History Monday : Gukurahundi -The Dissident Problem Part 2

Hi, this is from Nehanda Radio. a continuation from last History Monday


One contributing factor to escalating dissident numbers, according to the dissidents themselves, was the ZNA’s initial failure successfully to integrate ZANLA and ZIPRA into one army. The task facing the ZNA at Independence was unprecedented: its role was to integrate three armies, all of which had long-standing animosities towards each other, and form one army with a conventional military background.

The animosities between ZIPRA and ZANLA have already been dealt with. Not only did these two antagonistic forces have to integrate with each other at Independence, but they had to be integrated with the existing Rhodesian Defence Forces (RDF), which had fought to preserve white supremacy in Zimbabwe. There were obvious long-standing political and military antagonisms between the RDF and both the guerrilla armies. From the time of the negotiated ceasefire in Zimbabwe, ex-guerrillas were held in Assembly Points (AP) throughout the country, from where they were gradually integrated with the RDF, or demobilized.

Many ex-guerrillas from both sides resisted entering the AP, fearing the consequences, or rejecting the negotiated outcome to the war. In the AP, after Independence, there were several minor skirmishes between ZANLA and ZIPRA forces in different parts of the country, and also outbreaks of bad behavior in the vicinity of the AP, as ex-combatants spent long months waiting for integration to take its course. In February 1980, The Chronicle reported approximately 200 guerrillas roaming the North West, campaigning for ZAPU and committing crimes. In Nkayi and Gokwe, in northern Matabeleland, there was a group of ZIPRA operating under a man called “Tommy”, who had been renowned for refusing to obey the ZIPRA High Command structure in the 1970s.

In addition, there was a group of ZIPRA in Tsholotsho who refused to enter the AP, as they rejected the ceasefire. In May and June 1980, 400 ZIPRA guerrillas were rounded up in Northern Matabeleland and taken to Khami Prison near Bulawayo. ZANLA was considered as much of a problem as ZIPRA, if not a worse one, in these early months. ZANLA was involved in armed attacks in Mutoko, Mount Darwin and Gutu. Both sides were involved in the concealing of weapons outside the AP.


At the end of 1980 only 15 000 out of 65 000 ex-combatants had been integrated into the Army, and the decision was made to remove some of the remaining ex-combatants into housing schemes near the major centers.

Under a rehousing scheme in Entumbane, a suburb of Bulawayo, ZIPRA and ZANLA found themselves living in close proximity to each other, and also with ZIPRA’s civilian supporters. Coinciding with this development, in November 1980 there was an inflammatory speech by Enos Nkala, a Government minister, in which ZAPU was referred to as the enemy.

This contributed to the first Entumbane uprising, in November 1980, in which ZIPRA and ZANLA fought a pitched battle for two days, before being brought under control by ZIPRA and ZANLA commanders. Five hundred more ZANLA soldiers were moved to Entumbane, and ZAPU officials were arrested. The fighting between ZIPRA and ZANLA was not restricted to Matabeleland, but led to deaths in holding camps in Mashonaland as well.

In February 1981, a second outburst of fighting started in Entumbane, which spread to Ntabazinduna and Glenville, in the vicinity of Bulawayo, and also to Connemara in the Midlands. ZIPRA troops elsewhere in Matabeleland North and South headed for the city to join the battle, and Prime Minister Mugabe called in former RDF units to quell the uprising, but not before more than 300 people had lost their lives.


1. Nehanda Radio (2012) ‘Gukurahundi Massacres: The Dissident Problem (Part 4)’

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