Events leading to the Chinhoyi Battle

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EVENTS leading to the famous 1966 Chinhoyi Battle highlights tensions that forced the black majority to adopt armed confrontation which largely became known as the Second Chimurenga.
Chief among the reasons that led to the Second Chimurenga was the poor representation of blacks in the political arena.
In a Journal titled Southern Rhodesian African Nationalists and the 1961 Constitution, John Day writes that a constitutional conference was convened in 1961.
“The conference made proposals, later embodied in the 1961 Constitution which virtually assured the Africans of 15 seats in a legislation of 65,” writes Day.
Day notes that the nationalists refused this offer since it fell far short of their target of ‘one man, one vote’.
Whites insisted majority rule self-Government by blacks would be a gradual process to be achieved after hundreds of years when the blackman ‘evolved’ to an ‘intelligent’ human being.
The November 11 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) was also another reason that forced blacks to adopt new ways to counter the enemy.
Prior to the UDI, nationalist activities in Rhodesia had started as early as the 1950s, but on a small-scale, inspired by 12 African countries that had secured independence in 1960.
The independence of Chad, Zaire, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Niger, Somalia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Central African Republic was a source of inspiration to the nationalists.
Zambia and Malawi had negotiated uhuru and some nationalists in Rhodesia hoped for that too.
However, the UDI meant the tide had changed; independence would not come on a silver platter and the nationalists who read into this script opted for armed struggle.
ZANU was formed in 1963 by nationalists who felt talks and peaceful protests were a waste of time.
The formation of ZANU marked the beginning of acts of sabotage.
The first combatants trained in countries such as China and Ghana carried out these acts of sabotage with the Crocodile gang causing havoc in 1964.
But these were spontaneous.
David Martin and Phyllis Johnson in their book The Struggle for Zimbabwe note that the Crocodile group displayed a determination to fight against colonial rule.
“A ZANLA group,on July 4 1964, stabbed to death Mr Petrus Oberholtzer, Rhodesian Front Branch chairman.
“He was the first European to die in the act of war by guerillas since the uprisings in the 1890s, write Martin and Johnson.
Soon the leaders realised that there was need for a better strategy, especially to counter the challenges faced during the First Chimurenga.
Legislations such as the Land Apportionment Act of 1930, Land Husbandry Act of 1951 and Tribal Trust Land of 1965 made it clear to the nationalists that independence would only be achieved by taking up arms to dislodge the colonialists.
The Land Apportionment Act formalised the separation of land by law between blacks and whites.
In The Rhodesian Air force in Zimbabwe’s war of liberation, 1966-80 author Darlington Mutanda states that Africans had been emasculated and had no other option but to fight.
Writes Mutanda: Africans clearly realised that white rule had come to (emasculate) their dignity and sources of livelihood.
They were not allowed to compete with the whites and it therefore became a deliberate policy to separate blacks (from) whites along racial lines through the policy of separate development.
The Africans were not fairly accommodated in the political, military, economic and social spheres of life in Rhodesia.”
They realised that to counter the enemy, they had to adapt to his ways and take up arms.
In 1966, the Second Chimurenga commenced as the nationalists sought to free the country from colonial oppression.
And it was the Chinhoyi battle that made clear the intentions and change of strategy of the nationalists.

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