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Josiah Tongogara, Chief of Defence for ZANU, was the head of the High Command

The High Command was the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) military machine during the Second Chimurenga whose mandate was to conduct and to organise the liberation struggle which ended the reign of the minority whites in the country. It was dubbed as an undisciplined unit which was allegedly used as a machine to annihilate all those who where vocal towards its leader Josiah Tongogara from 1973 onwards, committing heinous crimes in the process. From 1973 and onwards the High Command became powerful to such an extent that control of it was synonymous to control of the party. It was also instrumental in meting out punishment and discipline within ZANU PF and its military wing the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA).

Formation and Growth

It emerged in 1966 as the Military Planning Committee led by Noel Mukono who was deputised by Tongogara.[1] This was in compliance to the clarion of war called for by Ndabaningi Sithole in 1964 who was the then president of ZANU PF when the party held its first congress in Gwelo, (present day Gweru).

In 1969, there was the re-organisation of the party and the High Command was boosted up when two more members were incorporated, Mayor Urimbo and Vitalis Zvinavashe, whose nom de guerre was Sheba Gava.[1]

The High Command was represented in the Dare ReChimurenga (War Council) through the office of the secretary of defence and or chief of defence, who was the leader of the High Command. In 1973, a political commissar was introduced into the High Command to increase recruitment within the ZANU PF's military wing, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA).[1] During the same year, elections were held and Tongogara was elected to be the leader of the High Command with William Ndangana second in command.[1]

In 1974, the High Command was composed of eight people, comprising of Tongogara, Ndangana, Robson Manyika, Cletus Chigove, Justin Chauke, Solomon Mujuru, Zvinavashe and Joseph Chimurenga.[2] During this period, the High Command concentrated mainly on sourcing for arms and ammunition outside the country. By 1979, the High Command was reported to have been consisting of twenty-eight members.[3] In 1979, Sheba Tavarwisa was incorporated in the High Command becoming the first woman in this supreme structure of the party.[3]

Gaining Control of the Party

When ZANU PF was formed in 1963, it adopted the principle of democratic centralism which stipulated that, the military wing was to be subordinated to the political goals.[1] This meant that the formed Dare ReChimurenga which was the party's political body had control and influence over the High Command. This never meant that suggestions from the High Command were trivialised. The political goals of the party which were to be forwarded by the military machine, the High Command took precedence.

The party later adopted the Portuguese chef mentality which saw the ascendancy of the military body at the expense of the political body.[1] Military leaders thus began to have unquestionable authority and they were not answerable to anyone. As a result of this, the High Command began to execute what it deemed necessary and this has been linked to the way in which it was allegedly manipulated by Tongogara who is said to have used it to commit heinous crimes. Due to the fact that the political body was absolved by the military organ, the latter revoked the decisions of the former. The demise of the perpetrators of the Nhari Rebellion which broke out in 1974, becoming the first port of call to test the effectiveness of the disciplinary committee of the party has been used as an example to illustrate how the Dare ReChimurenga was now subordinated by the High Command. The Dare ReChimurenga which was chaired by Herbert Chitepo had passed a decision which entailed the demolition of the perpetrators and the meting out of further punishment by the Mozambican forces.[2] In defiance to this verdict which Tongagara perceived to be a lenient one, it was reported that he secretly captured and killed the perpetrators.[2]

The High Command under the leadership of Tongogara was also pin pointed for killing John Mataure and capturing Richard Hove who are said to have not participated in the Nhari Rebellion.[2] These tragic events have been used to substantiate the view that the High Command became a machine which Tongogara used to weed out all his opponents. In spite of this however, the High Command working in cohort with the Dare ReChimurenga managed to dissolve the vashandi movement which was led by Wilfred Mhanda whose chimurenga name was Dzinashe Machingura.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Gerald C. Mazarire, Discipline and Punishment in ZANLA: 1964–1979, "Routledge", published:14 Sep 2011,retrieved:19 June 2014"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Fay Chung, Re-living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe, "Weaver Press", published:2007,retrieved:19 June 2014"
  3. 3.0 3.1 Terence M. Mashingaidze, For Better Or Worse? Women And ZANLA IN Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle, "ACCORD", published:2003,retrieved:1 July 2014"