.
Unlike the most trusted legal brains in the opposition, Stella Madzimbamuto used her humble educational background to contest the legality of the Smith regime at the Crown Court of the British Empire in the 1960s. Undoubtedly, she became a symbol of international constitutional redemptive justice.
On the contrary, today we have more intellectually endowed legal minds being architects of their own country’s subjection to forces of regime change by western imperialists.
Therefore, Daniel Madzimbamuto and his wife, Stella must be celebrated for inspiring the course of Afro-centred constitutionalism.
Upon the shoulders of their courage and charisma rests the new horizon to continue the fight against post-colonial constitutional illegalities and the global capitalist undermine of our determination to be a free nation.
Lest we forget Herbert Pfumandini Chitepo
The tradition of nationalist legal affairs is also linked to the late Herbert Chitepo — the first Black lawyer in colonial Rhodesia.
Chitepo handled major legal cases of African nationalists in challenging colonial court orders against African liberation fighters. In 1961, on the side-lines of Daniel Madzimbamuto and other nationalists’ incarcerations across Rhodesia, Chitepo was Dr Joshua Nkomo’s legal advisor at the Southern Rhodesia Constitutional Conference in London. Chitepo remained consistent in his support of the nationalist movement even after the banning of Zapu in 1962.
The late Herbert Chitepo faced the risk of detention because of his open and unrelenting supports to the nationalists who were viewed as a pestilence to the colonial oligopoly.
He then went to exile in Tanzania where he became the first African Director of Public Prosecutions.
After the Zapu split of 1963, Chitepo joined the then formed Zanu and he was elected Chairman of Zanu.
He held this post until December 7, 1974, when the Lusaka Accord was signed. Chitepo’s legal lead in the struggle formed the virtues of the unwritten law of reclaiming the lost wealth of our country under imperialist conquest.
His defence to the nationalists in the bitter-point of the anti-colonial struggle should provide contemporary templates to defining our legal space in Zimbabwe as also exemplified by the role of the late Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.
Chidyausiku and the fight against the ‘‘colonial rule of law’’
Chidyausiku became Judge President ahead of senior jurists in the then-Supreme Court. He remains ranked among esteemed jurists such as Wilson Sandura.
His rise to this high post followed deliberate post-independence attempts to emasculate the vestiges of the colonial capture of the Supreme Court under Anthony Gubbay.
Chidyausiku defied the colonial property legal order in the Mhuriro judgement. Chidyausiku’s intervention reversed Gubbay’s Supreme Court order that ratified the eviction of farm occupations by landless Zimbabweans.
It had become apparent that the land question would not be solved through the “rule of law” as demanded by neo-liberalist reactionaries.
The emphasised ‘’law’’ was designed to ‘‘rule’’ in favour of the Rhodesian economic hegemonic clout in post-independent Zimbabwe.
Consequently, Chidyausiku’s reversal on Gubbay’s ruling on the Mhuriro case reordered imperialist ‘‘rule of law’’.
In conclusion, the cross-cutting theme of the Madzimbamuto, Chitepo and Chidyausuku legacies is that patriotism dedicated to applying the law in defence of the perennial liberation values of the oppressed.
The three are a collective symbol of the nation’s search for decolonial dimensions to imagining justice in the quest to contest the precedents of the colonial rule of law in post-independence Zimbabwe.
Their varying contributions in reclaiming the dignity of the African openly exposes the imperialist infiltration of our contemporary political space.
We stand to learn more from the tripartite constitutional justice legacy of Madzimbamuto, Chitepo and Chidyausiku.
At a global level, Africans should think in terms of advocating for Africa’s dignified positioning.
Modern pan-Africanism must be anchored on strengthening Afro-centred justice systems which guarantee the full protection of human and property rights in the continent.
Failure to come to terms with the need to challenge Western hegemony will only subject Africa to continued colonial hegemony and exploitation by Western multilateral bodies. Therefore, we must fight to challenge the unwritten multilateral laws which have subjugated Africa to global capital dictates.
Richard Runyararo Mahomva is a Political-Scientist with an avid interest in political theory, liberation memory and architecture of governance in Africa. He is also a creative literature aficionado. Feedback: [email protected]