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Early Factionalism in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle  

Brooks Marmon

The course of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle was fundamentally shaped by tensions among competing nationalist factions. The impact of this dynamic is typically observed from 1963, when Zimbabwe’s long-serving ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)-Patriotic Front, was founded following a fissure in the liberation movement. Earlier instances of intranationalist competition in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) have generally escaped scholarly attention despite their pioneering contributions to the dynamics of political pluralism in Zimbabwe and the presence of noted political figures amidst their leadership. In 1961, the Zimbabwean nationalist movement experienced its first significant split with the formation of the Zimbabwe National Party (ZNP) which broke away from the National Democratic Party. The ZNP, in turn, experienced its own rupture a year later when the Pan-African Socialist Union (PASU) was formed. Although these were the two only two nationalist challengers of note in the early 1960s prior to ZANU, several other short-lived Black-led political parties emerged at this time in settler-dominated Southern Rhodesia. The ZNP and PASU appealed to rising grievances with the prosecution of the anticolonial liberation struggle. They were also a consequence of the changing geopolitics wrought by Africa’s decolonization. The two parties sought to consolidate their position by appealing to the emerging cohort of African anticolonial leaders across the continent. These efforts induced extensive backlash from the main wing of the nationalist movement, then led by Joshua Nkomo. Both the ZNP and PASU were short-lived, effectively collapsing by 1963. While neither party was able to effectively overcome these intense assaults, their comparatively fleeting existence shaped the political environment by influencing tactics and providing a template for subsequent nationalist contenders seeking greater longevity.

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South Africa and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe  

Alois Mlambo

This article traces the relations between South Africa and Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia/Zimbabwe from the end of the 19th century until the present with respect to politics; economic, military, ideological, and cultural activities; as well as foreign policy. The conflicted relationship between the two countries went through varying periods of close cooperation and also of tension, especially given the difference in power between the much larger and more economically prosperous South Africa and the smaller society and economy of Southern Rhodesia. Other important factors include the dominant influence of the Afrikaners in South Africa, from the creation of the Union in 1910 onward, and the apprehension felt by a predominantly English-speaking white population of Rhodesia, which arose from a fear of being swallowed up by Afrikaner-dominated South Africa. During the Zimbabwean liberation struggle from the early 1960s onward, South Africa gave military support to Rhodesia, at least in the early part of the conflict; it changed its policy in the mid-1970s and began to advocate for negotiations between Rhodesia’s warring parties. Between Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 and the democratic transition in South Africa in 1994, relations between the two countries were fraught with tensions because the Zimbabwean government persistently condemned the apartheid regime and hosted representatives of South African anti-apartheid movements, although Zimbabwe was careful not to allow these movements to launch military attacks on South Africa from its soil, for fear of reprisals. On its part, the South African government conducted a sabotage campaign against its northern neighbor and exerted economic pressure on it. Despite all these tensions, however, South Africa remained Zimbabwe’s major trading partner throughout this period. The tension between the countries lessened when Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, but new tensions arose because of Mandela and Robert Mugabe’s rivalry over the leadership of Southern Africa. On coming to power in 1999, Thabo Mbeki tried to diffuse tensions by adopting a different style of foreign policy that, in Zimbabwe’s case, was known as “quiet diplomacy”—a policy that came under much criticism from Western countries and some sectors in Southern Africa. Mbeki’s successors continued this diplomatic policy toward Zimbabwe, even following a militarily assisted political transition in November 2017, which saw the overthrow of Mugabe and his replacement by Emerson Munangangwa.