Another version of ‘resurrection’


DÉTENTE, Nhari Rebellion and the death of Chairman Herbert Chitepo had virtually grounded the war to a halt and there was need for resumption.
At that time, Cde Robert Mugabe, then Secretary-General of ZANU, and Edgar Tekere, crossed the border into Mozambique to join guerillas in the ZANLA bases in early April 1975.
Cde Mugabe was expected to fill the leadership vacuum left after the death of Chairman Chitepo and the removal of Rev Ndabaningi Sithole by his colleagues while in detention.
Meanwhile there still remained a serious power struggle among the leaders of the United African National Council (UANC), Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Joshua Nkomo, Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, who still claimed to be ZANU leader, and James Chikerema despite all the obvious signs that the Zimbabwe revolution (Chimurenga), was grinding to a halt.
The UANC had thus proved incapable of leading an armed struggle.
In his book The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe, Dr Felix Muchemwa notes that ZANLA commanders in Mpima Prison in Zambia and those at Mgagao Training Camp in Tanzania condemned the leadership of the UANC.
They declared that the leaders had failed them as leaders of the Zimbabwe Revolution and proposed that Cde Mugabe acts as the middle-man through the Mgagao Declaration of October 1975.
The declaration put paid to Sithole’s claim of ZANU’s leadership.
Cde Mugabe was to be endorsed later as the ZANU leader at a special congress in Chimoio in 1977.
And the ZANLA commanders appealed to the Liberation Committee of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), whose executive secretary was Col Hashim Mbita, to resume the war and have arms and ammunition released.
In response to this, the Frontline leaders, Julius Nyerere, Samora Machel and Kenneth Kaunda decided that all ZIPRA and ZANLA guerillas be transferred from Tanzania and Zambia to camps in Mozambique in preparation for the resumption of war.
It was during this time that the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA), a coalition of ZANLA and ZIPRA forces, was formed.
The new army was led by an 18-member military committee, nine from each of the two guerilla forces.
There were no politicians in ZIPA because at the time it was formed, ZANLA leaders were in detention as a result of Détente.
So in a way, ZIPA also filled the political vacuum.
The overall commander of ZIPA was Rex Nhongo (the late Solomon Mujuru), the most senior ZANLA guerilla who had not been arrested while the position of political commissar of the entity was filled by ‘Alfred Nikita’ Mangena, the commander of ZIPRA.
By this time, several hundred trained guerillas and thousands of recruits were effectively restricted in camps in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
Infiltration into Rhodesia by ZIPA guerillas began in January 1976 with over 400 guerillas deployed in Tete, 150 in Manica and less than 150 into Gaza.
Although ZANLA and ZIPRA had agreed to commit all their trained cadres to the offensive from the new offensive from Mozambique, less than 200 cadres from ZIPRA were sent to join the joint force.
The reluctance by the ZIPRA component of ZIPA could be a result of their inexperience on the battlefield or that they held their force in Zambia in anticipation of opening a new front from there if Nkomo failed to negotiate a settlement with Smith.
Later, ZAPU leaders were instructed by the OAU to participate in the war or risk losing funding, hence they chose infiltrating their forces from across the Zambezi.
In as much as Nkomo was willing to have negotiations with the Rhodesian regime, Smith vowed the black majority would not rule the country, ‘not in a thousand years’.
Thus, because of mistrust, ZIPA did not last long.
Formed in January 1976, by end of May the same year it had collapsed after some misunderstandings in camps in Tanzania.
When Henry Kissinger came to Africa in late April 1976 he announced that the US wanted to see Rhodesia having majority rule and he was determined to coerce Smith to concede to ‘majority rule’.
In fact, the weapons that the guerillas had after the formation of ZIPA were new and more advanced than the ones they had before.
A series of meetings and events took place between Kissinger, Smith, John Vorster, the then South African Prime Minister, and nationalist leaders with the aim of reaching a consensus.
On September 5 1976, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a meeting was held by Nyerere, Kaunda, Machel and Khama to resolve the differences between the nationalists.
Kissinger and Vorster had a meeting at the same time and they were propelled to push Smith to a negotiated settlement.
Eventually, Smith gave in.
This paved way for convening a conference so that all the interested parties could discuss and the conference opened in Geneva on October 28.
Prior to the conference, Mugabe and Nkomo had negotiated and concluded the creation of the Patriotic Front, an organisation which embraced ZANU and ZAPU. This brought them together as a joint negotiating team at Geneva and all subsequent conferences before independence in 1980.
Also, Kaunda had released the detained ZANU leaders, including Josiah Tongogara, and this led to a crisis in ZANU as the ZANU element in the defunct ZIPA military committee no longer wanted the detainees as their leaders.
Former ZIPA’s deputy political commissar Dzinashe Machingura now wanted to turn the ZANU component in the defunct ZIPA into a political movement.
He made frantic efforts to engage Nyerere who refused to listen and insisted that Mugabe should lead the delegation to Geneva.
The overly ambitious Machingura now wanted ZANU to be like FRELIMO, an entirely military movement which had taken over Government directly from the bush.
However, FRELIMO and ZANU were different in that in ZANU, it was accepted that the military was subservient to the political leadership – politics leading the gun and not the other way round as in FRELIMO.
His ambition was bordering on rebellion.
Nhongo was among Mugabe’s delegation.
The first four weeks of the Geneva Conference were centred on the date of independence and they agreed on December 1 1977 as the provisional date.
Nothing tangible was agreed upon and the conference was adjourned on December 14.
During this time, there was a simmering crisis in the former ZANU component of ZIPA in Mozambique, with reports of the formation of private armies and the intention of arresting ZANU leaders upon return from Geneva.
Machel later called the Machingura faction in the former ZIPA military committee to Maputo and they had documents written by some members of the committee.
One denounced Mugabe, Tekere and Muzenda; another denounced the Geneva Conference, and the third was to renew a revolutionary committee they planned to form in order to transform ZIPA into a party.
Machel, instead, dispatched the commanders to Geneva to join the ZANU delegation and when the Geneva Conference ended, other commanders, except Tongogara and Nhongo, were sent on various missions so that these two get back to the Mozambique camps and take control of the situation.
On January 18, members of ZANU’s committee, the high command and the Machingura faction of the defunct ZIPA military committee met and the FRELIMO Governor of Manica opened the meeting and emphasised the need for unity among cadres.
At that meeting, an unsuspecting 25 rebellious ZANU cadres, among them Muchinguri and Rugare Gumbo, were arrested.
They were taken to the FRELIMO and put in custody for the next three years.


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