Source: Zimbabwe’s liberation war narrative confusing | The Financial Gazette September 1, 2016
By Tabitha Mutenga and Njabulo Ncube
There is a code of conduct for all fighters
By which they must live; abide by all the rules and regulations, as much as you can
We should not take by force anything from the people
We should also return anything that we will have taken
We must not exploit or rob the masses
We must return all contraband to the enemy
We must communicate our stand clearly to the masses
They must know the party line
We should not be promiscuous, in our war of liberation
We should not harass prisoners of war
Pay fair prices for everything that you buy. Return anything that you have confiscated for military reasons
THIS is a rendition of the soldier’s code of conduct by Chinese revolutionary, Mao Tse Tung, or simply known as chairman Mao, which captured the imaginations of thousands of freedom fighters who successfully waged war against the repressive Rhodesian government from the late 1960s throughout the 1970s.
Translated from Chinese into a Shona song by the late guerrilla commander, Josiah Tongogara, Nzira Dzemasoja (The soldiers’ code of conduct), this all-time classic inspired many of the country’s freedom fighters to live a life of virtue.
However, despite this there is an emerging new narrative that is threatening to redefine the liberation struggle as it has been known.
There appears to be serious efforts, especially from within the ruling ZANU-PF party, to twist the long-standing narrative to suit some obscure political agendas.
Today, history is being re-written, or perhaps distorted, to suggest that female combatants during the liberation war were nothing but girlfriends and concubines of their senior male counterparts.
Given the intensity of the hullabaloo over the issue, there are now some calls for government to set up a committee of credible historians and academics to embark on a major project to accurately record or document the true events leading to the liberation of the country from colonial Britain in 1980.
What has prompted all these suggestions has been a calculated attack on one of the country female liberation war icons, former vice president, Joice Mujuru.
Unceremoniously booted out of both the ruling party and government in 2014 for allegedly plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe from power, Mujuru has formed her own political party, the Zimbabwe People First, which poses one of the most formidable challengers to President Mugabe, come 2018.
Before her ouster from ZANU-PF, Mujuru was celebrated as a heroine of the liberation struggle, who downed a helicopter full of enemy soldiers.
The late former ZANU-PF secretary general, Edgar Tekere wrote in his autobiography that Mujuru was a commander who received and looked after President Mugabe, Tekere and Chief Tangwena when they arrived in Mozambique.
But last week, a fellow ex-freedom fighter, George Rutanhire, claimed instead that Mujuru did not even down an enemy helicopter, but her purported lover, Joseph Chipembere, had actually done so.
That “revelation” dramatically twisted Mujuru’s liberation war heroine status.
But that narrative becomes part of a confusing tale of the nation’s liberation war.
Most gender activists have taken to social media to voice their displeasure over the so-called “exposé” of Mujuru.
“The male-dominated ZANU-PF leadership should be ashamed. Young women were raped and sexually abused under their watch. If Joice had consensual sex with various commanders it is her business. How many women did the men who are now attacking her sleep with? What Joice Mujuru did in the bush or bedroom will not fix the economy, it will not bring real freedom and it will not fill the government coffers. All that these people attacking Joice and thinking they are exposing her are doing is actually confessing that they believe in carpet interviews. Does this story even help the ZANU- PF leadership? No, it doesn’t. It has just confirmed what we always suspected about sex and patronage being the glue that brings people together in ZANU-PF,” said one activist.
“Mujuru is a mother and a respected former vice president, and now we are bombarded with unfounded stories of her sex life? Can you imagine someone publishing stories about your mother’s sex life when she was a teenager? This is most demeaning to women and their human rights, in particular. First it was stories about witchcraft, now her supposedly wicked sex life? It shows the empty minds of some of our supposed political leaders. I feel sad; the vilification is not going to the men, the perpetrators, but to the victim,” said another Facebook activist.
In her book: Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memoirs of Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle, former education minister, Fay Chung, highlights how thousands of young women guerrillas were used as sex slaves by commanders. She writes about the systematic abuse of women by their male superiors, notwithstanding their efforts to resist their demands.
According to the book, female fighters were expected to “warm blankets” for male commanders. Chung argues that the primary grievance of women fighters was ill-treatment by male soldiers.
Experiences of women during Zimbabwe’s bitter struggle for independence were also partly captured by the controversial film, Flame, released in 1995.
That first feature film about Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle stirred controversy.
It presented stories of pain, violence, bitterness and a history of broken promises.
Flame offered a story that had not been told publicly in Zimbabwe, allowing the younger generation to see for themselves the many sides of the struggle and giving those who survived the war an opportunity to celebrate their achievements and commiserate their losses.
But today the country, torn apart by decades of socio-economic strife, stands confused as that history is being questioned by the very people who participated in its creation.
Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst who teaches public management at a South African university, said the latest revelations confirm that Zimbabwe’s history contains half-truths and is largely distorted to suit ZANU-PF propaganda and political machinations.
“The ZANU-PF political elite, after telling us lies believe that they can correct the same lies and we should have no problems with it (believing the corrected version of lies).
“The scary and sad fact is that we may never know the truth about the country’s liberation struggle as most of those who took part in it either died with the truth or have assisted in peddling the big lies for political expediency,” said Mukonza.
Mukonza added that the ruling party was being selfish and reckless, saying national history belonged to all citizens who had and still have a duty to establish and preserve a true account of important historical occurrences such as the liberation struggle as this defines Zimbabweans as a people.
“It is emerging that some of the things which for a very long time stood in our memories as history were peddled to ensure that certain people are positioned for political power. The current generation is now confused as to what really transpired during the war and at the rate at which the history has been and continues to be distorted future generations may as well end up questioning whether the war ever took place or it was imagined. The damage is bigger than what the current ZANU-PF leaders are imagining.”
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s war history has also stirred some controversy with his former colleagues in ZAPU and ZIPRA claiming he sold out during the war while in Maputo, Mozambique.
There have been incessant calls by ZAPU and ZIPRA cadres that the history of the struggle needed to be re-written, pointing out that current State media reports and history books suggested ZANU-PF and ZANLA where the only ones who fought the war.
“The ZANU-PF conception of Zimbabwe is based on historical lies and smelly propaganda,” said Sibusiso Ngwenya, a political analyst, in response to State media reports on Mujuru’s alleged shenanigans during the war.
Obert Gutu, the MDC-T spokesman, weighed in, saying it was doubtful what role, if any, some senior ZANU-PF officials played during the war of liberation.
“So, who, exactly fought in the armed struggle against Ian Smith’s racist, illegal regime? There has been too much mud-slinging,” said Gutu.