Books: Re-Living the Second Chimurenga

Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle, By Fay Chung, published by The Nordic African Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, 2006, 358 pages. BY FRANCO HENWOOD One of the devices of oppression is to convince its victims that they deserve it. Not even the most robust

and resilient personalities are entirely immune. Nelson Mandela recalled sitting in a plane awaiting take-off shortly after his release. He caught sight of the black pilot and suddenly found himself doubting whether he was capable of flying the plane.

For Fay Chung, education is the link in achieving both personal and national emancipation. Chung narrates her origins among the tiny Chinese minority, her early radicalisation, her participation in the liberation struggle in Zambia and Mozambique and through to independence and her tenure at the Ministry of Education. She details the role of education in the refugee camps both in preparing for independence during the 1970s and its consolidation in the 1980s. Her book concludes with an assessment of events until the end of 2004.

Her account is not an unvarnished apology for ruling party. She can be explicit and frank about the party’s corruption, violence and misrule both in and out of power. However she is consistently dismissive of the alternatives. This includes other possible leaders like Sithole and Nkomo in the 1970’s and the MDC’s more recent challenge to one-party rule. Despite everything, she considers the land seizures as legitimate and rational in essentials (although poorly executed) and a return to the basic objectives of the liberation struggle.

These objectives were ‘the redistribution of white-owned commercial farmland and the democratisation of educational opportunity.'(P 256) She fails to appreciate that the regime, in pursuing the former, has succeeded in wrecking the latter. As a result, for so many, getting an education is a ticket to nowhere. As one 27-year old University of Zimbabwe drop-out turned informal trader put it, “Quite frankly and speaking from experience, education has become a stumbling block to becoming rich or just being self-sustainable. Most of the people who went to school are struggling to cope while some of us on the streets are making it big.” (Zim Online 03.01.06).

Those who stay the course are likely to export their talents. One of the major beneficiaries of country’s formerly show case educational system is the British National Health Service.

Recently, a Zanu (PF) Political Commissar justified proposals to make the notorious youth training programme compulsory for all High School graduates as necessary to counter the flight of the young and educated from Zimbabwe. Parents and teachers had failed to teach young people ‘to appreciate their country and to stand by it at times of crises’. (Zim Daily 03.01.06)

This is the thinking of a know-nothing regime, under which education in any meaningful sense is a secondary consideration to that of retaining power. Chung fails to address the fate of education in the country in any detail in recent years. This is a striking omission considering the subject matter of this book. In other words, her book is a retrospective, a looking back on a golden age for education in the country, now tragically concluded. – The opinions expressed are those of the author personally and in no way reflect the views of either The Zimbabwean or Amnesty International.

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Post published in: Arts

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