Review of Re-Living the second Chimurenga - Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle - Elizabeth Schmidt

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

H-SAfrica (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

July, 2006
Reviewer: Elizabeth Schmidt

Zimbabwe's ZANU: A Critical View from the Inside

At a time when Zimbabwe is much in the news, and analyses are often oversimplified and ahistorical, Fay Chung's memoir provides welcome insight into the history of Zimbabwe's primary liberation movement and ruling party. Born into a Chinese family in Rhodesia in the 1940s, Chung was an early activist in the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which was instrumental in bringing about Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, and has governed the country ever since. As a socialist, feminist, and intellectual, she was a member of ZANU's left wing, which was repeatedly purged prior to independence. As an educator dedicated to the democratization of education, she led the 'education with production' movement in pre- independence Mozambican refugee camps and in post-independence Zimbabwe. Eventually, she became Minister of Education and Culture in the ZANU government. Disenchanted with the government's decision to embrace the structural adjustment program prescribed by international financial institutions, Chung left Zimbabwe in the early 1990s.

Chung's book intersperses memories of growing up as a member of a non-white minority group in Rhodesia, with a personal and political account of the liberation movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Most intriguing is her assessment of the internal struggles in ZANU during the 1970s, which does much to explain the political divisions today. She describes conflicts between guerrillas of peasant background with little formal education, who joined the movement in the 1960s and early 1970s, and the better-educated, left-wing youth who flocked to ZANU in the mid-1970s. She analyzes the rivalry between the military leaders and the better-educated political leaders who feared their power. She describes the brutal purges of ZANU's left wing in the mid-1970s, as the movement's leaders negotiated unsuccessfully for a neo-colonial solution to the liberation struggle. Finally, she shows how, as ZANU moved to the right, racism and tribalism were wielded as weapons against political enemies.

Chung's assessment of Robert Mugabe is particularly enlightening. In the mid-1970s, radicals within ZANU opposed Mugabe's leadership, fearing that he would become a fascist dictator at the head of a neo-colonial regime. According to Chung, Mugabe survived and consolidated his power because he threw his support to the militarists, who in turn provided him with a powerful base. Other political leaders, distrusted by the military high command, were undermined. It was to the veterans of this military base, woefully neglected in the 1980s and early 1990s that Mugabe turned in 1997, when his own power was waning.

Given Chung's analysis, the book's introduction, written by Preben Kaarsholm, is unfair. A member of the Nordic Africa Institute's editorial board, Kaarsholm uses the space both to justify the book's publication and to critique the book published by the institute. He unjustly characterizes Chung as defensive of Mugabe and his policies, as overly critical of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and unconcerned about the government's dictatorial actions and human rights abuses. My own reading is that Chung makes clear her continued support for the centerpieces of the liberation struggle: redistribution of land and the democratization of educational opportunity. She claims that rationally planned land redistribution is a prerequisite for economic justice, without which Zimbabwe cannot survive. However, this does not mean that she supported the brutal and corrupt methods of land reclamation promoted by the government in the early 2000s, and she clearly states that she did not. Moreover, she did not close her eyes to the political opportunism behind the land takeovers, nor the corrupt redistribution practices that followed, as Kaarsholm implies. Finally, recent developments within the MDC, including the use of ethnic politics and violence as well as the final schism, seem to justify Chung's early skepticism about the party.

In sum, Chung's book is a valuable contribution to our understanding of historical and contemporary Zimbabwe. It is a critical, nuanced, and multi-layered account by an insider. This highly unusual combination has resulted in a book that will be of interest to students and scholars, and which should be included in all college and university libraries.

© The author/publisher

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

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

Mukai – the Jesuit Journal For Zimbabwe
Issue No. 35, May 2006
Reviewer: Chiedza Chimhanda, SJ

An Insider’s Story

Most young Zimbabweans in the early 1980s got to know Fay Chung through her work in the Ministry of Education. Many wondered about her background; a Chinese woman working for a ZANU-led government. It gradually came to light that Chung had been part of the liberation struggle and that she had played a key role in developing the educational department of ZANU, hence her prominence in the Ministry of Education. Her book gives further light to her involvement in the liberation struggle.

Re-living the Second Chimurenga – Memories from Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle
presents the experiences of Fay Chung from colonial Rhodesia to her exile in Britain, joining the liberation struggle in 1973 in Zambia and eventually moving to a military camp in Mozambique. The book ends with reflections on some of the contemporary issues in Zimbabwe and offers some thoughts on the future of Zimbabwe. Chung tells her story in nineteen chapters which are generally easy to read. The book highlights the racial tensions that prevailed in the country during the colonial era. Whites, Asians, coloureds and blacks were treated differently because of their different races. Chung points out that land and education were reserved for the whites (p. 33).

In 1973, Chung joined the liberation struggle, motivated by the desire to get the educated involved in the struggle. She joined ZANU because it was clear to her that ZANU would rule Zimbabwe (p. 75). Despite her admiration of the great strides which ZANU was making on the battlefront, Chung discusses some of the internal conflicts and struggles which haunted the party. She highlights the Nhari rebellion and the subsequent Chifombo trials of the rebels that increased the tension between Herbert Chitepo and Josiah Tongogara. Chitepo opposed the execution of the Nhari group. He had opted for their imprisonment instead. Tongogara and other members of the ZANLA High Command believed that Chitepo supported the Nhari rebellion (pp. 93-5). Chitepo was assassinated in the midst of this tension and the Zambian government arrested Tongogara, other members of the ZANLA High Command and over a thousand ZANLA cadres.

Fay Chung presents Josiah Tongogara as a dedicated fighter, a family man, but also as a commander who often sexually abused young female guerrillas. Consequently he was not liked by some female guerrillas. The Nhari and Vashandi rebellions were partly reactions against such abuses. Old-style nationalists feared Tongogara whom they saw as a future military leader while Tongogara did not trust old-style nationalists whom he regarded as corrupt and untrustworthy. Traditional leaders criticised Tongogara for his immoral sexual conduct (pp.124-9). In December 1979, Tongogara died in a car crash in Mozambique, and Chung presents the incident as a total yet bizarre accident which was witnessed by Oppah Muchinguri (p. 139). An idea comes through in Chung’s book that some Zimbabweans believed that the ancestors had saved Zimbabweans from being ruled by Tongogara, whose death marked a victory for ZANU politicians as they assumed control over the military (p. 250).

According to Chung, the 2000 land invasions were organised by the government through Dumiso Dabengwa, then Minister of Home Affairs, who led a quick campaign of training and indoctrination of war veterans and unemployed youths. These were deployed to invade farms because ZANU was using land as its trump card in the 2000 elections (pp. 299-300). Not much discussion is given to the February 2000 Constitutional Referendum in which the MDC successfully campaigned for a ‘NO’ vote because the draft constitution did not reflect the views of the people. Chung argues that the rejection of the draft constitution actually prolonged Mugabe’s stay in office and led to the confiscation of properties owned by members of the MDC and whites (p. 313).

There is value in listening to the insider’s perspective which Chung presents. As an active participant in the struggle, Chung had access to inside information such as the various tensions that haunted ZANU’s political and military leadership. It was such knowledge that enabled her to present the dark side of Tongogara’s moral conduct in the camps. Since not much has been written about sexual abuses in military and refugee camps during the struggle, Chung makes a bold statement, in line with the general message presented in the film Flame.

However, Chung’s strong point is also her major weakness. She recounts her experiences of the struggle as a ZANU cadre and analyses the contemporary Zimbabwean experience from the perspective of a staunch ZANU(PF) supporter. She thus lacks objectivity and deep analysis. She ties the MDC to the British government, regards the Daily News as a mouth-piece of the MDC, and blames the collapse of the agricultural sector following the chaotic invasions on the unavailability of fertilizer in the country. This is all ZANU(PF)’s rhetoric.

Chung presents some issues without paying much attention to accuracy. She blames demands by war veterans for compensation on former ZIPRA cadres who had no respect for Mugabe (p. 304); refers to ZAPU farms near Harare airport where arms were cached (p. 302) and talks about the massacres of missionaries at Makumbe mission (p. 236). It is a fact that destitute war veterans, irrespective of the party they had belonged to during the struggle, demanded compensation. Mugabe would never have been obliged to bow to demands from ZIPRA cadres whom he had referred to as dissidents between 1982 and 1987. The main locations of the arms caches were Ambi river, 10 km east of Dande communal lands, Mushumbi Pools, Gwaai River Mine, Wooody Glen Farm, and Nitram Farm.1 There was no ZAPU farm near Harare airport. The massacre of missionaries referred to actually happened at Musami mission. These are just a few of the inaccuracies which discredit Chung’s book as a reliable historical account.

Chung’s style of writing does not always follow a chronological order. There are regular shifts in time periods that weaken her presentation. While talking about events of 1978 (p. 202), she suddenly goes to 1975 (p. 203) and then goes back to introduce Dzingai Mutumbuka who she had already made reference to when she discussed her joining the liberation struggle in 1973 (pp. 75-6). She also has irritating repetitions in her book. These repetitions are closely linked to her failure to follow a chronological order. Someone giving an oral presentation is liable to make some repetitions. No excuse should be given for Chung’s repetitions since her written presentation should have been revised and duly edited.

While Chung raises some interesting points, like the normal conduct of Tongogara, her book must be read with the understanding that she is a loyal party member. One reads how a ZANU(PF) insider talks about the struggle and about the contemporary situation. Someone looking for an objective analysis of Zimbabwe’s current crisis should not rely too much on Chung’s book.

1. Emerson Munangagwa, ‘Post Independence Zimbabwe: 1980–1987’, in Canaan Banana (ed.), Turmoil and Tenacity. Harare: College Press, 1989, p. 237.

© The author/publisher.

Review of Re-Living the Second Chimurenga - Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle - The Zimbabwean

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

The Zimbabwean
26 January 2006
Reviewer: Franco Henwood

One of the devices of oppression is to convince its victims that they deserve it. Not even the most robust and resilient personalities are entirely immune. Nelson Mandela recalled sitting in a plane awaiting take-off shortly after his release. He caught sight of the black pilot and suddenly found himself doubting whether he was capable of flying the plane.

For Fay Chung, education is the link in achieving both personal and national emancipation. Chung narrates her origins among the tiny Chinese minority, her early radicalisation, her participation in the liberation struggle in Zambia and Mozambique and through to independence and her tenure at the Ministry of Education. She details the role of education in the refugee camps both in preparing for independence during the 1970s and its consolidation in the 1980s. Her book concludes with an assessment of events until the end of 2004.

Her account is not an unvarnished apology for ruling party. She can be explicit and frank about the party's corruption, violence and misrule both in and out of power. However she is consistently dismissive of the alternatives. This includes other possible leaders like Sithole and Nkomo in the 1970s and the MDC's more recent challenge to one-party rule.

Despite everything, she considers the land seizures as legitimate and rational in essentials (although poorly executed) and a return to the basic objectives of the liberation struggle. These objectives were 'the redistribution of white-owned commercial farmland and the democratisation of educational opportunity' (p. 256). She fails to appreciate that the regime, in pursuing the former, has succeeded in wrecking the latter. As a result, for so many, getting an education is a ticket to nowhere. As one 27-year-old University of Zimbabwe drop-out turned informal trader put it, 'Quite frankly and speaking from experience, education has become a stumbling block to becoming rich or just being self-sustainable. Most of the people who went to school are struggling to cope while some of us on the streets are making it big' (Zim Online, 03.01.06). Those who stay the course are likely to export their talents.

One of the major beneficiaries of country's formerly show case educational system is the British National Health Service. Recently, a ZANU(PF) Political Commissar justified proposals to make the notorious youth training programme compulsory for all High School graduates as necessary to counter the flight of the young and educated from Zimbabwe. Parents and teachers had failed to teach young people 'to appreciate their country and to stand by it at times of crises' (Zim Daily, 03.01.06). This is the thinking of a know-nothing regime, under which education in any meaningful sense is a secondary consideration to that of retaining power. Chung fails to address the fate of education in the country in any detail in recent years. This is a striking omission considering the subject matter of this book. In other words, her book is a retrospective, a looking back on a golden age for education in the country, now tragically concluded.

(The opinions expressed are those of the author personally and in no way reflect the views of either The Zimbabwean or Amnesty International.)

© The author/publisher