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Uneasy Legacy of the Chimurenga Struggle Zimbabwe Relations with Zambia 1974-1990


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Zimbabwe's foreign policy in Southern Africa and ZANU's Nationalist Politics

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Uneasy Legacy of the Chimurenga Struggle Zimbabwe Relations with Zambia 1974-1990

  1. 1. Conference of the International Journal of Arts & Sciences, CD-ROM. ISSN: 1943-6114 :: 10(01):329–334 (2017) AN UNEASY LEGACY OF THE CHIMURENGA STRUGGLE: ZIMBABWE RELATIONS WITH ZAMBIA 1974–1990 Dylan Yanano Mangani and Theodore Nkadimeng Mahosi University of Venda, South Africa No serious study of the political history of Zimbabwe can ignore the otherwise celebrated influence of the Chimurenga (liberation struggle philosophy) in the ruling Zanu-PF’s code of conduct within the realms of international relations. As such, the paper argues that Zimbabwe-Zambia relations were borne out of the implications of the struggle of Zimbabwe that produced interesting dimensions into an understanding of African nationalism. These dimensions: Zambia’s proximity to ZAPU (another former liberation movement in the struggle of Zimbabwe) and relations with the Rhodesian government as strategies by the ruling UNIP to end the Zimbabwean problem saw the beginning of hostility with ZANU that reached its peak following the assassination of Hebert Wilshire Chitepo, the Chairman of ZANU in 1975, and the subsequent reaction of the Zambian government afterwards. Post independent Zimbabwe relations with Zambia was a byproduct of the misgivings of the Cold War; a search for a regional alliance in the wake of domestic and security concerns and the legacy of the Chimurenga struggle that pitted ZANU-PF and the UNIP of Zambia in opposite camps. Thus, the paper seeks to understand the legacy of the Chimurenga discourse and locate its influence in shaping the relations between Zimbabwe and Zambia from 1980–1990. Keywords: Chimurenga, ZANU, UNIP, Zimbabwe, Zambia. Introduction Zimbabwe's relations with Zambia are a very important opportunity for an understanding of what constitutes African nationalism that provided an impetus for the protracted struggle against white settler rule. These relations are important in the sense that they exposed the limits of African nationalism where the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP) of Zambia's proximity to the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) suggested a false start in the nationalist struggle of Zimbabwe. Moreover, the relations also provided an understanding of the relations between UNIP and the Rhodesian government in the search for strategies to end the Rhodesian question(liberation struggle) (Tamarkin, 1990: 86).These two important developments were very important in laying the basis of the relations between Zimbabwe and Zambia in a post-independent Zimbabwe. After a protracted struggle and, the Lancaster House negotiations of 1979 that paved way for the 1980 elections, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) emerged as the winner in these elections (Kriger, 2003:29). ZANU thus sought to establish regional alliances as part of its foreign policy objectives in Southern Africa (Reed, 1993:31-59 and Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013:36). Be that as it may, the relations between the ZANU government of Zimbabwe and the UNIP of Zambia were not cordial. Thus, the paper seeks to understand factors that impacted on 329
  2. 2. 330 An Uneasy Legacy of the Chimurenga Struggle: Zimbabwe Relations with Zambia 1974–1990 the relations between these two countries through a political history of interaction between the two countries below. The History of the Relations between ZANU and Zambia When Zambia became independent in 1964 under the banner of the UNIP, President Kaunda made the country a refuge for all liberation and democratic movements in Africa. Lusaka became the nucleus of Angolan, Mozambican, Namibia, South African and Zimbabwean national liberation movements (Chung, 2006:72).This policy, by the UNIP government, enabled Zimbabwe’s two prominent liberation movements ZAPU and ZANU to use Zambia as a springboard to which the Chimurenga war effort against the regime of Ian Smith would be realised. The struggle of Zimbabwe, that is celebrated as the Chimurenga is a Shona term that is derived from the name of Murenga a Zimbabwean spirit medium who fought against white settler rule in the early phases of African resistance (Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2013: 179). However what was interesting about this nationalism was the fact that it was manifested in political intolerance, absolutism and was monolithic in nature to assume exclusive nationalism (Sithole, 1979: 38 and Mhanda, 1978: 32).To be more clear, led by Joshua Nkomo, ZAPU was formed as a continuation of the early nationalist movement in Rhodesia to become the first modernised nationalist that was effective. However, as the time progressed differences emerged over what constituted African nationalism and broadly what the Rhodesian question was. (Kriger, 2003: 23; Fray, 2010:21 and Riley, 1982:100). The ultimate result was the split of ZAPU and a breakaway faction formed ZANU in 1963 and this according to Chimhanda( 2003:66) was regarded as divisive and counter-revolutionary thus earning ZANU the status of a splinter organisation. Such perception heralded a dimensional twist in the politics of liberation subsequently forming a basis of enduring animosity between ZAPU and ZANU. The Détente Period 1974-1976 As the struggle for Zimbabwe intensified a number of recorded military victories for ZANU’s Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army(ZANLA) coincided with the end of Portuguese rule in Angola and Mozambique respectively in 1975. The independence and assumptions of Marxists governments in these states provided an impetus one to which Southern Africa would supposedly fall under Marxism control. In the twisted politics of the Cold War(ideological battle between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union), a Marxist Southern Africa would threaten the white capitalists' states of Rhodesia and South Africa (Alao, 2012: 109). As such was imperative for a cessation of hostilities between the Rhodesian government and nationalists movements in Rhodesia and a peace settlement to be hatched. However, the real motive behind this détente was to circumvent the prospects of a military victory for the Marxist ZANU movement in favor of a more moderate movement that would be accommodative of white monopoly capital and interests (Chung, 2006:84). Against the aforementioned background, Zambia and South Africa became interested parties to the Rhodesian question by virtue of assuming regional hegemony at the time. The Lusaka and Pretoria effort were aimed at necessitating that Joshua Nkomo the leader of ZAPU begin talks with the government of Ian Smith. Zambia's gradual economic decline of the 1970s made President Kaunda willing to participate in the talks in search of a peaceful settlement in Rhodesia (Tamarkin, 1990:78-81). The present author maintains that the regional initiative led by Zambia and South Africa was also part of a search to find an acceptable nationalist leader acceptable to white communities possibly in Rhodesia and South Africa that would command appeal from both white and non-white communities and Joshua Nkomo seemed to be the preferred candidate(ibid:86) This search for a moderate leader would pre-empt ZANU's radical and extreme militancy that had been professed earlier by its external Chair Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo and also shown by the military successes of ZANU’s military wing the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) (Martin & Johnson, 1985: 3,5).
  3. 3. Dylan Yanano Mangani and Theodore Nkadimeng Mahosi 331 The high successes in the military campaigns and operations of ZANLA suggested that the independence of Zimbabwe was imminent and one in which ZANU felt was solely responsible for attaining it. Thus, ZANU was not ready to compromise on militant nationalism with movements such as ZAPU, the newly formed African National Congress(ANC) and the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe(FROLIZI) (Chung, 2006:88). The Zambian position was to weaken ZANU and insist on non- military strategies to attain independence in a way that ensured a victory of Joshua Nkomo.When leaders such as Josiah Tongogara opposed non-military strategies Zambia threatened to expel ZANU and its military bases from as safe havens in the country The Assassination of Chitepo and the Subsequent Arrests of ZANU Figures In the midst of these differences between ZANU and the Zambian government on 18 March 1975 Herbert Chitepo was assassinated in a car bomb at his home in Lusaka Zambia. The assassination cast a very dark cloud in the understanding of Zimbabwean nationalism and further strained relations between the Zambian government and ZANU. It is suffice to say that the death of Herbert Chitepo, as the leader of ZANU's external wing, was read from different manuscript with the Zambian government and some in ZANU accusing other veterans such as Josiah Tongogara , who was at the time commanding ZANLA, as having a hand in the act whilst ZANU fingered the Rhodesian intelligence service. These accusations could not be oversimplified and thus became a focal point of contestation given the contradictions in the nationalist struggle. The fact that the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe was riven by exclusive nationalism and political intolerance between the old style politicians such as Herbert Chitepo against military veterans such as Josiah Tongogara became very important factors in trying to come to terms with Chitepo's death (Holland, 2008: 42 ; Chung, 2006: 132). However, other scholars are of a different opinion that the plot was a result of the never-ending pursuit of the clandestine policies of the Rhodesian government in trying to wade off the nationalist liberation movements. As a result Reid-Daily (1999:173) maintains "The decision by Ken Flower…to assassinate Herbert Chitepo, head of the ZANU War Council,now showed how badly Flower has misread the ZANU/ZANLA situation. The death of Chitepo purged ZANU of its many dissenting factions and a new and highly successful leader emerged.Robert Mugabe gave ZANLA the means to consolidate its efforts by providing ZANLA with an indispensable factor-unity". Of much importance was the reaction by the Zambian government and how the response had a bearing on the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe and the future relations with ZANU. Following the death and funeral of Chitepo, the Zambian government arrested some of the top leaders of the War Council of ZANU including Josiah Tongogara, Rugare Gumbo, Henry Hamadziripi and Kumbirai Kangai. In addition, the Zambian government set up an International Commission that comprised of judges from fourteen different countries in Africa (Nyarota, 2006:103). On the 28th of March 1975, the Zambian Home Affairs Minister Aaron Milner hinted that the assassination was an inside job carried out by ZANU and subsequently President Kaunda announced that the Commission was aimed at discovering the culprits and “sort out” the Rhodesian problem (Tamarkin,2011: 66). Perhaps, President Kaunda’s actions were motivated by the conversation he had earlier with Herbert Chitepo that he was fearful of his life from Josiah Tongogara in the dimensional twists of ZANU politics (Chikuhwa, 2013: 23). It is believed that on many occasions Josiah Tongogara and Herbert Chitepo as leaders of the party had disagreed on strategies and policies. As if that had been enough there was also the never-ending dimension of ethnic politics that had come to ravage the nationalist movements. Tongogara was a Karanga and Chitepo was a Manyika and many believed that Tongogara may have sought to take Chitepo's life based on the competition for power that rose from this ethnic factor. Regardless of these interpretations what is important is to note that this “sort out” meant by President Kaunda was aimed at neutralising militant and radical ZANU leaders who since Chitepo had refused to accept the détente in any future political prospects of the Zimbabwean question. (Chikuhwa, 2013: 21) It was President Kaunda’s prerogative to neutralise ZANU through the arrests of more than 1,500 ZANU
  4. 4. 332 An Uneasy Legacy of the Chimurenga Struggle: Zimbabwe Relations with Zambia 1974–1990 guerrillas,the banning of ZANU and the subsequently promote the African National Congress(ANC) under moderate leadership that would provide an alternative to ZANU as a liberation movement. These measures became very ruinous for ZANU and at the same time very beneficial to the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith (Tamarkin, 2011:65). Events that occurred between the arrests of these leaders to their release were recorded as one of the setbacks of the liberation movement of Zimbabwe were the nationalists' leaders were subjected to torture,victimisation and denial of human rights by the Zambian government and security forces. The trial and the commission was said to lack competency as the prerogative was to charge the nationalists and clear the Zambian government only. This subsequently led to international calls by pressure groups such as Amnesty International ,Zimbabwe Detainees Defense Committee and the Roman Catholic Church division of Britain to lobby for a free and fair trial of these nationalists. These nationalists were subsequently released from incarceration in September 1976. (Chung, 2006:136). The assassination of Chitepo marked a turning point in Zambia-ZANU relations resulting in the latter seeking sanctuary and military bases from Zambia to Mozambique for the liberation cause (Scarrit and Nkiwane, 1996: 10). Zimbabwe’s Relations with Zambia after Independence in 1980 In the light of the perception that ZANU was a splinter organisation from ZAPU and the fractured relations that followed, these seem to have been an important factor defining security concerns in the search for a foreign policy by Zimbabwe within Southern Africa. Zimbabwe's post-independence relations with Zambia were informed by the yesteryears' relations of the liberation struggle (Alao, 2012: 110; Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2011: 4 and 7). While on the surface the liberation struggle was a protracted struggle against white settler rule, the undercurrents mirrored cracks within the overall camp of the liberation movements across the continent, particularly the Southern African region where liberation movements were pitted in the Sino-Soviet Union dichotomy as a dimension of the Cold War (Ndlovu- Gatsheni, 2011: 8). The Cold War ensured that Africa became a hotbed of this ideological war, with China’s pre-eminence adding another dimension. Zimbabwe’s ZANU had received military training and support from China whereas the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP) in Zambia had received military training from the Soviet Union. These differences were important in shaping post- independence politics in Zimbabwe as Zambia continued to support ZAPU a former beneficiary of the Soviet Union (Reeds, 1993: 40). The independence of Zimbabwe did not immediately alter the situation in view of the belated invitation of former Zambia’s president, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda to President Mugabe’s inauguration ceremony at independence (Chan 2011: 55-56). Zimbabwe’s foreign policy to Zambia became more apparent following the arms cache that was allegedly found in Matabeleland on farms belonging to ZAPU. The arms cache discovery was interpreted as ZAPU was trying to usurp power from ZANU unconstitutionally (Alexander, McGregor, & Ranger , 2000: 181). Zimbabwe is said to have suspected Zambia of playing a central role in facilitating the weapons to ZAPU by virtue of Lusaka having historical ties with ZAPU in the past especially during the struggle as have stated above (Alao, 2012: 130). These security challenges in Zimbabwe resulted in the Matabeleland debacle where more than 20 000 people lost their lives. However, Chan (1993: 151 and 72) has tried to capture the relations between Zimbabwe and Zambia as part of President Mugabe’s regional foreign policy. The author maintains that the relations between the two countries mirrored a quest for regional hegemony that was encapsulated in the rivalry between President Mugabe and President Kaunda. For some time Zambia had enjoyed the status of being the hub of the struggle of Southern Africa as it hosted the liberation movements of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The independence of Zimbabwe and her ability to shape regional affairs coincided with the fall of Zambia’s economy and her ability to influence regional affairs. Thus hegemony had shifted from Zambia to Zimbabwe and the latter assumed the role of being a diplomatic hub for Africa (Mashingaidze, 2006:57). To capture this following the independence of Zimbabwe and the threat
  5. 5. Dylan Yanano Mangani and Theodore Nkadimeng Mahosi 333 of apartheid South Africa's Total Strategy foreign policy, the operationalisation of the Front Line States and the formation of the Southern African Development Coordinating Committee became apparent and thus was realised. At the same time Zimbabwe assumed the leadership role in intervening militarily in the civil war in Mozambique and President Mugabe also became open about his support for the government of Angola in its war against Jonas Savimbi’s rebel movement, the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) (Scarrit and Nkiwane, 1996: 13; Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013: 36). However, the threat of apartheid South Africa and the untimely death of President Samora Machel of Mozambique in 1986 created opportunities to re-invent close cooperation between Zimbabwe and Zambia (Scarrit and Nkiwane, 1996: 13). The cooperation between Zimbabwe and Zambia was of paramount importance in regional cooperation. Zimbabwe’s independence not only ended Zambia’s military confrontation with a Rhodesian white regime but changed the focus to apartheid South Africa, thus involving a new ally, Zimbabwe, in the struggle (Scarrit and Nkiwane, 1996: 13). The importance of the cooperation was illuminated shortly after Zimbabwe’s independence through the founding of SADCC where security concerns of the Southern African region were formally addressed (Scarrit and Nkiwane, 1996: 13) Furthermore, Scarrit and Nkiwane (1996: 13) argue that the death of President Samora Machel saw President Mugabe seeking closeness with President Kaunda in search for regional solidarity. From this premise one is inclined to say that this closeness was also as a result of apartheid South Africa's insurgency against these two countries which brought old foes together in the process, thus uniting the hawks and the doves in Harare and Lusaka in a concerted effort against the apartheid regime. Accordingly, it is possible to assume that there was a nexus between security and ideological concerns as indicated by the shift in ZANU government's foreign policy towards Zambia. The death of President Machel, a staunch Marxist, and the threat of a capitalist apartheid government in South Africa were both a problem in and an antithesis of the socialist camp in Southern Africa. Conclusion The relations between Zimbabwe and Zambia in the period from 1974 to 1990 were never cordial because of the legacy of the nationalist liberation struggle that pitted ZANU and the Zambian government in diverse camps. This not only had the impact of arresting the liberation struggle but also questioned the sincerity of President Kaunda commitment to the total emancipation of the Zimbabwean cause. These insights impacted heavily on the post-1980 relations between Zimbabwe and Zambia in the first decade of the latter's independence as reflected in Zimbabwe's search for regional security. Be that as it may, it is also important to underscore how the threat of apartheid and the death of President Samora Machel united the hawks and doves together in the search for regional security buttressing the fact that in international relations there are no permanent enemies but permanent interests. Bibliography 1. Alao, A. (2012). Mugabe and the Politics of Security in Zimbabwe. Ontario: MQUP. 2. Alexander, N. J., McGregor, J., & Ranger , T. (2000). Violence and Memory: One Hundred Years in the Dark Forests of Matabeleland. London: James Currey. 3. Chan, S. (1993). Kaunda and Southern Africa:Image and Reality in Foreign Policy. London: British Academic Press 4. Chan, S. (2011). Old Treacheries,New Deceits:Insights into Southern African Politics. Cape Town/Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball Publishers. 5. Chikuhwa, J. (2013). Zimbabwe: The End of the First Republic. Bloomington: Author House. 6. Chimhanda, C. C. (2003). ZAPU and the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe 1957-1980. Master of Arts in History Thesis. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.
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