Ndabaningi Sithole. He was deposed by the Mgagao Declaration

The Mgagao Declaration was a communique written by young military officers at the main ZANLA training camp in Tanzania at the height of the liberation struggle in November 1975. It laid the foundation of two important historical events; the removal of Rev Ndabaningi Sithole as leader of ZANU and the elevation of Robert Mugabe as the leader of ZANU at a special congress at Chimoio two years later in 1977. The declaration also reaffirmed that the fighters believed armed struggle to be the only way to take power from the Rhodesian government, as opposed to the detente negotiations that Sithole, Abel Muzorewa and Joshua Nkomo had been part of. The declaration also appealed to the OAU and the Tanzanian and Mozambican governments to allow them to return to their own country to fight.

Reasons for the rejection of Sithole

The declaration stated that Sithole was being rejected as leader of ZANU because of:

  • his refusal to accept the elected ZANU leadership imprisoned in Zambia;
  • his appropriation for his own use of money contributed for his organisation at a time when his followers were literally starving;
  • his callous behaviour towards his followers killed at Mboroma, since respect for the dead is one of the strongest features of Zimbabwean values
  • his appointment of the ZLC leadership in flagrant defiance of the generally held view within ZANLA that the Nhari rebels had played into the hands of the Smith. The ZLC leadership include Noel Mukono who had supported the Nhari Rebellion.
  • Moderate negotiations with Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organisation.
  • Lenient approach to Ian Smith

Reception of the Mgagao Declaration

The Mgagao Declaration was confirmed by a meeting of the ZANU Central Committee held in Mozambique in 1976, just before the Geneva conference with Robert Mugabe emerging as the new leader of ZANU. The choice of Mugabe was made because of the desire of all to avoid a potentially damaging leadership struggle. As secretary general, Mugabe was the next person in the leadership hierarchy (Leopold Takawira had diabetes and was in prison in Rhodesia), and he was unanimously accepted as the replacement for Sithole.[1]

The Document

WE hereby express our deepest gratitude and appreciation for the efforts made by O.A.U Liberation Committee in the struggle to liberate Zimbabwe from the clutches of imperialism and fascism.

Without the support of the O.A.U Liberation Committee, the Tanzanian government and FRELIMO, the struggle to liberate Zimbabwe would not have developed to its present state. We sincerely hope and are fully determined to reward these noble efforts by securing the liberation of Zimbabwe people so as to make our contribution to the African revolution. In line with our sworn pledge to liberate Zimbabwe we hereby submit the following points for your consideration.

After a careful, deep and analytical study of the current situation in the Zimbabwe Liberation Movement in particular and the Zimbabwe revolution in general, we as the people who have vowed to sacrifice our very lives for the liberation of our fatherland, wish to make our feelings and standpoint unequivocally clear to you in the interest of the liberation of Zimbabwe.


We hereby state our unswerving and unequivocal commitment to the liberation of Zimbabwe through an arduous armed struggle. Events and facts have clearly shown that any other course of action would be tantamount to an open betrayal of the Zimbabwean people. We therefore strongly, unreservedly, categorically, and totally condemn any moves to continue talks with the Smith regime in whatever form. We the freedom fighters will do the fighting and nobody under heaven has the power to deny us the right to die four our country. We vowed to fight for our fatherland and the bloodshed in the struggle to liberate our fatherland is ours and strongly not anybody else’s.


We hereby reaffirm our support for the Unity Accord signed on 7-12-74 by which the four organisations, ZANU, ZAPU, old ANC and FROLIZI were merged under the ANC. We strongly register our support for national unity, but to us unity is not an end in itself, but means to an end.

Unity is not magic formula, but is one of the weapons in the struggle for liberation. For Unity to be meaningful in Zimbabwe revolution; it should be based on an arduous and relentless armed struggle because any other course of action would make this same unit inimical to the Liberation of Zimbabwe.

We know of three forms of unity:

(a) Revolutionary Unity

(b) Counter-Revolutionary Unity

(c) Reactionary Unity

Revolutionary Unity is for the purpose of promoting and accelerating the revolution. In this strength of revolutionaries and we, as revolutionaries, stand for such unity.

Counter-Revolutionary Unity is for the purpose of arresting and setting brakes to the revolution. It is a weapon in the service of reactionaries in their struggle and is aimed at stamping out flames of the people’s struggles. This is the sort of unity advocated by Smith, Vorster and their allies. We strongly condemn and will wage a relentless struggle against a form of unity. Such Counter-Revolutionary Unity can be brought about by puppets and stooges of the reactionaries as a means of containing the revolution.

Reactionary Unity of the reactionaries themselves in the struggle for the perpetuation of their existence, their evil rule and the suppression of the broad masses of the people. We are totally opposed to it because it is a sworn enemy of the people. In your efforts to strengthen the unity of the people of Zimbabwe, we strongly hope that you will take the three forms of unity into consideration and direct your efforts accordingly.


We strongly condemn and completely disassociate ourselves from the Nkomo faction of the ANC. The move taken by Nkomo in holding his congress in Salisbury is clearly reactionary and divisive in the eyes of all revolutionaries and progressives of the world. It is a manifestation of various schemes worked out in the political laboratories of Salisbury and Pretoria aimed at depriving the Zimbabwe people of their right to independence based on majority rule, one man, one vote.


We wish to register our strong criticism over the way the ANC leadership has been exercising leadership over the revolution, these are namely:

(a) Bishop Abel Muzorewa

(b) Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole

(c) James Chikerema

These three have proved to be completely hopeless and ineffective as leaders of the Zimbabwe revolution. Ever since the Unity Accord was signed on 7-12-74 these men have done nothing to promote the struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe, but on the other hand, they have done everything to hamper the struggle through their power struggle. They have no interest of the revolution or the people at heart, but only their personal interests. They cherish an insatiable lust for power.

(a) They have failed to produce a most general line which can form a basis for all theoretical and practical activities of the party.

(b) They have failed to produce machinery capable of processing and effecting the armed struggle.

(c) They have failed to make the necessary arrangements for four trained freedom fighters to and reinforce our fellow freedom fighters at the front during this painful period, so as to lighten their burden.

(d) They have failed to make arrangements for the thousands of recruits in Mozambique to undergo military training.

(e) They have failed to take any practical steps to meet the problems of our comrades in Zambia and Mozambique.

(f) They have jumped from capital to capital raising funds which have never been put to the service of the revolution.

(g) They are fond of shouting slogans about Armed Struggle as a means of gaining popularity and raising funds for their own use, but make no effort whatsoever to take practical steps to prosecute the Armed Struggle. They are good only at fighting through the press and on paper.

(h) The relationship between them is characterized by mutual mistrust and intrigues which divorce them from the realities of the struggle. In our opinion the three leaders are incapable of leading the ANC. An Executive Member who has been outstanding is Robert Mugabe. He has demonstrated this by defying the rigors of guerrilla life in the jungles of Mozambique. Since we respect him most, in all our dealings with the ANC leadership, he is the only person who can act as a middle man. We will not accept any direction discussions with any of he three leading members of the ANC we have described above. We can only talk through Robert Mugabe to them.


We lastly wish to register our strong disapproval of and condemnation of the set-up of the Zimbabwe Liberation Council as it is, for the following reasons:

(a) The Chairman of the ZLC, Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, appointed people who were deeply involved in the internal strife within ZANU before the Commission of Enquiry had complete its task and cleared them. To the best of our knowledge, these people are namely:

(a) Noel Mukono

(b) Simpson Mutambanengwe

(c) Felix Santana

(d) Kenneth Gwindingwi

who occupy high posts with the ZLC were responsible for the death of many people in former ZANU. Another striking feature is that they are all from the home district of Reverend Sithole. This is no time for village politics. All four men have a sectarian record of corruption and subversion in former ZANU and this we can testify. Why Sithole appointed them in spite of their notorious record of which he is fully aware we just do not know. This is no time for surrounding oneself with tribal puppets. We will therefore not be part and parcel of whatsoever is done by the ZLC as currently constituted. We strongly disapprove of whatsoever actions and appointments that may be made by the present ZLC. We do, however, accept the ZLC in principle, provided the necessary rectifications and restructuring are made.

(b) We also level deep criticism against the Chairman of the ZLC, Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole for the following reasons:

(a) In practical terms he has done nothing to promote the Armed Struggle.

(b) He has associated himself with people who caused great loss of lives in ZANU before the Commission of Enquiry probing into the matter has cleared them.

(c) He has referred to the former ZANU leaders now in Zambian prisons as murderers before they have been convicted before a court of law. Is he the judge responsible for trying their case?

(d) He was given funds from America and Britain for the maintenance of the families of ZANU leaders now in Zambian prisons, but not a penny of them has been used for this purpose. He remarked that he would never feed the families of murderers. He was also given funds for the defence of the ZANU leaders but not a penny of them has been used for the purpose.

(e) He failed to challenge the interpretation of the shooting incident at Mboroma in spite of the fact that he had the full knowledge of what happened. Instead of going to see the victims of the shooting incident in the Zambian hospitals, he decided to fly to America to one of his slightly indisposed daughters because he considered her life to be more valuable than those of the freedom fighters shot at Mboroma.

(f) He told our representatives in Zambia that Chairman Chitepo was murdered by ZANU leaders in prison. We wonder where he got this information? Is he also a Commission of Enquiry member looking into the murder of Chairman Chitepo? If so, why did he unofficially and prematurely disclose his findings to us?


We strongly condemn the cold-blooded murder of our fellow freedom fighters at Mboroma and subsequent mendacious interpretation of the cause of the massacre given by the Zambian Government. The explanation given by the Zambian Government is a complete distortion of what actually transpired. There was no justification whatsoever for the cold- blooded massacre of our comrades. The blood of freedom fighters is sacred and precious and is never intended to water the soil of African States, but that of our beloved fatherland in the Zambian Government clamour for a peaceful settlement of the Zimbabwean problem affecting 6 (six) million people when it fails to solve peacefully the problem at Mboroma which concerned only a handful of people.

How does the Zambian Government reconcile the two situations? When Smith shot 13 (thirteen) of our Zimbabwe patriots the Zambian Government condemned the massacre, so, naturally, we expected the Zambian Government to condemn its own actions. Since they agreed that Smith could have found another way of resolving the problem peacefully, they, too, could have found a way of resolving the Mboroma problem peacefully. After all, all the Zimbabwe Freedom Fighters at Mboroma were disarmed by the Zambian Government itself. In our opinion the shootings of our comrades at Mboroma was a carefully calculated move aimed at eliminating the militants within the ANC army. Clearly and beyond any doubt the Zambian action has generated hostilities between itself and the Zimbabwe Freedom Fighters. It is for his reason that we seek for cooperation of the OAU Liberation Committee, the Tanzanian Government, and the Mozambican Government in ensuring the evacuation of our Comrades in Zambia into a safer territory.

After having shot the leading cadres, including girl cadres of our fellow freedom fighters at Mboroma, it will be ridiculous and stupid of anyone to expect cooperation between our fighters and the Zambian Government. The earlier they get out of Zambia the better, it is therefore for this reason that, on humanitarian grounds we sincerely and earnestly implore both the Tanzanian and Mozambique governments to allow entry of our fighters into their territories. If this fails, we shall appeal to the International Red Cross to investigate the conditions of our fighters in Mboroma since they are virtually prisoners of the Zambian Government. In our opinion Freedom Fighters cannot become the private property of an African State. We are not Zambia’s property. We sincerely hope that the OAU Liberation Committee, the Tanzanian Government, and the Mozambique Government will give urgent and serious consideration to the evacuation of our fellow freedom fighters from Zambia.


In view of the great problems affecting the Zimbabwe revolution, we strongly appeal to the OAU Liberation Committee, to the Tanzania Government and the Mozambique Government to make the necessary arrangement for the persecution and intensification of the armed struggle inside Zimbabwe. This can be done by giving passage to our trained fighters to go back home and fight, and giving us our consignment of arms and ammunition that came from China. Another of our present problems is the training of our thousands of recruits currently in Mozambique. We shall be mos grateful if your make the necessary arrangements for the training of our fighters.

We have at present sixty military instructors without any work at all because of the current situation. You can either allow our fighters to undergo military training in Mozambique or hee in Tanzania so long as hey are out of Zambia or not in Zambia. If the OAU, the Tanzania and Mozambique Governments cannot do anything to support the Armed Struggle in Zimbabwe, we shall kindly request to be deported back to Zimbabwe where we shall start from throwing stones. The fighting skill is already here, the weapons we shall get from the enemy, and food we shall get from or masses of the people who always have supported our Armed Struggle. We just cannot afford to stand and stare at the Smith regime and allied forces of reaction whittle away every ounce of the rights of the people of Zimbabwe. If we cannot live as free men, we rather choose to die as FREE MEN.

Signed by ZANLA Officers at Mgagao.

Precedence for November 2017 stand down between the Army and Robert Mugabe

The Zimbabwe defence forces stepped in to stop the purges which were happening in the party and which the ZDF claimed were targeting party members with liberation war credentials.Commander of the ZDF Constantino Chiwenga held a press conference in mid November 2017 and used the platform to warn Robert Mugabe on his purge exercise which the army claimed was causing social ,economic and political arrest.Gen. Chiwenga cited the clauses of the Mgagao declaration as well as the constitution of Zimbabwe to cement the army's action.


  1. Fay Chung, Re-living the Second Chimurenga, Memories from the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe. Page: 115. Weaver Press, 2006. ISBN 91-710655-1-2.