ZPRA High Command speaks out

The surviving members of the former ZPRA High Command feel it is their patriotic and revolutionary duty to defend ZPRA’s Legacy when it is unfairly attacked and tarnished. “Chronicles from the Second Chimurenga” of 01 April 2018 has all the ingredients of trivalising ZPRA’s contribution in the Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and thus rubbishing ZPRA’s legacy.

An article in the Sunday Mail of 1st April 2018 ‘Chronicles Of  The Second Chimurenga’ has a number of inaccuracies about former ZPRA. We hope this is not a deliberate effort to suppress the truth. We have great respect for the interviewee as a distinguished former freedom fighter. However on ZAPU and ZPRA his knowledge is questionable. Understandably so because ZPRA was a complex organisation run with military ethics to be understood from a distance.

The article says, “ZPRA were not well trained.” ZPRA did not only train good commanders for itself  but also for ZANLA. Former ZPRAs who joined ZANLA rose to be members of the ZANLA High Command. We are sure that was because ZANLA had identified their quality.

The ZIPA High Command was shared fifty-fifty between ZPRA and ZANLA. Other than other posts ZPRA headed, the commissariats (Alfred Nikita), Chief of training (Ambrose Mthiniri), Chief of intelligence (Gordon Munyanyi, deputy commander (Charles Ngwenya-JD) chief of logistics (P. Mphoko) and others. These were posts that drove the armed struggle. These were posts that gave the army its character. ZPRA commanders controlled the nerve centre of ZIPA. If they were not well trained, why were they given such vital posts and responsibilities?

The article went on to say “ZPRA lacked political orientation.” Which ZPRA are you talking about? If it is the ZPRA that was the armed wing of ZAPU, that ZPRA was born politically oriented.

Most ZPRA commanders and soldiers   were recruited from ZAPU structures. ZPRA political commissars were scientifically trained to understand that the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe is part of the world liberation process and not an isolated event. On deployment ZPRA forces liaised with the local ZAPU structures. They did not conduct Pungwes (political night vigils) because the party was there to do that. They could not politicise the party that had sent them to join the armed  struggle because  they were  not superior than the party. This was a people’s war not a war imposed on the people by guerillas.

On religion, its true ZPRA did not officially practice or conduct religious ceremonies. Religion was considered a private matter. No one was stopped from reading his/her Bible, Tora, Koran or carry traditional snuff. But one had to do it in a manner that it did not interfere with the armed struggle. If one was told by his/her ancestors that his/her patrol was going to be ambushed by the enemy, the better option was to face the ambush than to refuse to go with the patrol. ZPRA commanders were guided by the ZPRA Operational Doctrine and proved military tactics. Any ZPRA commander who operated outside these parameters was committing an offence.

The issue of ZPRA only training Regular Warfare instead of Guerilla Warfare is misleading. ZPRA did not only train Guerilla Warfare but it also perfected it. ZPRA caused Rhodesia to close its border with Zambia in 1973 by its guerilla operations. ZPRA rewrote Chairman MAO’s guerilla theory of saying, ‘when the enemy is in the mountain go to the valley and when he is in the valley go to the mountain, to drive the enemy from the mountains and valleys.’

This led to the “Turning Point Operational Policy.” The Turning point meant that the ground captured from the enemy had to be defended. ZPRA was done with playing cat and mouse with the Rhodesian Army. This task could only be accomplished by regular units. Guerilla can only harass the enemy but not capture or defend ground. ZPRA did plan to be freedom fighters forever. It had to liberate Zimbabwe as soon as possible. At ceasefire ZPRA guerillas were in Norton and forty kilometres from Bulawayo. This excluding urban units that were already operating in towns. At ceasefire ZPRA had a full regular battalion based in Tsholotsho. The battalion was integrated before independence in order to be able to participate in the first independence ceremony. ZPRA forces challenged the Rhodesian Air Supremacy which was the backborne of Security Forces. It is ZPRA which broke the back of the Rhodesian Security Forces.

There is this insinuation that Shonas were discriminated in ZPRA. The actual statement in the Sunday Mail is, “Only Shonas  were sent to the front by ZPRA.” ZPRA had no Shona, Kalanga, Zezurus, Korekore and so forth but ZPRAs only. After all how would one distinguish who is who when pseudonyms were not given according to one’s tribe. For an example a man from Nkayi could be Gurupira while one from Mutoko could be Khumalo. After all it would have been difficult to institutionalise tribalism taking into account ZPRA’s High command composition. ZPRA named its organs and sub-organs in English so that everyone felt accepted.

There is an accusation of Zambia being more friendly to  ZAPU than ZANU. This issue has been raised several times by some comrades. I think this is being unfair to Zambia. Zambia as an independent state was doing Zimbabwean Liberation Movements a favour by offering its territory as a springboard to launch their military operations. Therefore Zimbabwe Liberation Movements and all others using Zambian territory were duty bound to respect Zambian Laws. ZPRA tried their level best to keep on the right side of the Zambian Laws. Recruits coming from Zambia were thoroughly screened to flush out  fugitives from the Zambian laws. It did not want to be a sanctuary for criminal elements. ZPRA had a disciplinary code which was very detailed with court marshal structures and specified sentences. There was a hi-cup when it came to implementation because we were on Zambian soil. Some of the sentences could not be carried out without breaking Zambian laws. It was up to us to prove to be good guest not for Zambia to prove to be good host.

Zambia gave J.Z Moyo and Hebert Chitepo state funerals. This meant that the Zambian government was responsible for the cost. The Zambian government offered rent free offices to liberation movements at the Liberation Centre.

The Liberation Centre was a complex constructed and manned by Zambian army officers to assist Liberation Movements. ZANU had an office at the liberation centre. Zambia did not hesitate to investigate the flouting of laws within its jurisdiction without favour. To avoid conflict with its Zambian host, ZPRA made sure without fear or favour to hand-over to the Zambian authorities those of their members who transgressed.

(This article was written by Surviving members of the former ZPRA High Command).

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