By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
IN 1964, expectation that Southern Rhodesia would also be propelled towards independence on the basis of majority rule prevailed throughout the former Central African Federation, but was less pronounced in Southern Rhodesia than in the former Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
Most politically conscious black people expected a massive breakdown of law and order to occur in Southern Rhodesia following the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (also called the Central African Federation) and the granting of independence to the two northern former federal territories leading to the birth of Zambia and Malawi that year.
The degree of expectation was certainly much higher in Zambia where the then political party in power, the United National Independence Party (UNIP), had, before independence, launched a violent campaign to make Northern Rhodesia ungovernable.
The UNIP leader, Kenneth Kaunda, had repeatedly said publicly that should the British Government be reluctant or slow to grant Northern Rhodesia independence, the country would experience more and worse riots and cases of sabotage than had hitherto been launched by his organisation’s underground campaign called ‘Chachacha’.
The Zambian Government’s unquestionable commitment to the decolonisation of the African continent was always emphatically spelt out at all international fora.
At that time, the fora were the United Nations (UN), the Commonwealth, the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO), the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a number of labour bodies such as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and Christian church organisations.
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans had hoped, albeit very remotely, that the UNO might intervene in Rhodesia, just as it did in the Congo in 1960.
Notwithstanding such a forlorn hope, both ZANU and ZAPU prepared themselves for a protracted armed struggle with ZANU engaging Rhodesian armed forces in a pitched battle outside Sinoia (Chinhoyi) in May 1966, and ZAPU taking them on in a series of battles in the Hwange (Wankie) area in August 1967.
Unlike Malawi, Zambia had a clearly pan-African, anti-colonial policy whereas Malawi’s eccentric President, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, was unashamedly self-centered and micro-nationalistic.
He would not in any way publicly commit Malawi to the decolonisation of any part of Africa but would rather co-operate with the Portuguese in Malawi’s eastern neighbour, Mozambique, and even with the globally condemned South African apartheid regime.
He established diplomatic relations with both South Africa and Portugal while openly refusing to let any liberation movement establish an official presence in his country.
It was in that regional political situation that ZANU and ZAPU opened offices in Zambia and began to recruit guerilla personnel in that country.
Mozambican freedom fighters also congregated in the newly independent Zambia.
There were most probably, in 1964, more Mozambican liberation movements in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, than from any other territory.
They included the Mozambique African National Congress (MANC) led by a Comrade Simbi, who was Shona-speaking and originally from Magigwana’s region, east of Chipinge.
We also found the Uniao Democratica Nacional de Mocambique (UDENAMO), the Mozambique African Nationalist Union (MANU), the Uniao Africana do Mozambique Independente (UNAMI) plus one or two more.
However, by far the largest and most national was the Frente de Libertaquo de Mocambique (FRELIMO) formed in Dar es Salam on June 25 1962 and comprising progressive members or factions of some of the already listed organisations.
The FRELIMO leader was an internationally highly respected social anthropologist, Dr Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane.
That liberation organisation resolved to launch an armed struggle in 1964 using both Tanzania and Zambia as its launching pads.
The Mozambican anti-unity remnants, some factions of which had become parts of FRELIMO were later forcefully moved out of Zambia lock, stock and barrel, never to be heard of again.
The launch of armed struggle in Mozambique by FRELIMO was preceded in Angola by a similar revolutionary move by a group of young people initially based in the Congo (Kinshasa).
They later formed a Government in exile, with its headquarters in Morocco, thousands of kilometres north of Angola, rendering that so-called Government-in-exile utterly useless.
It was because of that unrealistic situation that an organisation known as the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola (MPLA), formed in December 1956 and also based in Zambia, launched a guerilla struggle from that recently born nation.
The two liberation movements, FRELIMO in Mozambique and the MPLA in Angola, would sooner rather than later create great revolutionary opportunities for Zimbabwe’s two patriotic organisations, ZANU and ZAPU, both of which had struggled almost against odds to cross their trained military personnel and war materials across the Zambezi River.
FRELIMO and the MPLA waged successful armed struggles in spite of the ruthless and terribly feared Portuguese secret political and security police, Policia Internationale de Defensa do Estado (PLDE)
The subsequent liberation of some Mozambican regions was a great advantage to ZANLA combatants as they could easily recruit straight from parts of eastern, northern and southern Zimbabwe (Rhodesia then), train the cadres in Mozambique and deploy them from there.
Unlike Zambia and Zimbabwe, between which there is the Zambezi River, a mighty waterway teeming with crocodiles and hippos, there is no physical barrier between Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The FRELIMO armed struggle had a very strong element of urgency so much that in 1966, two years after its inception, FRELIMO invited ZAPU to send a delegation to its liberated zones.
ZAPU sent a five-member team led by its chief representative in Zambia, Samuel Tichafa Parirenyatwa.
The team spent nearly two weeks south of the Rovuma River, having been taken across from Tanzania where FRELIMO had its head office at that time.
By 1968, FRELIMO had opened a front from Zambia and held its second congress inside Mozambique that year. It was the last to be presided over by Dr Mondlane as he was killed by a book bomb on February 5 1969 at the Dar es Salaam Frelimo office.
However, FRELIMO’s military gains were irreversible because by 1970, it controlled a third of the country. That meant that pressure on Zambia was by then lessened as it increased on Portugal.
On April 25 1974, the Portuguese Armed Forces Movement (referred to as AFM for short) overthrew Prime Minister Marcello Caetano’s regime and replaced him.
They immediately opened peace talks with FRELIMO leaders. Fully fledged constitutional talks opened in Lusaka, Zambia, on September 7 1974 at the end of which it was agreed that Mozambique would be independent on June 25 1975.
With that, (Southern) Rhodesia’s fate was sealed because it would have, from that date onwards on its northern side Zambia, eastern side a black-ruled Mozambique, and on its west, Botswana, with only South Africa as a friendly racist neighbour on its southern flank.
There was, without any doubt, no way Ian Smith could stop African majority rule taking over in Rhodesia in his ‘life time’, to say nothing about it being achieved in the immediate future. Without the support of the Portuguese in Mozambique, progress towards the liberation of Zimbabwe became obvious on the military ground inside the country itself as both ZANLA and ZIPRA hit the Rhodesian forces hard.
That forced the British Government and their allies, the US and the South Africans to prod the Smith regime to attend initial peace conferences on Rhodesia, and to be pliable to various diplomatic meetings: Geneva (1976-77), Malta (1978), Victoria Falls Bridge and; finally, the 1979 Lancaster House Conference which formally transferred the destiny of the country from the white minority settlers of Rhodesia to the black majority indigenes of Zimbabwe.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email. firstname.lastname@example.org