Last week I was reading a letter that was circulating on social media written by some veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1960s and 70s liberation struggle, in which they were lamenting their failure to heed then Mozambique President Samora Machel’s warning not to allow Robert Mugabe to lead an armed revolutionary movement, as he was clearly not the right person.
As I was reading the letter, I remembered something that I had read in the book, ‘The Struggle for Zimbabwe’, by David Martin and Phyllis Johnson, that at one time part of the expenses of running the ZANU PF offices in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) were paid for by the Israeli embassy in that country.
This led me to ask myself loads of questions as to why the Israeli government – which was, and still is, a staunch ally of the Unites States, and the United Kingdom, and is at the fore-front of oppressing and subjugating Palestinians after illegally occupying their land since 1947 – would be interested in sponsoring an organisation that is purportedly fighting racism, oppression, and Western colonialism and hegemony.
This did not make sense at all.
What interest did the Israelis have in ZANU PF?
The answer did not come easy, but a study of ZANU PF’s background helped shed some light.
When ZANU PF was formed in 1964, the leaders of the Frontline States (now the Southern African Development Community – SADC) quickly saw through its divisive and sectarian nature.
In January 1969, the seven genuine liberation movements on the African continent – including ZAPU from the then Rhodesia and the African National Congress (ANC) from South Africa – met in Khartoum (Sudan), at which they consolidated their bond as the ‘natural allies’ and authentic liberation movements of Africa.
These liberation movements were guided by a sincere desire for independence, and the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, and exploitation of man by man.
They were vehemently opposed to any tribalism, regionalism, divisionism, and racialism.
However, ZANU PF did not attend this meeting.
It chose to align itself with movements as Angola’s UNITA led by the late Jonas Savimbi.
These organisations were clearly divisive and tribalistic – and clearly sponsored by the West.
In fact, Mozambique’s Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) said that ZANU PF was guided by power-hunger, and ‘represented dangerous divisions, and tribal secessionist tendencies’, as well as being ‘racist and undisciplined’.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s liberation struggle, ZANU PF was always viewed with disdain by the Frontline States, as its policies clearly ran contrary to the aspirations of the people.
Before the formation of ZANU PF, the indigenous people of this country were united, and lived peacefully side by side irrespective of tribe.
They had the common aim of liberating themselves from the shackles of colonialism and imperialism.
However, ZANU PF brought about chaos and fighting between tribes, as it played the tribe card everytime.
Joshua Nkomo, the leader of ZAPU was loved and admired throughout the country, and the party’s structures clearly represented all the tribes in the country.
On the contrary, ZANU PF portrayed itself, as a Shona party and gave the impression that ZAPU was for the Ndebele.
This worked very much against the spirit of the liberation struggle, and provided an edge to the Ian Smith-led colonial regime, as Blacks were now fighting each other, instead of one common enemy.
One might then ask why ZANU PF finally waged the liberation war using Mozambique as a rear base.
Well, it is a complicated issue that needs its own article, but simply put, when Frelimo opened up the western part of Mozambique on 7 and 8 March 1968 during its own liberation struggle, it offered ZAPU to use this as an entry into Rhodesia to fight.
However, at that time, ZAPU was embroiled in fierce divisions and was not ready to commence fighting.
As it turned out, the fighting within ZAPU was being orchestrated by ZANU PF’s Mugabe through their proxy James Chikerema, who was the ZAPU Vice President and leader in exile.
In 1967, ZANU PF’s Mugabe was trying to form a Zezuru alliance with Chikerema, so that if ZAPU ousted Nkomo, then they could form a united party led by Zezurus.
Again, that will be a topic for another article.
But the divisive and tribalistic machinations between Mugabe and Chikerema resulted in the debilitation of ZAPU, which made it unable to take up Frelimo’s offer.
Since Frelimo was eager for the liberation struggle to take off in Rhodesia, it then reluctantly opted for ZANU PF.
As Samora Machel stated at the time, ‘we do not support ZANU, but support the people of Zimbabwe’, and so they would reluctantly work with any group ready to wage a liberation war.
Therefore, Frelimo and ZANU PF started off with a tentative meeting at Dar es Salaam’s Twiga Hotel in 1968, and an agreement reached in 1970.
ZANU PF, through its divisive machinations managed to lead the liberation struggle until independence in 1980.
So where do the Israelis and the US fit in all this?
I strongly believe that ZANU PF was formed by these Western powers in order to sow hatred and division amongst the people of Zimbabwe, so that the authentic liberation movement would not win the struggle, and as such, threaten the interests of the Western powers.
When ZANU PF succeeded in derailing the authentic liberation movement, it proceeded to the Lancaster House Conference in London (England), and consented to a new constitution that virtually safeguarded and guaranteed the interests of the colonial powers.
They agreed to a 10-year dubious ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ constitutional guarantee on land – the very land that the whole liberation struggle was supposed to have been premised on.
Even after, the 10-year period, the ZANU PF regime had no intention of seriously redressing these colonial land imbalances.
The ZANU PF regime was clearly serving the interests of the colonial powers who had created it for that very purpose.
That is why the West was conspicuously quiet throughout the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities in Matebeleland and the Midlands, as they still needed ZANU PF to continue with its project of safeguarding colonial interests.
There was never any talk of human rights abuses, or sanctions – instead Mugabe was globetrotting to Western capitals and being awarded all sorts of honours and honorary degrees for his ‘exceptional leadership’, despite the fact that his Fifth Brigade was butchering tens of thousands of people in cold blood.
As long as their interests were preserved, the West did not care.
Had the West not changed their allegiances to the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999, the land question would have never been tackled.
That is when Mugabe panicked and embarked on arguably one of the most chaotic and bloody programmes in this country’s history.
The manner it was carried out, clearly showed that Mugabe had not planned it – as he had not banked on the West switching allegiances.
Even veterans of the liberation struggle were conveniently forgotten and discarded after 1980, as they had only been pawns in ZANU PF and the West’s agenda, and as such, were no longer needed.
Even today, war veterans are being beaten up by the ZANU PF regime – no wonder.
Today, ZANU PF is still as power-hungry as ever, and still ‘represents dangerous divisions, and tribal tendencies…racist and undisciplined’, as Samora Machel’s Frelimo so correctly pointed out nearly 50 years ago.
Indeed, it has more in common with its chosen ally, UNITA, than any self-respecting liberation movement.
Therefore, it is clear that ZANU PF was never genuinely a liberation movement, but was planted by Israel, probably on behalf of the US and UK, to safeguard their interests, as they knew that should an authentic liberation movement come to power, it would focus on genuinely empowering the majority of the people of Zimbabwe, something that the West saw as a threat.
° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes all feedback. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: tendaiandtinta.mbofana@gmail.