The Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) was the military wing of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) during the Second Chimurenga. It had a formal alliance with Umkhonto weSizwe (The Spear of the Nation) which was the military wing of the African National Congress of South Africa. It differed in orientation as contrasted with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) which was the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) military wing. After the liberation struggle, many ZIPRA cadres were arrested as they were accused of plotting a coup d’état to overthrow Robert Mugabe who had won the 1980 elections defeating Joshua Nkomo who was the leader of ZAPU, and subsequently ZIPRA. This, in turn, sparked the Gukurahundi struggle and massacres brought to an end by the 1987 Unity Accord which literally swallowed ZAPU and ZIPRA.
Recruitment and Training
ZIPRA was non-tribalist so included both the Shona and the Ndebele. Nevertheless, most of its cadres hailed from the western parts of the country. Unlike ZANLA, ZIPRA was also composed of Africans who were working and residing in South Africa during the time of the [liberation struggle]. This may have been due to the alliance that existed between ZIPRA and Umkhonto weSizwe.
ZIPRA cadres were trained in Russia, so were guided by the Marxist-Leninist ideology, which included the necessity to transfer to a formal conventional military battle, unlike ZANLA which followed the Maoist doctrine, which believed a guerrilla force alone could bring about a change from an existing regime, and the "like a fish in water" relationship with the local population. In light of this, ZIPRA cadres boasted of having acquired superior military training. ZIPRA began with bases in Zambia, and never moved away. It is said Kenneth Kaunda had an affinity for Joshua Nkomo and ZAPU.
ZIPRA, like ZANLA, did not solely rely on infantry, but ZIPRA had superior heavy weapons to ZANLA. Its operational zones stretched from Sipololo to Plumtree. It has been credited for executing the war successfully in Mashonaland West.
The 1967 Split
In 1967, a crisis within ZAPU led to many ZIPRA cadres defected to ZANLA. The most notable individuals were Solomon Mujuru, Joseph Chimurenga, Vitalis Zvinavashe, Robson Manyika, Cletus Chigove and Justin Chauke. They were incorporated into the ZANLA's High Command and some were appointed as commanders of specific operational zones. This split almost paralysed ZIPRA.
In 1967-1968, ZIPRA conducted the unsuccessful Wankie-Sipolilo Campaign, which led many to believe and shift from the Leninist / Cuban 'foco', to a Maoist 'fish in water' theory.
Between 1978 and 1979, two Air Rhodesia civilian planes were shot down by ZIPRA cadres. This is said to have acted as a catalyst to the end of the liberation struggle. In September 1978, Air Rhodesia RH 825 was shot down, and in 1979, Air Rhodesia 827 was shot down.
Operation Zero Hour
Operation Zero Hour, which was aborted as a result of the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979, was this move to formal, conventional military action. Five battalions were supposed to seize bridges in the northern parts of the country, and this was well executed. This allowed ZIPRA cadres based in Zambia to infiltrate the country without difficulties.
Demobilisation and Integration after 1980
After the Lancaster House Agreement, former guerrillas moved to what were referred to as Assembly Points. Whilst in there, some of the ZIPRA guerrillas decided to defect from these points, arguing that they were being ill-treated and most of them were being demoted, to pave the way for ZANLA guerrillas. Some were even disappearing. It was stated that those who left the assembly points were in possession of weapons and it was this belief that led to the argument that they were planning to overthrow Mugabe.
In 1982, Lookout Masuku and Dumiso Dabengwa, both senior members of ZIPRA, and other ZIPRA members were arrested. This is said to have sparked the idea to weed out the dissidents (under Gukurahundi) who were alleged to be ex-ZIPRA cadres who were not contented with Mugabe.
Prominent ZIPRA Leaders
- , 2 / Gukurahundi Massacres: Zanla-Zipra antagonism (Part 2), "Nehanda Radio", published:20 Nov 2012,retrieved:8 July 2014"
- , ZIPRA, "Miffs Org", published:24 Apr 2012,retrieved:8 July 2014"
- Fay Chung, Re-living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe, "Weaver Press", published:2007,retrieved:8 July 2014"
- , ZIPRA supremo responds to downing of civilian jet, "The Zim Diaspora", published:11 Feb 2013,retrieved:8 July 2014"
- Paul L. Moorcraft and Peter McLaughlin, The ZIPRA Invasion of Rhodesia, 1979..., "Alternate History Discussion":, retrieved:8 July 2014"
- , Gukurahundi Massacres: Why Zipra soldiers deserted ZNA (Part 5), "Nehanda Radio", published:26 Nov 2012, retrieved:8 July 2014"
- , Lookout Masuku Dies at 46; Commanded Nkomo Forces, "New York Times", published:7 Apr 1986, retrieved:8 July 2014"