The Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) was the military wing of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) during the Second Chimurenga. It had a formal alliance with Umkhonto weSizwe (The Spear of the Nation) which was the military wing of the African National Congress of South Africa. It differed in orientation as contrasted with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) which was the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) military wing. After the liberation struggle, many ZIPRA cadres were arrested as they were accused of plotting a coup de tat to overthrow Robert Mugabe who had won the 1980 elections defeating Joshua Nkomo who was the leader of ZAPU and subsequently ZIPRA. This in turn sparked the Gukurahundi massacres brought to an end by the 1987 Unity Accord which literally swallowed ZAPU and ZIPRA.

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Recruitment and Training

ZIPRA was non-tribalist hence it was composed of both the Shona and the Ndebele. Nevertheless, most of its cadres hailed from the western parts of the country.[1] Unlike ZANLA, ZIPRA was also composed of Africans who were working and residing in South Africa during the time of the liberation struggle.[1] This was probably because of the alliance that existed between ZIPRA and Umkhonto weSizwe.

ZIPRA cadres were trained in Russia, henceforth they were guided by the Marxist-Leninist ideology unlike ZANLA which followed the Maoist doctrine. In light of this, ZIPRA cadres boasted of having acquired superior military training.

The 1967 Split

In 1967, there was a crisis within ZAPU and many ZIPRA cadres defected to join ZANLA. The most notable individuals were Solomon Mujuru, Joseph Chimurenga, Vitalis Zvinavashe, Robson Manyika, Cletus Chigove and Justin Chauke. They were incorporated into the ZANLA's High Command and some were appointed as commanders of specific operational zones.[2] This split almost paralysed ZIPRA.

Military Prowess

ZIPRA like ZANLA did not solely rely on infantry though it had superior weapons unlike ZANLA. Its operational zones stretched from Sipololo to Plumtree. It has been credited for executing the war successfully in Mashonaland West.[3]

Between 1978 and 1979, two civilian planes were attacked by ZIPRA cadres. This was reported to have acted as a catalyst which spearheaded the end of the liberation struggle. In September 1978, ZIPRA cadres attacked Air Rhodesia RH 825 and in 1979, they attacked Air Rhodesia 827.[4]

Other than the unsuccessful Wankie-Sipolilo Campaign of 1967-1968, there was Operation Zero Hour which was however aborted as a result of the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979. Five battalions were supposed to seize bridges in the northern parts of the country and this was executed properly.[5] In turn ZIPRA cadres (who had their bases mainly in Zambia because Kenneth Kaunda the then president of Zambia had a soft spot for Nkomo) were able to infiltrate the country without difficulties.[5]

Demobilisation and Integration after 1980

After the Lancaster House Agreement, former guerrillas were assembled in what was referred to Assembly Points. Whilst in these assembly points, some of the ZIPRA guerrillas decided to defect from these points arguing that they were being ill treated and most of them were being demoted, paving way for ZANLA guerrillas.[6] Some were even disappearing. It was stated that those who left the assembly points were in possession of weapons and it was along this view in which it was argued that they were planning to overthrow Mugabe.[6]

In 1982, Lookout Masuku and Dumiso Dabengwa who were both senior members of ZIPRA were arrested with other ZIPRA members.[7] This is said to have sparked the idea to weed out the dissidents (under Gukurahundi) who were alleged to be ex-ZIPRA cadres who were not contended with Mugabe.

Prominent ZIPRA Leaders

Lookout Masuku, Alfred Mangena, Dumiso Dabengwa, Philip Sibanda, Eddie Sigoge, John Dube, Ambrose Mutinhiri, Harold Chirenda, Ackim Ndlovu, Tshinga Dube.


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References

  1. 1.0 1.1 , Gukurahundi Massacres: Zanla-Zipra antagonism (Part 2), "Nehanda Radio", published:20 Nov 2012,retrieved:8 July 2014"
  2. Fay Chung, Re-living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe, "Weaver Press", published:2007,retrieved:8 July 2014"
  3. , ZIPRA, "Miffs Org", published:24 Apr 2012,retrieved:8 July 2014"
  4. , ZIPRA supremo responds to downing of civilian jet, "The Zim Diaspora", published:11 Feb 2013,retrieved:8 July 2014"
  5. 5.0 5.1 Paul L. Moorcraft and Peter McLaughlin, The ZIPRA Invasion of Rhodesia, 1979..., "Alternate History Discussion":,retrieved:8 July 2014"
  6. 6.0 6.1 , Gukurahundi Massacres: Why Zipra soldiers deserted ZNA (Part 5), "Nehanda Radio", published:26 Nov 2012,retrieved:8 July 2014"
  7. , Lookout Masuku Dies at 46; Commanded Nkomo Forces, "New York Times", published:7 Apr 1986,retrieved:8 July 2014"