Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army Field Reports and Guerrilla Activities during Zimbabwe's Armed Struggle

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army Field Reports and Guerrilla Activities during Zimbabwe's Armed Struggle

Article excerpt


The history of Zimbabwe's liberation war has been documented from several perspectives and this has resulted in various versions. This has also made it susceptible to misrepresentations and distortions. Currently the scenario is worsened when members of the ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union/Patriotic Front (ZANU/PF) are jostling for power and have acquired a penchant to undermine each other's liberation credentials. (1)

The unfortunate victim in this case has been liberation war history. Partisan journalists, who are taking sides in the political schisms, perhaps out of ignorance, are also busy at work being accomplices in disfiguring the history of the liberation war. What comes to mind are articles that appear in the Zimbabwean newspapers, where liberation war narratives have become a common feature. (2) These newspaper narratives are in the majority of cases coated with embellishments which 'kill' historical accuracy. ZANLA war documents can come in very handy in addressing this conundrum where liberation war history is being subjected to mutilation. These ZANLA war documents were a product of ZANLA field report system. It is important to note that the report system was part of the internal communication nexus within the liberation movement (ZANU) in general and within the liberation army (ZANLA) in particular. Intimations that these wartime documents were propaganda or biased material are clearly based on ignorance as to their purpose and the context in which they were compiled. The Zimbabwe African National Union, the liberation movement and the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), the liberation army used the Voice of Zimbabwe, a radio broadcast from Radio Maputo (after Mozambique had attained independence) and the Zimbabwe News as instruments of propaganda. The liberation army's field reports were not part of the propaganda machinery because they were not meant for public domain. (3)

The liberation fighters, before being deployed into Rhodesia to wage the liberation war, underwent training which was both military and political. (4) The politico-military training included what was referred to as the reporting system which prepared the nationalist guerrilla fighters for the task of compiling reports of their activities in the battle field. During the reporting system lessons accuracy and honest were emphasised. (5) The ZANLA trainees were made aware during training of the importance of reports which included showing failure or success of tasks, challenges and requirements. These could be daily, monthly, quarterly or annual reports. Guerrillas also compiled reports of specific incidents that took place during the course of their fighting. It was a requirement that these reports should be free of fabrication and lies and were compiled timeously. The reports were meant to keep the military leadership at Chimoio, the ZANLA's military headquarters, informed of developments at the front. The military commanders used these front-generated documents to study and analyse the war situation and institute improvements. The maxim to ZANLA guerrilla commanders was:

We should study and observe the reporting system. We should report what
is really taking place and not what we wish to take place. (6)

The military supremoes sometimes made visits to the battle field in response to these reports. (7) They undertook these visits to resolve such challenges as the poisoning of relations between the rural African population and the guerrilla fighters. The relations could be strained by guerrilla indiscipline that included unnecessary harassment of the rural populace, engaging in activities that were deemed unbecoming such as improper relations with women. These activities were brought to the attention of the military leaders through the field reports which then prompted them to take corrective action. It was therefore necessary to compile accurate and honest records of activities at the battlefront. …

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