The Liberation struggle: A cost/benefit analysis PART 1

Former ZANLA Commander, the late General Josiah Tongogara.
Former ZANLA Commander, the late General Josiah Tongogara.

By Hlonipa Moyo

AT TIMES what we catch is worth less than the bait. The loss that we incur to achieve certain things, maybe more valuable than what we get.

Independence celebrations have just come and gone.

The absence of some of those that fought to attain it, however, brings a cloud of sorrow upon the celebrations. Tears and grief always come along with the merriment.

Questions always ring in their minds of man: When they fought, is this the Zimbabwe that they had in mind?

Did the Zanu PF regime really get rid of the injustices that they fought against?


The gallant sons and daughters of Zimbabwe, who lost their lives in the second Chimurenga/Umvukelwa could be a bait worth more than the catch.

I salute those that gave their lives for the liberation of this nation. They fought fearlessly against the ruthless Smith administration. They endured the hunger, the long walks, the mosquito bites, the unkind weather, the diseases – the list is endless. Their legacy will live forever.

But one cannot help but wonder if what they fought for is what is happening in Zimbabwe and also if the war was necessary after all.

The war was expensive, both in terms of human and material resources.

The second Chimurenga reportedly accounted for more than 30 000 lives.

Many other people were injured, crippled and/or displaced. Families were broken.

The momentum gathered by this war also overlapped into the Gukurahundi atrocities, which allegedly brought an additional 20 000 graves as the new government of Zimbabwe maintained that it was grappling with insurgencies in Zimbabwe’s Midlands and Matabeleland provinces in the early 80s.

At the risk of sounding too emotional about the fatalities of the war, one also begins to wonder if the war was necessary after all.

Only about nine out of 54 African countries gained independence through open war.

Was it unfeasible for Zimbabwe to gain independence without a war? Up to this day, would we be still under settler rule if we hadn’t engaged in open warfare? It is doubtful.

The war of liberation might only have acted as catalyst, just to expedite the arrival of a people’s freedom.

In that connection, Zimbabwe’s guerrilla war victims probably just lost life and limp to speed up the inevitable.

The speed, therefore, became too far costly in terms of what opportunity cost Zimbabwe stood to gain rather than wait and see what would pan out.

Since the Atlantic Charter between FD Roosevelt and W Churchill of the US and Britain, respectively, in 1941, the world was moving into a process of decolonisation. The adage that it is impossible to stop an idea whose idea has come runs true.

The process of decolonisation had started, and the settler monkeyshines were only a delay of the inevitable.

In 1960 then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, in his famous Winds of Change speech, said: “The wind of change is blowing through this continent (Africa) and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must all accept it as a fact…”

Yes, the wind of change was definitely coming, sooner or later.

Joshua Nkomo wanted to wait. In 1962, after the banning of Zapu, Nkomo told a Zapu executive committee comprising of Morton Malianga, Robert Mugabe, Ndabaningi Sithole, Leopold Takawira and others to meet him in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to form a government-in-exile. From there he hoped he would be able to pile more pressure for the independence of Zimbabwe. He was hesitant to play the war card.

For that, he was criticised, but it seemed to have been a good idea.

It was definitely the longer route to independence, although independence was coming slowly but at a lesser cost.

President Julius Nyerere, whose country had ironically become liberated without a the firing of a bullet, dismissed the idea and pushed the Zapu executive to go back home and mobilise people for more aggressive resistance.

Although there were allegations of tribalism, which may be true or false, but Nkomo’s hesitance on waging war was one of the primary reasons why his other comrades labelled him weak and rebelled against him and ended up forming Zanu in 1963.

The revolution had then been hijacked by a cabal of zealous academics like Robert Mugabe and his ilk. They believed Nkomo wasn’t radical enough.

Zanu PF, over the years, and through its propaganda machinery, continues to give the impression that they defeated the British, yet Britain actually sided with them.

To begin with, it is important to make a clear distinction between the British government and the Rhodesian government. The British were actually pushing for majority rule. Britain regarded the independence of 1965 as illegal, because it did not stand for majority rule.

After the Unilateral Declaration of Independence(UDI) of 1965, Britain and its allies declared sanctions against Rhodesia. The United Nations itself placed Rhodesia under sanctions. Countries like South Africa, Japan, Portugal and others, however, cheated on the embargo. Britain pushed for the independence of Zimbabwe. Harold Wilson, the British Prime Minister, himself, pushed Smith to grant majority rule. The pressure on Rhodesia was growing.

Independence, though slow, was definitely on its way. The decision to take the matter to the battlefield was a gamble that proved regrettable.

Though the nationalists chose the gun ahead of protests and negotiation, a closer look at the picture shows that the combination of sanctions and diplomatic pressure still contributed more than the gun in pushing the racist regime to succumb to demands for independence.

Though the war caused problems for the racist regime, more freedom fighters were dying than the Rhodesian forces, many times over. And Smith was willing to go on. It had its damage effects, but it just wasn’t enough to make smith give in, bur 1976 was the turning point, after South Africa said it was withdrawing its military and economic support, practically joining the embargo. This was after the US foreign secretary, Henry Kissinger, had pressured South African Prime Minister BJ Vorster to push Smith into accepting majority rule. Vorster had also adopted a policy of “détente” with the frontline states, who argued for the independence of Zimbabwe.

Kissinger himself advised Smith to accept the Geneva deal, arguing that there was a risk of losing it if a new government took over in the US. In this, Smith his lost his closest ally and called it treachery. That diplomatic pressure was more devastating to Smith than the war itself.

Smith accepted the proposals at the Geneva conference, but the deal was rejected by especially Kenneth Kaunda, and again by Julius Nyerere.  They rejected the idea of a two-year transition into majority rule. Funny enough, majority rule came four years later, and people still suffered in both the battle front and the villages. The war was even escalating, and more lives were being lost, even at a faster rate. The guns went silent in 1979 when the Lancaster House agreement was signed. People celebrated and sighed.

Besides the war of Rhodesia coming to an end, war did not seem to have immediately achieved its ultimate goal.

People had taken up arms to achieve democracy

That democracy entailed that Zimbabweans would be able to freely choose their leaders.

In the past, the Smith regime had not allowed Africans to choose their leaders, the liberation fighters fought to correct that injustice. It is sad that several years after independence, however, many people were killed for exercising that very right.

Nkomo, one of those that fought the war, sadly said it in 1986: “We fought against these things, and now, we practice them. Why, why, why?”

Indeed, Zimbabwe seems to have jumped from the frying pan to the fire.

Towards Independence celebrations in 2013, Tsvangirai said “Independence must come with freedoms if it is to have total meaning to all of us…”

Yes, independence that doesn’t come with certain freedoms is an illusion.

They fought for a better livelihood of the black majority. The whites had formed elite groups that dissipated the fruits of Zimbabwe alone. The whites were about half a million in population, and yet they enjoyed the majority of the Zimbabwean resources. It was so unjust. But what is worse is the verity that after all the effort, the mass graves, the sufferings and a whole lot of other “isms”, the evil elite still exists, this time with a dark skin and sadly a similar heart. Yes, a dark heart.

In Nkomo’s own words: “When people were moved under imperialism, certain facilities like water were provided.

But under us? Nothing!”

“It seems that Zimbabweans merely jumped from the frying pun into the fire.

Some of the people that are called heroes of Zimbabwe’s independence only participated in the war for selfish motives,” the late Tsvangirai had said.

He also added: “The fact that they went to war and brought down the Smith regime has become an entitlement to own every resource in Zimbabwe and to let their will become the Constitution of the land.”

Though he had received a barrage of criticism for it, Tsvangirai rightly attacked that entitlement element when he said. “ukanzwa vanoti takasunungura nyika, ita vaisungirire pakare timboisunungurawo (those that keep boasting about unleashing the land should leash it back and give us a chance to do the same).

He was too blunt, but he was right.

Bravo! To those that went to war and liberated this country, those that were incarcerated for trying to do so and those that resisted injustices of the settler regime. People’s tears rightly grieve for those that never made it out of the war.

Those that made it have the duty to ensure that what their comrades died for, is what they give the nation else it will be a grave betrayal.

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