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"We wanted freedom, democracy, respect for human dignity, social justice and peace" - Interview with war veteran Wilfred Mhanda
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
July 18, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Wilfred Mhanda

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Wilfred MhandaWilfred Mhanda (aka Dzinashe Machingura) is a veteran of Zimbabwe-s 1970s liberation war. He is a founder member of the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP), an association of war veterans. He has recently published his autobiography titled Dzino, detailing his experiences before, during and after the war. Mhanda is a steadfast advocate for the realisation of the objectives of the liberation struggle, that is, social justice and the preservation of human dignity.

What prompted you to write your autobiography?
Three things. Firstly there is a need for us to give an account of what happened during the struggle, to share our experiences with the rest of the country. Secondly, a number of people kept prodding and encouraging me to write my experiences so I could share it with the people. Lastly, there was a need to correct a number of factual distortions and misrepresentations. Listen

What were these distortions or misrepresentations?
There were three; like the Mgagao declaration, which was instrumental to the resumption of the war in 1976, after it had stalled in 1975. A lot of politicians, writers and historians have claimed that that document was written by some other people, not by ourselves as fighters. Secondly, there was the Zimbabwe People-s Army, which was formed on 25 November 1975, which resumed the war in 1976. This is the war that is responsible for independence. Some people claim responsibility for having done that. That is incorrect. The other one is we had problems and differences with Mugabe and some of the members of the leadership during the struggle. It was said that we had rebelled against them, that we wanted to overthrow Mugabe. Those are pure fabrications. Listen

I was reading a 2001 interview with yourself and R. W Johnson, and Johnson alludes to your suspicions that Mugabe was somehow secretly supported by Ian Smith. Do you believe this?
I have no evidence and it-s a matter of interpretation. But what I write in my book is that the Rhodesian intelligence were aware that Mugabe was about to leave the country and through which area, yet they did nothing. I quote Stannard, who eventually became head of the CIO, and he was at Special Branch in Rusape. I leave people to make their own conclusions.

I also read an address you gave during a SAPES Seminar, where you speak about war veterans being a political force. Do you think war veterans have the ability to effect political change?
They have the potential to play both positive and negative roles, but largely they have played a destructive role by serving partisan interests. But there is still scope and potential for them to make a positive contribution to the development of this country. One problem is that what we call war vets . . . and who they actually are totally different.

What is the difference?
There are some people whose war record we are not aware of like Jabulani Sibanda or Chinotimba and you call them war vets. I can-t call them war vets! Where did they fight? Were they actively involved? That is the problem, the obfuscation of this concept of a war vet and then you get third Chimurenga, and people are saying veterans of the third Chimurenga. Which war vets are those? Listen

Do you feel that your objectives during the war were met through Independence?
I think the only objective that I-m satisfied with is that the war we started eventually led to the negotiations that led to independence. We started the war, not Mugabe. But in terms of the objectives, because the war was just a means to an end, the end has not been achieved. We wanted total liberation, by that I mean freedom, democracy, respect for human dignity, social justice and peace. Those have not been met at all. If anything we are in a worse situation than before.

Do you feel that Mugabe betrayed the revolution?

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