Lingering legacy: the experiences of black Rhodesian veterans in the Zimbabwe National Army

The unique colonial experience of Zimbabwe continues to have a profound discursive impact upon questions of citizenship, nationhood and belonging: the residual impact of the Rhodesian settler state will remain significant for generations. Zimbabwe inherited institutions, particularly in the security sphere, wherein reform was very likely inevitable. How the reform occurred, though, was not. Questions abound as to just what constituted belonging, loyalty and service for Zimbabweans, and the specific valence of institutional legacies in determining these virtues. Frederick Cooper summarised this process best, arguing that “…discussion at the general level of the colonial does not tell us enough about the ways in which conflict and interaction have reconfigured imaginative and political possibilities” (2005: 31).

In this light, the experiences of black veterans who had fought for the Rhodesian forces are unique and provide an important addition to scholarship on Zimbabwean development. The veterans were formerly feal to the extinguished state, which itself was reliant upon “unpopular sovereignty”; to use White’s titular summation (2015); but were also part of the generation who formed the new nation, unlike many whites who swiftly departed at independence. Thus how their fortunes fared, and how they contributed to the development of Zimbabwe, is an important and unheralded narrative.

Marc Howard
Research Student (PRS)