The 1980 Entumbane Uprising fought between 9 and 10 November 1980 in and around Bulawyo suburb of Entumbane was a battle between the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) guerrillas and groups of Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) guerillas. The uprising was put down by the the largely white-led BSAP Support Unit which numbered over 280 men intervened on behalf of the government.

Build Up

The then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe’s address at the first Heroes’ Day gathering held in then Salisbury on August 11 1980, he spoke of the intention to to deploy former guerrillas into a militia and trained to deal with “malcontents” who were “unleashing a reign of terror”. He later signed an agreement with North Korea’s Kim Il-sung “to train and arm a brigade of the defence forces”. for “internal defence purposes and not for external operations”.[1]

On Saturday 8 November 1980 then firebrand Finance minister, Enos Nkala, addressed a Zanu-PF rally in Bulawayo, in which he insulted and attacked Joshua Nkomo and Zapu. He told the crowd that Zapu and all minority parties would be crushed and that the country needed a one-party State. At another rally at White City Stadium, the next day a full-scale riot between Zapu and Zanu PF supporters had to be quelled by riot police after Nkala continued with with his attacks on Zapu.


Skirmishes occurred in streets outside the stadium after the rally ended and at dusk battle erupted in Entumbane suburb between several thousand Zipra and Zanla guerrillas. The combatants used machine guns, mortars and grenades against each other.

Zipra sent for reinforcements from Gwaai River Mine and a motorised brigade arrived in the early hours of November 10. Heavy fighting broke out again, and was only quelled by the arrival overhead of several Hawker Hunter jets owned by white former Rhodesian Air Force pilots. [1]

Dumiso Dabengwa and Solomon Mujuru visited Entumbane and persuaded both sides to hand over their heavy weapons on the understanding that they could keep their light weapons.

Casualties and losses

The official toll was 58 dead (15 combatants and 43 civilians) and 500 wounded. However, there were reports that mortuaries at the nearby Mpilo hospital were overflowing, suggesting that casualities were much higher. Eyewitnesses suggested that the death toll was in the hundereds. [1]


The battle destroyed whatever little trust had existed between the Zipra and Zanla. There was mass desertion by Zipra guerrillas who had been integrated into the Zimbabwe National Army. Hundreds of guerillas gathered at assembly points melted away, taking their personal weapons with them. Four months later, the larger 1981 Entumbane Uprising, also known as Entumbane II followed, which nearly developed into a new civil war.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Entumbane warfare, meeting Ian Smiths". The Standard. AMH. July10, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2017. Check date values in: |date= (help)