Primary and Tertiary Education


Young Dambudzo started his formal education at Lundi School in Zvishavane, later completing Standard 4, 5 and 6 at Mumbwa Boarding School in Zambia in 1954-57, before going on to Kafue Secondary School in 1958-59 and Hodgson Technical College until 1960 when he was expelled for political activity. The Lundi School is still there, now joined by the Dambudzo Day Secondary School, built by the Mapanzure people and named in his honour.

It was at Myooye School in Mumbwa, just before he went Mumbwa Boarding School that he determined to add another name. Most of his classmates had two or three names, and he had been given only one, Dambudzo. He frequented a small library at the school and it was here that he found a book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, the American essayist, poet and philosopher who wrote the popular Uriel essays including Self-Reliance. Young Dambudzo enjoyed his thinking and his philosophy, and decided this would be a good name to choose, so he told his friends to start calling him Emmerson, later formalized to Emmerson Dambudzo, and informalized to E.D. Following are some of the quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson that may have inspired him.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."

He completed his O and A levels while in prison through correspondence, and enrolled for a law degree through the University of London, completing Part One at Khami Prison. After being released and deported back to Zambia, he completed his degree in constitutional law at the University of Zambia in 1974-75. He did a post-graduate LLB degree and another post-grad program to become Advocate. He was admitted to the Bar of the High Court of Zambia in1976.

He continued to learn throughout the liberation struggle, through the National Grievances, and the values of the party for unity, peace, freedom and development. The years of serving both family and country have inculcated key values which he stands by and which are his guiding ethos.

Prison Graduate


Mnangagwa was captured in January 1965, the last remaining member of the group that infiltrated the country before the Gwelo Congress, and he spent almost a decade in prison.

After refusing to bend to torture, including being made to hold sticks of dynamite to his chest, the young guerrilla commander escaped the death penalty through the intervention of a visiting priest. Father Swift, who chaplained at Salisbury Prison, appealed to British authorities to spare his life due to his young age. He was defended by J.J. Horn of Scanlen and Holderness who also pleaded that he was underage and could not be executed. He was taken to hospital where doctors confirmed that he was under 21 and so he was sentenced to jail. Two members of his Crocodile group, Victor Mlambo and James Dhlamini, were later hanged, despite appeals for clemency.

Mnangagwa was held as a D Class (dangerous) prisoner in the “condemned” section, serving the first year at Salisbury Remand Prison (now Harare Central), then at Fort Victoria (Masvingo), and Gray Street Prison in Bulawayo, and finally at Khami Maximum Prison where he spent six years and eight months. He took this opportunity to complete his interrupted education, including Ordinary and Advanced levels, and proceeded to start an LLB degree, successfully sitting for the intermediate law degree in 1969-70. This was halfway through the University of London degree program, which he had not finished when he was released from prison near the end of 1973 and deported to Zambia because his parents lived there. He completed the last two years of his legal studies at the University of Zambia in 1974-75 while practicing as a prosecutor, before going to Mozambique to resume a key role in the liberation struggle.

To this day, E.D. Mnangagwa is a dedicated and vocal opponent of the death penalty, and he did not put forward any names for execution among those convicted during the periods he later served as Minister of Justice.

Constitutional Lawyer



Back in Zambia with the liberation movement in 1973, he had the intention of going immediately to Mozambique, but the High Command led by Josiah Tongogara, and the party Chairman, Herbert Chitepo, insisted that the young man should first finish his law degree. He did so during the next two years at the University of Zambia where one of his lecturers was Simbi V. Mubako, later justice minister in the first Cabinet of independent Zimbabwe.

The young lawyer then joined the practice of Enoch Dumbutshena in Lusaka as a legal assistant, to complete his qualification. The same colleagues who insisted that he should study were later beneficiaries of his legal expertise when Tongogara, Kangai, Tungamirai and others were detained in Zambia after the death of Chitepo, who was assassinated in Lusaka by Rhodesian agents on 18 March 1975. Chitepo was a role model as the first black lawyer in Southern Rhodesia.

The ZANU leadership was detained at Mpima prison in Kabwe and Kamwala prison in Lusaka, and Mnangagwa went to see them with Muzenda, Mubako and others. As he was now a legal assistant, he was able to go there as a lawyer. The authorities did not know that he was one of them. He participated in several initiatives for the unity of ZANU and ZAPU during and after the liberation war, leading to the formation of the Patriotic Front. As legal counsel, he facilitated the famous Mgagao declaration between commanders in Zambia and Tanzania. He was on the ZANU PF delegation to the Geneva conference in 1976.

He graduated and embarked on post-graduate studies which he completed in 1977. During this period he also practised as a prosecutor in Zambia. Then he went to Mozambique.

Liberation War

Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa served with distinction in the liberation war that brought independence to Zimbabwe, as a guerrilla commander who led the first group of trained guerrillas to cross the Zambezi River into then Southern Rhodesia in 1964 after training in Tanzania, Egypt and China. He was later imprisoned on death row, but was spared from the death sentence due to his young age at the time. He spent almost a decade in prison, resuming his education there which he completed later in Zambia to become a constitutional lawyer and was involved in various negotiations leading to independence. He was chief of security for the Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) responsible for civil and military security during the last three years of the war, based in Mozambique, and a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC).

Trained Guerilla Commander

He left Zambia, where his family lived in exile, to go Tanganyika in 1962, just one year after that country’s independence, as a member of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). He and 12 other young men were sent to Egypt by ZAPU for military training at Heliopolis Military Academy, offered to Joshua Nkomo by President Gamal Abdul Nasser. But by mid-1963, ZAPU had been banned at home and there was soon a split in the ranks of the revolutionary party to form ZAPU and ZANU, both with the same objective to free the country but differing in the strategies to achieve this. Both parties were later recognized by the newly formed Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and its Liberation Committee. When young Mnangagwa was criticized for a letter he had written about joining “the rebels”, as head of the students in Egypt, he and 10 others were sent back to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) where he stayed at a camp in Bagamoyo used for recruits from Mozambique and South Africa. Of the 11 Zimbabweans, five were selected to go to China for military training in September 1963, the first group from the new ZANU party, under Mnangagwa’s leadership. The training lasted for six months and included military strategy and tactics, infantry and drills, and training on rifles, semi-automatic weapons and small arms. Almost immediately after their return, they infiltrated into Southern Rhodesia in April 1964, crossing the Zambezi River with their equipment, in traditional dugout canoes. They split into two groups and set out for different areas of the country, after attending the founding ZANU Congress at Gweru (Gwelo) on 22-23 May 1964. Most delegates were not aware that among the youth present at the Congress was the first group of trained military cadres to enter the country, who had returned from military training a few weeks earlier. The Congress agreed on a five-point Action Plan which committed the party to a comprehensive programme of mobilisation and resistance. A Department of Political Affairs was set up to recruit cadres and send them for military training abroad. The young guerrilla commander stayed briefly at safe houses in Highfield providing security to ZANU leaders such as the secretary-general Robert Mugabe, Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, and Rev. Ushewokunze. His group met with the party leader, Rev. N. Sithole and others to discuss sabotage. Three members of his group were deployed and later captured, and he sent another to carry a message to Lusaka, leaving himself and Matthew Malowa. They organized the Crocodile Commando, planning operations and basic training for William Ndangana and others from Chimanimani who were not yet trained but later mounted several roadblocks and launched an attack that attracted the attention of the Rhodesian army. Mnangagwa and Malowa took some food and rifles from soldiers at a nightclub near Nyanga, and went to Masvingo to find Simon Muzenda who provided explosives taken from mining sites. They went to Nkondo mine in Devure range, Bikita, where they sabotaged a site and conducted several other hit-and-run operations, including sabotaging a goods train at Masvingo.

Chief of Security

Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa was selected as Head of Security and Special Assistant to the President at the party Congress held at the Chimoio headquarters in Mozambique in September 1977. This system was similar to the host country, Mozambique, in which the Special Assistant to the President was actually the head of security, and this facilitated close liaison with the host country. He was therefore the top security advisor to the party and president, with the advantage of being a qualified lawyer.

He participated in all negotiations thereafter leading to an agreement on independence arrangements, including the Malta I and II talks under the Anglo-American initiative and others. He remained in that role as head of civil and military security (ZANU and ZANLA), deputized by Sheba Gava (late General Vitalis Zvinavashe), throughout the successful last stages of the liberation war and the negotiations for independence at Lancaster House in London in late 1979 until the agreement was signed on 21 December.

By the middle of 1979 – “the Year of the People’s Storm” -- the ZANLA forces inside the country numbered more than 20,000. By the end of the year martial law had been extended in Rhodesia to cover 95 per cent of the country, with the conflict escalating to the highest levels of the previous seven years since the attack on Altena Farm on 21 December 1972. The British government issued invitations to a constitutional conference at Lancaster House in London to the Patriotic Front leaders and to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia’s Muzorewa delegation which included Ian Smith and Rev N Sithole. The conference opened on 10 September 1979 and concluded after 47 plenary sessions with agreement on a new constitution, arrangements for the transitional period preceding Independence, and a ceasefire agreement on 15 December, with the formal agreements being signed by the leaders of the delegations on 21 December.

He led the first civilian delegation of 23 party officials who returned to Zimbabwe on 4 January 1980, a week after the ceasefire took effect, and he was responsible for the security of the party and president during the ceasefire and election campaign that resulted in ZANU PF and PF ZAPU winning almost all of the contested seats for the new Parliament.

Party in Government


He has served and led the Party in various capacities since joining ZAPU in 1962 and ZANU at its formation in 1963, and has always been a proponent of unity of the country and of ZANU PF and PF ZAPU cadres within the party and the military, with active participation in the formation of the Patriotic Front in 1976 and the Unity Accord in 1987.

He was sent by then ZANU for military training in China, at the Nanjing (Nanking) Academy in 1963, returning in 1964 and almost immediately entering the country as a trained military commander, leading the first trained guerrilla group to cross the Zambezi River from Zambia. He attended the formative ZANU Congress in Gweru (Gwelo) in May 1964 as a youth leader. He divided his group into two units to undertake the first sabotage activities in Southern Rhodesia since the First Chimurenga in the 1890s, and trained the famous Crocodile Commando that mounted roadblocks and petrol bombings in Chimanimani the same year. He was arrested in 1965 and spent the next decade in prison, when many party leaders were in detention, restriction or prison.

With guidance from the party to use the time of incarceration to advance education, he concentrated on his studies, completing O and A levels and the intermediate part of a law degree, and supported other party activists in prison, until he was released in 1973 and deported to Zambia where his parents lived. On his return, he carried messages from party leaders to senior officials and leaders of the United National Independence Party in Zambia. Resuming party activities in Zambia, he wanted to go to Mozambique to join the war again, but he was advised by the party Chairman, Herbert Chitepo, and the ZANLA Commander, Josiah Tongogara, to finish his studies first.

He combined party activities with law studies at the University of Zambia for two years and then did articling with a Zimbabwean lawyer in Lusaka. He spent part of this period as a legal assistant in shuttling between party leaders who were imprisoned in Kabwe and Kamwala in Zambia. He went to Mozambique in 1977 and was elected at the Chimoio Congress of the party to be Special Assistant to the President, thus the head of civil and military security, deputized by Sheba Gava (Vitalis Zvinavashe) throughout the Year of the People (1978), and the Year of the People’s Storm (1979).

In this capacity, he resumed party activities, with responsibility for the security of the president and party in the last stages of the war and participated in all negotiations including Malta I and Malta II, until the war had spread throughout the country, causing the colonial power to host negotiations with the liberation movement, the Patriotic Front, led by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, at Lancaster House in London in the latter half of 1979.

An agreement was signed on 21 December 1979 and the ceasefire took effect a week later, on 28 December. He led the first group of 23 party officials to return to then Salisbury on 4 January 1980. He continued to have responsibility for the security of the party and president through the 1980 elections at the end of February, the announcement of election results on 4 March, and the complex transition to Independence on 18 April 1980.

From 1980 to 1982, he retained his pre-independence responsibilities as head of security, becoming Secretary for Finance in the party in 1982, a position he held until 1992, when he was chosen by the party to head its operations as Secretary for Administration for the next five years. He served as Secretary for Legal Affairs from 2004-2014, and became Vice-President of ZANU PF from the party Congress in December 2014 until November 2017.

On 19 November 2017, he was elected by the Central Committee as President and First Secretary of ZANU PF, pending Congress in December.

Positions Held


E.D. Mnangagwa has served in the Government of Zimbabwe since Independence on 18 April 1980, following the February 1980 elections that resulted in ZANU PF and PF ZAPU winning 77 of the 80 contested seats in Parliament. The Rhodesian Front led by Ian Smith had 20 seats reserved for whites and preserved in the constitution for ten years, as a result of the Lancaster House agreement.

His first appointment was Minister of State Security and first assignment was to support the creation of an inclusive government structure. He made the initial contacts to retain the Rhodesian command for the security structures on an interim basis, which they accepted, leading to a smooth transition to Zimbabwe. He also had several discussions with Joshua Nkomo about suitable posts in government after the late PF ZAPU leader, Father Zimbabwe, refused to accept a role as ceremonial President. Nkomo wanted to participate fully and he accepted the proposal from his counterpart, R.G. Mugabe, to be the first Minister of Home Affairs.

The other major assignment in that period, which crossed over national and party responsibilities, was the mammoth task of unifying the armies of the liberation movement (ZANLA and ZIPRA) with the Rhodesian army. For this purpose, Mnangagwa served as Chair of the military integration commission which successfully completed its assignment to build and train a unified Zimbabwe Defence Force, with support of the British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT). This he accomplished in close collaboration with the ZANLA and ZIPRA commanders, Rex Nhongo (Solomon Mujuru) and Lookout Masuku (Mafela) respectively, and the second-in-command of the Rhodesian army, General Maclean, visiting the Assembly Points together after the ceasefire to deepen understanding of the process and deflect incidents that inevitably occurred in that period.

As time went on and the commission continued its work, people began to accept that the war was over and the three armies should integrate. The continuing peace in the country and the patriotism of the military is testimony to the success of the initiative.

The one significant breakdown that deteriorated into conflict in the early 1980s in Matabeleland and Midlands after some cadres left the national army, was escalated by the involvement of a South African trained and supplied pseudo-force that cached weapons along the Botswana border. South Africa was still under apartheid and its mission was the economic and military destabilization of neighbouring countries to prevent access by the African National Congress of South Africa and its liberation forces, Mkhonto weSizwe, and this resulted in civilian deaths in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere in the region. The role of the security sector was the collection of intelligence to prove and deflect the involvement of South Africa in the country.

E.D. Mnangagwa has had a well-rounded career in government, serving as the first Minister of State Security post-Independence (1980-1988), and later as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (1989-2000) as well as Leader of Government Business in the House; Acting Minister of Finance (1995-1996); Speaker of the House of Assembly (2000-2005); Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities (2005-2009); Minister of Defence (2009-2013); and First Vice President of the Republic of Zimbabwe (since 2014).

As Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, his task was to continue to repeal and replace the discriminatory Rhodesian laws. He was Speaker of the House of Assembly during the land reform program that resulted in redistribution of land that had been seized from its inhabitants during the previous 100 years, and as Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities, his job was to review and expand the housing and other facilities available to the new tillers of the land.

With responsibility for legal affairs in the party from 2004-2014, he was active in guiding the development of the new Constitution, and as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (2013-2014) he was responsible for operationalizing the new Constitution of the Republic of Zimbabwe through the passage of various legal instruments by Parliament, as Leader of Government Business in the House.

As Vice President, he continued to have this responsibility, as well as guiding economic recovery through active oversight of the successful program of Command Agriculture, which produced a bumper harvest of maize in the 2017 season and is being extended to other crops. With responsibility for the economic cluster, he worked hard to attract investment, especially for the manufacturing sector. As Vice President, he continued to have this responsibility, as well as the task of guiding economic recovery through the supervision of clusters of economic ministries including those responsible for Food Security and Nutrition.

This cluster has oversight of the successful program of Command Agriculture, which produced a bumper harvest of maize in the 2017 season and is now being extended to other crops such as wheat and soya beans, and well as Command Livestock. This innovative program provides inputs, including tillage, to farmers through an agricultural loan system in which they pay back by pledging a portion of their crop.

He started a new chapter of service to the people and the country when he became the second Executive President of the Republic of Zimbabwe on 24 November 2017. In a statement after his election as the President and First Secretary of ZANU PF, he said, “I pledge to be your servant.”