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New perspectives: Why Zanu, Zanu PF were successful in the 1970s, 80s and 90s

Zanu Pf supporters

I was in a meeting recently when someone who is not a member of Zanu or Zanu PF asked the question: Why was Zanu and Zanu PF successful in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and not successful after 2001? 

What an important question!  What is the answer? 

This article is one of two , which examines this question seriously. 

This article concentrates on the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. I will try to do a second article on what happened after 2001.

The 1970s were the decades of serious liberation struggle, which included a number of factors, including political and military. 

Prior to the 1970s liberation movements  emphasised the importance of one person one vote, universal suffrage. 

People firmly believed that once everyone got the vote, it would be possible for Zimbabwe to be free. 

However, after six decades of struggle, many people began to realise that getting the vote on its own was not sufficient. 

Besides obtaining universal suffrage, were there other policies and policy details which required investigation?

One of the first issues was that of armed struggle:  many were for peaceful struggle. 

Some were, however, convinced that a military struggle was also essential. 

Could peaceful political struggle gain independence? 

Or was it also necessary to combine it with military struggle? 

Both Zanu and Zapu had to face this issue, as each of them had engaged partners such as the Chinese for Zanu and the Soviet Union for Zapu: both supported the armed struggle in addition to political struggle. 

However, each had entirely different conceptualisations of what the armed struggle would entail. 

The Chinese believed that the main military force would comprise the peasantry, the majority in every African country.

The Soviets believed success would be based on strong and effective modern military training. 

As a result the Zanu army, Zanla, focused on the peasant population, and soon had tens of thousands of recruits, whilst the Zapu army, Zipra, chose to have long periods of military training for smaller numbers of troops.

At first Zapu and Zipra began with a larger army, numbering more than 600 troops in the 1960s, well trained in armed warfare by the Soviets.

 However, they mainly remained in their camps in Zambia and elsewhere in Africa, and did not immediately participate in warfare.

 They enjoyed sophisticated weapons. 

They were also better educated, with secondary education, many with training in Soviet military academies or universities. 

Meanwhile, Zanu and Zanla initially had a much smaller army, beginning with only half a dozen dedicated freedom fighters. 

However, these freedom fighters were prepared to fight, and were able to make a mark despite their simpler and shorter training with simple armaments. 

They were trained by Tanzanians and Chinese in Tanzania, with a few leaders going to China for orientation.

But it was becoming more and more evident that armed warfare was going to be essential and that political work and political negotiations with the British on the one hand and the Smith regime on the other hand, would not be sufficient. 

In 1968, Zapu and the ANC of South Africa, decided to launch a large scale armed attack on Rhodesia. 

Unfortunately, the Rhodesians learnt about the plan through the international press and also through peasant reports: peasants were surprised to find heavily armed men entering and moving across the country and went to report their findings to the Rhodesians, who appealed to the South African government to support them to fight off the freedom fighters. 

The ANC – Zipra fighters were captured and imprisoned. 

Many were killed.  A few managed to fight, but were forced to flee back to Zambia. 

Nevertheless this was a very important incursion, demonstrating huge political support from the two African political parties and their supporters, as well as the very large size of well trained personnel. 

One weakness of the incursion was the failure to gain initial support from the surrounding peasant population.

Zanu and Zanla, with its peasant based freedom fighters, were able to gain the support of the peasantry and were highly effective by 1973.

The 1968 Zapu-ANC offensive led to a split in the Zapu leadership, resulting in the removal of Chikerema who was then heading external Zapu. 

The Zipra army split, with a significant number joining Zanu and Zanla.  

Amongst those who joined were Solomon Mujuru, later to become the first head of the Zimbabwean army and Robson Manyika one of the first Zimbabwean military commanders. 

Zanla was strengthened by this input. Some Zipra forces were allowed to go overseas for university education, whilst many of those who were in Rhodesia were killed. 

Both Zapu and Zanu believed in universal suffrage, and this was agreed to by both the British and Rhodesians at the independence negotiations in 1979. 

Universal suffrage has been agreed in almost all African countries.

However, the two and a half months of negotiations were hurriedly completed as all sides were eager for a speedy settlement. 

There were disagreements on the question of ownership of farm properties:  the British and Rhodesians wanted all land transfers to be paid for.

 The final agreement was that the Americans and British would provide funds for the purchase of white owned farms.

The British actually did so in 1980, and the first resettlement programme was funded by generous and modest funds enough to settle about 200 000 settlers. 

Britain paid for infrastructure whilst the detailed work was done by government and local communities and local authorities. 

This strong partnership between donor funding, government, communities and local governments formed the sound foundation of development in the 1980s and 1990s. 

The Rhodesians had faithfully followed the American and British forms of capitalism since 1927.

  This form of capitalism had made America and Britain develop into huge and successful capitalist economies, with enormous agricultural and manufacturing growth. 

But by the late 1970s this traditional form of capitalism had been replaced by the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap), in the whole of the west. 

Esap was also accepted by Zimbabwe by 1992, but its implementation could only start a few years later.

Esap differed from traditional capitalism as the west believed that economic development had already progressed very fast in the world, and there was no need for African and other developing countries to follow it. 

Instead developing countries should concentrate on what they were already good at, and allow Western countries to provide developed machinery, equipment and goods at cheap prices. 

Zimbabwe followed Esap, and stopped producing its own food and goods, and instead started to import them more cheaply, mainly from China and South Africa.

Soon Zimbabwe had to import everything, and many companies had to close down. 

Today Zimbabwe imports nearly all of its food and goods, and exports mainly tobacco and raw minerals.

In conclusion one problem was the 1979 constitutional arrangement, which gave universal suffrage, but not economic rights and growth. 

Some adjustments were made to the constitution, but not sufficient to transform its basis. 

These adjustments included universal primary education, health care in rural areas, and a clean water supply for all. 

These lasted for more than 20 years, and have continued in many ways. 

However, the economic system was not transformed. 

Moreover the original Rhodesian economic system was stronger than the Esap reforms. 

If it had been retained for a longer period instead of being replaced by Esap, Zimbabwe could have grown better and stronger economically.

  • Chung was a secondary school teacher in the townships; lecturer in the polytechnics and universities; teacher trainer in the liberation struggle; civil servant and UN civil servant and minister of primary and secondary education.
  • *These weekly articles coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society) and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe. Email – kadenge.zes@gmail.com and Mobile No. +263 772 382 852

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