Chimurenga War, 1964

Known to the English-speaking world as the Rhodesian Bush War or the Zimbabwe War of Independence, the Second Chimurenga (the Shone term for ‘revolutionary struggle’) saw a three-way competition for control of the landlocked, southern African former British colony. The British colony of Rhodesia had effectively ruled itself since the 1920s, and by the 1960s the British government hoped to peacefully transition the territory to independent status while avoiding violent chaos between the minority white settler government and black nationalists that had happened in the Congo and Kenya in the wake of colonial withdrawal. At the time, few black Rhodesians were permitted to vote or hold office and the country was ruled by a small white ruling class. Black nationalists were advocating for the expansion of democratic principles to include majority rule, while the white settler government, led by PM Ian Smith, feared that the withdrawal of British protection with the expansion of voting rights to the black majority would turn Rhodesian society upside down and drive white Rhodesians into exile or poverty. The Smith government granted only minor concessions to the black nationalists, providing for several more seats in the Parliament that could be held by blacks, while expanding voting rights to a small minority of black elites, allowing for the white minority to maintain control of the government. The British refused to grant Rhodesia formal independence until it instituted majority rule and guaranteed racial equality; the Rhodesian government responded by issuing a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965. Black nationalist organizations that had been employing strategies of non-violent civil disobedience since the 1950s began advocating violent struggle to achieve an independent Zimbabwean nation. Two rival organizations vied for control of the Zimbabwean people against each other and the Rhodesian government. The Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole (succeeded by Robert Mugabe) led the Zimbabwean African National Union (ZANU) and its armed wing, ZANLA consisted primarily of Shona speaking tribes. The Zimbabwean African People’s Union (ZAPU) and its armed wing ZIPRA was led by Joshua Nkomo and consisted primarily of Ndebele ethnic groups. A guerrilla and counter-insurgency war raged for over 15 years. Rhodesian independence was never internationally recognized, and the Smith regime received little international support. Whites fled the country throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and the white minority security forces were unable to suppress the struggle for majority rule. A negotiation with moderate black leaders in 1978 led to a temporary resolution, but both ZANU and ZAPU called the newly elected black prime minister a puppet of the white regime and kept fighting. The 1980 election brought ZANU leader Robert Mugabe to the prime minister’s office, and he continues to rule Zimbabwe as president.

zimbabweAlthough whites made up only 4 percent of the Rhodesian population, they occupied over 75% of elected offices.

Presidential address at the ZANU inaugural congress by Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, 13 May 1964
Statement to the Committee of Nine by James Chikerema, acting President, 5 June 1964
Statement by James Chikerema, acting-Presdient. Lusaka, March 1966
Memorandum to Commonwealth Heads of States conference on the Fearless proposals, 7 January 1969
ZAPU Comments to the UN/OAU Conference on Southern Africa, 9-14 April 1973
ZANU Comments to the UN/OAU Conference on Southern Africa, 9-14 April 1973
Rhodesian Front Government Protest on ‘Terrorist’ Invasions, 28 August 1967

Presidential address at the ZANU inaugural congress by Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, 13 May 1964 Top

Source: Christopher Nyangoni and Gideon Nyandoro, eds. 1979. “Zimbabwe Independence Movements: Select Documents.” New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

Sons and daughters of Zimbabwe –

I am delighted to see so many of you here. I fully realize the sacrifice you have made in order that you might be here. Here we meet for the first time as ZANU supporters from over 40 districts. Here we shall elect our own leaders freely, and here we shall make important decisions which will affect this country for a long time to come.

ZANU which was formed on 8 August 1963, stands for democracy, socialism, nationalism, one man one vote, freedom, Pan-Africanism, non-racism and republicanism. Those who care to know more about our programme are advised to read our policy statement.

All of you, I am sure, know that since the birth of ZANU, The People’s Caretaker Council has tried its best to liquidate us physically. They had hoped that with a regular supply of money from the United Arab Republic, and by employing thugs to intimidate us, they would carry the day; but to their amazement and dismay they have completely and hopelessly failed. Today ZANU can boast of over 100,000 card-bearing members. Let alone general sympathizers. ZANU is destined to liberate this country because it acts from a deep and sacred sense of devotion, dedication and humanity, unlike PCC which has thoroughly antagonized the people because of their intimidation and thuggery – the alpha and omega of PCC leadership.

The white settler government has been very ruthless with us. They have raided our offices and homes quite regularly. Most of our members of the national executive have been sentenced, for political reasons, to periods ranging from six to 18 months. Let alone the ordinary supporters who are serving sentences ranging from one year to 20 years.

The white settler government is terrible afraid of ZANU. Its growing strength has so scared it that for no apparent reason they decided to cancel our first national rally which was due to be held on 23 May 1964, after this congress. You all knhow the most stringent conditions under which the congress is being held. All our sessions are required to be open to the police and to allow the police to record everything. Only a fear-ridden government can do this. As long as this government continues to be in power based on the will of the white settler minority, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech will continue to be denied to the majority of people.

ZANU has had to walk a tight rope between the PCC and the white settler government both of which, though for different reasons, have been determined to kill it in the cradle. But we are happy that our party which began as a toothless baby has now teeth. It can bite and bite hard. In fact, ZANU is now ready to bite hard after thorough organization during the last ten months.

Now, I wish to turn to the explosive situation in this country:


There are 4,000,000 Africans in Southern Rhodesia. 42% of these people live in the reserves and no political meetings may be held in these reserves. That is to say that 1,680,000 (almost 2,000,000) people are denied the simply right of political assembly and therefore political expression in areas which are legally theirs. This iniquitous set up is caused by the fact that the Africans do not have an effective vote. It should be remembered that these people are refused political gatherings in their own areas purely to entrench white minority rule. This is why it is the duty of everyone in Zimbabwe to destroy minority rule – root, stem and branch.


The fear-ridden white settler government has virtually banned all political gatherings in Salisbury, Bulawayo and other towns. The whole idea is to weaken and destroy the African nationalist movement in this country. But, of course, they won’t succeed in this. We have our plans.


The fear-ridden white settler government has banned the circulation of the Daily News in jail and in detention so that the African prisoners and detainees may be completely cut off from the outside world. They seem terribly keen to starve our people of mental food.


African nationalist leaders are not allowed by the white minority laws to enter any of the reserves. Many of these leaders who have relatives and friends in these areas have been forced to enter the reserves and have been fined or sentenced to imprisonment. They may not remain in the reserves and they may not remain in European areas as this would be against the spirit of the notorious Land Apportionment Act.


Wha Wha and Gonakudzingwa have become notorious places where African nationalist leaders may be detained without trial. To detain a man without trial is to do him gross injustice. At Gonakudzingwa the African nationalist leaders are cut off from any contact with the outside world. Nothing could be worse than this. It is indeed the worst mental torture of its kind….

We must not forget that these restrictions and these white minority imposed bans have resulted in the loss of bread winners of many families. A good number of children today go hungry, scantily clothed and cannot afford school fees because their parents are in restriction. These restrictions have disrupted more African homes, and more social problems have been created. Many of these restrictees have lost their employment and their businesses. It is therefore important that this congress gives this matter its serious consideration.


There are now hundreds and hundreds of African political prisoners in Southern Rhodesia. Their major crime is that they oppose the highly oppressive white settler regime. The white minority-made laws are indeed inherently unjust in relation to the majority who do not have the vote, and since the so-called courts administer such laws, it is not wrong to say that such courts are in fact rubber stamps of injustice. This is why many of our people cannot find justice in these courts. The legislature and the courts reflect minority and not majority interests. This is why we insist without any reservation that only majority rule is good for our country. The worst curse to this country is minority rule which has been responsible for most of the oppression which has gone on in this country.

What has been the result of these politically oppressive measure? Has law and order been maintained? Has security come to this country? The answer, of course, is ‘no.’ Everywhere I have gone people express deep concern and they demand a showdown now. ‘We cannot go on like this. We cannot go on accepting these oppressive conditions. Action! Action! is the only answer,’ they say. Some put it this way, ‘We have talked enough. It’s high time we acted like men.’

It is clear from the measures that the white settler government is taking against African nationalists that it is determined to silence their voices and therefore the voice of the people. It is desperate to neutralize them politically so that white minority rule may continue indefinitely. Mr Ian Smith, the apartheid-oriented Premier, has clearly stated that he does not hope to see an African government in his lifetime. This meant that he will do everything in his power to prevent the birth of an African government in this country. Mr Winston Field was overthrown from his premiership because he was considered by the disciples of white supremacy or apartheid as a stumbling block in their determination to create another South Africa here. The racist politicians of the Rhodesian Front are dreaming of unilateral independence regardless of the disastrous consequences which are bound to follow such an irresponsible act. No realistic observer can fail to see that a head-on-collision between the Rhodesian Front government and the African nationalists is inevitable, and when this comes to pass a racial war would have begun, and this is bound to involve the entire continent of Africa, and hence the international world.

The question today is not: Are the African people ready to go into country-wide action? But it is: Can the African leaders hold back their followers from taking desperate country-wide action:? For the last ten months I have counselled patience, and up to a point I have succeeded in holding back the rising wave of desperate acts. Can I continue to hold back this wave? The answer is clearly no. No leader can continue, under the present nationalist tempo, to ask his followers to be patient. Impatience is bound to have its way. They people must have an outlet or else country-wide violence and disruption overtake us….

The question has been asked: What method of ZANU going to us in liberating this country? Is it going to use the constitutional or the unconstitutional method; in other words, is ZANU going to resort to violence or non-violence? Or is it going to use both? These are questions which are being asked earnestly by all those who are determined to see that this country is brought under majority rule in the shortest possible space of time. It is my duty, as your President, to answer these questions as honestly as I can.

First, I want you to note this important general observation on human behaviour. No leader however clever can dictate to his followers what method to use in liberating their country. The particular circumstances prevailing in a particular country dictate the kind of method to be used in any freedom struggle.

As a rule human beings everywhere first try the method of non-violence, but if circumstances are such that non-violence cannot work, the same human beings have not hesitated to use violence to achieve certain practical ends which would be denied to them if they pursued only the path of non-violence.

For instance, in the former French African colonies in the West and Equatorial Africa, non-violence was resorted to as a method of gaining independence for these countries. The constitutional machinery was there, and it was used and hence the method of non-violence succeeded. Tanganyika is another good case in point. Their method was one of non-violence. Their particular circumstances dictated this kind of method.

But in such countries as Algeria, Congo (Leopoldville), Kenya and the United Arab Republic, independence was preceded by bloodshed, countries did not allow the use of the method of non-violence. Violence had to be used in order to shake the powers that existed out of their political complacency. This is how human beings have behaved everywhere in the world. This has nothing to do with the colour of one’s skin.

Southern Rhodesia is not an exception. If non-violence fails, then its counterpart becomes the only hope for the majority of the people. This is where we have to do more thinking. Many white settler politicians in this country will praise non-violence to the sky, but support grossly oppressive measures against Africans which only encourage solution by violence. No government can create impossible conditions without promoting at one and the same time country-wide violence.

The white settlers here have the constitutional answer to the problem facing this country. By using their right to vote they can save this country from an imminent disaster. They can help the method of non-violence to work. But by refusing to extend the right to vote to the majority of the people they only promote conditions of violence. The white voters are equally responsible for most of the violence that has taken place in this country, and they will be equally responsible for the violence that will take place. Any oppressive set up can only create conditions of violence and those who support such a set-up are morally responsible. It’s sheer nonsense and hypocrisy to blame only the African for the present wave of violence. The white settlers who have the vote are equally responsible for it. The tension between minority rule as supported by the white settlers, and majority rule as supported by the African people is the fundamental cause of the present unrest and violence. Unless this tension is resolved soon Southern Rhodesia is heading for real trouble.

Make no mistake about this. The tension cannot be resolved by banning political meetings from the Reserves; it cannot be resolved by banning African political meetings in the cities; it cannot be resolved by imprisoning more and more African nationalists; it cannot be resolved by creating an army of African nationalist detainees. It can only be resolved by acceding to the legitimate demands for majority rule. Anything short of this is naive, unrealistic and only leading this country to a long period of anarchy, chaos, disruption and fiasco.

There are tentative solutions which have been put down for the consideration of the public here. I wish to say a few words about each of these solutions so that you may all be quite clear as to where ZANU stands on these great issues of the moment:


ZANU can never fight elections under the present constitution. We boycotted the 1962 elections under the 1961 constitution and we cannot go back on our word. Our opposition to he present constitution still stands. In a country that is 96% African and only 4% European, it is wrong to have a legislature 77% European and only 23% African.


Another mad solution that has been put forward is the so-called blocking-third which we reject out of hand. There is no earthly reason whatever why we should be denied independence now when our friends in Zambia and Malawi now enjoy it. We cannot be a party to a scheme that purports to deny us the independence that rightly belongs to us.


There has been a great deal of talk about parity. The problem that faces us is one of disparity, e.g. 15 African MP’s as against 50 European MP’s in a House of 65. It is suggested that the solution to this disparity is parity, i.e. 50-50. But an examination of the facts shows that the so-called parity in a country that is 96% African and only 4% European is in fact disparity. There cannot be parity between 4,000,000 Africans and only 250,000 whites. Hence the suggested solution to the present problem of disparity is superficially parity but in fact disparity. In other words, you solve disparity with disparity which of course does not make sense.


As those in power are interested in their monthly cheques for salaries they have lost sight of national interests, and are not interested in any constitutional changes regardless of what happens to the country. They would like to see no change until 1967. This, of course, does not solve anything except that it is an attempt to maintain the status quo.


A rapidly growing number of white settlers here believe that the only solution to the presnt problem is unilateral independence. ‘Create another South Africa here, and the problem is solved right away,’ they say.

If the white settlers declare themselves independent, we will also declare ourselves independent. Once this happens, we shall have two states within the same territory – a white state and a black state. This would mean war, meeting force with force, but eventually the black man is destined to win since the country is his by birth, and therefore, by right, and the white man is destined to lose since the country is not his by right. The best the white man can do is to accommodate himself to the idea of African majority rule. His security lies in African majority rule, not in white settler minority rule which is on the way out in any case.


This is the only true solution to the present problem. This solution is supported by the majority of the inhabitants in our country. Most members of the white settler minority group, however, do not support this approach, but time is on the side of majority rule everywhere in Africa, and the white settlers here should re-adjust themselves to this fact.

Time for fine speeches has gone. This is now time for action in order to solve the problem facing us. This congress must direct its attention to the following problems:
1. What steps must we take in the event of unilateral independence?
2. What steps must we take now in order that we may effectively oppose legislative measures at present designed to weaken and silence the African nationalist movement in this country?
3. What steps must be taken immediately in order to bring about favorable constitutional changes?

We have the power in our hands. We must all be prepared to suffer. In the words of Ben Bella, we must be prepared ‘to die a little’ if need be. Other people have done it when the need arose, and we also can do it as the need arises. We have now come to the point when we must act now or never. There are now serious plans under way to deprive us of our independence, and we must prevent this with our very blood or else we are not worthy of our beloved Zimbabwe.

I do not promise any of you that you will not suffer if you champion our cause. I do not promise any of you comfort. You will be imprisoned. You will be deprived of your employment. You will be detained. You will be torn away from your families. In some cases some of us may be shot dead. But this is the price all human beings must pay for their freedom. We must pay the price or remain unfree.

May the spirit of our ancestors give you the wisdom, the strength and the courage you need as we face the onerous task of reversing the wheel of history in this our beloved Zimbabwe. The white settlers will lose because they believe might is right. We are destined to win because we believe right is might. This congress is the turning point and Southern Rhodesia will never be the same.

Statement to the Committee of Nine by James Chikerema, acting President, 5 June 1964 Top

Source: Christopher Nyangoni and Gideon Nyandoro, eds. 1979. “Zimbabwe Independence Movements: Select Documents.” New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

The political situation in Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) has terrible deteriorated since the arrest of our leader, Mr Joshua Nkomo and top officials of the PCC (ZAPU). The Smith regime has detained over 3,000 patriots since Mr Nkomo was arrested. This includes about 900 women who are presently detained in Marandellas prison, 50 miles of Salisbury. Other freedom fighters are restricted at Wha Wha Restriction Camp, Gwelo.

The white settler police and army are terrorizing our people in the towns and country. They are making regular day and night raids on the homes of our supporters.

In spite of the brutal treatment being inflicted on them by these ruthless power-hungry white settlers our people continue to wage a relentless struggle against minority rule.

The Smith regime is trying its best to cripple our liberatory movement by all the means at its disposal. These include the restriction of nearly all the ZAPU executive and branch leaders, mass arrests and the use of Government radio and press propaganda to discredit us and demoralize our followers.

The plight of the freedom fighters in Zimbabwe is indeed very critical and only outside assistance can retrieve the position. We ask the Committee of Nine to give us financial and material assistance immediately. This will enable us to keep the fight going on in Zimbabwe.

We have absolutely no money at the moment, and if the Committee of Nine is there to aid those genuinely fighting against colonialism then this is the time for it to come to our aid.

We still abide by our stand that the Committee of Nine has either to recognize us as the sole liberatory movement in Zimbabwe or have nothing to do with us. We are sick and tired of being told to make a united front with a party that was rejected by the people right on the day it was launched. The people in ZANU, a handful of misguided and power-hungry so-called intellectuals, are the ones who must come back to the people and not us to make a united front with such a discredited group. The Committee of Nine has had an ample opportunity to know which party enjoys the support of the majority. Dr Daunda has shown the way and we expect the Committee to follow suit if at all it is genuinely interested in the overthrowing of white supremacy in Zimbabwe….

Statement by James Chikerema, acting-Presdient. Lusaka, March 1966 Top

Source: Christopher Nyangoni and Gideon Nyandoro, eds. 1979. “Zimbabwe Independence Movements: Select Documents.” New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

…The difficulties facing Rhodesia today are artificial, arising as they do from a system which had made a section of the community base judgement of all issues on the rails of colour and race. We have long declared, I wish to repeat, that racialism in any form or guise has no room whatsoever in Zimbabwe. Our objective, among other things, is to rid the country of this detrimental system of prejudice in order to usher in an era of sober approach in tackling the fundamental problem of our country.

That the fight must continue is definite. There can be no question of relaxation on this because our cause is right and just. As this is understood, I thought today i should begin, in a small way, to unfold to you the direction towards which we are fighting. You know very well that apart from our country living under delicate and dangerous political framework, it is also dragging absurdly along a false economy. What are the features of this false economy? This if first of all a system of so-called maintenance of civilized standards. Under this system the white population has created an inflated structures of privileged wages for themselves quite unrelated to their productive capacity. This involves the exploitation of African labour and land. Naturally the Africans are no longer prepared to tolerate the continuance of this system. In fact, the weakness of the system has been exposed by the recent bill which coerces African labour force to stick to jobs against its will. This can hardly be called a healthy relationship between job and labour.

There is a belief emanating from the system of false economic privileges accruing to the white community that every one of its members is on the short-cut road to possessing a piece of land in Rhodesia and of becoming a millionaire. This false impression accounts for the resistance most white fanatics have, in Rhodesia, towards the establishment of a popular African government. Hence the Rhodesian Front slogan – ‘What we have we hold.’ It is vital for the ordinary European follower to realize that his receiving of inflated wages at the expense of the African worker is something completely different from setting him on the road towards the dream-land of being a millionaire or possessing vast extents of land. This system is just a conspiracy by large property owners, most of whom are absentees, to set into conflict the majority of the white community who are also workers, against the African worker, whilst luring them to a dreamland they will never reach. Quite clearly, the greatest victim of this kind of bluff in Rhodesia is the ordinary white worker. The time is fast approaching when it will no longer be possible to use the exploitation of the African as a bluff – and at this point the rank and file of the white community is bound to be extremely disillusioned.

My appeal to day is that if those people concerned cannot take heed of our timely advice, they should know precisely where the blame lies when resentment sets in. The individuals who are running the present minority regime are so conscious of the ultimate fate of their regime that they for themselves are amassing what wealth they can and taking advantage of government facilities to arrange other homes elsewhere to escape to when the situation is no longer tenable, thus leaving the larger part of the white population they deceived to bear the brunt. The choice is therefore quite clear.

The problem extends far wider than that, Presently, the minority rule regime is busy destroying the country out of the international market for all its essential products – chrome, sugar, lithium, tobacco, etc. The regime is completely unable to negotiate for the wider market in the African continent, which is its initial and natural field for economic interdependence.

Economic trends today are that within individual countries small business or industrial concerns are melting away into larger enterprises, whether private or state directed; individual countries themselves all over the world are finding their economic survival in wider economic association. Asian, European, and American trade enterprises are bound to find greater attractions to widely co-ordinated markets on the African scene. We have to move along these historical trends. Tragically, however, the minority regime is drifting to the country into isolation. With the entire world totally hostile to Rhodesia; with the international markets drying out for our essential products; with productivity and business in existing establishments dropping to the lowest level; with the complete lack of capital to tap the other potential resources of the country and the drift towards internal war, it is tragic that some people in Rhodesia could continue to deceive themselves to believe that we are heading for peace and prosperity. How can the economy of a country hang upon the adventures of pirate oil tankers? We cannot allow our country to be handed over to a clique which is sustained by international pirates.

What is essential is to create conditions of freedom for every individual in the country, so that each can give full expression to his natural capacities without hindrance in the task of providing for his livelihood and consequently that of the state. It should be obvious that he system of privileges in wages, possessions and before the law, for any individuals will have to disappear. There is no question on our part of holding any piece of land for prestige and speculation purposes, as it is for the livelihood and benefit of the entire country, since the land belongs to the people.

Since, however, it is fundamental and a well demonstrated principle that a country must have a sound political basis before it can face any other tasks of re-construciton, l it is vital that all in Zimbabwe must rally behind the majority of inhabitants under the leadership of Mr Nkomo to ensure the accomplishment of this initial task…

Memorandum to Commonwealth Heads of States conference on the Fearless proposals, 7 January 1969 Top

Source: Christopher Nyangoni and Gideon Nyandoro, eds. 1979. “Zimbabwe Independence Movements: Select Documents.” New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

The vicious machinery of oppression and exploitation of the African people by the British settlers in Rhodesia is an established evil. We could not possibly submit ourselves to this form of dehumanizing evil. We have exposed, condemned and fought this evil from its inception. There is no question of adjustment to it. The battle must continue….

It is of course obvious that our stand is for immediate, and unconditional majority rule. It is the correct solution and it is the only solution. There can be no reasonable argument whatever to justify why it should not be introduced. Neither can there be any sensible argument to prove why it should be delayed if conceded. The evil of minority rule is established and known. Anyone who says the right solution should wait for a known evil to continue in one form or another would have to submit himself for mental examination. Who does he expect to be the victim of evil during the period of waiting? For freedom to take its full meaning every Zimbabwean must be free. There is no such thing as rights for some and none for others. No one enjoys freedom for another. There is no gradualism in freedom. One is either free or oppressed; that is all.

There is no room whatever for all constitutional proposals put forward by the British so far, whether they are Tiger, Fearless or the 1923 Letters Patent. They are all a continuation of minority rule one way or another. Minority rule has had its day and must just go and give way to majority rule. Seventy years of suffering oppression is enough. There can be no point in letting it even for the smallest scale of gradualism. Evil is evil and has no acceptable form. It must be resisted without the slightest accommodation.

The British settlers of Rhodesia argue that concession to majority rule means that they, as a group, are expendable. Are we to conclude that their insistence on minority rule means the majority, the Africans, are expendable? Alongisde this is the stock argument that acceding to African rule would mean the dropping of civilized standards and the breakdown of economic progress. From this develops the British policy that the majority rule must wait in Rhodesia until the Africans are educated to standards acceptable to the British settlers. In practical terms, this means the minority must rule and admit Africans into public life at its pleasure. Conscious of the wickedness of their policy, the British then proceed to devise a system of what is called safeguards in the hope of containing African hostility. Hence the construction of a train of shock-absorbing bodies like Royal Commissions; commissions; tribunals and constitutional council,s and so-called blocking quarters. What people can surrender themselves to such makeshift bodies whilst leaving the actual substance of power in the legislature to their oppressors and exploiters? It is totally and completely out of the question that we can tolerate being presented a fait accompli on a matter affecting our country and our destiny.

Britain will not concede to majority rule in Rhodesia for the simple reason that its kith and kin reject it. We reject minority rule. This leaves Britain without justification for its approach but sheer racialism. There is the usual cunning argument for a transition. This is virtually a plea for giving a chance to oppression to continue in some disguised form. There was no transition to the introduction of minority rule. It was just imposed and we suffered. Minority rule must go out with the same speed with which it came in, if not faster….

In the absence of a peaceful solution, what is the hope for the African people of Zimbabwe? We must fight at all levels, at every front, by all means and at all times. There are only two choices in Rhodesia. African majority rule or war. We have no illusions about the military organization of the settler oppressors and their extent of material and financial support. But they have already lost half the war morally and psychologically by the very fact that they know that they are defending an empty case of injustice opposed by the whole world. What remains of the war is skill and determination in the battlefield and not the quantity of arms – a war which the settlers know they will eventually lose whatever their temporary advantages.

It is clear the Rhodesian problem is only an aspect of the racialist complex of Southern Africa. It is equally clear that the solution of the problem is inextricably linked with the solution of the related problems in South Africa and Mozambique as the failure of the sanctions programme has so demonstratively proved. Not only that, every step Britain and Smith take on Rhodesia is always in prior consultation and concurrence with the South African and Portuguese regimes. South African troops are in Rhodesia today with the acquiescence of Britain.

We have taken account of these realities in our determination to fight to the bitter end.

A peaceful solution of the Rhodesian problem will have to fulfil, simultaneously, all of the following conditions:
1. immediate and unconditional release of all freedom fighters condemned to death; all freedom fighters in imprisonment and all those under detention and restriction; dropping of all charges and release of any freedom fighters under arrest;
2. free and unfettered conditions for Mr Joshua Nkomo, leader of the African people Zimbabwe, to take full charge and conduct of all the affairs of the African people in order to bring about immediate and unqualified majority rule;
3. dissolution of the minority regime and all its institutions;
4. drawing of an unqualified majority rule independence constitution with no elements whatsoever of class, racial or tribal distinctions or differentiations;
5. immediate, total and radical reconstruction of the army, police and administration so that these correspond with the principles and purposes of majority rule;
6. all racist and reactionary laws must cease to have effect immediately and be expunged from the statues.

Majority rule must take immediate effect with no transition whatever. There can be no bargaining on any of the above conditions. They are correct and just.

We are demanding and insisting on no more than what is ours by right. In this regard the question as to whether the British settlers in Rhodesia accept our position or not is irrelevant. It is not for the settlers to determine whether or not we should have or exercise our full rights in our country.

It is not our objective to deny any other rightful citizen of our country’s rights which belong to and are exercised by every other citizen. It is by reason of this principle that we condemn minority racist rule and are determined to crush it without conceding it the slightest lease of life. The consequences of the looming racial conflagration in Southern Africa must be laid squarely on the doorsteps of Britain because she has bred the conflict through deliberate policies on her part.

Whilst it is absolutely clear that we are the decisive factor in the liberation of our country, it is, nonetheless, our hope that the international community for its part, in all its forms, will continue to stand resolutely behind our struggle because it is for justice, freedom and peace in Southern Africa – and, indeed, in the whole world.

ZAPU Comments to the UN/OAU Conference on Southern Africa, 9-14 April 1973 Top

Source: Elain Windrich. 1975. “The Rhodesian Problem: A Documentary Record: 1923-1973.” Boston, MA: Routledge.

ZAPU: Zimbabwe: The Enemy We Confront and the Assistance We Need

It is under the stress of this oppression that the people of Zimbabwe have taken up arms as the only solution to their problem. The question of dealing with the settlers through the force of arms is not new to the Rhodesian problem. It was discovered by our forefathers in the last decade of the last century that trying to reason with the British Government or the settlers was entertaining oneself to a system of tricks in which one always came out the loser. Hence they took up arms and established the point. From 1911 to 1961 various organisations in Zimbabwe – the Native Association, the Voters League, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union, the African National Congress, the Supreme Council, the National Democratic Party all tried the peaceful approach to bring about majority rule and therefore freedom and independence, without success. This is why we have now taken to the supreme instrument of appeal – the armed liberation struggle.

Both the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity have recognised the legitimacy of our liberation struggle. Both have, by several resolutions, pledged moral and material assistance to our struggle. The OAU has of course by all necessity, taken all out responsibility for the African liberation struggle.

The primary burden, indeed the full square of it, is ours, the oppressed people in the struggling territories. All approaches to our liberation struggle should take cognizance of our full awareness to this responsibility.

Rhodesia is today very much in the news, no longer because of the erstwhile boastings of Ian Smith but because the guerrilla offensive is closing in on the regime from nearly every corner and centre of the country.

From July last year to January this year a new systematic strategy of a series of land mine offensives forced panic into the regime and made it to precipitate Rhodesia-Zambia border fiasco. Elsewhere in the north eastern area of the country fraternal forces have struck panic on the settler farming population of the area. The regime can no longer lie to its followers as casualties fill their hospitals.

The prospects of a consolidated armed revolutionary struggle to maintain a solid offensive towards the elimination of the Rhodesian settler fascists, are very bright. We believe this should create the most conducive circumstances for the effective participation of the international community in our liberation struggle. It is a crucial phase of our history of struggle. Here we refer to the Political Council of Zimbabwe recently formed by our External missions and the Joint Military Command we have reviewed and rededicated ourselves to.

Whilst our offensive is taking its strides the enemy is indulging in cruelties exceeding all international norms of war. Freedom fighters who should be treated as prisoners of war are treated as criminals, scores of whom have been kept in death cells for more than five years. African civilians are murdered, their properties confiscated as reprisals for guerrilla confrontations. The international community has an obligation to demand investigation and seek assertion of its norms on this issue against criminal racist and fascist regimes of southern Africa….

Peace does not mean quiet imposed by the dominance of an oppressive force. Peace explicitly means the direct elimination of oppressive force. Since there is no such thing as peaceful oppression there can be no such thing as peaceful elimination of oppression. Colonialism and apartheid in southern Africa are, in every essence, the most violent forms of oppression. They have, logically, bred violent resistance from their victims – hence the armed revolutionary struggle in southern Africa.

The United Kingdom, Ian Smith, Corster and Caetano are not exploiting and oppressing the peoples of southern Africa by mistake or misunderstanding. They are doing so by conscious systematic and deliberate plan. Peaceful decolonisation in southern Africa is therefore irrelevant.

Programmes of action, non-violent in themselves, but auxiliary to the armed liberation struggle, are of course of paramount importance, for example
(i) Diplomatic support for the struggle in the international sphere.
(ii) Financial, material and moral support to eh liberation movements
(iii) Educational and technical assistance to liberation movements.

Whilst we share common general beliefs on the decolonisation programme it is our observation that the weakest link which accounts for poor solidarity is lack of direct regular contact and co-ordination between supporting countries, international organisations and the respective liberation movements. Regular mutual exchange of information and ideas should lead to mutual understanding which should lead to mutual confidence, mutual confidence should lead to greater co-operation and therefore to more effective solidarity of action to expedite the liberation cause.

Regarding requirements for our liberation struggle in Zimbabwe it is only appropriate for us firstly to express our profound gratitude to the international community for all the diplomatic, material and moral assistance given in our support hitherto.

In considering the needs of the Zimbabwe struggle the following realities should be universally accepted, acknowledged and taken as the working basis for support to our struggle.
(a) That the people of Zimbabwe have suffered and continue to suffer violent oppression.
(b) That the oppression suffered by the people of Zimbabwe is being carried out by the United Kingdom using its settler racists and fascists as direct agents.
(c) That economically and in other forms of war logistics the United Kingdom in Rhodesia is reinforced, for its oppression of the people of Zimbabwe, by its NATO allies particularly the United States, West-Germany and France and South African and Japan.
(d) That the current armed liberation struggle launched by the people of Zimbabwe in resistance to this oppression is the only just and inevitable means of liberating themselves.

[Remainder of document is list of material, financial, and diplomatic needs of the Zimbabwean resistance movements]

ZANU Comments to the UN/OAU Conference on Southern Africa, 9-14 April 1973 Top

Source: Elain Windrich. 1975. “The Rhodesian Problem: A Documentary Record: 1923-1973.” Boston, MA: Routledge.

ZANU: Zimbabwe: From Confrontation to Armed Liberation Struggle

The armed confrontation in Zimbabwe is an inevitable development in the African people’s struggle for freedom from colonialist settlement, oppression and exploitation, which began with the arrival of the white settlers and agents of British imperialism.

In 1963 when ZANU was born, our founder and president Ndabaningi Sithole declared in his famous clarion call: “We are our own liberators.” And at once he prescribed the method: “By direct confrontation.” That direct confrontation has developed into the armed struggle of today.

The nature of the confrontation must be clearly understood. The African people of Zimbabwe have been exploited, degraded, humiliated for years. Their struggle, however, is not for the alleviation of these wrongs. It is for the inalienable right of man to self rule. We do not seek to be ruled well by whites, we seek to rule ourselves; colonialism and imperialism are evil, because by taking away from peoples their right to self-rule they dehumanise people.

For that reason colonialism and imperialism are universally condemned by all civilised and progressive people of the world. Racism and apartheid are simply by-products of imperialism and colonialism.

Our struggle against the settlers of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and their backers abroad is part of the common struggle of all progressive forces in the world against the evils of colonialism, imperialism, and apartheid. For that reason, even while we ourselves struggle in our own country, we join in solidarity with all other peoples and organisations everywhere struggling to rid themselves of the same evils for the struggle against imperialism and colonialism is indivisible. In their fight for survival, colonialism and imperialism resort to the most diabolic and vicious methods of repression and suppression. That is how the Rhodesian regime has become fascist and as the challenge of the regime by the people’s confrontation increases, so does the regime degenerate further into fascism. Today the Rhodesian regime maintains itself by methods which approximate the Hitlerite Reich in their ruthlessness and cruelty.

A regime is fascist if it denies to any human beings the possibility of human progress; negates the sanctity and dignity of human life; refuses to accept that government can only be based on popular support, or the responsibility of the rulers to the ruled; denigrates freedom of thought or the right of criticism, and repudiates the necessity of universal education, impartial justice or the rule of law; or if it puts emotion above reason; elevates racism or elitism to a dogma, relegating those who are outside the racial or class elite to little short of slaves….

The African people of Zimbabwe, have over a long period of time appealed to the settlers and the British government, which claims responsibility over Rhodesia, to rectify the wrongs. They have offered to discuss and seek agreement on ways of bringing an end to this situation. With monotonous regularity, their appeals and offers were derisively spurned upon, by both the settlers and the British government. In the exploitation and oppression of our people it is now clear that the British and their settler kith and kin are co-conspirators. That is the logical conclusion and experience from events since UDI….

We make no apologies for either initiating or continuing the policy of direct confrontation. All civilised legal systems recognise the right to use violence and even to kill in self defence. This is a necessary corollary of the respect for human life which all civilised countries regard as an important cornerstone of public policy. We have been under the constant attack of aggressive racist settler oppression for 80 years. We have a right violently to defend ourselves against a regime that not only has but would in perpetuity, enslave, dehumanise, and make things of us. We are entitled to ask all progressive and civilised people and countries to support us in defending ourselves….

The African people of Zimbabwe decided in 1963 to take matters into their own hands, guided by the famous words of Ndabaningi Sithole – “We are our own liberators.” There have been ups and downs and set-backs along the way to liberation, but on the whole progress has been made. Three years ago we decided on a new strategy; at the end of that period towards the end of 1972, in quick succession, Altena farm, belonging to a settler farmer Marc de Borchgrave, and used by the rebel regime’s forces as an anti-freedom fighter operation centre was attacked, and two whites were injured. Shortly afterwards Whistlefield farm also used as an army command post was also attacked by ZANU forces, with the loss of 25 white soldiers, and two trucks carrying the forces of repression were blown up by ZANLA laid mines killing or wounding many white soldiers. On December 30 another truck carrying 15 white soldiers was blown up by a mine; and on the 6th of January, 1973, a police station, the local army officers mess were attacked by ZANU forces at Mt Darin. Two days later 2 police reservists working under cover as land inspectors were killed by ZANU forces and a third was taken captive. The regime in utter desperation turned against and closed the border with neighbouring Zambia. That the decision was ill-considered and taken in panic is clear from the fact that at first the closure was total then it excluded copper in transit to the seaports, and finally it was withdrawn altogether….

The rise of the African people of Zimbabwe in resistance to oppression is not Smith’s only problem. His futile closure of the border with Zambia has led president Kenneth Kaunda to permanently abandon the southern routes for export of copper and imports of goods. This is a great loss to a regime struggling hard to beat international sanctions, of much needed foreign exchange. Even nature seems to have turned against the regime, for Rhodesia is facing the severest drought in living memory. At the United Nations moves are afoot to strengthen existing, and probably extending sanctions; we hope they succeed….

The struggle has been heating up, and will continue to do so. More and more Africans everywhere in Zimbabwe will embrace armed struggle. So it must proceed inexorably to its end of inevitable victory of justice against injustice and fascism, human dignity against humiliation and degradation, freedom against oppression, and progress against exploitation and racial greed. Smith’s diabolical measures will not turn the African people from the path of liberatory revolution to which ZANU has committed them. Quite the contrary these measures are the fire that will steel them, and remove from them any unrevolutionary dross they may still have….

In our view, resistance, violent resistance to the rebel settler regime is justified. We sincerely believe that the regime will not respond to persuasion, reasoning or discussion. We are therefore bound to insist as priority number one that:

(a) Assistance to us be geared towards helping us in our programme of direct confrontation, so that we can spread and widen our areas of operation in Zimbabwe. It is our belief that only by continuing the direct confrontation is there any hope of any change in Rhodesia. This help involves of course: (i) Arms; and (ii) Logistics support, e.g. transport and accessories, uniforms, tents, blankets, boots and shoes, food and medicines. These are not only for militants but also for many civilians who have been victimised by the reckless conducts of the regime.

(b) The struggle for liberation is itself accompanied by many social and human problems. Some are a direct result of participation in the struggle, others are the direct result of the regime’s policies of suppression, oppression and brutality. ZANU realised this as far back as 1967, and created the Zimbabwe African Welfare Trust Fund, a special organisation working independently of the party, to cover humanitarian needs including: (i) The education; and (ii) The maintenance of the dependents of those who have been arrested, detained or restricted by the regime, and those who have died in the struggle or are on a full time basis engaged in the struggle, whether inside or outside Zimbabwe.

We believe that the Fund could receive support to be extended to cover, not only the classes described above, but to include all who need education but are denied the opportunity because it is settler policy to deny Africans education….

(c) On the diplomatic front, we cannot press too strongly the necessity to make existing sanctions work, and even to extend them. This is the international community’s way of demonstrating its disapproval of the regime and indirectly of supporting armed struggle.

Rhodesian Front Government Protest on ‘Terrorist’ Invasions, 28 August 1967 Top

Source: Elain Windrich. 1975. “The Rhodesian Problem: A Documentary Record: 1923-1973.” Boston, MA: Routledge.

The Rhodesian Government wishes to draw urgently to the attention of the British Government the following situation in Rhodesia.

2. Leaders of the two banned Rhodesian African Nationalist Organizations, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) are now firmly established in Zambia and it is from Lusaka that these people plan subversive operations directed against the Government of Rhodesia, including the infiltration of armed terrorists and offensive materials into this country….

14. The aim of these terrorists bands is to carry out indiscriminate killing, burning and looting in rural and urban areas. The Rhodesian Government will adopt the most vigorous measures to protect people and their property and to seek out and destroy these terrorist bands and individual gunmen.

15. The British Government cannot escape its share of responsibility for these developments. There has been a complete absence of any protest by the British Government to the Zambian Government about the passage of arms and offensive material, the reception and harbouring of communist trained terrorists and the use of Zambia as a base for offensive operations against Rhodesia.

16. Here is a case where a Government of one Commonwealth country is lending itself to a policy of violence against another Commonwealth country [sic] which has committed no aggression and desires to be friendly and co-operative. The Rhodesian Government considers that Britain continues to have obligations in Zambia to influence that Government towards a policy of moderation and the discouragement of violence against Rhodesia. The Rhodesian Government accordingly lodges a strong protest against the British Government’s lack of action in this respect and against its connivance of the hostile attitude of the Zambian Government towards peace and good government in Rhodesia.


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