What future for Zimbabwe now? 1980

Robert Mugabe, 1980.
Robert Mugabe, 1980.

This article from late 1980 shows that even in the midst of general euphoria at the collapse of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia there was plenty of evidence on how things might develop under Mugabe, for those willing to look. The authors were active in the Anti-Apartheid movement.

Submitted by posi on October 11, 2010

It was first published in Revolutionary Socialism no. 6, Winter 1980-81, the magazine of the libertarian communist organisation Big Flame. It is reprinted with the original introduction by the editors. The article was written by by Greg Dropkin, Ben Lowe, and John Waller. Whilst it concludes incongruously with support for the Zimbabwean government, in general the tone of the article is highly critical of the regime, challenges conventional "anti-imperialism", proposes solidarity with those in conflict with the government, and provides plenty of empirical material for those who would draw a different political conclusion.

Editorial introduction

Often the left tends to ignore the detail of the developing situation after a successful anti-imperialist struggle – it’s far more straightforward to be in solidarity with a struggle whilst it is still directly fighting imperialism. Once a struggle has succeeded in its immediate task it is difficult to balance a critical socialist analysis with an understanding of what is possible for a new regime to achieve in often unfavourable political and economic circumstances.

Recently Big Flame published a pamphlet (The Century of the Unexpected) which suggested that under-developed countries, if they tried to break from imperialism and capitalism, would most likely develop along a path called “state collectivism”, where the laws of the market are eliminated or minimized and a new ruling class would be formed, not based on the ownership of capital and the means of production but on the control of the state (and often the party) apparatus. The accuracy of this is a matter for debate inside Big Flame. It provides the wider context in which the analysis of recent developments in Zimbabwe can be placed.

To analyse the way a national situation is developing we need, as well as an overall political method, an accurate understanding of the situation on the ground. This article, which is written by three members of Big Flame’s Southern Africa Group, is based on detailed first-hand reports on the events in Zimbabwe since the Mugabe regime came to power. If the analysis leads to what may seem as a somewhat pessimistic, premature judgement, it is as well to remember that other successful anti-imperialist struggles have also gone on to develop in ways socialists would not have wanted.

The situation in Zimbabwe is particularly important for us in Britain because of the historical, and continuing, involvement of British imperialism. Of still wider importance are the implications of Zimbabwe to a reading of the current balance of forces in Southern Africa, particularly South Africa. The authors’ interest stems from the involvement in Southern Africa solidarity work and the need to make the difficult balance of combining continuing opposition to imperialism with a critical stance towards policy of the new regime which may be against the interests of the Zimbabwean masses.

What future for Zimbabwe now?

We recognise that the economic structure of the country is based on capitalism and whatever ideas we have must build on that. Modification can only take place in a gradual way.” (Mugabe, March 1980)

We believe we are going through a national democratic revolution whereby the institutions, the society has to be democratised. This is a national democratic phase, but it is also a transition to socialism... we envisage a socialist society in the final analysis.” (Kangai, Minister of Labour, March 1980)

ZANU came to power in March 1980, after 19 years of struggle, 8 years of intensive armed struggle, and after a stunning election victory in which ZANU and ZAPU between them received 87% of the votes cast and gained 77 of the 80 seats reserved for non-whites. A Government was formed including ZAPU and two members of the white Rhodesian Front, but ZANU’s strength was such that it commanded effective power, at least within the structures that prevailed.

Nevertheless, as the above quotations indicate, the victory of the liberation movement in Zimbabwe was different from that of Frelimo in Mozambique or MPLA in Angola. Whereas the latter came to power by smashing the ‘settler capitalist’ state apparatus (1), ZANU and ZAPU inherited, despite the years of struggle, a settler state that was still largely intact.

This inevitably poses a host of problems for the liberation movement. Can they keep the struggle going and move towards a socialist Zimbabwe by whittling away and replacing the oppressive and racist state apparatuses? Or are they restricted to limited power within the existing state, able only to assist a transformation which white settler colonialism to neo-colonialism?

Limited victory

Mugabe’s victory in the Zimbabwean election in March 1980 was truly overwhelming, reflecting widespread support, in both town and country, for the liberation movement. (2) Nevertheless, we do not fully accept the Anti-Apartheid view of the victory, which is that the ‘Black carpet’ has rolled further south, leaving only Namibia and South Africa to be liberated. The sad truth is that there has been a substantial rollback at the same time as an advance. This rollback has left the economies of Mozambique, Angola and Zambia in crisis, trapped the new Zimbabwean Government at birth, and furthered the domination of South Africa – and imperialism – over the region as a whole. The advance has been perhaps less in Zimbabwe (as yet) and more in South Africa, where the euphoria over Zimbabwean independence led to the first ever combination of a strike wave, student struggles and an intensification of armed confrontation (the Sasol bombings) [SASOL was the state oil-from-coal plant, designed to evade sanctions. It was bombed by the ANC]. Our excitement over such positive developments should not blind us to the fact that many of the problems of South African liberation remain far from resolution.

Workers v. the Government

ZANU’s election victory gave it power in a state still very much dominated by foreign multinationals. Around 70% of capital in Zimbabwe is foreign investment, half of that being British (including Dunlop, Lonrho, Turner and Newall, RTZ, Unilever, BAT, Barclays) and one-third South African (Anglo-American Corp. being the most notable). The foreign companies control manufacturing and agricultural production for the domestic and African markets; and asbestos, gold, chrome, nickel, copper and coal production (among others) for the world market. As the economist Duncan Clarke has written:

“It is hard to find a sub-Saharan African example comparable to the Zimbabwean case, in which the role of foreign investment has been so long established, as deeply integrated into the sectors producing the bulk of output, so strongly interconnected with local capital, and in consequence probably as difficult to foresee being quickly and successfully altered.” (3)

Living standards?

Of the 7 million Africans in Zimbabwe, only one million are in waged work. Unemployment is growing with the return of more than a million people displaced by the war and the addition of school leavers and demobilised guerrillas. The unemployed depend on peasant production, the extended family network in the tribal trust lands, and increasingly, such activities as moonlighting, petty theft, petty trading, etc. Most Africans who are employed are attempting to support large families on wages of less than the Poverty Datum line level (around £70 a month). The average wage on the large white-owned farms is about £15 a month, which means a monthly income per person of less than £3 a month. (Government figures, Sept. 1980).

The racist work set-up which survived from the UDI period meant that Africans, with 96% of the population, had only 20% of apprentices. Promotion, even for skilled workers, was more or less blocked; white supervisors meant constant harassment and abuse; scarce attention was paid to health and safety, so that workers in asbestos mines, for example, worked unprotected, with many getting asbestosis; hours were long and work arduous and often back-breaking; where unions existed, they were bureaucratic, closer to management than the workforce, and often in league with the reactionary Western union body, the ICFTU; and if strikes occurred, most were illegal under an Industrial Conciliation Act which gave workers no protection against dismissal and gave the police and the army every opportunity to come in as strike-breakers.

The fact that workers played little direct part in the liberation struggle has often been held against them, not least during the post-election strike-wave. The other side of the coin, however, is that only ZAPU ever had an orientation towards the workers that was anything more than rhetorical and that, even though many of the workers were relations of those waging the war in the rural areas, few genuine attempts were made to draw the links.

Strike Wave

The explosion of strikes and other forms of action immediately after the February elections did not, it is true, reflect any sort of revolutionary working class consciousness. But it did reflect years of pent up anger and frustration. The Government did not support the strikers for a moment. It evidently decided that Zimbabwe’s future well-being required, for now, enough concessions to foreign companies to keep them deeply entrenched in the Zimbabwean economy. While workers were fobbed off with a £40/month minimum wage, Mugabe extolled the virtues of private enterprise. And there was the unbelievable sight of the crack Rhodesian army unit, the Rhodesian African Rifles, being sent in against strikers at the Wankie coke plant.

But what was the position lower down the ranks of the ZANU hierarchy? What happened when ZANU members confronted the strikers? After all, we cannot base our assessment simply on statements made to the Western press. (4)

The strikes took different forms: some were against racist abuse by white supervisors; others were for wage demands of up to 400% (on an average industrial wage of £10 a week); others were for both. With the strikes against racist supervisors, the Government was usually willing to put pressure on an employer to remove a supervisor who would not change his attitude. But low wages were another story.

With big strikes, Kangai, the Minister of Labour, would intervene; with small strikes, lower ranking labour officials would be sent in. Workers would be told to end their action because a) they were privileged in relation to the many people who had no job, especially people who had suffered, for example, in protected villages; b) a strike would not help other workers in the industry, and c) wages would be going up when the new minimum wage was introduced. They were told that if they wouldn’t go back to work they would lose their jobs – and we have heard of a few instances where this actually occurred. (5)

Workers’ committees

A hopeful sign that the relationship between workers and the Government may improve was the latter’s encouragement for workers’ committees. These would operate at a shop steward level, replacing the ‘business unions’ of the Smith regime and negotiating with the Government either directly or via a new central union body, the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions. They would fulfil the workers’ need for a representative body and the Government’s need for formalised structures.

But any illusions disappeared when the Government proved incapable of reconciling its commitment to change with its fear of challenging the status quo. Thus those members of workers’ committees who opposed Government policies were victimised and/or sacked, and those who were conciliatory were rewarded with managerial or supervisory jobs. The discussions on a new minimum wage involved no workers’ representatives – instead industrialists and members of the Chamber of Commerce and the white Farmers’ Union were invited to talks with the Cabinet and the ZANU Central Committee.

Discussions on the formation of the Zimbabwe TUC involved Trade Union officials from the old regime, ZANU Party nominees (chosen by the Government) and delegates from the American AFL-CIO and the notorious ICFTU. And while everyone was expecting a new law to replace the anti-strike, corporatist Industrial Conciliation Act of the Smith era, Kangai was informing an international gathering in Salisbury (organised by the ICFTU) that:

“I firmly believe that the regulated system of labour relations that we in Zimbabwe have (the Industrial Conciliation Act) is more beneficial for the community as a whole rather than the ‘dog-eat-dog’ industrial philosophy of the so-called free labour movement which operates in some countries held to be more developed than our own.”


The only conclusion that can be drawn from the above – selected from many similar examples – is that the new Government has a basic fear of spontaneity and self-activity. Its concern for workers’ committees and workers’ participation is no more than a concern for regulation, under state and capitalist control, of workers’ demands. The talk is always of one nation, as in Mugabe’s statement that “now is the time for reconciliation, reconstruction and nation-building. Let us set aside our differences once and for all and pull together.”

Yet Zimbabwe is very far from one nation. Oppressive, racist structures prevail and will continue as long as ‘differences are put aside’. For workers, this means no change in all the oppressive working conditions mentioned earlier. As regards the multinationals, so strong in Zimbabwe, it means no change in the Government policy – concessions, combined with haggling over the percentage of profits that can be taken out of the country. The multinationals retain their hold over the economy, blocking any transition away from a system of high unemployment, high levels of foreign debt, bad wages and working conditions, etc.

Rural areas: devastation and democracy

The people who suffered most in the struggle for national liberation were the masses of peasants, largely from the Tribal Trust Lands, who provided the guerrillas, the mujibas (6) and so many others who confronted the white settler state.

The war hurt the rural poor in a number of ways: Operation Turkey destroyed crops, granaries, cattle and other basic means of livelihood; the herding of peasants into protected villages left much peasant land untended for long periods; the destruction of cattle dips – by both the guerrillas and the Whites – allowed disease to devastate the cattle population; and the destruction of villages by the Rhodesian Army left many people homeless and destitute. Many people faced daily coercion from either the Rhodesian Army or Muzorewa’s or Sithole’s ‘auxiliaries’; the numbers suffering from malnutrition rose, as did the numbers dying from disease. (7)

Meanwhile, the white farmers continued to exploit a large army of Black agricultural labourers who produce, on the white-owned farms, the bulk of Zimbabwe’s agricultural goods. Although production levels fell off a little in the last period of the war, State-guaranteed prices ensured high profits for a privileged elite who constituted a core element of the white-settler state. (8)

Government policy

What has been the policy of the new Government? Most surprising perhaps has been ZANU’s commitment to maintaining the white farming sector, and this despite the wartime rhetoric which talked of all the land belonging to the Africans being expropriated from those who stole it from its rightful owners by force of arms.

The new Government began by appointing Dennis Norman, former President of the reactionary Commercial Farmers’ Union, as Minister of Agriculture. This signalled that ZANU had no intention of violating the provisions of the Lancaster House agreement which prohibited any expropriations of white land without compensation. Instead, the Government would encourage ‘efficient’ white farmers (i. e. those whose African labourers were most productive) and gradually buy up the land of less efficient farmers, in order to redistribute it to landless peasants and returning refugees. There is vague talk of workers’ participation on the white farms, but there have been no indications of how the white farmers will be persuaded to accept this, or whether it will do anything to change the racist hierarchy on the farms.

The Government strategy with regard to the small plots of the African population is equally vague. Though there is talk of improving productivity by uniting family units of land into a larger cooperative, in which the peasants will manage their own affairs on a collective basis, there are few signs of this being put into practice in a way that accords with the peasants’ own view of what is best. Many peasants have moved beyond a reactionary, tribalist perspective, having participated for years in this war, and their views on how a cooperative should be run ought to be taken into consideration. (9)

Unfortunately, in many parts of the country the talk is not at all of cooperatives but of basic survival. Lacking cattle, large numbers of peasants are unable to plough their land for next year’s crops and they have no crops from last year because they were locked up in ‘protected villages’. There is a desperate need for food now and seeds for the next harvest.

In so far as the national liberation struggle was largely about land, the present situation is disastrous – whole structures remain to be changed. It would seem to be crucial for the Government to support those who have been radicalised by the struggle, and who try constructively to change things. Yet the Government has failed to support peasants who have occupied white land, even if it was not being efficiently used. Likewise, they seem to be conflicting with a number of village committees, even though these are in many ways the most democratic form of institution to come out of the liberation struggle.

Village committees

The village committees are the governing bodies at the local level, though some administration is still carried out by the District Commissioners of the settler state. There are officers on the village committees for all aspects of local life, including education, health, social welfare and agriculture, and generally the officers carry out the same function as they did on the base committees during the war.

The base committees had replaced the structures of the local state in those areas where ZANLA (or ZIPRA in the West) had effective control. They were elected by the people and worked in their interests, at the same time as working closely with the liberation movement. Because the village committees are direct descendants of the base committees, they retain the trust and confidence of the people. At ground level, they are one of the most democratic structures in the new state.

But they are not independent bodies. They clash regularly with the District Commissioners (10) and they also have to answer to the hierarchy of committees above them. For their are a number of levels of committee, from village through branch, district and region to the central committee, and all decisions of import have to be ratified at the level above. While this allows the Party to keep in touch with the people at a local level, it is also a way of keeping control – and there have been a number of clashes between ZANU and the village committees over decisions taken.

The October elections replaced the village committees and the District Commissioners with District Councils, which combine all political and administrative functions. This won’t necessarily mean an end to local democracy, but there will be a struggle over the degree of autonomy that the new bodies should be allowed. At the same time there will be more tension between ZANU and ZAPU, with the latter trying to capitalise on the growing disenchantment with the post-Independence developments. The outcome of these two overlapping confrontations will go a long way towards determining other developments over the next few years.


Women have always played an important role in Zimbabwean society, and an equally important role in the struggle for liberation. Back in the 1890’s, a woman spirit medium, Nehanda, played an inspiring part in the first struggle against the British settlers before being hanged in 1898. Nevertheless, many patriarchal traditions survived, others were even enhanced by the period of settler rule, and it was only in the war of the 1970’s that women began, on a large scale, to fight for liberation. In fact, the gains of ZANU and ZAPU would not have been possible without the organisational role of women in the villages, the bravery of the women guerrillas, the role of girls as message bearers, the provision of food by women and the work of women as nurses and teachers in the guerrilla camps.

Sadly, but all too characteristically, the struggle has brought women few benefits. Already, as the elections approached, ZANU women lost their fight for a representative number of women candidates (they were allowed only a handful). Soon after the elections, market women organised a demonstration against white police harassment, only to see the new Government send in the anti-riot squad against them.

On a positive note, the Government has undertaken at some point to introduce equal pay for equal work, thus replacing the Rhodesian regulation by which women received between 56% and 67% of the man’s pay for the same work. Nevertheless, there are still no maternity benefits, women are still demoted following maternity leave (max. 3 months), and women are generally excluded from union politics.

And, as the vast majority of women are not in waged employment, there is a vital need to change the situation in the rural areas. Here unmarried women cannot own land, widows are often deprived of it, women do most of the work for the tiniest wage, and there is still far too little land to adequately feed the families. As has been said, there will be no women’s liberation without a revolution on the land.

Perhaps things will change, and certainly there must be some spillover from the fantastic level of commitment, and the energy and the gallons of blood that women gave to the struggle. But it is not heartening to find one of Zimbabwe’s two women Government Ministers, and a long-time guerrilla, saying the following:

“The purpose of the war was to eliminate a system. Now that it has been eliminated, there is no need for people to be divided. Women have a great role to play in uniting the nation because they are household builders, mothers of the future generations and wives to the rulers... Women should get equal pay with men so that they can hire people to help them with the housework.” (11)

Assembly points

The guerrillas live in the assembly camps in quite appalling conditions. Food supplies are inadequate, water often has to be transported to the remote camps from far away. Daily life is extremely routine, with neither practical nor political education. Many of the occupants are young teenagers, probably mujibas who were sent as substitutes for guerrillas as a precaution against treachery during the ceasefire. It would also have been important to keep guerrillas in the villages to act as election officers for ZANU (or ZAPU).

The Government has tried to resolve the guerrilla predicament in three ways. The first, unification of the armies, has foundered on sectarianism and an understandable cynicism with regard to the Rhodesian Army’s trustworthiness. It now seems further away than ever, but, even if achieved, it will only take up one third to a half of the 32, 500 guerrillas.

Operation Seed, the Government programme whereby guerrillas from the camps help out in some of the worst hit agricultural areas, has barely begun, and there have been several reports of guerrillas absconding because of disenchantment with the scheme. Finally, there is the attempt to move guerrillas to one of the townships outside Salisbury, which has inevitably provoked resistance from the people affected and which does nothing, anyway, to resolve the dilemma over the guerrillas’ future.

Most of the guerrillas want a career in the Army, if only because it offers good pay and job security in a country with high levels of unemployment. (12) More and more guerrillas, however, are simply leaving the camps, sometimes smuggling their guns out with them. Either they are dissatisfied with the camp regime, or with the policies of the Government they brought to power. The latter tend, it seems, to return to the areas they fought in, in order to take up the struggle again in some form. Others resort to banditry, or individual acts of frustrated anger.

Government conflicts

The direction the new Government has taken has inevitably provoked open dissent. In particular, ZAPU has tried to capitalise on some of ZANU’s more obvious policy weaknesses, especially in the run-up to the municipal elections in November 1980. With ZANU trying to counter this with its own sectarianism, conflicts became inevitable. The Bulawayo tragedy, when over 40 people died, was neither the first nor the last incident to arise from these tensions.

But the wider tensions in Zimbabwean society manifest themselves within ZANU too, right up to ministerial level. One of the most vocal dissenters was Edgar Tekere, Minister for Manpower and Development and Secretary-General of ZANU.

Tekere’s politics, like those who are close to him including Shamuyarira, Minister of Information, are militantly nationalist, in the sense of favouring Africanisation of state institutions, nationalisation of certain key industries, and moves to challenge the power of the white farmers. His militancy, and his populist appeal, can be seen in the following statement in an interview in July:

“It is natural for the people, after... losing so many lives, to expect change as soon as we come in. The people expect it from those who behaved and acted like revolutionaries for all those years. So the revolution continues, a luta continua, this is what the people are saying.”

The direction of the new Government must, then, remain flexible. It will not be allowed to stop at a few measures here, a few measures there. Pressures will grow, whether from within the Party or outside, forcing the ZANU leadership to decide between either widespread conflict with ZAPU, striking workers and militant peasants, or a major reassessment of the direction it is taking.


Looking at the history of the liberation movement, of ZANU and ZAPU (13), there is a remarkable degree of continuity between the early years – when ZAPU was still the ANC – and the later years, when large guerrilla armies were occupying substantial areas of Zimbabwe.

Of course, continuity is only part of the picture. It could be forcefully argued that the development of the movement is characterised far more by change, leadership struggles, radicalisation of the grass roots, new alliances overseas etc. Yet the point is that the changes are obvious, while the continuity tends to be ignored. And the continuity not only completes the picture, it alters its general complexion.

Commentators have pointed to the intellectual background of the leadership of ZANU and ZAPU. This would be unimportant if there wasn’t also a tendency to be elitist, to generally distrust the spontaneity and intelligence of the masses. This tendency both feeds and feeds off the hierarchical structures of the organisations, and is revealed in the Government’s attitude during the strikes, its expressed opposition to spontaneous land occupations by landless peasants, and its rejection, to date, of alternative proposals for collectivisation of peasant land. It is a tendency that can be traced back through the movement, through the disciplining of various factions and perhaps to the ZANU-ZAPU split itself. It raises problems at the same time: if a war of liberation cannot be fought without hierarchical forms of organisation – which it cannot – how can the negative effects of this on the post-war period be controlled, if at all?

Neo-colonialism or beyond?

If a pragmatic socialist Party is to change things over time, as ZANU intends, it must be aware of not only the limitations of its room for manoeuvre, but also the dangers of itself becoming integrated into the structures it sought to overthrow.

Take for example the deceptively glib ZANU Manifesto statement that ‘private enterprise will have to continue until circumstances are ripe for socialist change. ‘ Who, for example, will develop the capitalist economy to ripeness if not the ZANU Government? Who will assist in this if not multinationals and Western Governments? How will Zimbabwean capitalism become ‘ripe’ without emphasising productivity and efficiency, thus weakening the position of workers? How will ZANU decide when conditions are ‘ripe for socialist change’? And how will it avoid developing a vested interest in the status quo before then?

ZANU is walking a difficult tightrope and one which is being repeatedly shaken – workers striking in mid-1980 and likely to do so again in early -81; peasants threatening to explode over the land question; guerrillas furious over their treatment, then provoking reaction from local residents when the Government tries to move them to a Salisbury township; rank-and-file ZANU members challenging Government policy in the village committees and rural collectives.

The tightrope appears to be between some kind of neo-colonial Zimbabwe and a socialist Zimbabwe. Yet somehow a socialist Zimbabwe seems frustratingly elusive, while neo-colonialism appears in so many ways inescapable. Many of the social forces putting pressure on the Government (whether workers, peasants, women or guerrillas) are essentially progressive, but they lack cohesion. In stark contrast, the forces of reaction (white farmers, multinationals, police etc.) are cohesive, strong and, in the case of multinationals, have international backing.

The only way the Government will be able to confront the danger of neo-colonialism is by taking a lead in mobilising all progressive forces in a clear anti-imperialist direction. Now is perhaps not the time for this – the gains won remain to fragile – but the Government must soon indicate that it is moving in such a direction or the possibility of mobilisation could be lost, perhaps irrevocably. (14)


In this article, we have written critically about several aspects of the new Zimbabwe. But what right have we, as socialists in Britain, to make these criticisms?

We have tried to indicate that imperialism – mainly British – set the conditions in which the struggle for national liberation was fought. As we oppose British imperialism – which oppresses us here too, in a different form – we worked in solidarity with those forces, ZANU and ZAPU, which were most effectively confronting it. But this never implied a blind acceptance of every position taken by the Patriotic Front, not least because in our solidarity work we have to take into account (1) the need to mobilise all progressive forces, including workers, feminists, gays and Black activists, and (2) the fact that we will be confronting imperialism all over, not only in Zimbabwe.

So we did not support the use of British troops to implement the ceasefire and election process. We know the reactionary nature of British troops too well. And now, if Zimbabwean workers are organising in British and other foreign-owned multinationals, we encourage support from British workers and solidarity activists, whether or not the Zimbabwean Government supports them.

Future of solidarity work

The time is past when we can use “anti-imperialism” as a three-line whip for all progressives to attend demonstrations, pickets etc. We have seen too many ‘anti-imperialists’ oppose the demands of women, gays, and often workers too (e.g. in Iran). If solidarity work is to retain any credibility in the 1980’s it must address itself more consistently to liberation as a whole. We do this effectively not by posing maximum, all-or-nothing demands, though, but by always pressing that bit further, by raising and pushing feminism, socialism, democracy whenever relevant or possible, by considered and comradely criticism, by self-criticism, by appropriate actions of solidarity (e. g. with women as well as men in struggle.)

So we support the Zimbabwean Government, and we remain enthused by the massive election victory that brought it to power. But we also support those who, by their actions and their links with the oppressed, take the struggle forward. For, to repeat Tekere’s comment: “The people expect (change) from those who behaved and acted like revolutionaries for all those years. So the revolution continues, a luta continua, this is what the people are saying.”

This article is the product of a long period of collective work and discussion by the BF Southern Africa Group. We are indebted to the Zimbabwean Information Group, three members of which have visited Zimbabwe since Independence and reported back, and without which this article would not have been possible. We also thank the many Zimbabweans who have provided information and analysis.


1. The Mozambicans and Angolans did have the advantage, in this respect, that the European settlers left en masse. The statement here is not intended to suggest that the Zimbabwean struggle was inferior in some way, nor to suggest that Frelimo and the MPLA had no problems in taking power. In fact, their difficulties have worsened over time.

2. We should not exaggerate the political content of this support. Many election observers in the rural areas, including some sympathetic to the liberation movement, reported a universal desire for peace. People voted for liberation, but in large part their vote was a vote for the parties they knew could end the war.

3. D. G. Clarke, Foreign Companies and International Investment in Zimbabwe.

4. What follows here is based on an interview with a ZANU official in the Ministry of Labour, interviews with strikers and trade union leaders, and reports in the Zimbabwean press.

5. In one case, for example, a strike at Swift Transport in June 1980, half of the 1500 workers were dismissed for striking, despite the formation of workers’ committees.

6. Mujibas were boys of less than fighting age who carried messages between guerrilla units, supplies to the guerrillas from villages etc.

7. An Oxfam survey in selected areas in the summer of 1980 found 40% of children aged 1-5 malnourished, and 15% severely malnourished. Common diseases include scabies, malaria and measles (often fatal for under-nourished children).

8. The following figures indicate the scale of the land problem, and the desperate need for change:

- Africans and Europeans have the same amount of land (45 million acres) but there are 100 times more African cultivators.
- There is enough African arable land for 275, 000 cultivators, yet there are 675, 000 of them which means overuse, low yield, ecological decay, impoverishment. The result is a steady stream of cheap labour to the towns and the European farms. And discontent.
- Of the 9 million acres of arable land in the European areas, 1. 4 million is cultivated. Many of the 6, 700 European farms require Government subsidies to survive. Others are vast, are owned by multinational companies, and yield huge profits. Little of their produce is consumed by Zimbabweans.
- In 1975, 88% of African farm workers earned less than £15 a month

(source for most figures Roger Riddell, The Land Question (publ. CIIR)

9. The Sunday Times of August 3 1980 reported resistance to Government land policies from “former guerrillas among the tribesmen (who) have their own ideas about farm collectives and resent officials imposing their authority in villages where guerrilla influence has prevailed since the ceasefire last year”. Similar reports have appeared in the Zimbabwean press.

10. The Rhodesian District Commissioners retained certain administrative functions but their role was not clearly defined until their demise at the end of 1980.

11. This quote is taken from the pamphlet Black women in Zimbabwe, published by War on Want.

12. Guerrillas earn £70 per month at present, well above the basic industrial wage.

13. This section is a much shortened version of a document we produced for the Leeds Conference on Zimbabwe in July 1980.

14. In Autumn 1980, the Government threatened to take over land without compensation (its first threatened violation of the Lancaster House Agreement) and to take over the press. While this clearly reflects the growing pressure on the Government from its grass roots supporters and other social forces, it is a positive sign which may belie the more pessimistic elements of our conclusion.

This version copied from Labournet



11 years 10 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Reddebrek on July 16, 2012

A good piece of history, it's a little sad that the few glimmers of hope it showed were to be crushed not too long after it was first published. I've made a simple PDF for those interested here's the link http://www.mediafire.com/view/?6mjfedm6w780yt5