Review of Becoming Zimbabwe – Pieter Labuschagne

Edited by Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo
Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2009. 260 pp.
isBN: 978-1-77922-083-7
Becoming Zimbabwe – A History from the Pre-colonial Period to 2008 is one of the more recent publications on Zimbabwe. It aims to provide a comprehensive outline of the political history of South Africa’s troubled neighbouring state. The rationale for the book, as explained on page xxxiii, is to write a new history of Zimbabwe and to produce a single volume history that could provide the reader with an accessible overview of the country’s history and politics.

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Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - International Affairs

Review article
Land, citizenship and the consolidation of
constitutional democracy in Southern Africa

Becoming Zimbabwe: a history from the pre-colonial period to 2008.
Edited by Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo. Harare: Weaver Press. 2009.
296pp. Pb.: £22.95. isbn 978 1 77922 083 7.
Land, liberation and compromise in Southern Africa. By Chris Alden and
Ward Anseeuw. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 2009. 272pp. Index. £57.50. isbn 978 0
23023 084 2.
Overcoming historical injustices: land reconciliation in South Africa. By
James L. Gibson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2009. 328pp. Index.
£45.00. isbn 978 0 52151 788 1.

A dozen years ago, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia were held up as models
of racial reconciliation and stable constitutional democracy. Events in Zimbabwe
since 2000 have knocked out that model, and anxieties are intermittently expressed
about its durability in South Africa and Namibia. These scholarly, well-argued
books analyse, from different angles, the sources of instability, particularly the
role played by the unresolved issue of land ownership, in shaping the prospects for
economic growth, the construction of national identities and the consolidation
of constitutional democracy. As the Zimbabwean case shows, this process poses
challenges for the West in managing its relations with these formerly white-ruled
In all three African countries there was a sharp disjuncture between the political
transition to majority rule alongside very incomplete economic transformation,
with the former ruling white elites remaining economically dominant in
the private (though not state) sectors. This racially skewed inheritance is glaring
in relation to land ownership. In 1970, in Zimbabwe, 6,400 white farmers owned
almost half the land, while over one million black Africans were confined to the
scattered native reserves. In South Africa, 86 per cent of the land was reserved for
white people who, in 1970, comprised 18 per cent of the population (now down to
10 per cent). In Namibia, 4,200 white farmers owned 43 per cent of the land. After
the introduction of majority rule—in 1980 in Zimbabwe, 1990 in Namibia, and
1994 in South Africa—there was little change in these inherited colonial patterns of land ownership.

Why was land reform so limited before 2000? Why were radical changes then
suddenly and violently introduced in Zimbabwe? Are these changes a portent of
what might happen in South Africa and Namibia, where agriculture is a much
smaller component of GDP?1 And, if land—and other natural resources—become
sites of struggle, is this likely to have similarly adverse implications for their
economic and political stability, and for their relations with the West?
Zimbabwe has been the storm centre of conflicts over land, and other resources.
Among the strengths of Becoming Zimbabwe is the historical context it provides,
with concise chapters by leading Zimbabwean scholars about the country’s gradual
emergence, beginning many centuries ago, with the entry into this area of the
Shona, Sotho, Ndebele and, in the nineteenth century, the Europeans. Gerald
Mazarire’s chapter on the pre-colonial period highlights both the cooperative and
the conflictual relations among these waves of migrants. Later chapters in this
tightly edited book refer frequently to past developments, linking current social
trends, attitudes and patterns of behaviour to their historical roots.
The influence of past relations can be seen not only in interactions between black
and white people, but also among the heterogeneous black population, evident in
the deep divisions during the anti-colonial struggle, which, as Raftopoulos writes,
became ‘as much a civil war as a national liberation struggle’ (Becoming Zimbabwe,
p. xxvi), with ZANU and ZAPU, the Shona- and Ndebele-based political organizations,
conducting a bitter fight, not only against the white Rhodesian state, but
against each other. These struggles were not only ‘ethnic’, but had major class and
ideological dimensions, as the liberation movements attempted to coerce an often
reluctant peasantry into supporting them. In the urban areas, the emerging black
middle class distanced itself from the working class and showed early signs of
aspiring to replace, and to adopt the privileged lifestyles of, the ruling white elite.
The authors argue that in the violence of earlier Zimbabwean history, including
during the independence struggle, lie the roots of the authoritarianism and the
ready resort to violence and intimidation that have marked the post-independence
period. These tendencies soon became evident in the bitter civil war that
broke out in Matabeleland province from 1982, and in the increasingly brutal
repression of the growing opposition to Mugabe thereafter. This opposition was
rooted in the alternative, non-violent tradition that also had a long history in
Zimbabwe, exemplified in the battle waged by the trade unions, churches and
other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) against colonial rule. These urban
groups conducted a dogged non-violent struggle which, while less dramatic,
incurred risks and penalties; helped to educate and mobilize the population; and
added to the pressures on the Rhodesian state.
James Muzondidya describes how the opposition to Mugabe became more
broadly based. Sources of dissatisfaction certainly included land, evident in increasingly
militant land invasions as the initially promising redistribution programme degenerated into handouts to Mugabe’s political cronies.2 But there was also
growing disenchantment among the frustrated black middle class, demanding
more affirmative action and indigenization programmes in business, while the trade
unions protested against declining living standards, as economic growth foundered.
There was also growing anger among all groups at ZANU-PF’s economic mismanagement
and corruption.
Faced with these growing threats, Mugabe focused popular attention on the
unfinished business of land reform, to which he diverted the attention of the
restless ‘war veterans’ (many too young to have fought in the war), to whom he
mandated the task of carrying out the ‘fast-track’ land seizures. These involved
the violent takeover of most white farms; the eviction of hundreds of thousands
of farm workers and their families; and the collapse of agriculture, which was the
major component of GDP and foreign exchange. Economic decline intensified
both opposition and repression. Thus land reform generated a wider range of
issues, with ramifications for citizenship (who qualified as a Zimbabwean?) and
the rule of law.

The history wars
The chapters by Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Alois Mlambo, and Joseph Mtisi et al.
make frequent reference to the historiography of Zimbabwe—the varied, often
conflicting, narratives produced by successive generations of historians. This
includes discussion of the challenges by Norma Kriger and others to the earlier,
and in its time pioneering, ‘patriotic national liberation’ history of Terence Ranger
and others. Historiography provides a stimulating, revealing way of thinking about
the past, exposing the continual, often politically motivated, reconstructions of
history by each generation and the deployment of these competing versions in the
political struggle. This approach illuminates the confusions and, often, trickery
related to the process of land acquisition, including the deals whereby land was
alienated from Lobengula and other chiefs by imperial adventurers such as Rhodes
and Rudd during the nineteenth century and, more recently, the acrimony caused
by misunderstandings over the ambiguous agreements on land at the 1979 Lancaster
House conference which ushered in black majority rule.
The authors show how the competing interpretations of politicians and historians
fuelled conflicts both internationally, between Zimbabwe (backed by the
African Union) and the United Kingdom (backed by ‘the West’), and domestically,
where the history wars became an important element in the propaganda
warfare over the respective roles in the struggle of ZANU-PF and its rivals. The
airbrushing from the official history of the significant contribution of civilians—
and of ZAPU—was used to justify the exclusive claims to land, mineral rights
and jobs by ZANU-PF supporters. This led Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to call for a less ‘selective heroic tradition
…, recognition that the struggle was a broad, uneven process, with many
unsung heroes and unintended effects …, [and for] alternative, more plural ways
of conceiving the past’ (p. xxx). The division between ZANU and its critics also
reflected a divergence in values, as the latter challenged ZANU’s narrowly nationalist
values and disregard for the rule of law, and championed more universalist
(non-racial, democratic, constitutionalist) norms.

Land, liberation and compromise sheds further light on the close link between the
lack of timely, legitimate land reform, the fiercely competing ‘narratives’ about
the history, and the adverse effects for the consolidation of constitutional democracy.
Chris Alden and Ward Anseeuw also examine the impact of Zimbabwe’s
‘fast-track’ land invasions on South Africa and Namibia, whose governments were
‘jolted’ into addressing a contentious issue they had largely ignored.
Alden and Anseeuw concur with the contributors to Becoming Zimbabwe
that Mugabe used land reform to deflect attention from ZANU-PF’s increasing
economic mismanagement and corruption. They endorse the view that this had
disastrous effects not only for Zimbabwe’s economy, but also for its political
system. Land became ‘the metaphor for the failure of post-colonial regimes to
fully address the aspirations of liberation … the white farmer became a living
representation of the brutal expropriation of land … [and Mugabe] dumped the
constitutional state to retain political power’ (Land, liberation and compromise, p. 159).
International dimensions of the Zimbabwe conflict
Alden and Anseeuw’s discussion of the international dimensions of the propaganda
warfare over the causes of Zimbabwe’s lurch from relatively stable to
failing state shows how Mugabe’s ‘national liberation’ narrative won support from
most African leaders in two key respects. First, they endorsed Mugabe’s claim
that Zimbabwe’s domestic problems were rooted in the inadequacies of the 1979
Lancaster House settlement that ended white rule, and his claim that the United
Kingdom and the United States failed to honour their promises of substantial
financial support for land reform. African leaders hailed Mugabe’s actions as ‘a
forthright stance against vestiges of colonialism and the new imperialism’ (Land,
liberation and compromise, p. 163). South Africa’s President Mbeki endorsed the
essentials of Mugabe’s narrative (though not his manner of achieving his aims),
stating that Mugabe’s land seizures were a necessary form of redistribution due
to ‘a problem caused by colonialism’, while South Africa’s then Foreign Minister,
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said African states were aware of the West’s ‘hidden
agenda to topple the Zimbabwean government … [and] re-colonise Zimbabwe’
(Land, liberation and compromise, pp. 110, 174).

Second, many African leaders supported Mugabe’s contention that the western
‘obsession’ with Zimbabwe’s crisis—‘picking on’ him, while ignoring worse
perpetrators of human rights abuses, such as Equatorial Guinea—was due to
racist concerns about ‘kith and kin’, that is the few thousand white people whose farms were seized. This charge gained credibility from the initial media focus on
the few thousand dispossessed white farmers, alongside relative neglect of the
numerous displaced black farm workers and brutal persecution of the MDC.
However, international attention soon shifted to the plight of black Zimbabweans.
Among reasons for the international focus on Zimbabwe were the collapse of a
formerly well-functioning state, with some of the best infrastructure in Africa (in
education, health, agricultural research), and the fight put up by the opposition,
both within Zimbabwe and in the diaspora. Their dogged, non-violent struggle
attracted international attention and support not only because of ‘emotional’
concerns about human rights, but also because of a longer-term, more strategic
issue: whether and how outsiders should respond to appeals from the progressive
reformers emerging in many African countries, such as Kenya, for support against
the misrule of old guard ‘national liberation’ leaders (who had themselves once
sought international support).
Regional dimensions of Zimbabwe’s ‘fast-track’ land reform
Among reasons for Mugabe’s partial diplomatic successes were solidarity politics
among the former liberation movements, reinforced by resentment at continuing
white domination of their economies and by aspects of western policy, including
the failure to reform international financial and trade policies and institutions,
and the ‘new imperialism’ of Bush and Blair (the reaction against this was evident
in South Africa’s increasingly anti-western tone after the Iraq invasion). African–
western relations were also affected by the changing international balance of
power, leading to less sensitivity to western interests and norms.
However, following Zimbabwe’s economic implosion—starkly evident in the
hyperinflation of 2008, intensification of the refugee flood (an estimated quarter
of the population departed), and damaging effects on investment in the whole
region—as well as the growing electoral support for the MDC, even in violent,
rigged elections, the AU and Southern African Development Community (SADC)
gradually applied sufficient pressure to force Mugabe, after the internationally
observed 2008 election, to accept the power-sharing Global Political Agreement,
which SADC arm-twisted the MDC (which won the election) into joining in a
junior role.

Alden and Anseeuw’s pioneering analysis of the regional impact of Zimbabwe’s
‘fast-track’ land reforms argues that Mugabe’s ‘state-sponsored anarchy found
echoes in the rise of local militancy in neighbouring states … [the land issue]
resonates deeply … and is inextricably intertwined with notions of identity and
citizenship (who is “African”) and the legitimacy of post-colonial regimes’ (Land,
liberation and compromise, p. 5). But their argument that, although neighbouring
states were ‘jolted’ by these events, their response is likely to remain merely
rhetorical, seems undermined by some of their own useful documentation. In
Namibia, President Nujoma not only hailed Mugabe’s ‘fast-track’ invasions but
strengthened the legislative framework for redistribution, introducing a land tax to raise the costs of ownership, especially of underutilized land. The SWAPO
(the South West Africa People’s Organization, the governing party since 1990)
government declined to publish a potentially explosive report based on its audit of
agrarian reform entitled, ‘One day we will all be equal’, but became more sharply
critical of ‘intransigent’ white farmers. In 2004, Prime Minister Gurirab warned
that, unless they became more cooperative, ‘orderly fast track expropriation’,
within the law, would be pursued. The budget was increased, and some farms
listed, for this purpose.
Thereafter, the (white) National Agricultural Union became more cooperative,
working with the (black) Namibian National Farmers Union to provide
technical aid and mentoring, with donor funding for black farmers. This adaptation
presumably contributed to the fact that SWAPO, unlike ZANU-PF, did not
view the constitution as an obstacle to economic reform. Alden and Anseeuw
recognize that the symbolic importance of land might yet lead a new generation
of activists, ‘driven by political opportunism and idealism’ to use land claims
to invigorate their electoral prospects; but they think this unlikely and believe
SWAPO will remain cautious, ‘cheering but not emulating Mugabe’ (Land, liberation
and compromise, p. 154).
The long chapter on South Africa contains much useful information, but
focuses too heavily on infighting among government departments and rural
NGOs, whose view of their influence, and role as spokespersons of the rural poor,
Alden and Anseeuw accept somewhat uncritically. From 2005, the ANC began
to pay more attention to land reform, sponsoring a National Land Summit at
which there were calls for scrapping the ‘willing seller, willing buyer’ principle.
Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka stated: ‘land reform had been too slow …
we may need the skills of Zimbabwe to help us … South Africa should learn
some lessons from Zimbabwe—how to do it fast’ (Land, liberation and compromise,
p. 115). In 2007, the cabinet approved a Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy and an
Expropriation Bill allowing for the acquisition of land with compensation. Some
farms were listed and numerous claims lodged but, following an outcry, there was
little action. However, extensive land claims, demonstrations and land invasions
have damaged agricultural investment and it seems unlikely that this ‘do nothing’
approach can continue. In April 2010, Gugile Nkwinti, Minister for Rural Development
and Land Reform, declared: ‘repossession of lost land [was] … at the core
of … all anti-colonial struggles … corrective measures necessary to tone down
the anger, bitterness and pain … by post-colonial reconstruction’ would be set out
in a Green Paper on Agrarian Transformation to be released later this year.3 The
South African government has stressed the need for an orderly, lawful process that
respects the constitution.
The extent to which land reform is a salient issue in more heavily industrialized
South Africa is the subject of James Gibson’s book, based on extensive public
opinion surveys. These show that, while land does not head the list of prime issues—pride of place goes to unemployment—land is of ‘considerable importance,
especially to Africans’. Gibson found a ‘stark divide’ between black and
white attitudes to land (90 per cent of black and 36 per cent of white citizens
supported the return of land taken away under apartheid) and a sense of grievance
of black people that is ‘growing … and these unsated land grievances hold
the potential to become a major destabilising force … Land is a tinderbox issue’
(Overcoming historical injustices, pp. 83, 65). These racial differences were reflected in
attitudes to Zimbabwe’s ‘fast-track’ reforms, supported by a smaller majority (55
per cent) of black people.4 However, Gibson believes black sympathy for Mugabe
has declined since his 2003–2004 survey, following Zimbabwe’s economic collapse
and a further flood of refugees to South Africa—a belief that receives support
from recent opinion surveys.
Gibson found a strong preference among all groups for any redistribution to
take place within the law, as well as recognition of the tension between contemporary
and historical injustices, that is imposing the costs of correcting historical
injustices on the present generation. However, he also found ‘evidence of
growing willingness of a large proportion of blacks to suspend the law in order
to achieve other goals’ (Overcoming historical injustices, p. 77). He concludes that ‘if
a demagogue took up this issue’, it could ‘resonate with many blacks’ (p. 215).
A candidate for this role recently appeared in the form of ANC Youth League
leader Julius Malema, urging nationalization, or indigenization, of resources such
as minerals and land.

Hence, Gibson shares the view of a close link between land and the consolidation
of constitutional democracy. He argues that land is not just an economic, but
also a symbolic issue, with attitudes shaped not just by individual self-interest,
but ‘by larger attitudes towards intergroup politics [on which] blacks and whites
hold nearly opposite views about land conflicts grounded in the past. Blacks want
to take the past into consideration; whites do not … [this] renders negotiation
of land claims [exceptionally] problematic’ (Overcoming historical injustices, p. 191).
This emphasis on the symbolic importance of land may be why there is such
surprising neglect of the economics of land reform by almost all the authors
discussed here. Gibson, for example, does not relate his finding of the ‘considerable
importance’ of land to the finding that the prime issue for 85 per cent of
the black population is unemployment. His otherwise impressive questionnaire
does not even ask respondents whether they would be interested in farming. This
question would need to be linked to the provision of the necessary supports and
infrastructure, such as irrigation, marketing facilities and credit. Such supports
are taken for granted for white farmers and for urban employers and workers, but
seldom for black farmers, contributing to their low productivity and, hence, lack of interest in farming.

Obstacles to land reform: foreign or domestic?
Why were South Africa, Namibia and pre-2000 Zimbabwe so slow to tackle
land reform? The authors of all three books attribute this mainly to constraints
imposed by the ‘neoliberal international order’, particularly the ‘willing seller,
willing buyer’ principle. This includes their acceptance of the standard view that
the ANC ‘fully endorsed neo-liberalism’—a depiction of South African policy
that seems contradicted by its huge expansion of welfare grants (received by a
quarter of the population); its highly interventionist affirmative action policy;
and its maintenance of banking regulation and exchange controls, which helped
to insulate the economy from the recent global financial crisis. Moreover, while
the desire to attract foreign investment imposes constraints on actions perceived
as breaching property rights, all three states, particularly South Africa, failed to
go as far as they could within the constitutional constraints, which allow both for
expropriation of land with compensation and for affirmative action loans. South
Africa has never fully spent the budget it allocated for this purpose, in contrast
to its assertive affirmative action policies in other sectors, such as Black Economic
Empowerment. Thus, the constraints of ‘neoliberalism’ seem, at most, only a
partial explanation.

Among other reasons cited by all authors is the ‘intransigence’ of white
farmers. There has certainly been much of this, with foot-dragging, resort to the
courts and attempts to jack up land prices. However, this opposition can be at
least partly countered by measures such as progressive land taxes and ceilings on
land ownership. These were widely used in, for example, postwar Japan, Taiwan,
South Korea and, recently, Namibia. Indeed, such mechanisms were recommended
in the World Bank’s 1994 report on reforming South African agriculture,
which also urged South Africa to redistribute 30 per cent of white-owned land to
black citizens within 15 years (seeming to contradict claims that the ‘international
financial institutions’ blocked land reform).6 But the ANC has not used these
mechanisms, nor acted on these recommendations, although the government has
imposed other measures on white farmers, such as insisting on the disbandment of
local commandos that provided policing in rural areas, where the murder rate is
four times the (already high) urban rate. The record shows that these governments
failed to go as far as they could within their own constitutional, and internationally
accepted, norms. This suggests a lack of priority for land reform, or at least
for the reform to which all three governments pay lip service, namely, to the rural
poor, that is small- to medium-scale, farmers, rather than to large-scale, ‘fat cat’

Another obstacle, or at least complication, confronting land reform is the
conflicting interests and pressures among the black population. As Alden and
Anseeuw show, this includes fear of precipitating unrest among competing land
claimants, including land grabs by chiefs in the former ‘communal’ areas. All three ‘national liberation’ ruling parties rely heavily on the rural vote. This has not led
them to support rural production, including in the undeveloped ‘communal’ areas
which were already owned by black citizens. Instead, they all shifted from their
former hostility to the chiefs to relying on them to deliver the rural vote and
maintain order in rural areas. The ANC skilfully countered the challenge posed
by Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party by establishing its own chiefs’ organization,
Contralesa, and by tailoring the 2004 Communal Land Rights Act to favour the
chiefs—to the dismay of rural NGOs, and at the cost of small farmers, especially
the many who are women. SWAPO’s concern to keep the chiefs on side contributed
to its wariness in tackling reform in Ovambo, the most heavily populated and
fertile region in Namibia. Another obstacle seems to be the interest of members
of the ruling parties in acquiring farms for themselves. As Namibian trade union
leader, Anfred Angula, remarked: ‘The land issue is not a top priority because
every Minister has already got his farm’(Land, liberation and compromise, p. 152). In
Zimbabwe, the best white farms have gone to the elite, including Mugabe’s family,
although there has also been some wider redistribution to small-scale farmers who
are ZANU-PF supporters.

These ‘conservative’ pressures—black as well as white, domestic as well as
foreign—have not been offset by effective counter-pressures from the supposed
beneficiaries of land reform, namely the unemployed and rural poor. Alden and
Anseeuw recognize that the rural NGOs have little support among the rural poor,
who seem wary of radical movements, such as the Landless People’s Movement
in South Africa, and show extraordinary ‘patience’, reflected in an interviewee’s
statement: ‘The government will deliver. They know we are waiting’ (Land, liberation
and compromise, p. 108). This waiting is eased by state grants and pensions in
Namibia and South Africa. These grants reduce poverty, but in an unproductive
way that imposes a heavy, and in the long term probably unsustainable, burden
on the fiscus.
Another obstacle to land reform is the grossly inadequate support for new
farmers and poor management of the resettlement programmes, due to weak
state capacity and also to infighting over the—often inappropriate—resettlement
models. The latter initially included the imposition of the ‘collectivist’ models
that have failed worldwide, alongside ideological objections to the independent
smallholder models that have worked in Asia and, increasingly, in parts of Africa
(flowers in Kenya, tobacco in Malawi, cassava in West Africa). The infighting and
early failures discredited the programmes and confirmed the widespread belief
that ‘Africans can’t or don’t want to farm’—a belief deeply entrenched among
many on the left as well as the right.
The main gap in these impressive books is their lack of attention to the econo -
mics of land, and agricultural, reform.8 This is, unfortunately, typical in a debate in which social scientists and economists talk past each other. However, this
frustrating non-engagement is likely to be overtaken by events, as the growing
concern about global food shortages propels a drive towards what might become
Africa’s long-delayed agricultural revolution(s). Among the drivers are activists
in the AU, supported by the international food policy research institutes and the
Gates (and other) foundations, private (African and foreign) companies and even
sovereign governments (Saudi Arabia, China) seeking to secure their food supplies.
The key questions are: will this process involve another round of alienation of
African land? And will it generate livelihoods for millions of African smallholders
and farm workers or, instead, their displacement by large-scale, capital intensive
farms, whether owned by Africans or foreigners? In Southern Africa, there is the
further issue of whether land reform will follow the bungled Zimbabwean model
or take place in a timely, lawful manner that reinforces, rather than undermines,
their recently established constitutional democracies.

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - Dr Blessing Miles Tendi


Paper written on the occasion of the launch of Becoming Zimbabwe by
Dr Blessing Miles Tendi, which was commissioned by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town.
© The Institute of Justice and Reconciliation.

Zimbabwean History in Context: A comparison of the History Book with existent history curriculum and teaching

History is the study of transformation and growth in society over time and space. Examining the past allows us to understand how History influences our present and future. A study of History builds the capacity of people to make informed choices in order to contribute constructively to society and to advance democracy. As a vehicle of personal empowerment, History engenders in learners an understanding of human agency. This brings with it the knowledge that, as human beings, learners have choices, and that they can make the choice to change the world for the better.
Becoming Zimbabwe. A History, c. 850–2009 is a rigorous academic work of historical enquiry penned by Zimbabwean scholars that is an alternative overview to the prevalent narrative and accounts of Zimbabwe’s history.  The book surveys the process of nation building in Zimbabwe through its various stages. The idea of a nation is important in Zimbabwe and history is central to that design. Thus, Becoming Zimbabwe seeks to address the role of nation building and history in the idea of a Zimbabwean political imagination, which is a central tenet of the country’s current politics. In addition the book offers a critical appreciation of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic systems since the pre-colonial era, and how they have impacted on people. Becoming Zimbabwe promotes and aids critical historical debate through a meticulous assessment of a wide range of chronological evidence and various viewpoints about Zimbabwe’s history. It shows that historical truth is comprised of an array of voices. The voices vary and are, more often than not, conflicting accounts of Zimbabwe’s past.
This report provides a complimentary aspect to Becoming Zimbabwe by posing a general critique of history teaching and curriculum in Zimbabwe. It attempts to enhance the book’s use, and serves as an educational tool at secondary and higher levels for comparison and analysis of history teaching and curriculum in Zimbabwe. The report also provides an outline of the kinds of historical texts and narratives on Zimbabwe, and how they are taught within Zimbabwean technical colleges and universities. The supplement therefore provides an overview of history teaching in Zimbabwe in relation to the content and focus of Becoming Zimbabwe.
The discussion that follows focuses on the general considerations and challenges of teaching history, and how the teaching of history has figured in post-colonial Zimbabwe. It also examines the role history has played in liberation and post-liberation politics. It comments on recent trends in history curriculum development in Zimbabwe, and what the implications of these developments are for reconciliation, national healing and transitional justice. The supplement attempts to gauge the likely way forward in the field of Zimbabwean history and the likely scenarios over the next few years, paying attention to the kind of support tertiary and secondary educators will require. Proposals that can be made towards learning sessions, modules and activities in history teaching, including ideas of how Becoming Zimbabwe can offer opportunities to the required support in teaching history in Zimbabwe are also put forward. I begin by examining the uses of liberation history in Zimbabwean politics.

The Uses of Liberation History in Zimbabwean Politics
The use of history in Zimbabwean politics dates back to the colonial era. For example, Terence Ranger’s Revolt in Southern Rhodesia made much of the role of spirit mediums such as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi, who were executed by the colonial authorities, in the first resistances to colonial rule (1896-97).  Having read Ranger’s work, nationalist parties such as the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) made use of Nehanda and Kaguvi’s martyrdom and spiritual attachment to land so as to mobilise supporters for the nationalist cause in the 1960s and 70s. In the independence period, the beginning of 2000 saw state-sanctioned forceful seizures of white-owned commercial farms and the emergence of Zimbabwe’s liberation history as the defining theme in President Robert Mugabe and the ZANU PF government’s political discourse. These two manifestations coincided with the materialisation of a new opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which was formed on 11 September 1999. In 2000 Ranger, by then a distinguished historian of Zimbabwe who had helped to develop nationalist history, expressed his concern about the way ZANU PF was making use of Zimbabwe’s liberation history in national politics and the party’s attack on a pluralistic version of Zimbabwe’s past.  In 2003, Ranger produced a scholarly examination of the uses of history by some of ZANU PF’s intellectual allies.  Ranger argued that starting in 2000 and drawing from its important role in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, while facing a strong political opposition for the first time, ZANU PF began to repackage and propagate the country’s liberation history in a narrow and authoritarian narrative. ZANU PF has relied heavily on public intellectuals sympathetic to it (such as Tafataona Mahoso, Vimbai Chivaura, Claude Mararike, Godfrey Chikowore, Sheunesu Mpepereki and Ibbo Mandaza), for the production of this repackaged narrative called Patriotic History in the public sphere. A public intellectual is ‘an individual, educated in a specific academic discipline, such as political science, history or economics, which chooses to write and speak to a broader audience than that offered by professional academic colleagues’.  Mahoso et al formulated and disseminated Patriotic History in the print and broadcast media.
The debate on Patriotic History has been strong. Mugabe sees Patriotic History as an essential response to resurgent Western imperialism and its local allies who threatened the hard won integrity and sovereignty of Zimbabwe.  The account of Patriotic History as a response to Western imperialism is epitomised by Inside the Third Chimurenga, which is a collection of speeches and writings by Mugabe.  This text’s depth and status renders it the official expose of Patriotic History. In contrast, most liberal and radical international academic and journalistic commentators emphasise Patriotic History’s falseness and opportunism, and apportion responsibility for Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis to an errant and self-justifying authoritarian regime.  More measured literature attempts to understand the rise of discourses such as Patriotic History within the context of a nationalist state faced with a loss of legitimacy, and the legacy of inherited structures of coercion, economic inequality,  unreconciled racial and ethnic differences,  and the negative effects resulting from the dictates of the prevailing neo-liberal international system. 
I will now conceptualise Patriotic History.  My conceptualisation of Patriotic History is partly based on a careful analysis of Inside the Third Chimurenga. I have also made use of other speeches made by Mugabe, which are recorded in the press. Mugabe is the primary definer of Patriotic History’s contours. However, ZANU PF’s intellectual allies were more prolific and sharper in their formulations, and their activities contribute to Patriotic History’s multi-layered nature. Nonetheless, their formulations are related to the themes in Mugabe’s speeches and writings, that is land, race, anti-colonialism, sovereignty and human rights. In addition, Jonathan Moyo was a combative and prolific ZANU PF Information Minister (2000-2005) whose uses of history in government are second only to Mugabe’s in terms of their influence.
Patriotic History proclaims ZANU PF as the alpha and omega of Zimbabwe’s past, present and future. Zimbabweans are encouraged to be ‘patriotic’, which means supporting ZANU PF. Anything short of this is considered ‘unpatriotic’. Patriotic History has four main themes: land; no external interference based on ‘Western ideals’ such as human rights; race; and a ‘patriots’ versus ‘sell-outs’ distinction. In Patriotic History, Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle is depicted as having been about regaining land from colonial settlers while other political, social and economic objectives of a multifaceted struggle are downplayed. Patriotic History is designed to produce a division between civil and political, and economic rights. By championing fair land redistribution, Patriotic History promotes economic rights. By legitimising political violence and authoritarian politics, and relegating the values of civil and political rights to Zimbabwean nationalism, Patriotic History rejects their worth. The role of spirit mediums Nehanda and Kaguvi is played up in Patriotic History at the expense of the sacrifices of rural peasants and traditional chiefs, in order to conscript their martyrdom and spiritual connection to land for the legitimisation and mobilisation of support for the land seizures. This conscription has also served to cast Mugabe as the modern heir to Nehanda and Kaguvi in the struggle for land reclamation.
Patriotic History precipitates a clash between human rights and sovereignty because the former is cast as ‘Western’ and a form of ‘moral imperialism’ no different from historical ploys, such as ‘the white man’s burden’, for Western Europe’s colonial machinations. This idea in Patriotic History is emotive, especially in Africa where sovereignty is regarded as the reverse of colonialism and a means of self-defence against interference by foreign actors, which are treated with distrust given Africa’s heritage of occupation and exploitation by colonialists. This harmful legacy of colonialism is used within Patriotic History to undermine the morality of external interference. ZANU PF’s rejection of Western criticism over its human rights record is established on appeals to sovereignty and the strong unacceptability of modern forms of colonialism that resounds in Africa. In addition, ZANU PF uses Patriotic History to identify Western hypocrisy on global human rights promotion to bolster its rejection of Western criticism of its human rights record.
On race, in 1980 the ZANU PF government adopted a national reconciliation policy between races so as to encourage peace and nation-building between Zimbabwe’s black majority and white minority racial groups. In 2000, the ZANU PF government deserted its reconciliation policy, substituting it with an exclusivist racialised politics. The desertion of reconciliation underlined an important shift that sees the roots of reconciliation’s disintegration in Zimbabwe’s flawed 1979 Lancaster House independence settlement. In Patriotic History all whites are evil and racist, and Britain drew up and supervised the agreement of a short-sighted independence settlement that protected and appeased whites’ privileges instead of setting the foundations for nation-building. A local discourse with roots in the early 1990s, which understands white dominance in terms of unresolved colonial inheritances, left white Zimbabweans susceptible to resentment by a majority black population. Patriotic History draws on this discourse to mobilise support for evicting whites from farms. It also espouses race essentialism, meaning Zimbabwe is for black Zimbabweans and Africa for black Africans; white people cannot be Zimbabwean or African. The focus on race and the references to historical Western evils of colonialism and slavery allows ZANU PF to dismiss denunciations coming from a white individual or group as ‘racist’ and lacking moral authority.
Lastly, Patriotic History separates Zimbabweans into ‘patriots’ and ‘sell-outs’, such that opponents to ZANU PF are necessarily classified as ‘pro-colonial’, ‘sell-outs’, ‘un-African’, and ‘puppets’, while followers of ZANU PF are categorised as ‘patriots’. The patriots and sell-outs distinction is extended to the rest of the globe. External critics of ZANU PF are typecast as ‘foes’ of black Africa. The distinction has its genesis in late 1950s urban politics and has been a constant premise in nationalist politics since. The denotation of ‘sell-out’ changes over time depending on the character of a challenger. To be a ‘sell-out’ during the liberation war was to be an informant of the colonial Rhodesian state and to support a rival nationalist party. To be a ‘sell-out’ after 2000 is to abandon ZANU PF’s ‘central’ role in nationalist history, to resist the land seizures, and to value civil and political rights over economic rights. Patriotic History is a sophisticated narrative that plays on real historical grievances such as land. Indeed it is more than a narrative. It is part of a political culture that legitimises violence, and inhibits political tolerance, civil and political rights, and democracy.
It is incomplete to focus on the uses of history by ZANU PF alone because the MDC has also made use of history in its politics. Since its formation in 1999, the MDC has for the most part not engaged with Patriotic History. In 1999, Morgan Tsvangirai stated ‘we have not come here to launch an opposition. We have come to ensure that the MDC is the next government’.  ‘Change’ became the MDC’s guiding value.  An important early evaluation of the content of the MDC’s ‘change’ came from Arthur Mutambara:
They [MDC] should pay special attention to the issue of the quality of political change, that is, the
content and substance of change. It is not enough to ride on a wave of popular discontent and engage
in reactive anti-Mugabe politics. It is insufficient to react to Mugabe’s positions on land, war
veterans and the economy. In fact, the initiative should be taken away from the Mugabe regime…the
land question and the liberation war legacy are two examples of areas where the initiative has to be
wrested from the Mugabe regime. ZANU PF owns neither the liberation war legacy nor the war
veterans. All opposition parties should clearly and actively defend the liberation war legacy and
articulate policies that address the war veterans as an important section of Zimbabwean
society. …ZANU PF does not deserve the liberation war advantage that is being given on a silver
platter by the opposition. 

Mutambara made this critique in April of 2000. Two months later, Tsvangirai labeled the war veterans ‘a bunch of outlaws’ and declared that once the MDC was in power it would have its ‘own resettlement scheme and they [war veterans] can take their place in the queue with everyone else, but they will have no priority’.  While the war veterans’ resort to violent farm seizures was unlawful, their actions needed to be understood against the historical background of 20 years of neglect by the ZANU PF government, which consigned many of them to the margins of independence-era economic emancipation. There was a lack of appreciation on the MDC’s part for the historical reasons that had fomented the war veterans’ social and economic plight, and how this made them ‘usable’ by ZANU PF.
When the MDC has engaged with history it has been prone to misrepresentation. For instance, Patriotic History’s selective amnesia when representing Zimbabwe’s post-colonial history is best exemplified by its gag on the Gukurahundi atrocities ZANU PF committed in Matabeleland during the early 1980s. In reply to this silence, the MDC has been categorical in its use of the history of the Gukurahundi to review Patriotic History, using the term genocide. The MDC is effective in highlighting the Gukurahundi but it has distorted the nature of this event for political mileage. In 2000, Tsvangirai called upon the international community to ‘stop Africa’s Milosevic’ [Mugabe] because he had ‘committed genocide’.  Sekai Holland, the MDC’s Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2001, also described the Gukurahundi as ‘genocide’ and drew similarities between the Gukurahundi and the September 11 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York.  Curiously, the MDC did not define the term genocide. It did not explain how the Gukurahundi had been genocide. Michael Ignatieff’s observation that ‘those who should use the word genocide never let it slip their mouths, those who unfortunately do use it, banalise it into a validation of every kind of victim hood’ is relevant in this case.  In the modern age colonialism, imperialism and slavery have been given the imprecise label of ‘genocide’ when they were systems to exploit not to methodically destroy human beings.  Today the use of the term genocide instantaneously brings into play reminiscences and imagery of the most callous deeds, such as Rwandese black bodies floating down Kigara river into Lake Victoria, and the Holocaust of emaciated Jews heading into Zyklon B gas chambers in NAZI concentration camps. The tremendous disgrace, repulsion and righteous anger surrounding the term genocide have been drafted by political actors, global media and civil society to demonise disliked human rights violating governments internationally - the MDC has done likewise.
In 2009 Zimbabwe’s National Healing Minister Sekai Holland, who belongs to the Tsvangirai MDC, made a widely publicised assertion that Zimbabwe has experienced state-sponsored violence for 900 years.  In Holland’s words:
In an honest way, when we looked at our history, we were shocked to find that we have had 900 years of
state-sponsored violence from different chieftaincies and kingdoms which have been in our country. By the
time that Mzilikazi’s mob came after stealing the cattle [from Zululand]; there was just nothing they knew
how to do that had not been done before. And when the Pioneer Column came, they were not as professional
as the one who had come before [Mzilikazi].

The use of history in such a distorted and inflammatory manner was least expected from a minister of National Healing. Indeed Holland’s reference to king Mzilikazi’s people as a ‘mob’ was taken by some to be a denigration of ‘the symbol of nationhood for some people [the Ndebele] in Zimbabwe’.  Holland eventually met Ndebele traditional chiefs and a descendant of King Mzilikazi, Prince Zwide kaLanga Khumalo, to apologise for her utterances.  Like ZANU PF the MDC has used history in a distorted and divisive way, making nation building and reconciliation even harder tasks. Worryingly, ZANU PF has worked to introduce the teaching of Patriotic History in schools and higher institutions – a subject I now turn to.

History Curriculum Development in Zimbabwe’s Secondary Schools and Higher Education Institutions, and the Implications for Reconciliation, National Healing and Transitional Justice
From independence in 1980, the ZANU PF government prioritised improving the educational prospects of black Zimbabweans, as evidenced by its policy of free primary education for all children in the 1980s. During the 1980s there was a large increase in the number of primary and secondary schools. The training of qualified teachers and primary and secondary student enrolments rose sharply. In terms of higher education, Zimbabwe had one university at independence, the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) – formerly the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland founded in 1957. In 1967 the student population at the University College of Rhodesia stood at 717 full-time and 141 part-time students.  From 1980 the UZ’s overall student and faculty numbers increased yearly, as can be seen below:

Enrollment at the University of Zimbabwe: 2000
Faculty    Agricul.    Arts    Comm.    Educ.    English    Law
UG    M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F
1st yr    107    33    227    167    216    71    74    78    241    20    62    32
2nd yr    113    28    269    136    173    54    200    80    161    11    63    29
3rd yr    74    20    169    137    164    63              161         43    42
4th yr    6         11                             141    9    42    28
5th yr                                            25               
Tot UG    300    81    676    440    553    188    274    158    729    40    210    131

Faculty    Med.    Sci.    Soc. St.     Vet. Sci.     Total
F/T    M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F    M    F
1st yr    228    101    336    131    377    306    20    11    1,888    950
2nd yr    245    90    256    78    334    182    21    5    1,835    693
3rd yr    171    94    127    83    256    197    21    6    1,186    642
4th yr    128    55    5    2    21    14    20    6    374    114
5th yr    75    27                        6    6    106    33
Tot UG    847    367    724    294    988    699    88    34    2,489    2,423

In 2000, male student enrolment dropped remarkably, while at the same time female student enrolment increased appreciably, reflecting the government’s commitment to extending higher education opportunities to women. There are now 12 state and private run universities in Zimbabwe today. Clearly, the ZANU PF government has had a strong commitment to making education widely accessible.
Teresa Barnes has examined the amendments in Zimbabwean secondary school history textbooks and syllabi from 1980 to 2004.  Barnes conducted interviews with secondary school teachers, along with a broad re-reading of secondary school history syllabi and history texts used from 1980 to 2001, to produce an extremely useful study of history teaching in Zimbabwean schools since independence. I will rely on Barnes’ study in my assessment of history teaching in secondary schools. My examination of history teaching in higher institutions will draw from my own research on history teaching at the University of Zimbabwe and Harare Polytechnic. 
Barnes’ work shows that there have been three divergent periods in the development of secondary school history syllabi from 1980 to 2004. The first period (1980 to 1990) saw the retention of the pre-1980 Rhodesian syllabus, though a few new texts with a focus on Africa were recommended books. The syllabus concentrated on European and central African history evenly. However, central African history was presented as the history of European settlement in the region. Western politics and culture were exalted at the expense of African politics and culture. In 1982 the African Heritage book series, written exclusively for Zimbabwean secondary schools, was released. In spite of African Heritage offering a departure from Rhodesian history, it bore some important shortcomings. It accorded insignificant attention to the comparative and interpretive use of historical data extracted from various sources and viewpoints. It also took a political economy approach to history that largely ignored social questions of race, ethnicity and nation-building. Evidently, history teaching in the first decade of independence did not help to encourage reconciliation and national healing. 
In the second period (beginning 1991 and ending in 2002) a nationalist syllabus was introduced. The syllabus simply steered clear of the racism of the Rhodesian curriculum without critically interrogating race relations. ‘Thus, the new history of the nation came to be told through a racially polarising narrative; it was replete with powerful notions of both ethnic inclusion and racial exclusion.’  To its credit the nationalist syllabus promoted diverse methodology to history teaching. ‘Problem-posing, problem-solving, role play, written exercises and discussions’ and critical thinking were encouraged in what was the antithesis to the Rhodesian syllabus’ rote-learning. Along with the introduction of the nationalist syllabus, new textbooks for history teaching were published.  The new texts were one-dimensional, presenting white Rhodesians as politically and culturally homogenous, and seeking to maintain colonial rule. Africans were not spared this one-dimensional treatment either. Crucially, African ethnicity was for the most part not broken into its component parts. There was an inherent lack of a nuanced appreciation of African ethnicity. However:
The books tried hard to counter the colonial-era divide-and-rule narrative stemming from the original settlement
of the Ndebele in Zimbabwe in the nineteenth century. Each book took issue with aspects of the old shibboleth
of ‘ruthless Ndebele’ raiding cattle and women from ‘hapless Shona’. In the new nationalist narrative, rather,
‘the people’ overcame historical antagonisms and united in acts of rebellion and revolution against the
colonialists. ….None of the books discussed race or racism as separate, historical topics. The terms ‘white’,
‘settler’, and ‘European’ were used synonymously with each other, as were the terms ‘African’ and ‘people.’

The nationalist syllabus did not promote racial harmony and understanding. Although the books recommended for history teaching quashed the colonial representation of the brute Ndebele ‘raiding cattle and women from hapless Shona’, these texts and the nationalist syllabus did not address the Gukurahundi and the social problems and justice questions it spawned. On the whole, the nationalist syllabus did not offer much in the way of an improvement on national healing, justice and reconciliation.
The third period began in 2002 when the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture, headed by the historian Aeneas Chigwedere, radically modified the nationalist syllabus. The resultant syllabus extolled ZANU PF and asked students and teachers to be proud of the party’s role in the liberation struggle. This modification of the nationalist syllabus must be seen in the context of the amplification of Patriotic History that began in 2000 in order to shore up the ZANU PF party’s political legitimacy. The 2002 syllabus, which I will refer to here as the Patriotic syllabus, was a hurriedly produced and less comparative Zimbabwe-focused syllabus that the ZANU PF government did not put up for debate or assessment by history experts and teachers. In addition to being less comparative than its nationalist predecessor, the Patriotic syllabus did not prioritise the testing of students’ ability to interpret and critically evaluate history but sought to engender learning by rote instead, which was a step back to the old teaching methods of the Rhodesian syllabus.  Furthermore, ‘recent [‘O’ level] examination questions included questions about the farm invasions and the so-called ‘hondo ye minda’ or ‘fast-track land reform’, referring to them in an approving way’.  Zimbabwean secondary school history has throughout these three periods been a discriminating reformation of race and citizenship. ‘This can help to explain social phenomena such as the specific and selective targeting of white farmers and white-owned land, and of farm workers’ since 2000.  Like the Rhodesian and nationalist syllabi before, the Patriotic curriculum offers no opportunities for inclusive nation building and reconciliation.
Prior to Chigwedere taking charge of the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) had worked in partnership with the Ministry to mass-produce a series of set books on Education for Human Rights and Democracy in Zimbabwe.

Several Zimbabwean teachers from Education Colleges were employed to write History text books for Forms
1 and 2 and for O level. Hundreds of thousands of these beautifully produced books were printed in 2000. They
represented universalist history at its best, containing a great deal of comparative material on Nazi Germany and 
Soviet Russia; on slavery in Ancient Egypt and the Americas; on colonial repression and nationalist aspirations  
for liberty; on the slow emergence of international conventions on human rights. Despite all the money and time  
spent on these texts. however, they remain in the  warehouses, while patriotic history texts are being distributed 
to the schools. 

In the absence of human rights teaching, there is little scope for the engendering of tolerance, knowledge of one’s human rights, reconciliation, justice issues and national healing in secondary schools. History teaching in higher institutions has also been subject to ZANU PF attention, a matter I will now address.

History in Higher Education 
History teaching at the UZ is conducted by two separate departments, Economic History and History. The Economic History department offers courses on the past and present economic history of societies in Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, North America, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East, with an emphasis on familiarising students with topics crucial to understanding current local and global concerns in historical perspective. The History department presents a broad selection of courses that draw in other studies such as archaeology, war studies and international security, by emphasising the historical dimensions in these areas. Courses on offer include national, regional and continental histories. The History department enunciates that:
The history of Zimbabwe section for example, affords the student the opportunity to appreciate the complex
nature of pre-colonial, colonial and post-independent developments. The events concerned are inextricably
interwoven and connected so much that the reader is able to see how events evolve to our present situation. 

In reality some of the UZ History teaching has struggled to move away from a nationalist and Marxist interpretation of the country’s past.  Some History lecturers recognise the need to complicate Zimbabwe’s history but they do not want to compromise nationalist history and how colonial legacies continue to have negative effects on the country today. 
What have been the machinations of government proponents of Patriotic History towards higher education? ZANU PF has attempted to co-opt some university history lecturers in order to facilitate the teaching of Patriotic History.  Other relationships aimed at facilitating the production of Patriotic History in higher education have also been developed. For instance in 2003:
‘a partnership agreement aimed at gathering and documenting the country’s history’ had been signed by the
National Archives of Zimbabwe, the Department of National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe and
the University of Zimbabwe’s History department. The project is entitled ‘Oral History: From the First to the
Second Chimurenga’; it is a ‘response to a challenge thrown to the three institutions by President Mugabe to
record for posterity the facts of the national struggle’' The Secretary for Home Affairs, Melusi Matshiya, said
that the results ‘would be made available to future generations through the Liberation War Museum to be
constructed at the National Heroes Acre’.

This research project marked a shift away from ‘the series of projects carried out at UZ in the 1990s under the rubric of ‘Democracy and Human Rights’, directed by Professor Ngwabi Bhebe’ and ‘the post-nationalist historiography which was beginning to emerge at the university in the early twenty-first century’.
More overtly, ZANU PF has attempted to introduce the teaching of Patriotic History through the National and Strategic Studies (NASS) course at tertiary institutions. As early as 1985, Mugabe proclaimed his government’s intention to have a ‘Political Education’ course ‘taught as a compulsory subject from nursery school up to and including tertiary level’,  suggesting that the ZANU PF government had harboured plans for introducing a compulsory national civic education course from the early independence years. During this period the government also set up a Cabinet Committee to carry out a study on the possibility of setting up a National Youth Service Scheme. The study involved an assessment of the comparative experiences in three countries, the former Yugoslavia, Cuba and Tanzania. The report recommended against the implementation of such a scheme citing amongst other reasons, the high financial costs and the dangers of the militarization of the unemployed. In the era of reconciliation politics such arguments still held sway. In 2000, Border Gezi, the Minister of Youth, Gender and Employment Creation, introduced a national youth service training programme for all Zimbabwean school leavers. According to Gezi the programme was designed to inculcate a ‘sense of responsible citizenship among the youth’.  National youth centres were established in the country’s provinces.
The government argued that the training centres would mould patriotic citizens, though the content of this patriotism was never put before the nation for deliberation. The programme’s other purported goals were teaching on the prevention of HIV-AIDS and drug abuse, fostering national pride, creating opportunities for youth self-employment and participation in national development, gender equality education, and promotion of environmentally friendly practices. Political opposition and civil society argued that the training camps were designed to turn Zimbabwean youth into ZANU PF cadres. A 2003 report on the national youth service training programme undertaken by the Solidarity Peace Trust found that some youth training centres also served as ZANU PF paramilitary training bases.  The report also established that Mugabe’s book, Inside the Third Chimurenga, was a core study and teaching text.
In 2002, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education introduced the NASS course as a compulsory component of teacher and technical colleges’ curricula. According to the Ministry, the NASS course was introduced to ‘provide an all round education to young people in tertiary institutions’, ‘foster a desire to contribute towards national development and equip students with relevant skills’, and ‘instil in the young people an appreciation of their national heritage.’  The NASS course’s introduction at the height of the Third Chimurenga, amid reports of ongoing ‘indoctrination’ practices in the Border Gezi national youth centres, raised considerable public suspicion and debate in the independent press on the government’s motives. Statements by some ZANU PF officials, such as ‘the mistake that the ruling party made was to allow colleges and universities to be turned into anti-government mentality factories’,  reinforced public suspicion. The Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) bemoaned the lack of knowledge of the liberation war amongst those born after independence, noting: ‘we were busy building the country, building roads and schools and clinics but we did not build the minds of our young people…(our) children have become black whites’.  On national heroes’ day in 2004, Mugabe announced that his government would review the country’s teaching syllabus to ensure that graduates were ‘patriotic and loyal citizens’.  Mugabe also noted that higher education graduates were generally opposed to the ZANU PF government’s policies.
In light of this, it is little surprise that leading independent newspapers such as the Zimbabwe Independent presented the NASS course’s inception as ‘a bid by government to advance its political agenda’.  A sceptical independent press presented the NASS course as a means of ‘brainwashing’ Zimbabwean youth to support ZANU PF. In academic circles, Ranger argued that Patriotic History was ‘being offered under the guise of National and Strategic Studies in Teacher Training Colleges and Polytechnics’.  Scepticism was also rife at the Harare Polytechnic. According to Roy Matsika, cases of students boycotting NASS lectures and examinations were not uncommon.  Harare Polytechnic students were not alone in being unreceptive to the NASS course. Matsika argues that the newly created NASS department faced the ‘tremendous task’ of legitimising itself as a fully fledged department staffed with authentic academics.  Some of the non-NASS academics at the Harare Polytechnic doubted the academic credentials of the NASS staff, perceiving them as ‘war veterans’ masquerading as academics. Matsika was compelled to present original copies of his academic qualifications to sceptical non-NASS academic staff.
The sceptical regard for the NASS course as Patriotic History in disguise seemed to be vindicated by two contentious questions that appeared in the April 2004 NASS examination paper. These two questions were posed as follows: ‘which political party in Zimbabwe represents the interests of imperialists and how must it be viewed by Zimbabweans?’; and ‘African leaders who try to serve the interests of imperialists are called what and how do you view patriotism?’ The two questions seemed to allude to Patriotic History’s construction of the MDC and Tsvangirai as ‘sell-outs’ and ‘puppets’. Matsika contends that ‘the questions attracted unnecessary spotlight which diverted attention from the critical and objective effort that went into developing the course’.  According to Matsika, a decentralised compilation process is employed when setting final examinations. Fifteen different examination papers are set by the various polytechnics countrywide. The fifteen papers are circulated to all polytechnics for deliberation until consensus is reached between the polytechnics on a ‘fair’ and ‘explorative’ examination question paper to be adopted. 
However, Matsika could not explain the presence of the contentious questions that appeared in the April 2004 examination paper. He was unaware of the source of the questions. The source remains an enigma. Matsika’s supposition was that a partisan high-ranking official in the Higher Examinations Council or Standards Development and Quality Assurance Department inserted them clandestinely. Other than these questions, examination and course work assignment questions for the year 2004 were of a challenging academic nature, sought to cultivate freedom of thought, solicited critical responses from students and made no allusions to Patriotic History’s construction of particular groups or individuals.  Responses by a newly enrolled group of NASS students to a 2004 assignment question asking ‘is the land question a real social issue or a political gimmick’ were characterised by a noticeable use of ZANU PF political slogans. ‘Land is the economy and the economy is land’, a political slogan coined and popularised by Jonathan Moyo, was quoted by a student in one academic essay for instance.  However essays laden with ZANU PF political rhetoric were often met with comments by teaching staff that questioned the uncritical use of politically partisan arguments not substantiated with fact. This was evident in three of seven response essays I was allowed to examine. According to Matsika, it was routine for many beginners of the NASS course to produce ‘pro-ZANU PF essays’ because they began the course with a preconceived belief that ‘the more ZANU PF you are the higher the grades you get’.  I will now review the content of the NASS course.

A Review of the NASS Syllabus
The Ministry of Higher Education produced a draft syllabus for the NASS course in 2003. The draft was handed down to tertiary institutions for modification. Matsika was one of the pioneer developers of the NASS course and argues that the Ministry of Higher Education did not assign specific literature on which teaching was to be based. However, it is worth noting that the NASS syllabus recommends the reading of Mugabe’s Inside the Third Chimurenga and that the current NASS syllabus was derived from a draft version produced by the higher education ministry. The ministry’s draft syllabus was presented to NASS pioneer staff for discussion and development at a 2003 workshop in Gweru. Review workshops on the NASS syllabus are conducted annually in order to expand the course’s depth and ensure that it remains relevant to changing national events.  The most striking feature of the NASS syllabus is its high level of specificity in terms of the course’s aims and what is taught. According to Matsika, while the Ministry of Higher Education is the final arbiter of the course’s content it has not attempted to directly influence the course’s thrust or unjustly vetoed the deliberations and amendments made at workshops.  Matsika contends that the 2003 Gweru workshop was critical of the higher education ministry’s draft syllabus for its ‘very general’ nature, arguing that this left it open to varied interpretations. ‘We were mindful of the need to develop a very specific syllabus not open to manipulation by those of a particular persuasion’.  I reviewed the higher education ministry’s draft syllabus and established the credibility of Matsika’s claim. Sections of the higher education ministry’s draft syllabus were found to be ‘open to manipulation’ by politically partisan instructors and to be pandering to Patriotic History’s attempts to make political leadership an exclusive preserve of those associated with the liberation struggle. For instance, section 2.6 of the draft syllabus stipulated that students were to define patriotism
within Zimbabwe’s traditional and enduring political tradition - the Second Chimurenga, and
its being the litmus test for patriotism, commitment and qualification for office in the legislature,
executive, judiciary, and legitimate and constructive opposition politics.

The current NASS syllabus comprises 4 core themes: entrepreneurship studies; legal and parliamentary studies; international relations and development studies; and Zimbabwean history and heritage studies.  Entrepreneurship studies takes up twenty percent of teaching time, international relations twenty seven percent, Zimbabwean history and heritage thirty three percent,  and legal and parliamentary affairs twenty percent. The entrepreneurship component of the course seeks to inculcate the need for Zimbabwean graduates to be employment-creating not employment-seeking graduates. Students are equipped with skills for developing business ideas and use of information technology in business. The current syllabus mentions and defines patriotism in relation to good corporate governance whereas the higher education ministry’s draft version set out the study of patriotism in the terms outlined above. In the current syllabus, patriotism denotes ethical business standards, social responsibilities and entrepreneurial innovation aimed at building a viable national economy.  The legal and parliamentary studies module seeks to define and emphasise the importance of the rule of law, furnish students with knowledge of the Zimbabwe constitution and an understanding of how the country’s legislature functions. Information censorship, public order and security are also key discussion points. The international relations and development element is akin to an undergraduate introductory course to international relations spanning international relations theory, the roles of international law, and global, continental and regional organisations.
The Zimbabwean history and heritage studies section traces Zimbabwe’s history from the pre-colonial to post-colonial period. The Mutapa, Rozvi, and Ndebele pre-colonial states are discussed in terms of civilisation, trade, social relations and indigenous knowledge systems. The rise of the slave trade and its effects on Africa’s development is an introductory topic to a colonial history that begins with the scramble for Africa and 1884 Berlin conference. The rise of nationalism in Zimbabwe is located in the urban Youth League beginning in 1955. Nationalist political parties are presented as the offspring of urban politics and labour grievance against the colonial state. This representation of history challenges Patriotic History. ZANU PF’s role in Zimbabwe’s liberation is subsumed in the contribution of independent Frontline states, independent churches, and ‘the concerted efforts by all people of any creed, race and tribe in Zimbabwe’s liberation’.  This also contests Patriotic History and the higher education ministry’s draft syllabus which, in its emphasis on ZANU and ZAPU as the champions of the liberation struggle, did not capture the multiplicity of actors involved in the struggle. Students are expected to grasp the effect of the Lancaster House settlement’s protection of white property rights for the first decade of independence on negating ‘the total independence of Zimbabwe’.  Civic responsibilities are a subsection of the Zimbabwean history and heritage theme. They include individual duties in times of natural and man-made disasters, defence of the nation through armed combat, adherence to tax payment, and observance of environmentally friendly practices. Marriage values and the prevention of HIV-AIDS are other principles considered important for youth under the Zimbabwean history and heritage section.
The most intriguing part of the current NASS syllabus is the Zimbabwean history and heritage section 5.1 where students are expected to evaluate and explain the West’s destabilisation efforts in Southern Africa, which took the form of dissident movements. Jonas Malvheiro Savimbi’s rebel National Union for Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), which fought a civil war against the Angolan People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government with American support during the Cold war, is listed as one such Western-sponsored dissident movement. The RENAMO insurgency in Mozambique from 1975 to 1992 is another case study. For independent Zimbabwe, ZAPU is listed as a Western agent for destabilisation. The higher education ministry’s draft syllabus listed RENAMO, UNITA and ZAPU dissident activity in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland province as products of the Apartheid South African government’s machinations to destabilise its regional neighbours. The account of RENAMO and UNITA as western agents of destabilisation in Africa is a distortion obscuring a more nuanced understanding of the multiplicity of local and international factors that fomented the two rebel groups. RENAMO received American support but the Rhodesian Intelligence service sponsored and created RENAMO in 1975, relinquishing its sponsorship to Apartheid South Africa with the advent of independence in 1980.  Likewise, while UNITA benefited from American support, South Africa also assisted it in periods. In spite of this external support both RENAMO and UNITA developed deep local roots. They garnered considerable local legitimacy in parts of Mozambique and Angola respectively. To present them as entirely alien or external is misleading.
The arming of ZAPU by the West and South Africa, referred to by both the current NASS syllabus and the higher education ministry’s draft version, refers to the dissident activities in Matabeleland during the early 1980s. In Patriotic History, the detection of illegal arms reserves on properties owned by ZAPU led to the dismissal of Nkomo from cabinet in 1982 because the arms were intended for use in a planned coup against the incumbent ZANU PF government.  ZIPRA deserters from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) engaged in ‘dissident’ activities, which the ZANU PF government responded to by deploying the Fifth Brigade. The Fifth Brigade’s official mandate was to crush dissident activity and guarantee national security. However, the evidence for a coup plot was ‘suspect’, the existence of arms caches on both sides of the ZANU and ZAPU political divide had been an open secret since independence, and the state’s treason charges against senior ZAPU members such as Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku did not stand the test of the High Court’s scrutiny.  South Africa had sought to destabilise its northern neighbour by creating and arming ‘Super ZAPU’ but South African involvement does not fully account for the disturbances in Matabeleland and the ZANU PF government’s response.
The largely pro-ZANU ZNA victimized and killed many former ZIPRA combatants in its ranks leading to the desertion of thousands of former ZIPRA combatants in 1982 for personal security reasons.  However, ZIPRA deserters found that victimization and killings awaited them even outside the ZNA. Desertions induced by a partisan ZNA caused an escalation of dissident violence in Matabeleland. The need to quell dissident violence was the ZANU PF government’s alleged reason for deploying Fifth Brigade troops in the Gukurahundi. However, the Fifth Brigade’s violent campaign in Matabeleland, which was justified in tribal language against Ndebele civilians mostly, ZAPU officials and former ZIPRA combatants, was part of an agenda to crush ZAPU.  The complexity of motives for and manner of the Gukurahundi atrocities do not find expression in the current NASS syllabus or in the higher education ministry’s draft version. This silence is born out of the ZANU PF government’s suppression of the Gukurahundi atrocities in official political discourse, state-controlled media and the education system. The suppression of the narrative marshalled a ‘half-hearted’ conformity by the NASS syllabus developers in maintaining silence on this narrative during the 2003 Gweru workshop. 
Matsika was however adamant that the syllabus’ silence on the Gukurahundi atrocities did not prevent students knowing about it: ‘It may not be in the syllabus but we point students to the CCJP report [Breaking the Silence, Building True Peace: A Report on the Disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, 1980 to 1988] and encourage its discussion in class. The silence is not sacred behind closed classroom doors’.  Interviews conducted with NASS students at the Harare Polytechnic confirmed Matsika’s claims. Students acknowledged that the Gukurahundi was discussed openly in class.  A related subject matter on which the NASS syllabus and higher education ministry’s draft are silent is human rights. Human rights-teaching was not included in the higher education ministry’s syllabus. The existing NASS course outline stipulates that students should be able to critically analyse the internationalisation of human rights and democracy in the post-Cold war period. Human rights is referred to in this single instance. The syllabus does not seek to engender students’ understanding of a Zimbabwean human rights historiography. Neither does it cultivate students’ grasp of the nature and extent of their human rights under Zimbabwean law.
A significant difference between the higher education ministry’s draft syllabus and its current version is in the representation of political events from 2000 onwards. Section 1.10 of the ministry’s draft bears the subtitle ‘the 2000 elections and the Third Chimurenga’.  This section instructs that the Third Chimurenga be taught as the ‘righting of historical wrongs’ following the British Labour government’s reneging on its colonial responsibility to fund land reform in 1997.  It also instructs that the Third Chimurenga be understood in the context of ‘Western racist reaction and internal collaboration’.  Section 1.10 of the ministry’s draft version was altered considerably at the 2003 Gweru workshop.  It became Section 6.0, subtitled ‘contemporary issues in Zimbabwe’.  The contemporary issues in Zimbabwe section do not make reference to a Third Chimurenga. It instructs that students discuss the merits and demerits of the 2000 Draft constitution, and the implications of the triumph of the NO vote campaign in the referendum. Students are also expected to appreciate the merits of the 2000 parliamentary election results, in which the MDC secured 58 seats to ZANU PF’s 61, because they created a ‘balanced parliament’.  The syllabus notes that ZANU PF had dominated parliament since 1980, commanding a two-thirds majority. The MDC’s victory in 58 constituencies meant that ZANU PF no longer dominated parliament outright. This opened up space for stronger debate on national policies. It also meant that parliament was no longer a rubber stamp for government-willed constitutional amendments. Consensus between disparate interests and constituencies was now a prerequisite for constitutional amendments to pass.
Overall, the content of the NASS course does not merit the scepticism it has attracted since its inception in 2003. It is largely devoid of Patriotic History’s core themes. The liberation struggle is not presented as exclusively a struggle for land. ZANU PF’s role in the country’s liberation is viewed in the context of contributions of international and local actors cutting across race, ethnicity and creed. There is no attempt to construct figures in Zimbabwean history as ‘patriots’ or ‘sell-outs’. Patriotism is taught in connection to business ethics placing the national economic good ahead of corruption, profiteering and bribery. The course is an evolving attempt to mould well-rounded Zimbabwean citizens aware of the country’s heritage, functioning of the legal and parliamentary system, civic responsibilities, entrepreneurial skills and knowledge of the workings of international relations. According to Matsika, the ‘principle in designing the syllabus was that political parties are a fashion that comes and goes but Zimbabwe will always be there’.  However, the listing of ZAPU as a Western-sponsored agent for destabilisation alongside RENAMO and UNITA is misleading. It is unclear why this went unchallenged when nothing else did. Perhaps it did not contradict how framers of the NASS syllabus understood history. Nonetheless the watering down of the higher education ministry’s draft syllabus suggests a considerable degree of independence in the education bureaucracy. I will now address the challenges of teaching history in Zimbabwe.  

Challenges of Teaching History in Zimbabwe, Points of Contention and Consensus, and Future Prospects
When Ranger retired from his Visiting Professorship in the UZ’s History department in 2001 he was enthused by the:
vitality of historians, economic historians and archaeologists at the University of Zimbabwe. A generation of
scholars had arisen which did not envy their fellows who had gone into business or politics. They wanted nothing
more than to be successful researchers and publishers, respected by their peers and by Africanists inter-nationally.
These young Zimbabwean scholars were able to go beyond the agendas of nationalism. The archaeologist, Innocent   
Pikarayi, for example, in his splendid “The Zimbabwe Culture. Origins and Decline in Southern Zambezian  
States”, declared that there was now no need to combat colonial myths about Great Zimbabwe or to write of
African 'empires' where none had existed. ….The University of Zimbabwe has some twenty scholarly manuscripts, 
including an important collection on Zimbabwean political economy, ready for publication. When I made my
second retirement in June 2001 a research seminar was organised as a farewell gift at which some thirty scholarly
papers were presented by historians, archaeologists, students of religion, members of the departments of literature
and languages. 

However, since that time the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and police have carried out acts of repression in tertiary institutions. More importantly, Zimbabwe’s economic crisis that began in the late 1990s has caused an acute deterioration of higher education standards. Universities and colleges have been paralysed by periodic faculty and student strikes over derisory funding and remuneration. In May 2009 Short Wave Radio African reported that ‘only an estimated 68 out of 12 000 students at the [UZ] institution had paid tuition fees for the academic year.  The report continued:
The UZ has remained almost completely closed since [2008] last year because of a total breakdown of 
infrastructure. All the toilets at the institution have not been functioning for a year, while only one out of
seven boreholes is pumping water there. Last August the first semester was postponed because the lack of
clean water posed a serious health risk in the midst of the cholera outbreak. The academic year finally got
underway in November, only to end in the middle of first semester exams because the water situation had
not been rectified. The situation has continued to deteriorate, and the university has remained virtually shut,
despite the second semester that was meant to begin in March. ….The news comes amid revelations that
Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono also looted the foreign currency accounts of Zimbabwean universities,
to prop up the Robert Mugabe regime.

Under such conditions, many of the promising young historians who were ‘able to go beyond the agendas of nationalism’ have left Zimbabwe for South Africa and elsewhere in the world. ‘They remain determined to research and write but they will no longer do so as a collectivity’.  Significantly, they are no longer present to impart on Zimbabwean History students new complex histories that do not pander to ZANU PF nationalism or Patriotic History.
Moreover in 2009 the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education Act came into effect when the ZANU PF Minister for Higher and Tertiary Education Stan Mudenge appointed a board that will exercise control over higher learning institutions.  Mudenge argues that the board enables government to register and accredit higher learning institutions, and allows for improved quality assurance regulation. Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Holdings chairman Professor Christopher Chetsanga was appointed chairperson of the council. Other board members are: Professor Simbi Mubako (law lecturer at Midlands State University and former ZANU PF cabinet minister); Dr Robson Mafoti (Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Council director general); Dr Gibson Mandishona (chairman of the board of the Harare Institute of Technology); Dr Phineas Makurira (Medical and Dental Practitioners' Council of Zimbabwe chairman); Professor Lindela Ndlovu (National University of Science and Technology Vice Chancellor); Dr Primrose Kurasha (Zimbabwe Open University Vice Chancellor); Professor Marvellous Mhloyi (consultant and founder of the Centre for Population Studies at the University of Zimbabwe); Dr Washington Mbizvo (Higher and Tertiary Education Permanent Secretary); Professor Hasu Patel; Professor Lynn Zijena; Dr Isaiah Sibanda (former education secretary); Willard Manungo; Professor Francis Gudyanga, Professor Levi Nyagura (UZ Vice Chancellor); Ngwabi Bhebe (Midlands State University Vice Chancellor Professor; and Professor Norman Maphosa. 
Many of these members are known ZANU PF sympathisers who also sit on the boards of several government companies and bodies, which are part of ZANU PF’s patronage network. This casts doubt on the council’s ability to sustain, guarantee and advance the quality of higher education. Some UZ academics have criticized the council’s membership, arguing that it is an ‘attempt by …ZANU PF to politicise education’ and called for higher education to ‘be run by independent academics and experts’.  It remains to be seen how the council’s work will unfold but it is worth noting that at its 2006 annual conference, ZANU PF passed a resolution calling for the expulsion from universities of lecturers critical of the government, raising the prospect that the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education Act may be used to curtail academic freedom in politically sensitive fields such as History. There are already attempts to intimidate academics and students in institutions of higher learning through secret agents masquerading as students.
Secondary education has not been spared from the effects of economic meltdown either. The economic crisis has instigated a decline in secondary education standards. Worsening the inadequate quality of teaching is the nonexistence of the bare minimum of History materials requisite for schools to operate. There is a severe lack of funding from government for books, desks, chairs and for the adequate remuneration of teachers. This has adversely affected the quality of history teaching in Zimbabwe. In 2009 the Minister of Education, Sports and Culture David Coltart described the state of the secondary education sector thus:
When I took office in February 2009 I knew that the education sector was in a mess but could not anticipate
just how bad it was. …when I finally got to my office on the 14th floor I found that I had no computer, no
internet and no access to any computerised database within the ministry. To compound matters the first order
of business was a message lying on my desk that I should immediately go to the government transport ministry
to collect a brand-new Mercedes-Benz limousine! My first act in the ministry was to decline the offer. On the
day I took office almost 7000 schools were effectively shut because over 80,000 teachers were on strike. In the
eight months since I’ve taken office, up to the end of September 2009, the entire ministry received from Treasury
the princely sum of US $ 1,962,057 to run over 7000 schools and educate some 3 million children! Because of
deep concern in the international community about the slow pace of implementation of the GPA the international  
community has been extremely reticent in providing any assistance, even to the education sector. 

History teachers have also come under attack from ZANU PF youth militia and war veterans who have accused them of being MDC supporters guilty of teaching students to be disloyal to ZANU PF. Teachers have been targets for violence in order to stamp out dissent and because many of them have acted as polling officers in national elections since 2000 – a period in which ZANU PF’s electoral stock has declined. They have been accused of favouring the opposition and rigging elections for the MDC. In the violence surrounding Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections it was reported that 2 700 teachers had fled or been evicted, dozens of schools had been closed and 121 were in use as militia bases, 123 had been charged with election fraud and 496 questioned by the police.  However, in October 2009 Coltart’s sturdy line against ZANU PF youth militia who had used schools as bases for waging violence against political opponents had been ‘on a scale of one to hundred …95 percent of the schools become peaceful’.  A politicised Public Services Commission, which employs teachers not the Education Ministry, responded by withholding the salaries of approximately 5 000 teachers, who fled election violence in 2008 and returned to work under an amnesty granted by Coltart, for several months  as vengeance for their supposed support of the MDC. 
In 2009 the ZANU PF Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister, Saviour Kasukuwere, announced plans to re-open the National Youth Training Service centres, many of which had become rundown by 2005 due to lack of resources.  ‘The process is underway. We are just sorting out a few outstanding issues before we open them’, Kasukuwere declared in October 2009.  The Global Political Agreement (GPA) of September 2008 saw ZANU PF and the MDCs agreeing that it is advantageous to have a training service for youth but that it ought to be a non-partisan programme devoid of political interference. Interestingly, Kasukuwere did not mention that the syllabus for National Youth Training will be put up for discussion before the centres reopen, suggesting a possible resurrection of the teaching of Patriotic History in National Youth Training Service Centres. 
Prospects for the teaching of a pluralistic academic history in secondary schools and higher institutions appear daunting given the aforementioned. However, there is reason for optimism. I conducted a reception study at the UZ and Harare Polytechnic in 2005 in order to gauge how Patriotic History had been received at these two institutions. I will summarise the results here briefly.  The reception study found that Patriotic History is regarded with deep cynicism and dismissed as ‘ZANU PF politics’ at the UZ while the opposite is true at the Harare Polytechnic. At the UZ the term Chimurenga does not evoke memories of the liberation struggle but of ‘war veterans terrorising’ civilians and ‘ZANU PF politics’. While Harare Polytechnic students were aware and critical of ZANU PF’s appropriation of history they still sought to find some worth in liberation history, arguing that it was the country’s heritage and ought to be reclaimed from ZANU PF’s monopoly. UZ students’ main source of information on history is government-controlled television and radio while Harare Polytechnic students rely on knowledge acquired from the NASS course. UZ and Harare Polytechnic students’ critical treatment of Patriotic History can also be attributed to the access they have to the crisis literature that has been produced since 2000. 
Critical historical literature by historians based outside Zimbabwe including, amongst others, Brian Raftopoulos, James Muzondidya and Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, along with writing and teaching by critical historians such as Gerald Mazarire and Joseph Mtisi at the University of Zimbabwe go some way in undermining Patriotic History. However, much of the critical historical literature does not enjoy a wide audience outside of universities because Zimbabwe’s economic downturn has made books unaffordable to the average Zimbabwean. The wider Zimbabwean population has been exposed to state-controlled press, radio and television, where Patriotic History is preponderant. Raftopoulos has asserted that the ‘advantage’ intellectuals who are critical of Patriotic History enjoy is they ‘have written in journals and books, and the ZANU PF intellectuals have not’.  Intellectuals sympathetic to ZANU PF who produced Patriotic History did abandon the academy by and large, and focused most of their energies on the public sphere. Similarly, while the contents of the Ministry of Higher Education’s draft syllabus clearly demonstrate the ZANU PF government’s intention of introducing the teaching of Patriotic History through the NASS course, the ruling party seems to have abandoned this plan. The ZANU PF government allowed its draft syllabus to be amended at the 2003 Gweru workshop to the degree that these amendments, barring a few exceptions, left the current syllabus largely devoid of Patriotic History’s key themes. Had ZANU PF been resolute about the teaching of Patriotic History in institutions of higher learning it would not have allowed this occurrence. NASS has also still not been introduced as a compulsory course for all university students, further demonstrating a reluctance or inability to introduce its teaching in universities, and yet ZANU PF continues to allocate considerable resources to its press, television and radio propaganda machinery. Clearly, there remain possibilities for the further development of critical and plural history teaching in Zimbabwe.
It is important to note that institutions of higher learning have been a hotbed for opposition politics since the late 1980s, which ZANU PF has struggled to win over. It is likely that ZANU PF abandoned higher institutions of learning because it realised Patriotic History was unlikely to be successful there. Thus, ZANU PF and its intellectuals directed their energies to a more ‘amenable’ majority population that did not belong to the academy. Furthermore, one of the conclusions Barnes arrives at in her study of history teaching in Zimbabwean secondary schools is that while Patriotic History has been widely propagated in the media, it finds ‘itself tempered’ in secondary schools because ‘the roots of the secondary educational system in Zimbabwe are deep and its conservative academic traditions will not be easily erased. Older textbooks written for earlier syllabi will be read and used until the pages disintegrate’.  Patriotic History will not overrun longstanding historiography and teaching in institutions of higher education without difficulty either. Nor will it easily convince established anti-ZANU PF hotbeds. In spite of the considerable challenges discussed, academic space for new pluralistic histories exists.  

Supporting Secondary and Higher Educators, and Proposals Towards Learning Sessions, Modules and Activities for History Teaching
I have explored some of the problems facing the education sector in the previous section. Supporting secondary and higher educators cannot be extricated from Zimbabwe’s broader Zimbabwean education context. Supporting History higher and secondary teachers, and proposals for the subjects learning modules, sessions and activities cannot be applied when there is a want of substantial and uninterrupted funding. Zimbabwe’s secondary and higher education require large and sustained funding for conditions to improve. The quality of History teaching will not improve in the absence of this and other reforms I will suggest. There have been some moves towards renewed funding in secondary education. In November 2009 Coltart announced that as of 2010 his Education Ministry will grant funding to some schools to enable them to become Academies, provide incentives to teachers and renovate infrastructure through funding from Teach Zimbabwe (TZ) and A4e, which is an international NGO.  UNICEF has also bequeathed US$70 million to the Education Ministry for the resuscitation of secondary education.  Text books are now an uncommon product in schools. One book to every 10 children is UNICEF’s estimate of the text books to pupils’ ratio in Zimbabwe today.  Mudenge’s Ministry of Higher Education has not fared better in securing funding for the revival of higher education. UNESCO’s proposed 2010-11 budget of US$653 million for education in Africa has described by Mudenge as ‘shoe-string’.  Indeed US$653 million would revive higher education in Zimbabwe alone. Zimbabwe’s education system has produced hundreds of thousands of exceedingly gifted persons who have excelled in various fields throughout the world. Should education conditions improve, there is need to attract the young and talented historians who Ranger bemoaned for leaving Zimbabwe.
Notwithstanding the existing problems in Zimbabwe’s education sector, it is not all doom and gloom. Zimbabwe still has some of the best education infrastructure and one of the highest literacy rates in Sub Saharan Africa. Policy proposals towards improvement in History teaching can be made in preparation for when funding will become available and as a means of soliciting funding for reforms in History teaching. This process has already begun under Coltart’s Ministry of Education. In Coltart’s words, there is need to apply liberal principles in education:

[Education in] Zimbabwe has lurched from one form of authoritarian rule to another. The use of violence to
attain political objectives is still widespread. There are high levels of intolerance in political parties against those
who hold different views. In short we have a deeply rooted culture of violence and intolerance. What pertains in
the political sphere is reflected in the personal and in the schools. A recent Zimbabwean study reveals that there
are alarmingly high levels of bullying and sexual abuse taking place within our schools. In our wider society there
are unacceptably high levels of domestic violence. Furthermore the way that history has been taught in Rhodesian
and then Zimbabwean schools over many decades has contributed to the notion that political leaders are demigods.
That was certainly what was taught in white Rhodesian schools: Cecil John Rhodes and Ian Douglas Smith were
elevated to the status of cult heroes. Little has changed since the advent of independence save for the fact that
these political leaders have been replaced by Robert Gabriel Mugabe and other nationalist leaders. In other words
I believe that one of the principal reasons why Zimbabwe has degenerated is because of serious flaws in our
education system. Furthermore we have inherited a colonial system of classroom learning practice which we have
not seriously attempted to change. The teacher and the textbook are the authority and children are taught not to
question, not to think creatively or imaginatively. Fear does not just govern issues of discipline – it governs the
very learning process and rote learning still holds sway, discouraging children from taking responsibility for their
own learning or attempting to think for themselves. 

To address these deficiencies, Coltart’s Education Ministry is working in combination with Zimbabwe’s human rights groups to formulate a new curriculum that will teach schoolchildren democratic ideals, their human rights as enshrined in Zimbabwe’s constitution and UN conventions, the merits of tolerance, and the use of non-violent processes to settle conflict. 
The following are also key proposals that would help to support secondary and higher educators, including suggestions towards learning sessions, components and activities for History teaching:

•    Zimbabwe has an examination-focused History curriculum in secondary schools. There is no emphasis on the testing of students’ interpretative skills and the critical evaluation of history is not encouraged. Learning by rote is preferred. Examinations are held at the end of each year. It is important to begin developing critical thinking skills in secondary schools. Thus there needs to be frequent assessment of History students in secondary school through critical essays. This would encourage critical historical debates in schools and better prepare secondary school students to make the cross to higher education, where essay writing and critical debates are valued.

•    History teaching in secondary schools and higher education must have intended societal outcomes. Ideally, one main end goal would be to allow History students to interrogate how heritage is interpreted and presented in schools and in the public domain (by public intellectuals, media and politicians) that is, be able to explain ideologies and debates around heritage issues and public representations.

•    An inevitable concern in higher education institutions emanating from the above proposal that History teaching must have intended outcomes is the question of how then to balance the conflict between nurturing citizenship and nation building while still developing students’ academic skills as trained Historians. The answer to this tension is that there is no need to forsake one for the other. A critical History is not mutually exclusive to citizenship and nation building. 

•    History teaching in secondary schools and higher education must seek to encourage students to ask the following questions: How do Zimbabweans understand their world today?; What and how do legacies of the past shape Zimbabwe’s present?; In understanding Zimbabwe today, and the legacies that shape it, subjects such as nation-building, citizenship, human rights and issues of civil society are suggested content.

•    The formation of a History teachers’ association under the umbrella of teacher and lecturer unions. A History teachers’ association would be used as a means of honing the pedagogical proficiency of History instructors. History seminars, workshops and colloquia would encourage discussion of, and agreement and collaboration on how Zimbabwe’s History must be taught.

•    The History teachers union could propound technical assistance by organising writing workshops for teachers because research enables self-development, which can be passed on to students in class.  

•    In addition, the History teachers’ association possibly will complement the work of History teacher training institutions and universities in preliminary teacher tuition. The History teachers’ association could work to regularise education programmes to develop the quality of History teachers by complementing government in-service training and remedial academic and pedagogical instruction.

•    The Ministry of Education would solicit the History teachers’ union’s pertinent inputs into the History syllabus in secondary schools, assessment techniques and the review of examinations. 

How the Zimbabwe History Book Can Offer Opportunities to Support History Teaching at Secondary and Higher Levels  
The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Coltart, is working not only to revise Zimbabwe’s History curriculum but will also seek out authors to write new history textbooks for Zimbabwean secondary schools.  Becoming Zimbabwe, in its present format, is beyond the intellectual capacities of students in elementary secondary education (forms 1-4). There is scope for the authors of Becoming Zimbabwe to write versions more accessible to History students in basic secondary schooling. Were this to occur, Becoming Zimbabwe would help teachers in both secondary and higher education to cultivate critical historical thinking skills because it is a trenchant critique of the Patriotic History in national education. Becoming Zimbabwe is a single-volume history of Zimbabwe. No other such book exists. This in itself makes Becoming Zimbabwe a useful and convenient teaching tool. It is worth acknowledging that a history of Zimbabwe cannot be fully captured in a single volume. But this does not diminish the book’s usefulness in secondary and higher education because in treating Becoming Zimbabwe critically over some significant subjects it largely does not engage with, such as the role and place of women, a history of the Zimbabwean military and its political role, and an environmental history, we derive new questions and debates about the abovementioned issues and others.
Becoming Zimbabwe explores the relationship of history to the political imagination. It fosters an understanding of identity as a social construct. It is a mouthpiece for human rights because it scrutinises, with incisive insight, the intolerances involving race and ethnicity that have shaped nation hood and citizenship in Zimbabwe. In the end, Becoming Zimbabwe leaves Zimbabweans pondering about becoming a nation. What has Zimbabwe been before? What did it become from the pre-colonial to the colonial period? What is it becoming in the post-colonial period? And, can Zimbabweans be sure that they are becoming anything? The questions that Becoming Zimbabwe raises are important to put up among students and teaching faculty lacking a shared national vision or political imagination. The book offers a platform for opening up dialogue on this matter in classrooms and lectures. Indeed Becoming Zimbabwe shows that the absence of a shared sense of nationhood has been problematic since the pre-colonial epoch. Zimbabwe was monopolised by a white minority in the colonial age and the African resistance to that monopolisation bore its own forms of exclusion that rendered social cohesion illusory. Independence did not bring about concord and nation building either as the intolerance and exclusiveness of the colonial period found expression in independent Zimbabwe’s political, social, economic and education arenas. Becoming Zimbabwe provides a stage for students and teachers to seriously begin thinking about the Zimbabwe they desire and the shared values that would be required for building a Zimbabwean nation. Teachers are at the heart of educating a generation and the questions and issues raises are important in that education. Thus, Becoming Zimbabwe is a significant contribution to History learning and teaching.
Perhaps the most serious objection to using Becoming Zimbabwe to support History teaching in secondary schools and higher education is that the chief concentration of even liberal scholars, such as the authors of Becoming Zimbabwe, is documenting in academic form what occurred in the past. Encouraging nation hood and values such as citizenship is not the concern of historians. Some may also charge that Becoming Zimbabwe could easily be abused for indoctrination purposes in the same way that nationalist history was made use of by ZANU PF to formulate Patriotic History. Furthermore, it could be argued that Becoming Zimbabwe endangers the proper functions of History teaching. In response to these concerns, I argue that the book is not an uncritical overview of Zimbabwe’s history. Becoming Zimbabwe is an open ended non-ideological inclusive account of Zimbabwe’s history that deconstructs long held historical representations. It asks Zimbabweans to rethink their ‘nation’ and the state. As Gerald Mazarire’s chapter on pre-colonial Zimbabwe concludes, ‘myths have made us look at these [pre-colonial] people in monolithic terms, from the point of view of what others think of them rather than what they thought of themselves’.  Mazarire disaggregates what we have long understood as Shona and Ndebele, showing that it is only in the 19th century that the idea of a Shona emerged, nor was there a homogenous Ndebele identity either. He explores what occurred outside the Rozvi, Ndebele, Torwa, Mutapa and Great Zimbabwe state system unlike traditionally used texts such as Stan Mudenge’s A Political History of Munhumutapa – c.1400-1902  and the NASS course’s Zimbabwean history and heritage studies section, which expects students to appreciate Zimbabwe’s pre-colonial history in terms of the Mutapa, Rozvi, and Ndebele states, as if nothing occurred before and outside these states. The deconstruction ‘of such meta-narratives will open up new fields for research that are sensitive to all analytical categories, allowing a wide diversity of opinion and interpretation, something that has traditionally not been allowed space in History teaching in Zimbabwe.
Training and instructing teachers and lecturers to be attentive to the necessity of encouraging students to critically reflect on their History reading lists is also an effective deterrent of the aforementioned fears. Moreover, Becoming Zimbabwe would be used alongside other academic literature that puts forward contradictory historical viewpoints, which is healthy for open and frank academic discussions. Undoubtedly, as argued before, UZ History lecturers recognise the need to complicate Zimbabwe’s history.
In stark contrast to the Patriotic and NASS syllabi and nationalist texts’, rudimentary ‘domination and resistance’ model, Becoming Zimbabwe puts forward a more complex appreciation for the course of action that settler colonial rule took by taking into account the ‘contestations and conversations, rejections and acceptances, negotiations and complicity’ around the establishment and consolidation of colonial conquest.  Ranger’s version of a unified Chimurenga in the 1890s is also challenged. Secondary school History teaching has traditionally centred on stories about heroes. The lives of these heroes are supposed to act as exemplars to enlighten and stir children to reproduce such behaviour in their own lives and fully support others who do. This has been presented as the essence of patriotism in Zimbabwe. Current History syllabi and texts venerate nationalist heroes, beginning with Nehanda and Kaguvi in 1896 and ending with nationalists in ZANU PF, thereby obscuring the significant contributions of other actors and whitewashing the shortcomings of heroes. This has left Zimbabweans in education with an incomplete account. Becoming Zimbabwe asks teachers and students to consider that independence was not handed down by nationalists emerging from ZANU PF and ZAPU alone. It asks them to view nationalism as an assortment of activities beginning in urban areas with Charles Mzingeli’s inclusive citizenship struggle, elite attempts at incorporating multi-racialism, nationalism’s development in rural areas and the emergence of militant nationalism.  Such an approach is a much needed response to how Zimbabwean history teaching in schools is replete with the practice of exclusion. The role of spirit mediums such as Nehanda and Kaguvi is played up at the expense of the sacrifices of rural peasants and traditional chiefs, while the likes of Mzingeli have no place in that History.
Why did multiracialism fail in Zimbabwe? This question is unanswered in existing History texts in Zimbabwe but Becoming Zimbabwe answers this crucial question by exploring the historical roots behind racial reconciliation’s failure. Becoming Zimbabwe also shows how racially heterogeneous Rhodesia was. A single white Rhodesian identity never existed. In fact the Rhodesian state relied on themes such as anti-communism as effective means of fostering white unity. ‘Race was a key ingredient in …efforts to construct national identity. However its significance was limited largely to mobilising certain constituencies and marking lines of exclusion , i.e. defining whose nation it was not’  Such novel analysis will help to make History teaching in schools and universities more nuanced.
As argued earlier, the NASS course misrepresents the 1980s Matabeleland and Midlands disturbances. The NASS course and recommended texts in secondary schools are silent about the full extent of the Gukurahundi. However, Becoming Zimbabwe is not silent on this topic. It addresses the matter head on, showing that ‘the main characteristics of the post-independence state were lack of tolerance for political diversity and dissent, heavy reliance on force for mobilisation, and a  narrow, monolithic interpretation of citizenship, nationalism and national unity’.  It is necessary to view a country’s history warts and all, drawing attention to transgressions against particular groups and highlighting forms of exclusion or othering. Zimbabwe’s history needs to take account of the narratives of the excluded and victimised. By doing this, Becoming Zimbabwe enables students to determine whether inclusive human rights ideals have only been extended to a minority and the fortunate, while methodically not being extended to other groups of people along migration, race, ethnicity, geography and political ideals. Some may speculate about whether the critical take Becoming Zimbabwe adopts on these subjects will not fan further divisions and fall short of motivating belief in the ideals of becoming a nation and citizenship. I argue that Becoming Zimbabwe demonstrates the national risk to stability and prosperity that occurs when only a certain group is allowed to define a nation and to exercise control over human lives in the service of an exclusive national vision. What is dangerous are the processes that have been attendant to Zimbabwe’s development since the pre-colonial era and not the contents of Becoming Zimbabwe, which seek to expose and allow Zimbabweans to understand the origins and development of these courses over time.
Zimbabwean history textbooks in secondary schools have played a major role in disseminating a partisan or Patriotic History. Zimbabwean history textbooks urgently require a critical analysis of Zimbabwe’s past that is remedial to the distortions of ZANU PF nationalism. Becoming Zimbabwe meets these requirements. Ultimately, Becoming Zimbabwe tries to balance a tension between nurturing citizenship and nationhood, while fostering critical historical thinking and dissension. This is a challenge that all Zimbabweans must face critically. History is a resource for nation building and Becoming Zimbabwe presents Zimbabwean history students and instructors with an invaluable tool for this process.

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - Africa Report

THE PEI Africa Forum
15-16 June


Book reviews: Becoming Zimbabwe

Monday, 01 February 2010 16:39
Becoming Zimbabwe: A history from the Pre-Colonial Period to 2008
Brian Raftopoulos & Alois Mlambo (Eds).
Published by Weaver Press
By Nicholas Norbrook

Becoming Zimbabwe For those wishing to get beyond the ‘one-man-problem’ reporting of Zimbabwe, this is an important and ground-breaking set of essays, tracking the history of the country from the pre-colonial period up to the coalition government of 2009. The nationalism of the late 1950s was an excellent tool with which to form an opposition to colonialism that went beyond regional and ethnic struggles. And, in its most optimistic reading, a way of getting rid of such struggles altogether. But as this collection shows, the regional and ethnic dimensions are not closed stories.

Another chapter examines the growing divide between nationalists and trade unionists, critical to understanding relations between the Movement for Democratic Change and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). In their attempts to consolidate opposition into a sharp enough point to dislodge Ian Smith’s racist and authoritarian regime, nationalist politicians hardened and formalised power structures to such an extent that any external faction was considered a ‘sell-out’. As the emergent trade unions reached out for a broader international solidarity around labour rights, the nationalist leadership quickly labelled this as the intrusion of outside interests into national concerns.

The violence that has characterised the struggle is also examined, carrying on as it did into the post-colonial state. Violence was used in the coercion of peasantry in the initial anti-colonial uprisings, the civil war and repression in Matabeleland, and in the bitter factional fights between the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) and ZANU that were put aside during the final stages of the anti-colonial struggle but which later re-emerged. Now, there is not one Zimbabwe. But we are left with the hope that there may be one being born, however difficult the birth.

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - Mukai


Jesuit Journal for Zimbabwe

No. 53

July 2010


Becoming Zimbabwe, A History from the pre-Colonial Period to 2008
, edited by Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo and published by Weaver Press, 232 pp.

Anyone over forty will remember the excitement of the days surrounding 18 April 1980. We had waited so long that it seemed hard to grasp the truth of it when it came. It was a time marked by reconciliation and hope. Thirty years on we know that these decades have not lived up to the hope we had then but this is no cause for despair. The title of this book expresses our situation precisely. We are ‘becoming’ Zimbabwe. The country may have been born during those salad days but like any infant it battles to become what it wants to be. And we are still searching for an identity, which will only come through a ‘social contract’ hammered out by governors and governed. We are not there yet. 

The book has eight authors, each taking a section of our history reaching back to before there were written records. It is not a comprehensive account of Zimbabwe but it does lay down markers for the rewriting of our history. Up to now we have been saddled with what Terrence Ranger (p. xxxi) calls the ‘patriotic history’ espoused by ZANU PF, with its selective highlighting of the three chimurengas as though nothing else of significance happened. In contrast, a key passage in this book occurs on page 95, where Mlambo writes of the turning point in the mid 1950s:

The multiracial enterprise eventually collapsed when the African elite become frustrated by the unwillingness of the establishment to advance their interests beyond a certain point and they realised that they were being taken for a walk down the proverbial garden path… It was then that they turned their backs on white liberals and joined hands with the masses that they had spurned in the past to build a militant African nationalist movement that was now demanding ‘one man, one vote.’

Up to that point, African leaders such as Nathan Shamuyarira, Herbert Chitepo, Lawrence Vambe, Jasper Savanhu, Stanley Samkange, Enoch Dumbutshena, Charles Mzingeli and even Joshua Nkomo had tried to engage the colonial government in a gradual but substantial recognition of their aspirations. This was a logical approach and if it had worked it might have saved the best in our economic life while ridding us of the racial character of every aspect of life in the old Rhodesia. But the white government refused to listen and from that point on the lines were drawn in a divide that has cast its shadow right into the present. African leaders felt they had no choice but to take an increasingly radical approach and in the process they learnt authoritarian ways. The word ‘sell-out’ came into our vocabulary and anyone in any kind of opposition was labelled a ‘puppet’ and more recently ‘an enemy’, a ‘totemless foreigner’ or simply ‘a traitor.’ ‘The unity of the nationalist movement became synonymous with the subordination of all other Africa associations’ (p. xxi). The preoccupation of the eventual winner of the nationalist and independence struggle (ZANU PF) was to stay in power. In 1999 the National Working People’s Convention decided to form a new political party (the MDC) noting that

The inability to implement any meaningful steps to redress basic economic and social problems emanates from a crisis of government within the nation. The crisis expresses itself in a failure of government to observe the separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary; to obey the basic rules of accountability and transparency; to respect human rights and to decentralise power in ways that enable meaningful participation of people in public institutions (p 209).

That was written eleven years ago. What would one write today? This is an important book written in a style that makes it easily available to anyone interested in understanding our story. And for the keener student there are numerous footnotes and an exhaustive bibliography. Postpone going to the hairdresser this month and buy this book instead.

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - Terence Ranger

Constructions of Zimbabwe

Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo, eds., Becoming Zimbabwe. A History From the Pre-Colonial Period to 2008, Jacana, Johannesburg and Weaver, Harare, 2009, pp.260, ISBN: 978-1-77922-083-7. (Available in the UK from African Books Collective at £22.95)

Jaroslav Olsa, jr. and Otakar Hulec, History of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawai, Lidove noviny, Prague, 2008, pp.656, ISBN: 978-80-7100-952-2

Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, The Ndebele Nation. Hegemony, Memory, Historiography, Rozenberg, Amsterdam and UNISA, Pretoria, 2009, pp. vii and 215, ISBN: 978-1-86888-565-7

Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist? Trajectories of Nationalism, National Identity Formation and Crisis in a Postcolonial State, Peter Lang, Oxford, 2009, pp.xiii and 412, ISBN: 978-3-03911-941-7

There is a public history in Zimbabwe which is still insistently propagated on state-controlled television, radio and in the state-controlled daily and Sunday press. This version of the country’s past – now generally described as ‘patriotic history’ – assumes the immanence of a Zimbabwean nation expressed through centuries of Shona resistance to external intrusion; embodied in successive ‘empires’; incarnated through the great spirit mediums in the first chimurenga of 1896-7; and re-incarnated by means of the alliance between mediums and ZANLA guerrillas in the second chimurenga of the liberation war. That pre-eminent regime intellectual, Professor Mahoso, expounds in his weekly column in the Sunday Mail the vital importance of this living history, which is not, he insists, to be confused with mere tradition. In Mahoso’s view, spelt out during the electoral crises of 2008, the legitimacy of the Zimbabwe state, and of the Mugabe regime which embodies it, derives from this historic fusion of violence and spirituality. The electorate merely recognizes such legitimacy but cannot confer it. More important than any election are the great annual rituals of the nation, especially the Heroes Day ceremonies. Participation in these rituals inculcates and expresses a national spirit which makes it unnecessary for the revolutionary state to impose its will solely by violence. To absent oneself from the national rituals at Heroes Acre – as Morgan Tsvangarai did recently, playing a round of golf instead – is in Mahoso’s eyes to commit appalling symbolic violence.

Patriotic history, then, is broadcast and enacted. But it is not embodied in a book. It has to be lived, not read. There is no published patriotic history text. But nor has there been any other published single volume history of Zimbabwe. It has often been argued, indeed, that the insistent public proclamation and acting out of patriotic history has undercut academic historians and rendered them irrelevant. The regime needs and possesses intellectuals. But it doesn’t need quibbling, nit-picking and dry as dust professors. 

Yet the absence of a scholarly history of Zimbabwe has been sorely felt by all sort of people – by diplomats, for example; by teachers and students; by intelligent tourists; by the ‘general reader’; and by all those who find the relentless proclamation of public history and its lists of heroes and villains implausible and even repulsive. Of course, it is not as though there is nothing to read about aspects of Zimbabwe’s history. As readers of JSAS know there is a superabundance of published Zimbabwean historiography written by Zimbabweanists and increasingly by Zimbabweans. Much of it is of high quality. A lot of it is exciting. But much of it takes the form of district case studies, of histories of individual towns or histories of great events, like the 1948 general strike or the guerrilla war; of biographies; of denominations. Anyone who wants a book which seeks to put everything together has had until now to depend on L.H.Gann’s A History of SouthernRhodesia (Chatto and Windus, London, 1965) or Ian Phimister’s  An Economic and Social History of Zimbabwe, (Longman, London, 1988). But the first only goes up to 1934 and the second to 1948; neither is now available in Zimbabwe.

Jaroslav Olsa, ambassador to Zimbabwe for the Czech Republic, felt the absence of a general history particularly keenly. He rapidly came to the conclusion that the Czech Republic had no vital economic or commercial interests in Zimbabwe. He might as well concentrate on cultural exchange, which he did very effectively. He read a great deal of Zimbabwean history. After he had left Zimbabwe he combined in 1968 with the Czech Africanist, Otakar Hulec, to produce the general history of which, as Ambassador, he had felt the want – Dejiny Zimbabwe, Zambie A Malawi. The book is lavishly illustrated with maps, photographs and cartoons. But of course it is in Czech. From whom was a general history of Zimbabwe in English going to come?

The obvious answer should have been the University of Zimbabwe. Indeed in the early 2000s an attempt was made to launch a revived Zimbabwe Historical Association, to be based at UZ, whose first project was to have been the writing of a history of Zimbabwe. It came to nothing. Since then the University has endured a sad decline. It has lost nearly two thirds of its faculty, including many historians who now teach in South Africa or North America. Its Halls of Residence have been condemned as unfit for human habitation. Its library has been vandalized. There have been staff strikes and student demonstrations. There is now a combined effort on foot by educational charities to rescue UZ and the other Zimbabwean state universities. South African universities which themselves depend so much on the Zimbabwean faculty they have recruited are being asked to help. UZ is in danger of being defined as a basket case and certainly not as an institution which might have the capacity to counter patriotic history.           

And yet, in its very disintegration, it has now done so. Two UZ stalwarts, Professor Alois Mlambo and Professor Brian Raftopoulos, now work in South Africa.  Mlambo, Zimbabwe’s leading economic historian,   teaches in Pretoria. He has documented the decline of UZ in detail but misses his lively and diligent pupils. (UZ, after all, has the highest entry level standard of any university in Africa and of most in Britain). He has kept in constant contact with his colleagues who still teach in Zimbabwe, several of whom have written chapters in the book he has edited with Brian Raftopoulos.  Raftopoulos, Zimbabwe’s leading labour historian, joined the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town. The Institute gave him facilities and backing. It acted as host to the workshop held in December 2008 to discuss the penultimate drafts of a collective history of Zimbabwe and is sponsor of the book which has resulted, Becoming Zimbabwe.  The Institute supported his application to the Ford Foundation for a grant to support the project and administered the funds. This grant was decisive. It enabled chapter writers to be paid fees; it enabled them to travel to Cape Town for the workshop, which was also attended by Irene Staunton and Murray McCartney of Weaver Press; and it provided a subsidy to support publication. 

In short, Mlambo and Raftopoulos found in Cape Town the intellectual, moral, administrative and financial support they could not now have found in Harare. But for the book itself they drew only on the UZ tradition. They themselves wrote the Introduction and a chapter each.  Three of the other contributors – Gerald Mazarire, Joseph Mtisi and Munyaradzo Nyakudya – still teach at UZ. Another, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, has obtained a UZ doctorate. James Muzondidya has a UZ MA. Teresa Barnes, that honorary Zimbabean, was both a student and a teacher at UZ. Ian Phimister and I, the two ‘Senior Academic Advisors’, have close connections with UZ and the book draws on what Raftopoloulos and Mlambo tactfully call ‘the different legacies’ of our work. Both of us attended the Cape Town workshop. It was a remarkable experience. This come-back by academic historians was anything but nit-picking or dry as dust. The atmosphere was one of exhilaration. After the first day of the workshop, during which chapter writers in turn offered their drafts for discussion, the younger scholars talked in the bar of our pan-African hotel until the small hours of the morning. Upstairs in my septuagenarian bed I could hear snatches of conversation – ‘I understand what you are saying, but what is the evidence for what you are saying?’ Next morning Alois Mlambo asked me: ‘Aren’t you proud of these young men? They were not talking about salaries or jobs or cars or even about girls. They were talking about history’. And indeed one could see that UZ has produced a generation of historians who do not think of themselves as failed businessmen or politicians and whose one ambition is to be respected by their academic peers. The long awaited assertion of a truly Zimbabwean historiography has taken place.

So what kind of Zimbabwean historiography does this book present? It is interesting to recall that T.W.Baxter, then Director of the National Archives, wrote in 1965 in his preface to Gann’s history of Southern Rhodesia:

Few countries in the world have made more progress over the last seventy years than Rhodesia. Its people can look back on considerable achievements, but the country is still in search of a national identity. This in turn must derive from a better knowledge of the past, and Rhodesians have therefore stood in need of a general history which would meet the canons of scholarship while throwing some new light on the creation of our plural society. (p.v)

Patriotic history by contrast assumes that a national identity exists, though it can be betrayed. Becoming Zimbabwe, while certainly not in the business of exalting Rhodesian achievements, in some ways returns to Baxter’s problematic. For these Zimbabwean historians ‘the country is still in search of a national identity’. Patriotic history’s way of asserting it, they maintain, is invalid. Zimbabwe still desperately needs a general history which meets the canons of scholarship while throwing light on the diversities of a complex society. What holds this book together is a common emphasis on the enormous difficulties of becoming a nation; a common agreement that it is essential to abandon false propositions of nationality; and a common determination to reveal the dynamics of complexity. It is certainly not a polemical book nor a party tract, even though it has a photograph of an MDC rally on its front cover and a call from Morgan Tsvangarai for ‘a more open and critical process of writing history in Zimbabwe’ on its back. 

It certainly does meet the canons of scholarship. It is aware of the most recent research and usefully though not over-elaborately foot-noted. Its writers have made great efforts to be lucid and accessible to a general reader. At the Cape Town workshop one could see the necessary concessions being reluctantly made. Gerald Mazarire, whose chapter comes first in the book, covers nothing less than the entire pre-colonial period. He aims to be the most subtle of Zimbabwean historians and has a horror of over-simplifications. He gives little shrift to the over-simplifications of patriotic history. The famous Shona empires – Great Zimbabwe, Mutapa, Torwa, the Rozwi  - were not, he says,  the keys to Zimbabwe’s pre-colonial history. They were not really states but loose systems of over-rule. Much more important were a multitude of smaller units of clan and chieftancy. Nor were they Shona, a term which had no meaning until the twentieth century. He gives little more time to the late David Beach’s ‘Great Crescent’ theories. But the general reader needs more than a confusing multitude of clan and chieftancy names. So an overall interpretation emerges from Mazarire’s chapter.  The smaller societies settled everywhere between the Limpopo and the Zambezi. The major theme of Zimbabwe’s pre-colonial history, he argues, was the way in which a broadly similar political and religious culture, constantly renewed by borrowings and interactions, adapted to many different environments and absorbed many different in-migrations. 

Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni aims to be the most theoretical of Zimbabwean historians. His chapter covers ‘Cultural and Colonial Encounters’ between the 1880s and the 1930s. Early drafts were disfigured by that bane of the theoretician, jargon. But this has almost entirely disappeared from the book chapter. Its main target is the over-simplified dichotomy of patriotic history between resistance and collaboration. Following the lead of Fred Cooper and others, Ndlovu-Gatsheni emphasizes the wide variety of possible responses and interactions between self-proclaimed conquerors and their often un-subjugated subjects. Lists of heroic resisters and traitorous collaborators are beside the point, though Ndlovu-Gatsheni pulls no punches in delineating the oppressive facts of colonial land alienation, labour exploitation and racial prejudice. One might say that the varied physical environment of the pre-colonial period had been overlaid by an equally varied cultural and ideational environment. Africans could make use of the ideas available in Christianity or in Imperial ideology or in trade unionism without a treacherous surrender to the colonial oppressor.

Between them these two opening chapters cover all the ground of Gann’s general history and much of the ground of Phimister’s. The subsequent chapters cover ‘from the Second World War to UDI, 1940 to 1965’ (Mlambo); ‘social and economic developments during the UDI period’ (Mtisi, Nyakudya and Barnes); war in Rhodesia, 1965-1980 (by the same trio); ‘from buoyancy to crisis, 1980 – 1997’ (Muzondidya) and a final chapter covering the ten years, 1998 to 2008, by Raftopoulos. These chapters pay adequate attention to capitalist and industrial development and to the experience of the towns. They reveal the destructive consequences of plans for agrarian ‘reform’ applied inflexibly to all of Zimbabwe’s different environments, both under Rhodesian rule and after it.  They reveal the diverse character of African nationalism, with its successive urban manifestations, its different rural social base, and its varying emphasis on different ideas taken from the complex ideational environment. They show the difficulty of moving to violence against the Rhodesian state in a situation where Africans had been totally disarmed, and the difficulty of achieving an effective guerrilla strategy once arms had been obtained. They show the continued relevance of political initiatives side by side with military ones. They bring back into Zimbabwean history the characters excluded by the patriotic narrative – trade union leaders, political leaders who lost out – and the possibilities foreclosed by the movement towards the authoritarian one-party state. They show how the twin nationalist objectives of sovereignty and human rights became separated, so that a regime intellectual like Mahoso can castigate demands for human rights as thinly disguised assaults on sovereignty. Above all they show that what has happened in Zimbabwe, politically, intellectually and economically has not been inevitable. There were – and are - other possible ways to ‘become’ Zimbabwe.           

One might have expected that a book which stressed complexity would not have an enthusiastic public reception. But in fact Becoming Zimbabwe has made quite a stir because of its complexity. At its launch in Cape Town at the District Six Museum there were demands that South African historians follow its example. At its launch on November 17 2008 at the Book Café in Harare there were compliments to the power of academic historiography. ‘Ngomakurira’, writing in The Zimbabwean on 20 November, declared that the launch had persuaded him that academics rather than politicians controlled the future. The historians’

task, and they are doing it, is to ponder the whole story reaching

back to pre-colonial times. They set themselves to examine not just the obvious land-mark events of the past but all the evidence of how people lived and thought and celebrated. As time goes on people will ‘own’ the whole social and political fabric as it will represent and reflect each one’s sense of who he/she is and who we are as a society … We are moving towards a society which represents the hopes of all people [and] change will come if the academics get it right.

The Mail and Guardian’s literary editor, Percy Zvomuya, reviewed a batch of Zimbabwean novels together with Becoming Zimbabwe on 4 December 2009. He found the novels disappointing. ‘Sadly, for this reader with an evident bias for fiction, it is the historians who are at the forefont of disrupting the norm, questioning the narratives of the past as it has been given to us – and intimating other versions of events.’ On 24 December Zvomuya chose his ten best books of the year. Becoming Zimbabwe was one of them. ‘Novel approaches to history continue to fascinate me in books coming out of Zimbabwe’, he wrote. Becoming Zimbabwe ‘is immensely readable, quite rigorous and expansive, and one wishes that it had been longer than its 260 pages’ – not a compliment often paid to history books!  

200 copies of the book have been distributed free to history students at UZ. Miles Tendi, whose own book on the reception of patriotic history is at the press, has produced a report on history teaching in Zimbabwean schools since independence and on possible ways of getting Becoming Zimbabwe into schools. MDC’s David Coltart, Minister of Education, is enthusiastic but has no funds; ZANU/PF’s Minister for High Education, the distinguished historian Dr Stan Mudenge has made no comment. Mudenge, author of an excellent book on the Mutapa Empire, is said to be completing another on the Rozwi. He may not be very enthusiastic at pre-colonial empires being played down.

Meanwhile at least one contributor to the book has been vigorously publishing. Percy Zvomuya describes Dr Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni as ‘one of the most exciting of Zimbabwe’s new generation of historians’. He is certainly one of the most prolific. During 2009 he published, as well as his chapter in Becoming Zimbabwe, two books of his own – The Ndebele Nation and Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist? Both respond to the issues raised in this review. The Ndebele Nation. Hegemony, Memory, Historiography is influenced by studies of the legitimacy of West African states, particularly Tom McCaskie’s analysis of the hegemonic role of the Asante yam festival. Ndlovu-Gatsheni dismisses old-style accounts of the Ndebele state as based solely on violent repression. Violence alone is never an adequate explanation. The Ndebele state ‘pursued peaceful and ideological ways of winning the consent of the governed. This became the impetus for the constant and on-going drive for “democratization” so as to contain and displace the destructive centripetal forces of rebellion and subversion’. (p.v)

Discussing ‘Rituals and religious symbolic power’ Ndlovu-Gatsheni draws on McCaskie and also makes assertions not too different from Professor Mahoso’s view of the functioning of the contemporary Zimbabwean state:

The Ndebele ruling elite tried to establish rapport with their

subjects through non-secular means. Religion was employed effectively for power legitimation … In order for the Khumalos to consolidate their power and dominance they worked very hard to make their ancestors relevant throughout the whole Ndebele domain. One way of achieving this was through ceremony, ritual and myth … Like other pre-colonial peoples such as the Pedi, the Swazi, the Zulu, the Tsonga, and many others the Ndebele devised methods of extending their hegemony over conquered people and their subjects. The common method was the use of annual ceremonies. (p.109)

The annual national religious festival was the inxwala, or great dance. To call this a first fruits festival is simplistic and misleading; crop fertility, while ‘vital to the general equation’ was ‘secondary to more salient determination of knowledge and belief.’ The inxwala was a demonstration of the spiritual and material centrality of the king but it was not just a legitimation of unbridled authority. ‘The Ndebele state was founded on a delicate balance of coercion and consent’. Both were acted out in the inxwala.

Anyone who lays such a great emphasis on the inxwala has to contend with the fact that the ceremony took place only once more after Lobengula’s overthrow in 1893 and that the very words of the Ndebele ‘national song’ are no longer remembered. (Yam festivals go in Asante and other Akan states to this day). But as Ndlovu-Gatsheni shows the effect of this has been paradoxical. When Ndebele kings no longer ruled it was their powers of coercion rather than their skills at evoking consent which were remembered. Even as historians downplay past military ferocity contemporary Ndebele youth picture themselves as invulnerable warriors. Contemporary Ndebele cultural groups attribute uncontested sovereignty to Lobengula and call upon the British to re-instate that sovereignty by renouncing any powers ceded by Lobengula in treaties. Yet what Ndlovu-Gatsheni really shows is that just like Zimbabwean identity today Ndebele nationality in the nineteenth century was a process of ‘becoming’. 

His second book Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist? Trajectories of Natoinalism, National Identity Formation and Crisis in a Postcolonial State is an extended meditation on the themes of Becoming Zimbabwe. Fortunately he has recently offered his own summary of the book in an opinion piece in the Zimbabwe Independent of 14 January 2010. This begins with a much more ferocious denunciation of the ZANU PF regime than anything in the published histories. The regime offered merely ‘crony-party

capitalism under the respectable gloss of patriotic nationalism’. The result was ‘an economic, political, social and psychological quagmire of unprecedented  proportions’. The regime denied any responsibility. ‘They even embarrassingly blamed citizens they were expected to govern, polarizing the nation into war veterans, puppets, traitors and sellouts.’ How can all this be redeemed? ‘How can we together forge a common citizenship in a new Zimbabwe ins which tribalism, racism , regionalism and violence become things of the past?’ Sabelo then answers his question by invoking his book:

As I said in my recent book, Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist?, there is

a need for our people and our leadership do desist from the simplistic notion of a pre-existing ‘Zimbabwean’ identity. We must strive to continuously build this identity through pursuing inclusionary rather than exclusionary politics ... For how long will we continue to sniff each other out like witch hunters? … Only when a respectable and durable national identity is constructed can we bury the scourge of violence in our midst. To do so we have to have true nation builders, not racists and tribalists masquerading as nation builders.

Sabelo concludes by saying that young Zimbabweans will ‘re-brand’ Zimbabwe, restore law and order, heal wounds, liberate the national economy, re-engage with the world : 

Zimbabwe is at a cross-roads in which the old are dying and the new being born. It is undergoing a generational leap forward. The crisis is only that the old are taking a long time to die and the new are taking a long time to be born. In the interval monsters have come to the centre of politics.

But ‘a generation whose time has come to take the reins of the state cannot be stopped by anyone’.

Sabelo writes this from Johannesburg. He was offered a place in the Prime Minister’s office in Harare but he chose to go on being an academic. Change will come if the academics get it right. It would be nice to think so. 

Terence Ranger

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - Lloyd Sachikonye

B. Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo (eds.) (2009) Becoming Zimbabwe: a History from Pre-colonial Period to 2008                             Weaver Press and Jacana 260pp.

One of the sharpest contests during Zimbabwe’s decade-long crisis from 2000 has been over the interpretation and writing of the country’s history. In the ideological struggles between the authoritarian state and the democratic movement, history has become a contested zone. The Mugabe government has sought to exploit Zimbabwean history to legitimize its hold on power as heir of the liberation movement and a custodian of natural resources especially land. Robert Mugabe himself argued for a ‘correct’ history adding that measures should be taken to ensure that the History of Zimbabwe is rewritten and ‘accurately’ told, and recorded to reflect the events leading up to the country’s nationhood and sovereignty . This version of history has focused mainly on three episodes of struggles: the First Chimurenga or Uprising of 1896-97 and the Second Chimurenga of the late 1960s and 1970s against the colonial state, and on the Third Chimurenga which sought reclamation of land . Zanu PF proclaimed itself the major protagonist in the Second and Third Chimurengas, a history of struggles written in triumphal tones with opponents castigated as colonialists and imperialists, as sell-outs and outsiders..

A new book that is ambitious in its scope and sweep has appeared to challenge this attempt at hegemony in the writing of history by the Zimbabwe state and primarily by intellectuals associated with Zanu PF. Edited by two well known and respected Zimbabwean historians, Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo, the book is also the first major attempt, in a single volume, to provide a synthesis of Zimbabwean history from pre-colonial times to the contemporary era. The book’s main focus is to track the idea of national belonging and citizenship in the broad context of state formation and changing contours of political economy. State construction and nation building from a myriad of ethnic and racial groups and the instilling of a sense of a common citizenship is a protracted process. It is clear from the 7 chapters of the book that state formation in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial eras was a complex process that involved many actors within the geographical territory that constitutes present-day Zimbabwe. 

For instance, the chapter by Gerald Mazarire challenges the perspective that has viewed Zimbabwean pre-colonial history largely in terms of the rise and fall of empires –the Great Zimbabwe, the Mutapa, Rozwi and Ndebele states. While these large states are of interest, it was misleading to assume that nothing of significance happened before or afterwards, or outside their frontiers. The development of a colonial political economy is explored in the chapters by Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Alois Mlambo. A distinctive white-settler political economy emerged from the 1890s to the 1940s: it was centred on mining and agriculture which drew upon significant African labour migration as well as involved extensive land expropriation. The Second World War (1939-1945) and growth in population provided an impetus to substantial industrialization by the 1960s to1970s. However, racial discrimination and especially economic grievances centred on access to land and jobs provided ignition to rising nationalist sentiment in the 1950s and 1960s.

The chapters by Mtisi, Nyakudya and Barnes explore social and economic developments during the UDI period (1965 to 1979) and the war for liberation (1964 to 1979). A distinctive outcome white settler rule under Ian Smith during this period was substantive development of infrastructure and diversification of the economy and growth in the size of the working-class. However, white extremism begot a form of virulently militant nationalism especially after 2000. This was partly an outcome of the crisis that beset the country from 2000 and partly international isolation which are explored in the chapters by James Muzondidya and Brian Raftopoulos. In his assessment, Muzondidya, observes that the main characteristics of the post-independence state were lack of tolerance for political diversity and dissent, heavy reliance on force for mobilisation and a narrow, monolithic interpretation of citizenship, nationalism and national unity. For instance, hundreds of thousands of migrant farm workers from neighbouring countries were denied citizenship and right to vote.

In his chapter, Raftopoulos shows how during the decade beginning 2000, Zanu PF drew on a combination of revived nationalism that privileged its role in liberation of the country, prioritised the centrality of the fight for land, and demonised all those outside the selective ‘patriotic history’ it espoused. Nevertheless, despite its tight hold on the state including key levers of propaganda, Zanu PF has not succeeded in achieving hegemony in the writing of history and still less in politics. It lost the 2008 parliamentary election, and Mugabe was beaten by Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential election. Since 2008, it has been forced to share power with ‘outsiders’, those it once termed ‘sell outs’.

This book succeeds in presenting a highly readable history of this simultaneously ‘old’ and ‘young’ country drawing upon extensive archival and scholarly sources as the rich bibliography illustrates. It shies away from partisan or patriotic history while providing a learned and extensive critique to that version that has been constructed by Zanu PF aligned intellectuals and state media. Clearly, the process of state consolidation and nation-building is complex enough. It remains ‘work in progress’ which cannot be a monopoly of one political party or movement.

This review was written by Lloyd Sachikonye, a senior researcher based at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Zimbabwe.

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - Dr Wallace Chuma

Becoming Zimbabwe: A History from the Pre-colonial Period to 2008.

Edited by Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo. Weaver Press/Jacana, 2009.

Review by Dr Wallace Chuma, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Film & Media Studies, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa.

One of the unintended, though certainly logical, consequences of the crisis in Zimbabwe has been the development of a critical body of humanities and social scientific research within and outside the country, and which sheds fresh insight on the political economy of Zimbabwe. The multi-faceted nature of the crisis forced researchers of the Zimbabwe story to question existing narratives of the country’s history, politics and culture.

Raftopoulos and Mlambo’s book is one of these critical new projects. It is the first comprehensive study of the history of Zimbabwe from the pre-colonial era through to 2009. The book is not just a recount of different historical events and great people. The seven chapters in the edited volume present in detail the constraints and opportunities for ‘nationhood’ in each of the different historical phases and how the land’s inhabitants—both black and white, men and women—struggled with nature and amongst themselves, to shape what is now Zimbabwe. 

Gerald Mazarire’s chapter, entitled ‘Reflections on Pre-Colonial Zimbabwe, c.850-1880s’, is an ambitious discussion of the country’s pre-colonial era. It makes the argument that the different transitions at different historical phases in pre-colonial Zimbabwe should not be understood as a linear trajectory of rising and falling states. Rather, he argues that pre-colonial history “is best appreciated from ‘breaking points’—those contexts of build-up and fragmentation already written into the larger narratives of the ‘rise and fall’ of states, when new identities emerged and old ones were transformed, negotiated or accommodated..” (p. 2). Based on vast oral and written data, Mazarire traces the origins and settlement of different pre-colonial groups that occupied the Zimbabwe plateau and shows how their interactions shaped local politics. 

Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s chapter, “Mapping Cultural and Colonial Ecncounters, 1880s-1930s’ provides a critical outline of the introduction and development of Western colonialism in Zimbabwe. He questions what he calls the nationalistic ‘domination and resistance’ paradigm that was popularised in the 1960s, and argues for a more nuanced understanding of the establishment and consolidation of colonial rule. In his chapter, ‘From the Second World War to UDI, 1940-1965’, Mlambo discusses the impact of the Second World War on the colonial society, in particular the political, economic and demographic changes. Importantly, he discusses at length the transformation of African political consciousness from demands for fair governance and accommodation within colonial rule, to outright demands for self rule. 

Mtisi, Nyakudya and Barnes, in their chapter ‘War in Rhodesia, 1965-1980’ discuss the civil war/liberation struggle in Rhodesia, focusing on both the Rhodesia Front government and the nationalists/guerrilla formations. The social, political and economic context for the struggle is also discussed at length. Muzondidya captures the political economy of post-colonial transition in Zimbabwe in his chapter, ‘From Buoyancy to Crisis, 1980-1997’. The chapter reflects on the changes to the configurations of state that followed the assumption of power by the new post-colonial leadership, issues of redistribution of land, and issues of citizenship and nationhood. Muzondidya does well to reflect on both the continuities and discontinuities of the past within the newly independent state. This chapter provides an important contextual setting for Raftopoulos’s chapter, ‘The crisis in Zimbabwe, 1998-2008’. This final chapter discusses the different facets of the Zimbabwe crisis, including economic decline, political impasse, confrontation over land and property rights, the restructuring of the state in more authoritarian forms, contestations over the history, among others. It identifies both local and global aspects of the crisis. The chapter ends with a brief reflection on the Global political Agreement, signed between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations and President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union—Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) in September 2008, giving way to the formation of the inclusive government. 

Becoming Zimbabwe is a timely intervention. It is well researched and written. It departs from—though not necessarily uninfluenced by—both colonial and nationalist renditions of the history of Zimbabwe. There is evidence of fresh research, and one hopes the book will open new conversations about Zimbabwean history, politics and culture. It is not just an asset for history students and researchers at all levels: anybody remotely interested in the Zimbabwean crisis will find this book highly useful.   

Wallace Chuma, 10/02/2010.

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - David Moore

Zimbabwean History: Becoming Complex

Review of Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo, eds.

Becoming Zimbabwe: A History from the Pre-Colonial Period to 2008

Harare and Johannesburg: Weaver and Jacana, 2009

pp. v-xxxiv, 260

ISBN: 978-1-77922-083-7



On the back cover of Becoming Zimbabwe: A History from the Pre-Colonial Period to 2008 this reviewer’s blurb says it is “a profoundly new history that tears apart all of the old certainties”. That might be misleading: if the ‘certainties’ referred to are Zimbabwe’s ruling party’s versions of its truths, then any reader with an iota of objectivity would not find it hard to deconstruct them. It’s not too difficult to refute the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front’s (ZANU-PF) claim that Zimbabwe’s modern war(s) of liberation (i.e. ‘Chimurenga 2’ in the sixties and seventies and ‘Chimurenga 3’ of the last decade) were all about restoring the land to its rightful occupiers, nor would it be difficult to disprove tales of a ‘Zvimba Dynasty’ that has the royal heritage of the Zimbabwe’s current president going back centuries.

It is a tougher task to revise the more subtle historical beliefs beneath the turmoil of Zimbabwe today; there long before the current crisis. It is a more profound project to tear down and rebuild the intellectual foundations on which ZANU-PF has erected its ephemeral interpretations of the past to service its (hopefully equally fleeting, but already thirty years long) current hold on power. Becoming Zimbabwe has begun that process substantially. It chips away at the old historical narratives and historiographical epistemologies reifying the pre-colonial and colonial contexts, the tensions of tribe, the contradictions of class, and the legacy of the liberation war, that constitute a complex matrix upon which the more propagandistic blandishments of contemporary Zimbabwe’s tragedy rest. The accepted verities of history in Zimbabwe structure even anti-ZANU-PF discourses, not to mention ‘a-political’ versions of history. Becoming Zimbabwe is a long-awaited start at their dismantling.

Becoming Zimbabwe has also started a second, more overtly political project, inclusive of but also beyond a teleological reading that could have some readers believing there is a (neo-?)nationalist mission behind the title. (This is indicated in the introduction entitled “The Hard Road to Becoming National”, which is so hard the end is not really in sight. Thus the editors’ conclusion, befitting historians, tapers off with a call for better history – better than offered by truth commissions, at least! – which might somehow lead to an improved nation[alism]). Becoming Zimbabwe is not a book simply occasioned by the rise of an opposition party worth ZANU-PF worrying about, but there is a deep sense of democratic hope underpinning this historical omnibus, an aspiration that is epitomised by the Movement for Democratic Change (even in its two versions) and the civil society activism alongside it, spurring movement towards civic nationalism at the end of the tunnel.

Thus Becoming surveys Zimbabwe’s very longue durée (long indeed: Gerald Mazarire’s stunning ‘Reflections on Pre-Colonial Zimbabwe starts at around 850) with an openness of inquiry that prefigures a truly democratic dispensation while at the same time being very much aware that, as Bill Freund has put it, “in order to be meaningful, discussions of democratic prospects in [Zimbabwe or anywhere] … require a real grasp of the historically generated and limited situation . . . it is this dimension, this sense of the determined and the possible, to which historians in particular can make a crucial contribution.”2 One cannot say that this book is burdened by the weight of history, because it is bursting with an effort to chart a history pregnant with a meaning saying ‘the current tragedy did not have to happen: it was not predestined.’ Yet simultaneously none of the excellent historians in Becoming Zimbabwe would dare say Zimbabwe’s present conjuncture is a tabula rosa on which a new history can be made, nor that the current imbroglio is not to some extent structured. Like all good social scientists – and this book is informed by a sociological sensibility combined with a political economy bias – the contributors are contesting the binaries of structure and agency that pervade any halfway interesting study of a society’s past and present.

In these ways, then, Becoming Zimbabwe is both an intense survey of just about all the history and social science scholarship on Zimbabwe written to date, as well as an attempt – sometimes explicit, at others between the lines – to break out of those bounds. On the ‘survey’ front the range starts off by confronting slanted pre-colonial histories written seemingly to justify contemporary configurations of ethnic power or their mirror images. The seminal qualities of Mazarire’s tour de force “Reflections on Pre-colonial Zimbabwe, c.850 – 1880s” must again be emphasised; not only for setting new angles on empirical research for that era but for establishing new lenses for the “sagas of political intrigue and competition” (p. 16) that now as well as then blend military strata with political and ideological castes in struggles for clientelism (Mazarire uses the notion objectively based on his study of what could be called the nyai class’s move into spaces of power during times of transition: it is not a pre-disposition imposed by neo-Weberian political scientists) and re-aligned articulations of power leading to altered statist organisations. Perhaps the arrival of the Ndebele should be known for altering the complex nyai system more than their previously assigned role of the first oppressor “nation”: Mazarire – as well as Sabelo Ndlovu- Gatsheni in the next chapter on colonial encounters – starts the inquiries into the Ndebele place in Zimbabwe’s history, the opening up of which is a pivotal part of the process of inventing a new Zimbabwe historiography.

Of course, part of that apertura leading to a new Zimbabwean history consists in the debates among Ranger, Cobbing and Beach about whether or not the ‘first Chimurenga’ was really a united struggle. Ndlovu-Gatsheni’s “Mapping Cultural and Colonial Encounters, 1880s – 1930s” summarises those arguments adeptly (and Ranger’s unity thesis does not come off too well). Ndlovu-Gatsheni also starts off on a path promising more complexities, unevenness, complicity, contestations of too easy binaries, mimicry, syncretism, hybridities, negotiations, alienations – and even white’s efforts to “‘indiginise’ themselves” (pp. 48, 68, 40) – than one chapter can hope to condense, if such a task is possible at all. Co-editor Alois Mlambo’s contribution on the 1940s to the 1960s serves as ballast to such radical uncertainty as it surveys the more definite terrain of class differentiation amidst the development of a coherent ideology – stymied only by the intransigence of the Smithian rearguard, which sealed an equally interesting split between liberal and reactionary whites (still left too unexplored in this and all Zimbabwean histories) that led to war.

Joseph Mtisi, Munyaradzi Nyakudya, and Teresa Barnes team up to write the next two chapters dealing with society, economy and war during the period of white reaction and black liberation. They start by accepting Jeffrey Herbst’s strikingly American notion that the Rhodesian Front practiced “socialism for the whites” (what ever happened to the idea of ‘state capitalism’?), but go on to tackle the theme of ‘nation’ among both blacks and whites with considered complexity amidst the African nationalist struggle, as progress towards majority real was finally manifested in 1980.  The authors’ comprehensive sources, ranging from a vast array of University of Zimbabwe history and political studies theses, assiduously cultivated official archives, oral history, and mastery of all the secondary literature one could imagine, reveals the high standards of the Zimbabwean intellectual industry. Deftly weaving the political economy of sanctions and their busting with the demands of white workers for the ‘good life’, and the contradictory efforts to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of Africans while simultaneously practicing scorched earth policies, the march through the political economy of UDI leaves no doubt that antiquated beliefs about ‘democracy’, defined mostly by race but partially by merit, wealth and property, could not last long even if protected by an impressive – but expensive – war machine. In that context, perhaps it is not surprising that the history of the liberation war charted by the three authors is more interesting for the tensions of class, ideology, gender, generation and ethnicity illustrated from within the nationalists, than their progress towards a united nationalism or a victory which was more or less foretold.

Continuing Becoming Zimbabwe’s tradition of mastering the sources, James Muzondidya’s “From Buoyancy to Crisis” charts the rise and fall of ZANU-PF’s efforts to consolidate the tenuous hold on power it gained in 1980 by blending a belated mode of welfarism (why Zimbabwe did not have to adopt structural adjustment policies until the 1990s while the rest of Africa was pushed into them much earlier is a question not asked here or elsewhere; but is probably intimately tied in with Cold War and southern African regional politics) with increasingly excessive coercive capacity. Structural adjustment policies in the nineties, combined with less than enthusiastic efforts to work out the land issue and to create a black bourgeoisie and middle class with a base in production rather than rent-seeking led ZANU-PF down the road to the crisis of the last decade with which we think we are all too familiar. Brian Raftopoulos’s deftly crafted final chapter, however, blends all the elements of those years into a complex whole that goes beyond the expected. From debates about ‘fast-track’ land reform and the ‘national democratic revolution’, to the disappointments of South African-led ‘mediation, to the economic meltdown epitomized by unimaginable rates of hyperinflation leading to the complete disappearance of Zimbabwe’s dollar, Raftopoulo’s ability to blend scholarly activism with academic rigour unmatched in the ivory towers serves historians and political economists well. Such a nuanced approach cannot allow the dialectic between authoritarian nationalism and deep new forms of democracy to be resolved. Becoming Zimbabwe’s conclusion is about as tentative – if not as stalemated – as the ‘government of national unity’ with which the decade ended.

Raftopoulos has remarked lately that some of the reasons for Zimbabwe’s impasse – perhaps as much intellectual as political and economic – are rooted in a sharp dichotomy between ahistorical and almost non-political notions of human rights and ‘good governance’ so pervasive in opposition and donor circles now, and a harsh, economistic idea of ‘political economy’ (combined, one might say, with a crude nationalism built on narrow notions of sovereignty and the importance of ‘the land’) deeply entrenched in the older generation of Zimbabwe’s intelligentsia and political class.3 Becoming Zimbabwe goes a good way to delivering on its promise to move us away from these debilitating binaries. If it becomes a set-university text and also informs secondary school curriculum restructuring, Zimbabwe could well be on the road to getting out of its impasse, which, as the chapters in this extremely thought-provoking book show, is deeper and more complex than ever imagined.

Review of Becoming Zimbabwe - L S Roape

B. Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo (eds.) (2009) Becoming Zimbabwe: a History from Pre-colonial Period to 2008                             Weaver Press and Jacana 260pp.

One of the sharpest contests during Zimbabwe’s decade-long crisis from 2000 has been over the interpretation and writing of the country’s history. In the ideological struggles between the authoritarian state and the democratic movement, history has become a contested zone. The Mugabe government has sought to exploit Zimbabwean history to legitimize its hold on power as heir of the liberation movement and a custodian of natural resources especially land. Robert Mugabe himself argued for a ‘correct’ history adding that measures should be taken to ensure that the History of Zimbabwe is rewritten and ‘accurately’ told, and recorded to reflect the events leading up to the country’s nationhood and sovereignty . This version of history has focused mainly on three episodes of struggles: the First Chimurenga or Uprising of 1896-97 and the Second Chimurenga of the late 1960s and 1970s against the colonial state, and on the Third Chimurenga which sought reclamation of land. Zanu PF proclaimed itself the major protagonist in the Second and Third Chimurengas, a history of struggles written in triumphal tones with opponents castigated as colonialists and imperialists, as sell-outs and outsiders.

A new book that is ambitious in its scope and sweep has appeared to challenge this attempt at hegemony in the writing of history by the Zimbabwe state and primarily by intellectuals associated with Zanu PF. Edited by two well known and respected Zimbabwean historians, Brian Raftopoulos and Alois Mlambo, the book is also the first major attempt, in a single volume, to provide a synthesis of Zimbabwean history from pre-colonial times to the contemporary era. The book’s main focus is to track the idea of national belonging and citizenship in the broad context of state formation and changing contours of political economy. State construction and nation building from a myriad of ethnic and racial groups and the instilling of a sense of a common citizenship is a protracted process. It is clear from the 7 chapters of the book that state formation in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial eras was a complex process that involved many actors within the geographical territory that constitutes present-day Zimbabwe. 

For instance, the chapter by Gerald Mazarire challenges the perspective that has viewed Zimbabwean pre-colonial history largely in terms of the rise and fall of empires – the Great Zimbabwe, the Mutapa, Rozwi and Ndebele states. While these large states are of interest, it was misleading to assume that nothing of significance happened before or afterwards, or outside their frontiers. The development of a colonial political economy is explored in the chapters by Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Alois Mlambo. A distinctive white-settler political economy emerged from the 1890s to the 1940s: it was centred on mining and agriculture which drew upon significant African labour migration as well as involved extensive land expropriation. The Second World War (1939-1945) and growth in population provided an impetus to substantial industrialization by the 1960s to1970s. However, racial discrimination and especially economic grievances centred on access to land and jobs provided ignition to rising nationalist sentiment in the 1950s and 1960s.

The chapters by Mtisi, Nyakudya and Barnes explore social and economic developments during the UDI period (1965 to 1979) and the war for liberation (1964 to 1979). A distinctive outcome white settler rule under Ian Smith during this period was substantive development of infrastructure and diversification of the economy and growth in the size of the working-class. However, white extremism begot a form of virulently militant nationalism especially after 2000. This was partly an outcome of the crisis that beset the country from 2000 and partly international isolation which are explored in the chapters by James Muzondidya and Brian Raftopoulos. In his assessment, Muzondidya, observes that the main characteristics of the post-independence state were lack of tolerance for political diversity and dissent, heavy reliance on force for mobilisation and a narrow, monolithic interpretation of citizenship, nationalism and national unity. For instance, hundreds of thousands of migrant farm workers from neighbouring countries were denied citizenship and right to vote.

In his chapter, Raftopoulos shows how during the decade beginning 2000, Zanu PF drew on a combination of revived nationalism that privileged its role in liberation of the country, prioritised the centrality of the fight for land, and demonised all those outside the selective ‘patriotic history’ it espoused. Nevertheless, despite its tight hold on the state including key levers of propaganda, Zanu PF has not succeeded in achieving hegemony in the writing of history and still less in politics. It lost the 2008 parliamentary election, and Mugabe was beaten by Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of the presidential election. Since 2008, it has been forced to share power with ‘outsiders’, those it once termed ‘sell outs’.

This book succeeds in presenting a highly readable history of this simultaneously ‘old’ and ‘young’ country drawing upon extensive archival and scholarly sources as the rich bibliography illustrates. It shies away from partisan or patriotic history while providing a learned and extensive critique to that version that has been constructed by Zanu PF aligned intellectuals and state media. Clearly, the process of state consolidation and nation-building is complex enough. It remains ‘work in progress’ which cannot be a monopoly of one political party or movement.

This review was written by Lloyd Sachikonye, a senior researcher based at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Zimbabwe.