Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle

Academic journal article The International Journal of African Historical Studies

Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle

Article excerpt

Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle. By Fay Chung, Uppsala, Sweden: Nordic Africa Institute, and Harare, Zimbabwe: Weaver Press, 2006. Pp. 349; 9 illustrations. Introduction by Preben Kaarsholm. Pp. 20. SEK 380.

Fay Chung is a Chinese-Zimbabwean (her grandfather arrived in the country in 1904), who was educated at the University College of Rhodesia and then in England, was a lecturer at the University of Zambia in the 1970s, and the minister of education in Harare in the 1980s. She was and is such a ZANU-PF stalwart that the lengthy last chapter is devoted to a defense of the third chimurenga and the policies that have rocked Zimbabwe since the late 1990s. She was also, I learned from reading her memoirs, quite the starry-eyed teenager, eager to comment on freedom fighters' looks, clothes, and a range of social interactions worthy of exclamation marks. When it comes to recounting the actual ideas and words that made her such a luminary in ZANU's left wing, she is curiously vague.

This is not to say this isn't an important book; it is. Indeed, scholars would probably have a deeper understanding of liberation movements and their divisions in arms and exile if we had more insiders' starry-eyed accounts of them. But since Chung has written the first of this genre, the result is often jarring. Most of the chapter on Josiah Tongogara, for example, gushes. "He was over six feet tall, with the upright and muscular figure of a soldier accustomed to the rigors of war.... With a distinctive, pockmarked, light brown face and greeny-brown eyes.... " (p. 124). If he and his fellow militarists enjoyed "sexual favors" from young women guerrillas this was because of their "traditional feudal values" (p. 82). Besides, for many of these young women such sexual involvements were "a form of social climbing." The rest of the chapter goes to great lengths to explain why he never should have been accused of murdering a man he was known to despise.

It is Chung's description of the conduct of liberation from exile that makes for the most interesting and frustrating reading. On the one hand, ZANU in Lusaka and Mozambique and ZANLA in Tanzania are described as such a maze of shifting ideas, opportunities, and loyalties that you can almost feel the fragility of the organization. On the other, Chung is so quick to tie up lose ends and get on with her triumphant narrative that there's no serious discussion of what the critical issues actually were. When Zimbabwean students at the University of Zambia were "tempted" to side with Nhari and Badza in their mutiny of late 1974, she and other Zimbabwean lecturers managed to talk them out of it. …

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