Zimbabwean liberation struggle mythology and romanticism, Zimbabwe was born in 1980 out of a strategic stalemate in a protracted war and a negotiated compromise which reflected the balance of forces, not the myth of outright military victory often peddled by Zanu PF and its leaders.
Zanu PF historiography is replete with truths, half-truths and lies, not just dating back to the liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, but also all the way to the 1890s.
Sometimes its historical tropes or narratives are just outright lies, but are swallowed hook, line and sinker by the gullible populace.
For instance, the claim that former Vice-President Joice Mujuru downed a Rhodesian helicopter in Mozambique or that Zanla bombed Salisbury fuel tanks, which are urban legends.
Zipra also had its own myths which formed the basis of its unrealistic Operation Zero Hour.
Zipra forces had by 1979 planned a co-ordinated and sustained offensive against Rhodesian forces under an operation code-named Zero Hour; basically a conventional battle plan to swifly invade Rhodesia through a shock and awe sort of campaign, and take over.
But the reality on the ground wouldn’t have allowed that.
While the guerrillas had by 1979 made big in-roads and were fast gaining the upper hand in the war in which the game of numbers and concomitant critical mass assumed greater significance in the asymmetric warfare, they were nowhere nearer capturing Salisbury.
Asymmetrical warfare, or simply unconventional strategies and tactics, is usually adopted by a military force when capabilities of warring parties are not simply unequal, but are so significantly different that they cannot use the same strategy and tactics against each other.
As ex-South African president Jacob Zuma says in this video, the reality is that no single side had managed to overrun the other and achieved total victory.
There was a strategic shift in the balance of forces in favour of the liberation forces, but Rhodesian forces were not yet defeated; there was no march to Salisbury.
That is important because the negotiated settlement which followed – Lancaster House Talks in 1979 – became a deeply flawed and weak foundation for the new Zimbabwe in 1980.
Some problems Zimbabwe still experiences up to this day have their roots at Lancaster.
In his autobiography, The Great Betrayal, ex-Rhodesian prime minister Smith conceded that “the guerrillas were gaining support among the indigenous population”, although he claimed this was due to a terror campaign by “terrorists”.
Yet it is clear that Smith had badly underestimated the desire by the people to be free to determine their own destiny.
As Professor Ibbo Mandaza wrote in 1986:
“The Lancaster House Conference was called because the guerrilla war had produced a strategic stalemate and shifted the balance of forces against white settlerdom and imperialist interest, in favour of the liberation forces.”
The guerrillas had fought bravely and hard – at a huge cost – to try to defeat the Rhodesians, but they had not broken down their rivals by 1979.
That is why liberation movement leaders Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe had to negotiate and eventually came up with a constitution which put a bar on land – a central grievance of the war, among others – for 10 years.
That compromise couldn’t have been the work of victors, but a stalemate.
It could only be accepted by parties to a war who were realistic enough to understand they had not won it outrightly.
As Zuma says, Frontline States leaders from Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique frog-marched the Zimbabwean liberation forces to negotiate, or else they had to go to fight from within Rhodesia, which they couldn’t do at that point as the balance of forces and related issues did not allow.
While truth is not absolute, but relative, Zanu PF has for a long time thrived on pseudo-history and sometimes fiction to justify its real and imagined heroics and its continued deadman’s grip on power, keeping the nation under a colonial-style siege, while in the process devastatingly ruining and impoverishing it.