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The trauma of post-revolutionary displacement.

I define post-revolutionary displacement as the “enforced or voluntary movement from home, land or country as a direct result of a successful revolution for reasons that include ethnicity, opposition to the revolution and changed political, economic and employment circumstances directly related to the revolution. Grief embodies the pilgrimage. The effects are generational”. (p. 457)

“When people can no longer call a land their own, when they are displaced from the place of their ancestors, and when they lose control of their destiny, they lose a part of their soul. Once the fragile link between people, their land and their ancestry is broken, they become a shadow roaming a land they no longer understand, beset by cultural conflicts and torn between material wealth and loyalty to tradition.” (Beverley Abrahams: Staunton, I.:The Experience of Zimbabwe (1): postcolonial This is a description of the trauma experienced by some 57,000 Tonga tribesmen displaced from the Zambezi valley in order to facilitate the development of the Kariba hydro-electric power scheme in the late 1950s. The Tonga’s experience is familiar to many “Rhodesians”, Zimbabweans and peoples across the world displaced as a consequence of revolution and war. (p. 458)

Concerned about the escalating war, particularly after two civilian aircraft were shot down over the Hurungwe TTL, black and white Rhodesians exited the country with a meagre emigration allowance of R$1000. This exodus continued after ZANU PF won the elections in terms of the Lancaster Agreement (21 December 1979), and gained independence on 18 April 1980. These devastated refugees resettled in countries around the world and began to rebuild their lives.

I was anxious about ZANLA and ZIPRA reprisals and left the country in 1979. For me, this was a traumatic decision. Change is always difficult. Having been obsessed with the war, it was extremely difficult to leave the operational arena, as my involvement with it had become my life. The abrupt end to the war was devastating. I was not alone. In my opinion, a majority of the Security Forces faced the same dilemma. The transition from a position of authority, purpose, challenge and the ultimate adrenalin rush to that of civilian life was a harrowing experience. I was out of my comfort zone and my life had been turned upside down!

Leaving Rhodesia, my home, was heartbreaking as it seemed to me that I had lost everything. Families, relatives and friends were separated and scattered throughout the world. We had stood together, guided by a strong nationalistic ethos expressed in our flags, slogans, patriotic songs and symbols. This all ended, abruptly. We had lost the place we called home. Subsequently, black and white Zimbabweans chose or were forced to leave the country after independence.

Ex-combatants reminisce about the battles fought and won, discuss successful or failed strategies and remember their fallen. Fading memories merge battles and incidents recalling the victories and leaving behind the fears overcome by obedience to “the call of duty” which bonded men and women.

In Battle For Hurungwe, I address the issue of “why?”, “was it worth it?” and “was there another way?” I also discuss the tragic consequences of post-revolutionary displacement.

My book, Battle For Hurungwe, is dedicated “To those who lost their lives, or limbs, or minds, or dreams, and those who wonder why”.

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Photos: Bush roads (Andy Field); Erythrina caffra trees (Andy Field); Fish Eagle (Andy Field)

Scotch cart ( George Fleet ); Jacaranda tree in residential garden; traditional kraal (George Fleet).

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Book Review Neil Petrie

Battle for Hurungwe, by John Padbury is essential reading for those interested in the Rhodesian conflict, irregular warfare and national strategy. It is a personal but professionally produced work cov

1 Comment

Feb 01, 2023

The book seems comprehensive and I'd like to take part in discussions arising from it. I was in SB Matabeleland in the early days of the war 64-71 and in PATU reserve to 77 when I left the country. My wife and I returned to Zimbabwe in 95 and built a house on virgin land near Bonda Mission, Juliasdale, until chased away again in 2002 - but during this time built a rapport with ZRP and local war vets. Unfortunately my eyesight is failing and I have to use a magnifying glass to read the book - so it's taking time! John Andrews

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