Zim liberation war history distorted

HARARE - The true history of the liberation war in Zimbabwe seems to be disputed every time those who supposedly participated in it write or give details in interviews which are usually hotly disputed.

Others are said to never have participated in the war regardless of their claims with some are said to have run away in the middle of the struggle.

There is also the participation of the likes the late Bishop Abel Muzorewa and Ndabaningi Sithole and their involvement in Zanu – is their liberation participation coming out as it should be in histories put together for us so far?

Even President Robert Mugabe's participation in the war and that of the late Dr Joshua Nkomo seems not to be coming out in the full context of the war. Are we having the truth about their participation being written?

An independent strategic communication expert Regis Nyamakanga said history is a conglomeration of facts based on how people see things.

“Therefore, depending on who is giving an account of history, there is a tendency of bias in how the accounts are narrated.

“In my opinion, the history of the liberation war of Zimbabwe needs to be written by an independent historian to avoid the self-centered bias that the current political actors always bring into the narrative. Until that is done, we will continue to be fed half-truth by the current crop of politicians.”

Nyamakanga said that piece of history needs to be captured by historians from reputable universities such as the University of Zimbabwe. “This responsibility cannot be entrusted with the politicians or NGOs because these institutions are known to be biased.

“Yes, UNESCO can fund researchers and historians to undertake this type of work but not government or civil society organisations.”

Political commentator Grace Kwinjeh said there is a saying; ‘history is written by the victors’ - in this case the dominant narrative though largely contested is that from Zanu PF.

“Sadly, our liberation history continues to be compromised by the ongoing factional wars in Zanu PF. It has become a factional matter or to with personal scores and not about the authenticity of a whole period of time, which affected many Zimbabweans not just those in Zanu PF leadership.

“It is now about who is talking and less about the facts, sadly as a nation not much investment has been done to actually research and document our history putting closure to a lot of issues which haunt us to this day,” said Kwinjeh.

She said academics such as Masipula Sithole and war veteran Dzinashe Machingura have however tried to give accounts of the liberation struggle even though these have not been largely accepted in Zanu PF.

“Sadly again the breakdown of our institutions including universities means the capacity to carry out authentic research that is well funded is difficult. There is a dearth of information among Zimbabweans even just their personal experiences during the war.

“Women war vets have tried to document and film what happened to them through the movie Flame but then you know the controversy that followed.

“So you also need political will to have such an important national project that will lay to rest vexing issues of our liberation history once and for all.”

Political activist Tabani Moyo said there is a very disturbing pattern of the participants of the liberation opting for publication of their books when they are dead. “In the process some of the actors die with their knowledge and in most cases they die with the correct record living gaps in which opportunist are quick to fill in for political expediency.

“As the late (Edgar) Tekere would be quoted saying, ‘beware of the hijackers of the revolution, for they become more powerful than the gun.’

“Those that are in charge of the commanding heights of the state machinery will always attempt to spruce up their role in the liberation to create a new self in the contest of power and other benefits which comes with it. “

Moyo said sadly it is a dead end in that the actors of the process have not taken appetite in documenting the happenings during the war to leave a correct account to the peoples of Zimbabwe.

“This would have allowed for discussion points that are structured and perfecting the story as the actors will be critiquing the publications rather that publishing when they are dead.

“We have a few brave ones who managed to publish and that's commendable. Those who are living and not writing are doing a disservice to the debate and living room for opportunistic narratives for narrow personal and selfish ends.”

Playwright Cont Mlanga said all he could say is that Zimbabwe has no written liberation history worth teaching to future generations. "It is a total mess of self praise refugees. It is one huge lie by those who seekk to make politics a life job because they are not good enough to make it out there in a competitive creative world.

"The truth of the matter is that the liberation struggle was not documented well as it unfolded to a point that no one knows what happened when, to whom and how, except to those that where close to each other. But not every one was always close to each other. No one had an over all bird's view of who did what where and what was happening and documented it. When people met collectively for the first time at independence they started telling each other lies to justify inclusion in the gravy train.

"The lies will continue now giving birth to more lies. People who created the foundation of the liberation struggle in the 30s 40s and 50s are not recognized in this current version of the liberation struggle yet you read about others being celebrated who lived way before them as far back as 1896. Even then in 1896 you will only hear names from Mashonaland and those from Matabeleland are not part of the celebrated group. I don't know how this historical mess will be corrected..Its a big political shame," said Mhlanga.

Media practitioner Takura Zhangazha said the Zimbabwean liberation struggle history has always been politicised particularly by those that participated directly in leadership roles and are still in government.

“The late historian Terrence Ranger referred to this as patriotic history. It would be more the task of academics to unmask the truth behind claims at heroism because they would no doubt be more objective in their exploration of events.

“But this will not let the speculation and contestations of the history dissipate because we still have a whole generation that participated in the struggle claiming glory for contemporary political purposes.”

Zhangazha added though that some academics have tried to review the history more objectively in books such as Becoming Zimbabwe.

Writer Stephen Tsoroti said Zimbabweans need to know who really were Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Edgar Tekere and Hebert Chitepo. “What role did they play in Zimbabwean politics, where did they come from, what were their ideals, hopes and dreams?

“All that is not reflected in the history accounts we have read and heard so far. It is history written for certain reasons rather than giving the correct details of what happened.”

He added that there appears to be plenty of distortions, “perhaps it is because some want to be more special than others. They want credit to themselves rather giving the true accounts of how the war was waged.”

Tsoroti believes “we have left the writing of those accounts to just a few people. Why not renowned journalists, authors and individuals investigate and write?

“Geoff Hill is one journalist and writer who has done well to capture, interrogate and detail bits of our history. The late National Hero Nathan Shamuyarira tried to present the true reflection albeit being in the eye of adversaries. Remember some tried to discredit him and called him a war deserter. Perhaps this is why he never produced any books until his demise.”

He added that there is need for writers, journalists, filmmakers and researchers to begin writing these accounts, even going to places where the war took place and get first-hand accounts. “There are old people who know one or two things about what transpired.”

Tsoroti added that Echoing Silences by Alexander Kanengoni is one brave account into what happened during the war by a freedom fighter.

Comments (5)

OK people let me give you bit of History you really need to know to understand today.Mugabe traded his freedom from white detention with information about Chitepo's exact location and Smith sent Ian Sutherland and Hugh Hint to kill Chitepo,Mugabe killed Takawira in prison,When Mugabe was released from jail he went to Mozambique targeting Tongogara and he succeeded with the help of Oppah Rushesha.He followed this by cleaning all Chitepo bodyguards by the help of Solomon Mujuru.If it was not for Solomon Mujuru,Mugabe would have been a nothing.The real war Mugabe fought was to kill Tongogara,have Chitepo killed,despise Sithole,alienate Tekere and plan the annihilation of the Ndebeles together with E D mnangagwa in 1978.Gukurahundi was planned in 1978 and the contract to train the 5th Brigade was signed in 1979.

vilbram avril - 2 November 2015

Also, not all members of the Rhodesian security forces were bad. I know of a young black sergeant who was smuglling casual detainees out. He is alive today and lives in Bulawayo. Also, I know of another young black operative who released a captured war collaborator to go and warn a group of Zanla guerillas who included one calles "MaSweet". The guerillas were at Mabika School in Murewa in the late 1970s and were about to be attacked when this happened. The good fellows in the Rhodesian forces will never be publicly known, but they did well during the struggle.

machakachaka - 11 November 2015

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