Op-Ed: How Zanu came into existence

By Irvine Sibhona

The born-free generation, born after Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, has grown up knowing a political system run by the Zanu PF party.

Unbeknown to many people, the ruling party, is a splinter group that broke away from the Ndabaningi Sithole led- Zanu formation that it why in the 1980 elections they used different party symbols. The Zanu party we have come to know is a breakaway faction from the original that was formed in 1963.

The one that is running the government of Zimbabwe received military assistance through the so-called Mgagao Declaration that tried to oust Ndabaningi Sithole the leader of the original Zanu. The splinter group did not even have leadership acumen and ideological standpoint.   

The very reason that caused the break away from Ndabaningi Sithole’s Zanu was that he was accused of selling out to the Rhodesians. This was proven by his return to Rhodesia to join the Rhodesian government. He later invited other Zanla cadres in the field to join him; some did join and were able to fight alongside the Rhodesian Army. 

This article is directed to Zanu (PF), an acronym that was borrowed from the patriotism with people who formed it in Tanzania and in particular Julius Nyerere who later compelled ZAPU to use Patriotic Front, as they did not have locus-standi as a political party later in 1976.

Zanu as a party had split in 1975 which led to Mgagao Declaration. At that time the party was leaderless and was represented by Rex Nhongo after the military commanders were arrested and some were in disarray following the death of Herbert Chitepo.  In 1976, Rex Nhongo and other Zanla commanders went to the Geneva Conference dressed in black military fatigue.  

The arrival of Mugabe in Mozambique cannot be disputed as he was neither a political leader nor part of the splinter group. He had been arrested by Samora Machel up until the intervention of Joshua Nkomo during the Geneva Conference in which Mr Ivor Richards was the mediator on behalf of the British Government. Mr Richards had refused to discuss with the Zanla military under Rex Nhongo up until Samora Machel released Mugabe to join the Zanu delegation.

At this point Zanu as a political party was non-existent. The party did not have a proper leadership structure as some had preferred to remain with Sithole and others were to follow the Mgagao declaration that had no specific structures. In hindsight, the current Zanu after the death of Chitepo did not form itself as a party but was a construct of the white Rhodesians through Ken Flower of the Rhodesian Intelligence for a reason to counter Zapu from getting early independence

Zanla which created Mgagao Declaration was only used as a vehicle that suited the Rhodesian agenda. Knowing that every Zimbabwean wanted to liberate their country, the political body did not conform to the aspirations of the people`s will. Julius Nyerere the President of Tanzania and the Rhodesians were the handlers of the political body. Zanu was not formed in Salisbury as perceived by many but in Tanzania before they came to announce its formation at Enos Nkala’s house in Highfields, Salisbury.

From its inception, Zanu has always been a violent party. Those who grew up in the sixties will testify to that black on black violence in Salisbury now Harare in townships of Highfields, Kambuzuma, in particular; as tribalism started to ferment.

In Zambia where Zanla was based during the earlier years of the liberation war, violence continued at some of their bases. Their camps were littered with shallow graves of comrades who were murdered, of course in the name of the party. Chitepo`s death was always inevitable because anyone of them who harboured nationalistic ideologies had to die as this would depart from the Rhodesian Agenda who were their handlers.

For instance, the Nhare group of commanders who were true revolutionaries had to die agonising deaths. John Mataure, Felix Rice, who were mostly of Manica extraction died violently and their remains were left to the vultures. Luckily they maybe some 15 or so who were the only ones given a decent burial by the ZPRA comrades at Leopards Hill Cemetery in Lusaka, Zambia on instructions by the Zambian Government. 

The Rhodesians, who were the actual manipulators of the situation, were delaying the nationalist agenda. The Rhodesians delayed Zimbabwe`s independence and self-determination by high jacking the struggle.  The rest of the people who joined Zanu were genuine comrades who were only indoctrinated to hate others.

However, the Sikombela crew were not actually in detention per se. The Detention Camp was bordering the African reserve area except a few that were thought to be hotheads. They were actually amongst the people yet if Comparisons were made to Zapu which was locked in Gonakudzingwa in the middle of the Game Reserve, and were held incommunicado from families. As far the Rhodesians were concerned Zapu was an enemy of the state therefore they had to be isolated completely from the population.  

The plot was nearly lost when Zanla went to operate from Mozambique.  Samora Machel had asked Zanla and ZPRA command to leave their parent political organisations and have the military spearhead the struggle of which Samora Machel would assist with support. In Mozambique, the example given was that Samora Machel had been a soldier himself after the death of Mondlane the President of FRELIMO who died from a letter bomb.

That led to Samora Machel taking over as the President up until independence in 1975.  The same was being envisaged for Zimbabwe as such thoughts were being peddled by Samora Machel. The ZIPA Command structure was being forced on the two military forces of which ZPRA declined in front of Machel.

President Machel on the day that he announced the closure of the Mozambique Rhodesian border while he was at Barrage, a railway stopover on the Limpopo River; he met the Zanla and ZPRA command element. He met Rex Nhongo (Solomon Mujuru) who was commander of ZIPA, JD John Dube, (Charles Sotsha Ngwenya) deputy Commander of ZIPA, Alfred Nikita Mangena the commissar of ZIPA, Elias Hondo, James Nyikadzinashe, and Report Pelekezela Mphoko the Chief of logistics and supplies.

Shortly after the address by Samora Machel at Barrage on noticing that ZPRA was not for the idea of disposing of their political party he was so incensed and he ordered all ZPRA cadres to be arrested and bundled into trucks and driven to Tete and Tembwe. That was the beginning of trouble for ZPRA cadres who went to Mozambique.

This would have spelt disaster for all the political parties both Zapu and Zanu who had military outfits. The situation in which ZPRA refused to denounce its political party was to save Zanla as well. Samora was later to release Mugabe to attend the Geneva Conference. After which Mugabe sought assistance from Joshua Nkomo by forming the Patriotic Front.

In other words, Zanu as a political party was not in existence in Mozambique. This led to Andrew Young the Secretary of State of USA to convince others and the British that Mugabe was the person who could be trusted as he did not have an ideology to base on.

The rest is history as we know it since 1980 that Mugabe had not been a leader of Zanu but a figurehead. This is confirmed by one important fundamental fact in that he declared that White Rhodesians who had been an enemy for years, were now friends and thereafter ZPRA was declared as the enemy of the state and on the 18th of April 1980, Zapu became enemy number one.  

The views expressed in this article belong to the author, Irvine J. Sibhona.

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