Review of Re-Living the Second Chimurenga - Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle - Peter Limb

Re-Living the Second Chimurenga – Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle
Fay Chung
2005: (pp: 358)
ISBN: 1779220464

African Book Publishing Record

April 2008

Reviewer: Peter Limb

Both memoir and measured analysis, this is an important book as its author is a first-hand witness of key events in contemporary Zimbabwean history and one of very few women activists to write their memoirs, and also for what it tells us of internal party politics and the thinking of intellectual activists from the 1970s onwards. It is also rich in description and analysis of the country’s educational system.

Fay Chung, of Chinese-Zimbabwean ancestry and, like Robert Mugabe, of Catholic education, was a teacher and intellectual who joined the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in exile in Zambia. She was active in organising education in refugee camps in Mozambique that were bombed by the Smith regime. After independence in 1980 Chung went on to become Education Minister, in which role she worked to develop policies of egalitarianism such as 'education with production' to give peasants and workers greater access to educational opportunities. She left government in protest at the pro-capitalist, 'structural adjustment' policies dictated by the IMF and eventually accepted by the ZANU(PF) government after 1989.

The chapters unfold chronologically and are illustrated with unique photographs such as those of her family’s Harare business. Autobiographical glimpses flank the main part of the book, a detailed description and analysis of a liberation movement in exile and government, with special focus on education for exiles and post-independence educational reform, fields where she excelled. The book is well produced; a corrected reprint (under review here) was issued in 2007 but a few typos remain: Mandela was freed in 1990, not 1992 – p. 317.

Politically, this is a complex book. The tough, if fair, introduction by Preben Kaarsholm provides context and engages with difficult issues around Chung’s attitudes to Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), questioning her inconsistency in failing to support the latter. Whilst she does criticise Mugabe and, from her own perspective as a socialist, re-assert the Zimbabwean liberation movement’s initial support for popular power, land reform, and socio-economic equality, there are gaps in assessing the full impact of Mugabe’s dictatorship and her critique of the MDC is simplistic and too briefly sketched. However, what comes through are her deep compassion for ordinary people, her commitment to (following Paolo Freire) the 'pedagogy of liberation', and her feminist socialism (clear condemnation of purges and sexual exploitation of women 'in the bush' temper her general support as an activist for ZANU).

The book throws much light on internecine rivalries within ZANU in the 1970s that saw Robert Mugabe and his military backers eliminate much of the left-wing vashandi (worker) faction with which Chung identified and which nearly saw her killed. The greatest value of the book, besides her own important testimony, is the insight into these power, class and intellectual struggles that continue to haunt Zimbabwean politics and which her analysis helps in part to explain. Re-Living the Second Chimurenga – Memories from the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe is an essential new book for libraries collecting in any kind of depth on Zimbabwean history, politics, and education.

© The author/publisher