The long-awaited biography of Eddison Zvobgo, one of Zimbabwe’s most colourful politicians, is out and the 104-page book is bound to fill in a lot of gaps in the history of the war against colonialists.
Titled The Struggle for Zimbabwe 1935 – 2004 Eddison JM Zvobgo, the book, which was authored by the late politician’s younger brother, Chengetai, covers Zvobgo’s political life from around 1957 to his death on August 22, 2004.
Unlike earlier biographies on liberation struggle luminaries, the book focuses entirely on Zvobgo and the role he played, with little of his contemporaries.
The book makes very little reference to other politicians and is devoid of the usual emotion and controversy found in earlier biographies.
Chengetai said the book has a detailed look into Zanu’s split from Zapu in 1963, as Zvobgo is the one who brought letters from Tanzania, which angered Joshua Nkomo, who then called a Press conference in Harare, where he dismissed Zapu national executives Leopold Takawira, Robert Mugabe, Zvobgo and Ndabaningi Sithole.
Zvobgo, the book says, played a critical role in pushing the newly-formed Zanu to take up arms and abandon peaceful means of achieving independence.
His call for war at the Zanu congress in Gwelo (now Gweru) in 1964 was made at a time when most leaders were undecided on militarily confronting the colonial government led by Ian Smith.
That call brewed trouble for the young politician, who was convicted for violating law and order legislation and he was jailed for 12 months before being rearrested on his release on July 11, 1965 and detained for the next six years without charge.
In calling for an armed struggle at the Gwelo congress; Zvobgo said: “Colonialism is aggression, aggression on a people and that aggression is violence, violence unleashed on a people and Zanu must, therefore, abandon peaceful methods and embark on an open policy of violence.”
That call at the Gwelo congress was received with excitement and jubilation and the magistrate, who tried Zvobgo’s case showed interest in what delegates thought of the message.
The toll that prison life took on Zvobgo’s health and on his political demeanour from 1964 to 1971 is evident to the extent that he was left literally begging the colonialists to release him so he could join his wife and children and also go out of the country to further his studies.
He was one of the six political prisoners placed in solitary confinement because of fear of the influence he had on other prisoners.
A veteran colleague, Takawira died in a cell next to Zvobgo’s and this further tormented him, the book says.
Zvobgo suffered ill health and developed body tremors and had two surgical operations between 1965 and 1970.
He was caged in a cell, where there was no toilet and he would relieve himself on a piece of paper and throw it out at intervals determined by the prison guards.
The book is divided into five chapters based on distinct periods of the liberation struggle; the first chapter is from 1960 to 1965, a period in which Zvobgo played roles in the formation of National Democratic Party (NDP), Zapu and Zanu.
Zvobgo, who had already attained a bachelor of arts degree from the University of South Africa, was central in the formation of the parties and was responsible for drafting the founding documents.
The book says he was also part of the process that led to the formation of UANC led by Abel Muzorewa.
Zvobgo, together with Michael Mawema, Morton Malianga, Ariston Chambati, Willie Musarurwa, Mark Nziramasanga, Nazario Marondera, Esau Nyandoro, George Silundika, Sketchley Samkange, Christopher Mushonga and Zebedia Gamanya held secret meetings that led to the formation of Zapu after the banning of NDP in 1959.
He escaped from Rhodesia, without travel documents, through Botswana in 1972 when he was released from Salisbury Remand Prison and placed under house arrest in Highfield.
From there it is said he went to the United Kingdom, where he sued the British queen for £2 million for wrongful, illegal and unlawful detention for seven years.
Between 1972 and 1977, Zvobgo went to America, Europe and Australia campaigning for support for the independence of Rhodesia.
In 1977 he graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Law and Diplomacy from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts.
He resigned his teaching job in 1977 to join Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle in Mozambique.
Zvobgo died on August 22, 2004 after a lengthy battle with cancer. — Mirror