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The Joshua Nkomo - Tell No Lies speech on Unity.

01 Jul 2016 at 06:06hrs | Views
In memory of the First Commander in Chief of ZAPU and ZIPRA Forces. In memory of the Father of the Nation.


Distinguished guests, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Members of the Central Committee and National Executive Committee,

Comrade delegates,

I have today the honour and privilege to present to you the Political Report of the Central Committee of the Patriotic Front (ZAPU). In our report we shall present to you, delegates to this Congress, our assessment and analysis of events since our last Congress in 1975 and our proposals for current and future activities of the Party.

Comrades, we are holding our Congress in an independent Zimbabwe for the first time. This is a cause for great pride 'and joy. We have realised the goal we set ourselves so many years ago. But the great joy we feel over this victory is marred by the deep sorrow and concern that we, and all Zimbabwean patriots, feel over the tragic events which are currently unfolding in our country. We must address ourselves to .these problems with the utmost honesty and frankness. In order to do so, we need to look back and analyse past developments with scientific precision, for the roots of present and future events are always to be found in past history.

One of Africa's greatest sons, the patriot and revolutionary Amilcar Cabral, who led the people of Guinea-Bissau in their heroic struggle against Portuguese colonialism until his tragic murder in January 1972, left us with many invaluable lessons. One of these was his call to all revolutionaries to "tell no lies and claim no easy victories." Comrades, we must "tell no lies" nor "claim easy victories". We must at this Congress, be prepared to subject all the events of the past years to the most rigorous and honest: criticism, examination and evaluation. We must be prepared to criticise ourselves as well as others, in a constructive and revolutionary spirit. The terrible tragedy which is rapidly engulfing our country demands this from us.


Dear Comrades, we wish to begin our report by looking back at same aspects of our past history because we believe in history as a great teacher. There are those who are presently attempting to rewrite a distorted history of Zimbabwe. They do this, we believe, precisely because they do not want the People to learn the lessons of this history. They want the people to repeat the mistakes of the past, because they can only survive and flourish in the chaos and division of these mistakes. When the British imperialists invaded our country nearly 100 years ago, our people first accepted them with the hospitality accorded to all visitors. However, when their intentions to seize our land became clear, the people rose against the invaders and attempted to drive them out. At first our people rose in scattered format ions, and their resistance was put down. The more far-sighted of the people's leaders however, could see the weaknesses which disunity was causing. They saw that only a united front of the people could resist the colonial invasion; and so they established a united front and the people rose again. This time the united forces of the people almost overwhelmed the usurpers of our land. Only with massive reinforcements and by employing the modern weapons of the time in the most ruthless manner, could the colonial invaders smash the people's resistance. Although the resistance was defeated at high cost, those who fell fighting colonialism left us a priceless lesson. They taught all future generations that the key to victory is unity.

Today, those who are attempting to write history describe these events in such a way as to avoid, the lesson of unity. Instead they claim the heritage of those historic days for only one section of our population, and in this way they betray the memory of the fallen heroes of those battles. Instead of honouring those heroes by promoting the unity which was achieved at that time, they disgrace the memory of those heroes by promoting division and disunity. Comrades, if we are to be true to the fallen heroes: Nehanda, Mkwati Ncube, Kagubi, Lobengula and others, we must be prepared to speak out and learn from the historic truth of their struggles. This same lesson of unity of the people against oppression and exploitation is to be found throughout the history of our struggle against colonialism. In the period leading up to the formation of the first national organisation of resistance to colonial rule, the workers of Zimbabwe led the way to unity in their struggle to form the first trade unions.

As colonialism developed its hold on our country, mines and factories were opened to enable the imperialists to extract the wealth of Zimbabwe. Our people were forced off the land and into these mines and factories. A class of workers who owned nothing but their own ability to provide labour, was created.

This development in Zimbabwe of a working class was an important foundation for the resurgence of the people's resistance. Since that tine our workers have continued to provide the people with many outstanding leaders and fighters. The workers have fought many courageous battles and taught the people many useful lessons. One of these lessons was the value of unity. Their experiences in the factories and mines,, in the daily struggles they fought for better wages and living conditions, taught the workers that only by uniting together could they resist the merciless exploitation they suffered, and fight for a better life. Once again far-sighted and revolutionary heroes pointed the way forward. Men like Masotsha Ndlovu brought the message of workers' unity from their experiences in the struggles in South Africa, and worked tirelessly to build a united trade union movement in Zimbabwe.

The first achievement was to establish the Industrial and Commercial Union' (ICU) in Zimbabwe, which laid the basis for workers organisation. In so doing, they taught us once again the lesson that unity is the key to victory, and they laid the foundation for a united national resistance to colonialism. On another front, men like Benjamin Burombo sought to unite educated Zimbabweans through his efforts in the African People's Voice Association. Later the early African. National Congress and the City Youth League also struggled to unite the people to fight against colonialism. The experience of all these early struggles created the conditions in which the people learned the vital need for unity. These lessons found their first national expression in the resuscitation of the African National Congress in 19.57.

The main strength of the ANC was in the towns. We soon realised that we needed the whole people to be united in the struggle. Because of our dispossession from the land, the peasants have always resisted colonial rule. Now they needed to be mobilised into organised struggle. The ANC set itself the task, of bringing all. The people together to fight colonial, oppression. All these lessons culminated in the formation of the National Democratic Party in 1960 which can be said to be the first truly united national organisation of the Zimbabwean people. In the NDP we recognised no tribe, race or creed. The NDP stood for true national unity and put these policies into practice. Against the people's efforts to build unity, 'we were faced with constant attempts by the colonial regime to create division and mistrust. The imperialist powers too, worried by the growing threat our unity 'posed to their plunder of our country, began to make feverish efforts to disrupt and divide us. Comrades, history is a tough taskmaster. If we are to use history as a' weapon for our struggles, we must tell the truth fearlessly whatever the consequences. It must be said therefore, that the decision of certain elements to split the movement in 1963, played right into the hands, of the colonial oppressors. Comrades, differences within the liberation movement are bound to occur. The question is how to resolve them. As we have always said, differences between the people must be solved by discussion and persuasion, not by conflict. By splitting the movement, the ZANU leaders threw the people into conflict - a tragic conflict for which we are still paying the ghastly price over 20 years later. Whatever is being said today, history has shown us only too clearly that a terrible and fearful mistake was made in l963.


Dear Comrades, I should now like to turn to another aspect of our - history. And again I would like to recall Almicar Cabral's call to us all to "tell no lies and claim no easy victories." We need to report to you on the decision to take up arms and prosecution of the armed struggle. We do so because at our previous Congress we could .not discuss this question openly and frankly due to the prevailing colonial repression. We also wish to report on this matter because it has been a major victim of the campaign of distortion to which our history is being subjected. Comrades, at the outset, I should like to advise you that our ability to report fully on this matter is still, even today, restricted. This is the result of the confiscation of the Party's records by government. The entire documented record of our prosecution of the struggle was seized by the government in March 1982, and up to today it has neither been returned to us nor made available to the people. This is another aspect of the campaign to distort history, and a most disgraceful and dishonest act.

In passing, I should also like to make another point about these records. It has been repeatedly alleged by certain elements in the leadership of ZANU that after independence we were preparing a coup or rebellion against the government. Why then did we bring back into Zimbabwe these archives, which contained all the military records of the Party, up to and including the copies of orders issued to ZIPRA for cease fire? More than that, they also contained the complete personnel records of ZIPRA and details of deployment of ZIPRA forces. If we were preparing any military action against the government, we would never have brought back into Zimbabwe our military records, because they would have been vulnerable to seizure and could have revealed our military secrets. But, we had nothing to hide and that is why we openly returned with our records. I should also like to add that in our desire to ensure that the true history of the struggle was told, we instructed two ZIPRA officers to begin compiling a factual history of ZIPRA activities soon after independence. In fact it had been agreed that ZIPRA, ZANLA and the Rhodesian army should co-operate in producing a complete and factual history of the war. Neither ZANLA nor the Rhodesians took any steps to implement this decision. ZIPRA did take action and the two officers instructed to carry out this project were doing so right up to the moment when the archives were seized. Even today, we are most anxious that the true history of our struggle for national liberation should be told to the nation. We believe this history belongs to the people, and not to a group of individuals. The people have a right to their history and are entitled to learn from it.

In this spirit we should like to deny most emphatically the current claim that the armed struggle began in 1966 at the "Battle of Chinhoyi." Whilst we in no way wish to belittle the actions of the comrades who died in this battle, the true facts of the beginnings of the armed struggle must be placed on record. The decision to take up arms against the colonial regime was neither easy nor uncontroversial. - It was a decision taken after we bad realised that all other methods of struggle against colonial rule were leading nowhere. Among our Youth were those comrades who had already by 1960, decided that violence had to be employed against the colonial regime. They were untrained and more or less unarmed. So they turned' to simple methods of sabotage which did not require sophisticated weapons or training. These comrades, including some of you present today, carried out a courageous campaign of simple sabotage, and although this campaign did not succeed in dislodging the regime, it was extremely important in reactivating the people's tradition of armed resistance to the colonial settler regime. This sabotage campaign of 1960-61 marks the true beginning of the armed struggle in Zimbabwe. Many of us still remember the names General Chedu and General Hokoyo which marked many of these early attacks against the colonial regime. We sent the first comrades out of the country for training in 1961. The first groups including Sikwili Moyo, Zephania Sihwa, Mark Nziramasanga, Philemon Makonese and David Mpongo, returned to embark on operations in 1962. During this early period, we were mainly concerned with carrying out training missions and obtaining arms. By the time ZANU split the movement, we were already in the advanced stages of preparing to carry out armed attacks inside the country. In fact some unplanned incidents had already taken place. During this time Comrades Manyonga and Velaphi became the first to be arrested for carrying out attacks on the regime. It is now being said that ZANU split from ZAPU because they were the ones who wanted to start the armed struggle. This is a ridiculous distortion. We had already, well before the split by ZANU, started launching the aimed struggle. By 1964 the first full unit entered the country to carry out in depth reconnaissance, training and local preparations. This unit completed its mission and escaped undetected. Through 1964 and 1965 similar small units were infiltrated into the country to carry out preparations for the aimed struggle. During this period of preparation, sabotage and other armed actions were initiated by our cadres. We were still concerned at that time to build up our reserves of trained personnel before we launched any major aimed actions. Comrades, I hope we have set the record straight on this issue, and we hope that in the future, those elements of ZANU who have attempted to distort this period of our history will speak truthfully. Comrades, we must be the first to say to ourselves that in initiating the armed struggle in Zimbabwe we made many mistakes and suffered setbacks. -We had no experience in the matter of arms at all, as the 'colonial regime had ensured that' we had no access to arms. Learning how to use arms, acquiring military skills and embarking on a guerrilla war were complicated and difficult tasks. I am reminded of the experience of the Cuban revolutionaries.

On 1 December 1956, 83 Cuban comrades led by the outstanding revolutionary leader, Comrade Fidel Castro, landed in Cuba by boat to begin the armed struggle. Three days later they were attacked by the fascist forces and only 13 of the original group survived to carry out the armed struggle. But from this terrible setback emerged the Cuban Rebel Army which 3 years later seized power. Like our Cuban comrades, and indeed all those starting out on the road of revolution, we too suffered setbacks. But the important thing is that we started, and as we went along we learned. One of the most important experiences of the aimed struggle was contained in the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns of 1967 and 1968. Using the experience of the early 1960's, these became the first large scale operations ever launched in Zimbabwe, and they involved several hundred men. These campaigns were planned and led by the late Comrade J.D. Sotsha Ngwenya, Dumiso Dabengwa Akim Ndlovu and others. Their full history has yet to be told, like so much of our rich history of struggle. But we would like to mention two important aspects of these battles. In the first place, because of the scale of fighting and the outstanding courage of our fighters, these battles had a profound effect on the people of Zimbabwe. They showed that it was possible to tackle the enemy on our own soil with modern weapons, and inflict serious damage on the regime. They showed that the racists were not invincible as they claimed. In the second place, these military campaigns provided invaluable lessons for the future conduct of the armed struggle, and gave us concrete experience of battle conditions in our country. This experience was analysed by our military commanders and the political leadership and-provided the basis for the new strategies and tactics which we then adopted. It should be added that the lessons of these battles also benefited our colleagues in ZANU, who were able to assess the enemy's military strengths and weaknesses without actually having to commit soldiers into the field at the time. Comrades, these early battles of the sixties deserve an honoured place in our history. The comrades who fought and fell during this period were the courageous trailblazers who actually paved the way to successful armed struggle. We wish to pay them tribute. We salute these heroic soldiers of the people who fought and gave their lives at a time when victory was still a far off dream. Let history record their outstanding contribution to our struggle. Today we can say that those campaigns were the major launching pad of the armed struggle. Comrades, before we turn to the later developments of our struggle which led to the Lancaster House Conference, we should like to touch on another important principle of political struggle. We understand the development of struggle as a process. We believe that during the actual process of struggle, the people acquire new experiences, mature and develop. Certainly our own experience bears this out. When we began the struggle against colonial rule, few of us had a clear idea of our final destination. During the early battles, we began to realise that our enemy - colonial oppression - was only the roost immediate and direct enemy. Behind the colonial regime itself, stood a whole international system of oppression and exploitation. This system was responsible not only for racist colonial rule in Zimbabwe, but also for war, poverty, hunger, disease and-suffering throughout our World. Not every comrade who embarked on the journey of struggle with us in the early days could understand and accept this. It was to be expected therefore, that this process of developing our political understanding should leave sane comrades behind. In 1970, same of our comrades outside the country did find themselves left behind. They could not keep pace with the development of ideas which the daily struggle was producing. As a result they fell by the wayside, and in this process they caused considerable damage to the Party. However, we would be dishonest if we then refused to acknowledge the considerable contribution these comrades made to the struggle before they deserted. We freely acknowledge and pay tribute to that contribution. But in the same spirit of honest criticism and self-criticism we also say that these comrades did set us back by their actions after they abandoned the struggle. All revolutions have to go through a process of cleansing themselves and ours is no exception, even today. Following the crisis of 1970-71, the Party emerged with a clearer and more decisive grasp of the nature of our struggle. The Politics of Pressure were abandoned and in their place emerged a more advanced concept of actually seizing power from the colonial regime.

This new approach was illustrated by the adoption of the slogan; "Power to the People." This new understanding led us to restructure our organisation, both politically and militarily. It was not (and even now is not) an easy process. But it led us to strengthen our party and military machine, and this gave us greater capacity to hit our enemy. We should like to mention here that many of us spent this decade and a half in prisons and detention camps. Some of these experiences did pass us by. When we were released we had a duty to learn the new lessons of the struggle from those who had had the benefit of these experiences. Even today, we are called upon to open ourselves to new and bold ideas and not to fear new initiatives.


Turning now comrades, to the period of our last Congress in 1975, you will recall that we met last at a time of considerable division and confusion. These problems were the fruits of the seeds of division planted over 10 years previously. The colonial regime and its allies took full advantage of these weaknesses and were able to slow down and at times even paralyse our struggle. All manner of opportunists were able to emerge in this period of confusion, and masquerading as champions of the people's cause, they were able to confuse sections of our people. Following our Congress we took active steps to attempt to overcome these difficulties. Our approach was dictated by our sincere belief that as history had taught us, the key to victory is the unity of the people. At that time, and after the break-up of the African National Council, we sought to find methods for a framework for unity which could advance the struggle.

Despite our differences with elements of ZANU, we believed that the bulk of the cadres of ZANU shared with us a common understanding of the need to unite to fight the real enemy we faced. As the ZANU leadership was divided and in some disarray at that time, we agreed to proceed to find methods of co-operation with their active fighting forces. The result was the formation of ZIPA which created a joint military command of ZIPRA and ZANLA. This was not our first effort to co- operate. There had been the Joint Military Council (JMC) of 1972. The JMC was formed by comrades J.Z. Moyo, Herbert Chitepo, T. G. Silundkia and Henry Hamadziripi, with the participation of Nikita Mangena, Lookout Masuku, Akim Ndlovu and Dumiso Dabengwa and from ZANU, Josiah Tongogara, John Mataure and Robson Manyika. Although the JMC did not succeed in unifying the fighting forces, it laid the foundation for future unity. The experiences of the JMC made the formation of ZIPA easier. ZIPA was formed with the full backing of the ZAPU leadership abroad and in at home. We in ZAPU did all we could to consolidate and strengthen the unity of the fighting forces through ZIPA. Discussion between ZAPU and ZANU leaders including those ZANU leaders then being held in Zambian prisons, led to the agreement to form ZIPA. Comrades J.Z. Moyo and Simon Muzenda set about implementing this agreement. Comrades Nikita Mangena, J.D. Ngwenya, Jevah Maseko and Gordon Sibanda were among the ZAPU commanders who created ZIPA. From the ZANU side there were Comrades Rex Nhongo, Dzino Machingura, David Todhlana and Mudzingwa.

Unfortunately, certain regional and foreign powers attempted to interfere with this process of unity, and to a considerable extent, they had sane successes which ultimately led to the collapse of ZIPA. The external interference in ZIPA resulted in the tragic deaths of many" young and unarmed cadres, who were slaughtered in camps in Tanzania and Mozambique. Despite these tragedies and the weaknesses of ZIPA, we believe ZIPA played an important part in our struggle. Firstly, ZIPA enabled us to continue to escalate the armed struggle at a time when powerful forces were attempting to force us back into the peaceful protest - strategies of the past. Secondly, ZIPA provided a new experience to the young cadres - that of the value of Unity. This experience was to provide a valuable foundation which helped considerably in the formation of the Patriotic Front alliance. We salute the cadres of ZIPA, both those of ZIPRA and ZANLA, for their invaluable contribution to our struggle. We believe that a true and honest evaluation of the role of ZIPA will place these comrades in air- honoured position in the history of our struggle. We would like to take sane time at this point to explain what our approach was to the question of unity at that time, because we believe that many of the tragic and extraordinary events of recent times can be better understood through an evaluation of the events which led to the formation of the Patriotic Front alliance.
What was the political basis of our approach?

I should like dear comrades to quote to you from a document issued in 1976 which I believe was tragically prophetic. It was a document issued by the Party which explained our approach to the question of unity. We said:
"Brick by brick even if it should take many years, ZAPU's political and ideological outlook guides the movement to an irreversible commitment to the unity of people of Zimbabwe and the total independence of Zimbabwe as a single entity. This is why the movement is in a constant struggle to build a broad front against colonialism and imperialism. And it has led the movement also never to mistake the people for the enemy. Differences among the people should not be handled as if they were differences between the people and the enemy. ZAPU upholds the principle that differences among the people should be solved by discussion and persuasion, whereas those between the people and the enemy can only be solved by armed struggle. In line with this principle, there will be no circumstances under which ZAPU will countenance any of its military cadres turning their guns upon the people, whether within the revolutionary army itself or among the Zimbabwe masses. In short, no fascist tactics can ever be a short cut to a revolutionary victory. Only the enemy practises such tactics of coercion and .murder because it has lost all support among the people. How could we behave like the enemy of the people and still claim to be the vanguard in the Zimbabwe people's struggle for independence and socio-economic reconstruction? The principles which guide our movement are the very antithesis of what the enemy stands for. We must always seek to resolve the differences amongst the anti- colonial, anti-imperialist forces in a constructive way. We must strive to build unity among the people as we carry out our political and armed struggle against the enemy."

Comrades, that is what we stood for in the Patriotic Front, and I believe that any true patriot looking back can see how correct we were in this approach. Whilst we sincerely and honestly strove to build a true unity of all the people fighting against colonial oppression, the subsequent events show clearly that elements on the ZANU side viewed the Patriotic Front alliance as a temporary measure. We suspected this even at the time, but our commitment to unity led us to overcome our suspicions and make every effort to fight for a united front. We believe that the achievements of the Patriotic Front alliance show that we were correct to spare no effort to consolidate unity. Comrades, we understood at that time that there were differences within the broad liberation movement. We could see concretely how these differences were being exploited by our enemies to sabotage the struggle. Increasingly the more far-sighted comrades in both ZAPU and ZANU understood that if we did not find methods to overcome these differences, we would be betraying the real interests of the people. Problems within ZANU at that time and in particular the purge of the most strongly pro- unity groupings, delayed the formation of the Patriotic Front. We regretted these developments but continued to patiently urge and counsel unity. For us the Patriotic Front was the only basis on which to consolidate the unity of the whole struggling people of Zimbabwe. As we said at the time: ZAPU initiated the formation of the Patriotic Front not only in order to be able to adopt a common position at such for a as the Geneva Conference, but also in order to consolidate the unity of the people of Zimbabwe. Through the Patriotic Front we shall be able to further our efforts in turning ZIPA into a genuinely single army. The Patriotic Front has therefore embarked on a programme beyond Geneva of consolidating unity at the military, social arid political levels.

And of course we must also emphasize that we did not regard the Patriotic Front as an alliance only for ZAPU and ZANU. We always saw the Patriotic Front as the framework for building a broad united front of all genuinely progressive forces in Zimbabwe. The achievements of the Patriotic Front in the 3 year period of its existence place it, we believe, as the most successful expression of the true long term interests of all our people. The Patriotic Front enabled us to begin to overcome the differences and disagreements within the liberation movement. It unquestionably consolidated national unity in a way not seen since the days of the NDP. The Patriotic Front created hope and courage among the people and greatly increased the people's fighting spirit. It provided a vehicle for real unity in action. During the period of the Patriotic Front, our fighting capability was greatly strengthened and the struggle was intensified at all levels. On the international level the Patriotic Front raised the prestige of the Zimbabwean people to new heights, and brought us the respect and administration of the vast majority of the international community. The creation of the Patriotic Front by the Zimbabwean people was recognised as providing a new and unique, experience to the whole question of unity, of relevance to all peoples struggling against oppression. We regard these achievements as the most significant victory of our people during the whole course of the struggle. And we believe that by the end of 1979 the majority of the people of Zimbabwe shared our views on this matter.

How were we robbed of the fruits of our achievements in the Patriotic Front? The answer to this question is best found by asking ourselves whose interests were served by creating disunity. It was of course our oppressors and exploiters who stood most to gain by the people's disunity. The Rhodesian settler regime and its supporters had throughout our struggle, worked ceaselessly to divide and confuse the people. As we stood poised for our final onslaught against colonialism in Zimbabwe some elements of the ZANU leadership once again unleashed division within the people. All that has happened since those ZANU elements destroyed the Patriotic Front is clear evidence that the Patriotic Front served the best interests of our people and its destruction served the interests of the enemies of a free and independent Zimbabwe. We are convinced that in time the people of Zimbabwe will came to realise the full extent of this crime committed against them, and they will certainly judge the perpetrators most severely.

Comrades it is necessary here to briefly review the events which led finally to the- ceasefire and elections in 1980. In the first instance it is absolutely clear that it was the combination of the unity of the people and the escalation of the armed struggle which led the British and other Western backers of colonialism in Zimbabwe to abandon their attempts to prop up the crumbling colonial regime. , It is now being said by certain elements that it was not these factors, but rather the same efforts of ZANU which led us to independence. This is such a preposterous distortion that we are almost tempted to dismiss it without comment. But those who perpetrate this lie have obviously learned the" dictum of the German Nazi propagandist, Goebbels, who said "If you want to tell lies, tell outrageous lies and repeat them continuously, then the people will begin to "believe them". For this reason we must answer the outrageous claim being constantly thrown at our people that ZAPU and ZIPRA never fought nor contributed to the liberation struggle. We do not' claim to have been the sole contributors to the liberation struggle. Indeed in 1976. We explained our approach in this way:

The Zimbabwe Revolution is a collective endeavour. The struggle does not belong to any single individual. It is a collective effort in which everyone has a duty to do his best to defeat the enemy, and to carry out the difficult task of the reconstruction of our society. We should continue to organise our movement so that the loss of one, two or three members does not change the course of the revolution. We should be and are able to proclaim with great satisfaction that any one of us could die at any moment, without affecting the revolutionary process.
We all can carry out our respective tasks knowing that beyond us the Revolution continues; that the work of the Zimbabwe Revolution is not in the hands of individuals but of the whole Zimbabwean people and their Movement. Individuals die, the Movement lives on; the Revolution must go on."
-    JMN Nkomo

Compiled by Cakes 'Makhekhe' Sankara Vundla

Cakes Vundla is the ZAPU Europe Secretary of Policy & Strategy.
You can contact Cde Cakes on;
Twitter: @cdesankara

Source - Cakes Vundla
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