Orfalea Center Thematic Research Cluster

Resistance, Autonomy, Liberation

Researching Zimbabwe Liberation Struggles


Zimbabwe’s well-organized, bloody Chimurenga cost about 45 000 predominantly African lives, before it could dislodge the Rhodesian system, entrenched over 90 years of violent, extractive white racist overlordship. Even such histories as African struggles for self-determination have not escaped from what Paul Tiyambe Zeleza has called the nine lives of imperialist historiography in which, in this regard, overwhelmingly non-African scholars produce the scholarship centering mostly elite political actors. This project builds on the growing social histories of African self-liberation by African scholars, driven by local lived experiences, African epistemologies, and imperatives. There is no better grounded space for such work than the village base, and no better narratives than those of the everyday participants in this life and death epic of African rehumanization.

Over the last several months, Takudzwa Dazzie Tavanhira conducted limited community research and transcribed a total of 26 interviews on the community work that brought together Zimbabwean villagers and guerrillas to prosecute Chimurenga–the liberation struggle from the Rhodesian racist white colonial state from the early 1960s-1980. This is part of a larger project that Professor Chikowero started a few years ago, with other dimensions looking at the experiences of Africans in Rhodesia’s makipi–concentration camps, under the radar in urban areas, and in and around guerrilla training camps in exile. This limited, Orfalea-funded part of the project focused only on the village bases, established in the late 1970s in the Mhondoro region of the country. The project involved transcribing 26, on average one-and-half-hour long conversations with 35 people, some of whom jointly participated as couples or family members.

The interviewees were invariably people who played crucial personal roles that called for self-sacrifice as fighters or villagers who housed, fed, clothed and directed the operations of the guerrillas from their communal spaces. This research revolved around four main bases in Mhondoro Ngezi, which are: Masofa, Zimbabwe, Zororo and Green Base. However, it also sampled what was happening elsewhere up to a radius of 30km from Masofa Base, covering Magwavha, Rukudzo, Masvosve, Tractor, Mupunga, MaOrange, Kambuya, and Kwayedza Bases.


Created by Mhoze Chikowero and Global South Researcher Takudzwa Dazzie Tavanhira

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