‘Zanu did not initiate the armed struggle’

It is false narrative that the Zanu initiated the armed confrontation against the Rhodesian forces as such engagements had already started well before the party’s formation in 1963, said Jeremy Brickhill a former ZPRA intelligence officer.

Brickhill noted that physical confrontation against the white settlers should include references to a series of fierce clashes between the Rhodesian security and locals, starting possibly at Hwange Colliery in 1954, the boycotts in Salisbury (Harare) in 1956, which led to the declaration of a state of emergency and most importantly the Zhi uprising that started in Bulawayo in 1959.

“These events, attempts at peaceful protests were ruthlessly and violently suppressed and led sections of the movement, especially the youth to conclude they had to fight back and this is what happened. But it didn’t happen all at once, it happened incremental process in which early resistors armed only with stones petrol bombs began a physical confrontation,” Brickhill said while addressing a public lecture titled ZPRA – the People’s Army on CITE’s Facebook platform recently, where he indicated it was crucial to publicise the correct narrative on ZPRA contribution to the liberation struggle. 

Some of the myths, Brickhill said, was the longstanding claim that those who split away from ZAPU to form in Zanu 1963 did so because they were radicals who wanted armed struggle while those who remained were opposed to or fearful of it.

“This is simply not true. The fact is the turn towards armed struggle was on the part of militant nationalists and this was a complex process not an event,” he said.

Brickhill joined the struggle in 1974 where he served in the National Security Organ, an intelligence outfit.

He said fighting the colonial system, taking note of the Zhi uprising in 1959, continuing in the early 1960s led towards the actual armed struggle in which the liberation movement was finally able to face the colonisers armed with modern weapons of war.

“A leaflet distributed during the Zhi period in the townships under General Hokoyo called on the youth to form underground secret cells and attack the authorities using homemade weapons such as petrol bombs, stones and dynamite stolen from miners. These underground structures of which very little has been written or said were called ‘Gendar’ (sp) after Gendarmes in the Congo at the time and later in Bulawayo townships, they operated under the name the formidables,” he said.    

The Katangese Gendarmerie, officially the Katangese Armed Forces, was the paramilitary force of the unrecognized State of Katanga in Central Africa from 1960 to 1963 

These underground cells attacked police stations, police vehicles, administration buildings and as this violence spread into rural areas, attacks also took place in rural administration buildings and dip tanks across the whole country, Brickhill said.

“These early underground cells, which essentially started the organised violence resistance to colonialism also provided a very important experience and knowledge of how to build secret underground party structures and enabled ZAPU to sustain secret party support for the armed struggle throughout the following decades after the party was banned.”

He added that the role of the underground party structures was a very important factor in the conduct of ZPRA in the armed struggle in later years.

“Zanu was formed in 1963 yet these secret underground structures took the first real step towards violent confrontation with settlers. This took place well before Zanu was launched and battles they waged took place under the direction of the National Democratic Party and then its successor ZAPU,” said the former ZRPA fighter.

“The first weapons of war arrived in the country well before the formation of Zanu. The first volunteers for military training left the country before the formation of Zanu. The first weapons were actually smuggled out of Egypt in late 1962 by Dr Joshua Nkomo himself and brought to the county by a series of comrades.”

Brickhill said the first volunteers to join the armed struggle left the country for training in Ghana, then China, Egypt, North Korea and Cuba in early 1963.

“These early steps were undertaken by ZAPU under the leadership of the Special Affairs Department headed by James Chikerema, so it’s nonsense to say Zanu was formed to enable the armed struggle to commence. The NDP and ZAPU started preparations for armed struggle well before Zanu was formed,” he stated.

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