Struggle for Zimbabwe


IN the past weeks we focused on the Détente, Nhari rebellion and the death of Herbert Chitepo.
It should be clear that during this period the war had virtually stopped and there was need to resume the war.
It was during this time that the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA) which consisted 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.
The overall commander of ZIPA was Rex Nhongo (Solomon Mujuru), the most senior ZANLA guerilla who had not been arrested and the position of political commissar of the entity was filled by ‘Alfred Nikita’ Mangena, the commander of ZIPRA.
There are many theories about the formation of ZIPA, but the credible ones would be that it was the creation of Tongogara and Jason Moyo and that the Frontline Presidents led by Julius Nyerere and Samora Machel who were concerned about the continued political division among the liberation movements and wanted to have a united army.
By this time, several hundred trained guerrillas and thousands of recruits were effectively restricted in camps in Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
Infiltration of the 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 from ZIPRA were sent to join the joint force.
The reluctance by ZIPRA forces could be a result of their inexperience in 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 then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to participate in the war or risk losing funding hence they chose infiltrating their forces across the Zambezi.
In as much as Nkomo was willing to have negotiations with Ian Smith, Smith vowed that the black majority would not rule the country, not in a ‘thousand years’.
When Henry Kissinger came to Africa late April he announced that the United States 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 were new and advanced than the ones that they had.
A series of meetings and events took place between Kissinger, Smith and John Vorster the then South African Prime Minister and Kissinger and nationalist leaders with the aim of reaching a consensus.
On September 5 1976 in Dar es Salaam a meeting was held by Nyerere, Kaunda, Machel and Khama who were meeting the divided nationalists and ZIPA commanders led by Cde Nhongo.
The meeting was against the backdrop of the inhumane Nyadzonia massacre.
On August 9 1976 the Rhodesian troops attacked the camp in Mozambique killing over 1 000 vulnerable Zimbabweans including women and young children.
And the Rhodesians remained adamant that it was a guerilla camp despite evidence that it was a refugee camp.
On September 5 1976 Samora Machel held a meeting to resolve the differences between ZANU and ZAPU which were affecting their liberation tactics as a result of different levels of warfront experiences and tribal differences and to establish who the guerillas regarded as their leaders.
Ndabaningi Sithole claimed that he was the leader of ZANU; however Mugabe and Nkomo were the only leaders that the guerrillas supported.
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 had 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 ZIPA military committee no longer wanted the detainees as their leaders and ZIPA’s deputy political commissar Dzinashe Machingura now wanted to turn ZIPA into a political movement and made frantic efforts to engage Nyerere who refused to listen and insisted that Mugabe should lead the delegation to Geneva.
Cde Nhongo was among Mugabe’s delegation.
The first four weeks of the Geneva Conference was 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 ZIPA crisis in Mozambique with reports of the formation of private armies and the intention of arresting ZANU leaders upon return from Geneva.
Samora Machel later called the whole ZIPA military committee to Maputo and they had documents written by some members of the committee.
One denounced Mugabe, Tekere and Muzenda, another denounced Geneva, and the third was to renew a revolutionary committee they planned to form and to transform ZIPA into a party.
Samora Machel instead dispatched the commanders to Geneva to join the ZANU delegation and when the Geneva Conference ended, other commanders except Cde Tongogara and Cde 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 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 ZIPA military committee and general staff members boarded buses to go to a special meeting.
However, they were taken to FRELIMO and put in custody for the next three years.
Despite their arrogance the young rebellious commanders of ZIPA had done well in resuming the war.
About 191 members of the Rhodesian security forces died in 1976, 45 European civilians were killed and the war covered an area larger than ever before.


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