Zimbabwe and the aftermath of Lancaster


IT was December 1979 and everything was happening in Zimbabwe.
The British had signed their terms of surrender at Lancaster House, but there was no peace — everything was seething beneath the surface.
Western powers had been defeated and had to put their signature to the Lancaster House Agreement.
The liberation forces and the progressive people knew the enemy had been severely wounded but would still strike again if given half a chance.
This was the mood when a particular British journalist passed through Maputo on his way to Salisbury (now Harare) to cover the period leading up to the elections and after.
He thought he would talk to ZANU cadres and ZANLA forces in Maputo and assess how events were likely to unfold in Zimbabwe in the aftermath of Lancaster.
He did, but he had his own views which were very strong and in the end, these prevailed.
He told us for ZANU to ascend to power, there were four miracles that had to take place; but it was unlikely that the miracles would take place.
The first miracle, he said, was of ZANLA forces getting into the Assembly Points.
In his mind, it would take a miracle for this to happen.
He surmised that the death of ZANLA’s Chief of Defence Cde Josiah Magama Tongogara would disturb the combatants so much they would not trust getting into Assembly Points.
He believed in the absence of the Chief of Defence, there was no one they could trust sufficiently to convince them to lay down their arms and trust the unfolding process.
In the unlikely event that this miracle took place, a second would be necessary.
This second miracle was of the people of Zimbabwe voting peacefully.
This miracle was not likely to take place for there were so many forces militating against peace, he calculated.
He knew Rhodesians had everything to lose and would do anything to disturb the transition to majority rule.
He also did not expect that the masses would be so disciplined, secure and calm in the absence of the freedom fighters who had become their reassurance against total annihilation by the Rhodesian terrorists.
The third miracle that would have to take place, the journalist went on, was that, even if the voting took place peacefully and the results were credible, would ZANU win a big enough majority to form a Government on its own.
He was of the idea that the results would be so fractured it would not be possible for ZANU to win decisively.
There were enough contenders, he reckoned, and in his typical Western mentality he did not believe freedom fighters were truly popular, but that the people supported them mostly because of their power of the gun and, in the absence of the gun, ZANU and ZANLA were skating on thin ice.
The journalist still had a fourth miracle up his sleeve.
Even if the third miracle did take place and ZANU did win an overwhelming majority, would the Rhodesians and the British accept such an outcome?
That was the fourth miracle needed for ZANU to ever ascend to rule Zimbabwe.
In his mind, these four miracles were mountain peaks ZANU was not likely to scale successfully.
It was rather amusing to listen to this journalist; to realise how far he was from the truth and yet so sure of himself that he could disregard our views which were based on our experiences on the ground.
We knew Cde Tongogara.
We knew the combatants; the way ZANU and ZANLA were organised and held together but it was he, the foreigner, who insisted he ‘knew’ it all and believed nothing would ever work since the Chief of Defence was no more.
He, the foreign ‘expert’, understood the relationship between freedom fighters and the people more than those on the ground so much that he could predict that the people could not be disciplined and calm in the absence of the liberation forces.
And of course, with typical disdain of the West, he could not accept that the liberation forces could ever be that popular so there was no way ZANU would win with an overwhelming majority.
But the most telling of his Western mentality was the admission that even if ZANU did come through with an overwhelming majority, Rhodesia and its Western friends would not accept such an outcome.
As I recall now, we did not argue with him.
We did not try to convince him to see things our way, but rather, we left him to his foolish views as he boarded the plane for Salisbury.
We did not think much about him.
Actually, we forgot about him until he came back after the elections and he was a ‘transformed’ person.
He was in a state and his mind had been blown by what he had experienced in Zimbabwe.
The four miracles had taken place.
ZANLA had gone into the Assembly Points as per plan; the people had voted peacefully; ZANU had won an overwhelming majority; and the Rhodesians, Britain and their Western allies had had to accept the election results.
He could not get over the way the masses had voted peacefully while showers of rain blessed them as they queued patiently.
Zimbabwe was a nation at peace, a nation come home and no-one could dispute that or stop it.
The journalist had a copy of the book, A Very Short Thousand Years, decrying Ian Smith’s boast that there would be no majority rule — not even in 1 000 years.
We were not surprised that the miracles took place; it is what we hoped for and trusted in.
What surprised us was his ‘conversion’ — his Damascene moment.
It had been a baptism of fire and if he was honest, he would have gone and told the Britons back home that, ‘Zimbabwe is the land of Musikavanhu, the land of miracles’.


  1. you have tried the truth is a bitter pill to swallow

    miracles happened it is only that you want to hide them or it did not get to you

    are you aware that vakuru vakuru vevagwi verusununguko vakabatiwa na smith mu ceasefire

    and some were literally killed in january 1980 eg, ku bindura

    vana kasikayi kuridza nana mayor urimbo vakanunugwa nani
    that is the forbidden truth


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