Revising history can mean two things

HARARE - That can mean two things; reviewing what you learned, or rewriting history to change it. DeadBC on 18 April were doing the second kind of revising, so I'll try to help you do the first kind. If you're over 40, this is only what we all remember, but here goes.

Our radio told us half a dozen times between 10.30 and 11am, that we were celebrating the victory of Robert Mugabe, commander-in-chief of ZANLA (once they said his co-commander was Joshua Nkomo) over the British. I wonder how they got so many errors into such a short sentence?

First: the actual military commander of ZANLA was Josiah Tongogara. He directed military operations. It may be that the head of the political wing, the party, had seniority but Tongogara deserves a mention, don’t you think?

Second: Joshua Nkomo was in no way a co-commander of ZANLA. He had his own party, ZAPU, with its own military wing, ZIPRA. ZANU and ZAPU formed an alliance in 1976 called the Patriotic Front, so they should have been equal partners in all military matters. In fact, they did not co-operate very well, which didn’t matter much as long as they were fighting in different areas: ZIPRA in Matebeleland and ZANLA in Shona-speaking areas. I would have thought that ZIPRA deserve a mention in this potted history, however short DeadBC editors want it cut. We are not incapable of absorbing this much fact.

Third: Mugabe never fought the British. Nor did ZANLA or ZIPRA. All of them, and a few other people like Ndabaningi Sithole, took part in the struggle against Ian Smith and his Rhodesian Front (RF). In the interests of accuracy, both Smith and Sithole need to be mentioned. Sithole mainly because he founded ZANU. Smith because he was the main enemy all who wanted independence had to contend with.

British troops only came to Zimbabwe in 1979, after the cease-fire between the RF’s troops, ZANLA and ZIPRA which also ended Ian Smith’s rebellion against Britain.

Because it was Ian Smith who first declared independence of Britain, unilaterally, which means on his own, hence we call that UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence).

In fact there had never been much British presence here because Zimbabwe was not a colony of the British government or Crown, but of Cecil Rhodes’ private company. Hence, as a colony, it was called Rhodesia. The company ran things so badly from 1890 to 1923 that something had to change. The settlers voted between joining racist South Africa or being a self-governing’ British colony. They had their own, whites-only parliament and their own army. The British monarch only kept the power to veto bills passed by the Rhodesian’ parliament.

They only did that once, so we could blame them for not doing more to (in their phrase) protect African interests’.

Ian Smith rebelled against this with his UDI in 1965 because the British refused to give him independence until he agreed that we would have majority rule within a few years. He could not offer guarantees of this that anyone would trust, so he declared UDI.

And that, dear students should be enough for one lesson. There are other important characters in the story, like Abel Muzorewa, Garfield Todd, Kings Mzilikazi and Lobengula and all the nationalists and trade unionists, but they will have to wait for another time.

Post published in: Opinions

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