Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army

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Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) was the military wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) which fought against Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front during the Second Chimurenga. This military organ was formed in 1965 after the formation of the ZANU party in 1963. ZANLA had its first military encounter in 1965 in the famous Chinhoyi battle.

Political Ideology

ZANLA drew its influence from the Maoist 'fish and water doctrine'. The military organ believed that in order to achieve military support, there was need to create a cordial alliance between the peasants and the military. During the liberation struggle, ZANLA was responsible for the night orientation sessions (Pungwes), where the masses were introduced to the nationalist ideologies. The populace was agitated to support the revolutionary force through song, dance and speech.[1]

The ZANLA forces in colonial Rhodesia also worked under the cover of the rural populace. Bases and camps were established in close proximity to the villages for easy supply of food, clothing and water. ZANLA also heavily relied on the loyalty of the young men and women who were popularly referred to as the Mujibas and Chimbwidos and they acted as aides, informants and spies.[2]

Warfare and Strategy

As a military organ, ZANLA deployed guerrilla warfare as a strategy. Guerrilla warfare was whereby the militants would attack their victims when they were least expecting. This involved surprise attacks, sieges and ambushes.[2] The ZANLA forces avoided direct military confrontation against the Rhodesian Forces due to the latter's sophisticated artillery and numerical superiority. The ZANLA wing had most of its leaders such as Josiah Tongogara and Solomon Mujuru trained in China. Thus it adopted most of its military strategies from the Chinese.

Training and Recruitment

ZANLA was strategically organised with various outposts and spies operating in most provinces of the country. These outposts were led by detachment commanders who facilitated the recruitment of guerrillas to fight in the Second Chimurenga. The recruits were first given orientation before being conscripted. Both men and women were recruited.[3]

Training camps were in the neighbouring countries of Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. In Mozambique, the recruits were trained at the major bases such as Chimoio, Nyadzonya and Tembwe. The recruits were introduced to intensive training for a period between three and eighteen months.[4] After completing military training, the guerrillas were deployed to various provinces of the country where they fought against the Rhodesian Forces of Ian Smith. Nationalist leaders such as Robert Mugabe, Edgar Tekere, Ndabaningi Sithole, Solomon Mujuru, Edgar Tekere, Simon Muzenda and Rugare Gumbo were very influential in mobilisation guerrilla training and deployment.[4]

ZANLA forces under the leadership of Josiah Tongogara took part in the Lancaster House Agreement which subsequently brought the independence of Zimbabwe on 18 April 1980. After the elections of 1980, ZANLA was one of the nationalist armies which were incorporated to form the Zimbabwe National army together with the Rhodesian army and Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA).[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 F. Chung, Re-living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe, "Stylus Publishing", published:2006,retrieved:4 Jul 2014"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Lance Guma, Wilfred Mhanda on Question Time: Part 1, "Nehand a Radio", published:1 Sep 20011,retrieved:"
  3. ,Tongogara, Gen. Josiah Magama, "Zanu PF", retrieved:4 Jul 2014"
  4. 4.0 4.1 J. Nhongo- Simbanegavi,Re-living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from the Liberation Struggle in Zimbabwe, "Weaver Press", published:2000,retrieved:4 Jul 2014"