Review of Re-Living the Second Chimurenga - Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle - Wilfred Mhanda

Re-Living the Second Chimurenga – Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle
Fay Chung
ISBN: 1779220464

Journal of Modern African Studies

Vol. 45, No. 2, June, 2007

Reviewer: Wilfred Mhanda, Zimbabwe Liberators Platform/University of Zimbabwe

Tribute has to be paid to Fay Chung and her publishers for the bold decision to publish this work. It will certainly stimulate debate about the liberation struggle.

However, it is to be hoped that such stimulation and subsequent contributions by other commentators will foster the development of a balanced account of the struggle for the benefit of posterity.

Chung grew up in Rhodesia and studied at the University of Rhodesia before taking up a teaching post with the then racially segregated department of African education. She later left for the United Kingdom for further studies, where she says she was exposed to left-wing politics, before going to Lusaka, Zambia, in the mid-1970s. There she came into contact with the leadership of the external wing of ZANU under Herbert Chitepo. It was this exposure that gave her insights into the goings-on within ZANU which she speaks authoritatively about, although she was at the time neither a full-time activist for ZANU nor did she occupy an official position within the organisation before 1977.

It is therefore not surprising that her account is replete with innumerable inaccuracies and misrepresentations that at best could only have emanated from hearsay, or at worst are a deliberate attempt to give a historical slant that fits in with Mugabe’s subsequent ascendancy to ZANU’s leadership in early 1977.

She brands herself as one of leftist inclination, but fails to explain how she survived the ruthless purges. Furthermore, Chung makes numerous unsubstantiated attacks calculated to cast aspersions on the character and integrity of Mugabe’s perceived political rivals, most of whom are now deceased and no longer in a position to give their own side of the story. On the other hand, Chung has not even a single negative word about Mugabe himself and his strongmen now calling the shots in Zimbabwe.

Chung asserts that the two principal aims of the struggle were land redistribution and the democratisation of educational opportunities. This is understandable from the perspective of an ardent ZANU(PF) supporter and her background as an educationist. However, it is completely at variance with the thrust of ZANLA’s political education that had the attainment of political power as the primary objective of the struggle. Political power would then serve as the instrument to deliver on the ideals of freedom, democracy, social justice and respect for human dignity.

She goes on to lament the failure to fulfil these aspirations after independence, without searching for the reason. The explanation for this is the outcome of the struggle for political direction within ZANU in the mid-1970s that saw the defeat of ZANU’s left wing. The consequence was the regression of the liberation movement into nationalism that focused on the transfer of power from the Rhodesian regime to the African nationalists, rather than the transformation of society to realise the ideals of the liberation struggle. Leaving all the repressive Rhodesian institutions and statutes intact could hardly have facilitated the outcome that Chung pines for.

It is intriguing that Chung’s book deliberately extols the contribution of the man who did everything to negate what the liberation movement stood for before and after independence. She fails to realise that Zimbabwe’s current dire straits are no more than the inevitable consequence and outcome of two decades of misguided economic policies founded on populism, politics of patronage, mismanagement, incompetence and corruption.

© The author/publisher