Why ZAPU entered into the Unity accord of December 1987

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Zimbabweans seem to have developed amnesia over the real reasons why ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union) entered into the unity accord of 22nd December 1987. ZAPU was the main nationalistic party that waged the war of liberation against the Rhodesian racist colonial regime. It was formed in 1961 with Joshua Nkomo as its founding president. Its armed wing was called Zipra (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army). In 1963 a splinter group comprising of Robert Mugabe and others broke away and formed ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union). Its armed wing was ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army). Since the split of 1963, the two parties did not trust each. They however remained committed to the armed struggle as they were fighting a common enemy, Ian Smith and his Rhodesia front.

Following the Lancaster negotiations of 1979 and the subsequent independence that was ushered by these negotiations the two parties agreed to merge the two armed wings, ZIPRA and ZANLA. The 1980 elections gave ZANU the majority of seats in Parliament and Robert Mugabe became Prime minister. However the distrust between the two parties remained with Robert Mugabe accusing Joshua Nkomo and his party of having hidden agendas and hiding weapons in order to overthrow Mugabe’s government. The distrust amongst the two parties was worse between the armed wings, ZIPRA and ZANLA. This made integration of the two armed wings a monumental task.

The cold war that existed between the two parties ignited into conflict in 1980 following an utterance by Enos Nkala, who was now the Minister of Finance under ZANU. At a rally in Bulawayo Enos Nkala said something to the effect that ZANU will deliver a few blows to ZAPU if they did not behave themselves. This triggered fighting between ZIPRA and ZANLA forces. The fighting lasted for several days. It has come to be known in the history books as “The Entumbane uprising”. A year later another fight broke out in the Midlands near Connemara prison. This was thwarted with the help of the Rhodesian forces. The Government asked the former Chief Justice of Zimbabwe, Enoch Dumbutshena to hold an inquiry as to the source of the fighting. To date that report has never been made public.

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