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    Monday, 4 September 2017

    Long-awaited Zvobgo biography out

    By Matthew Takaona

    MASVINGO – The long awaited biography on Eddison Jonas Mudadirwa Zvobgo, one of Zimbabwe's most colourful liberation war heroes 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 young brother Professor Chengetai Zvobgo covers the period of Zvobgo's political life from around 1957 to the time he died on August 22, 2004.
    Unlike earlier biographies on liberation struggle luminaries, the latest book entirely focuses on Zvobgo and the role he played and it covers 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.
    This book is a record of history depicting a picture of a fearless fighter who did not relent despite many life-threatening situations. The crucial roles he played to take the liberation struggle from one level to another cannot be missed.
    According to the book, Zvobgo gave critical leverage to the historic split of Zanu from Zapu in 1963 as he is the one who brought letters from Tanzania which angered Joshua Nkomo to the point of calling a Press conference in Harare where he dismissed Zapu national executives including Leopold Takawira, Robert Mugabe, Zvobgo and Ndabaningi Sithole.
    Zvobgo also 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 in 1964 was made at a time when most leaders were undecided if not afraid to militarily confront the colonial government of Douglas Ian Smith.
    That call brewed trouble for the young politician who was convicted of violating laws to do with order in the country and was jailed for 12 months before being rearrested on his release on 11 July 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 PF 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 particular intrest on how Congress delegates received 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 on solitary confinement because of the fear of the influence he had on other prisoners.
    At one time a prison warden identified as Williams spat into Zvobgo's face in front of the politician's father who had come to visit him.
    A veteran colleague, Leopold Takawira died in a cell next to Zvobgo and this further tormented him.
    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 on a piece of paper and throw it away at intervals determined by the prison guards.
    The book is divided into five different 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 subsequent political parties; from Zapu, NDP to Zanu. Zvobgo who was already armed with a BA from the University of South Africa was central in their formation and was responsible for drafting the founding documents. Zvobgo was also part of the process that resulted in the formation of UANC led by Bishop 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 Rhodhesia through Botswana in 1972 when he was released from Salisbury Remand Prison and placed under house arrest in Highfield. He escaped without travel documents together with Michael Mawema and they were driven to Plumtree by Mawema's younger brother Nelson.
    He went to the UK where he wasted no time in suing the Queen for 2 million pounds for wrongful, illegal and unlawful detention for seven years.
    Between 1972 and 1977, Zvobgo was on a crusade in America, Europe and Australia campaigning for support for the independence of Rhodhesia. He at the same time completed a number of degrees and became an Associate Professor of Law at Lewis University College of Law in Glen Ellyn.
    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.
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