Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Strugglers and Stragglers: Imagining the "War Veteran" from the 1890s to the Present in Zimbabwean Literary Discourse

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

Strugglers and Stragglers: Imagining the "War Veteran" from the 1890s to the Present in Zimbabwean Literary Discourse

Article excerpt


This article interrogates the diverse images of the combative participant in the struggle for Zimbabwean independence. The war for independence took close to a century from 1890 to 1980. The numerical inversion in the dates ironically mirrors the radical transformation in the perceptions of the hero. The article makes a historical survey of the rifts and shifts in the cultural memory and literary configurations of the African armed combatant. It deals with three genealogical periods of conceptualisation: the participant in the First Chimurenga, the guerrilla in the Second Chimurenga, the Ndebele "dissidents" and the "war veterans" in the "Third Chimurenga". Genocide, xenophobia and massacre, too much, are unspeakable in the discourse of modernity because such crimes against humanity defy description and, as Adorno (1955: 34) submits, are impossible to write after Auschwitz. But to remain silent over the flare of systematised and authorised purging of dissenting chromatic configurations in the Zimbabwean situation is to be complicit in the enactment of both past and current horrors. Dialogue between Zimbabwe and the West, aid and media houses, is charged and polarised. Zimbabwe is sceptical about the purity and altruistic character of the West, global media and humanitarian workers, while the West imagines Foucaldian "biopolitics" (the ability to control populations) has contributed to the implosion in (an)other African state.


Hierdie artikel plaas die uiteenlopende beelde van die vegtende deelnemer in die stryd om Zimbabwiese onafhanklikheid in die kollig. Die oorlog om onafhanklikheid het bykans 'n eeu geduur--van 1890 tot 1980--die numeriese omkering in die datums weerspieel op ironiese wyse die radikale transformasie in die persepsies van die held. Die artikel doen 'n historiese opname van die skeurings en verskuiwings in die kulturele geheue en literere konfigurasies van die Afrikaan gewapende stryder. Dit handel oor drie genealogiese konseptualiseringstydperke: die deelname aan die Eerste Chimurenga (stryd), die guerrilla in die Tweede Chimurenga, en die Ndebele "afvalliges" en die "oorlogsveteraan" in die Derde Chimurenga. Volksmoord, xenofobie en massamoord is vir bale mense onnoembaar in die moderniteitsgesprek omdat sulke misdade teen die mensdom beskrywing te bowe gaan en, soos Adorno (1955: 34) dit stel, na Auschwitz dit onmoontlik is om daaroor te skryf. Om egter stil te bly oor die uitbarsting van sistematiese en goedgekeurde suiwering van afvallige chromatiese konfigurasies in die Zimbabwiese situasie is om aandadig te wees aan die uitvoering van sowel vorige as huidige gruweldade. Dialoog tussen Zimbabwe en die Weste, bystand en mediagroepe is gelaai en gepolariseer. Zimbabwe is skeptics oor die suiwer bedoelings en altruistiese karakter van die Weste, globale media en humanitere werkers, terwyl die Weste hom verbeel dat Foucault se biopolitiek (die vermoe om bevolkings te beheer) tot die inploffing van nog 'n Afrikastaat bygedra het.


If history is, indeed, written from the position of those in authority, then the concept of the war veteran in Zimbabwe is bound to be fraught with changes, metamorphoses, and transitions as authority shifts to other positions. For as long as those in power remain in control, the ascribed nomenclature that relates to those that bore the brunt of a particular struggle remains in place. "War veteran", in nationalist cultural memory, acquired an aura of honour, dignity and veneration. Historically, in the short space of time that black Zimbabwean history has been written and read, this term has also had an enigmatic aura. This aura was lost after the "Third Chimurenga"--the fight to get land from the white farmers--where both the genuine guerrilla and fake "green bomber" (a popular derogatory term referring to the ruling-party militias) were driven into all engineered nationalist, anti-imperialist frenzy to traumatise and eventually "'drive the white farmer off black soil". …

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