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  • Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle
  • Teresa Barnes
Chung, Fay . 2006. Re-Living the Second Chimurenga: Memories from Zimbabwe's Liberation Struggle. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute Press; and Harare: Weaver Press. 358 pp. $35.00 (paper).

Fay Chung is a Zimbabwean, born of immigrant Chinese parents. Because of her participation in the Zimbabwean liberation struggle and the postindependence governmental milieu, her name is familiar to anyone who has [End Page 113] lived, worked in, or studied Zimbabwe over the past three decades. Her detailed and thoughtful memoirs should be required reading for all these people and many more, as a unique view of the trajectory of the liberation experience in Zimbabwe.

There have not been enough memoirs from the Zimbabwean struggle. Those of Joshua Nkomo, Nathan Shamuyarira, and Maurice Nyagumbo recounted the nationalist, rather than the revolutionary days. Certainly there have been none from women activists.

Chung's is a complex story. She writes as a social outsider about taking considerable personal risks at the heart of political and military struggle; as a practicing educationist and theorist, rather than a party or political leader; as a woman who came to motherhood in a time when personal commitments could have only political overtones; as a person who chose to spend her adult life devising workable solutions in the eye of huge political storms.

There are small glimpses of Chung's personal life: her upbringing, her family as she was growing up in colonial Rhodesia; how her decisions to pursue higher education and teaching as a career led her to political involvement; the birth of a daughter. But the heart of the book is reserved for her mature political voice, witnessing the course of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle. Chung was a student at the University of Rhodesia and taught in Harare township in the early 1960s. She was in exile with ZANU in Zambia and Tanzania in the 1970s. She crafted an ambitious educational program for thousands of refugees and combatants in the camps in Mozambique. She tried to translate progressive educational policies into action by an intransigent and untransformed bureaucracy after independence.

Zimbabwe's post-2000 descent into violence, authoritarianism, hyperinflation, and economic collapse have rendered the production of triumphant reminiscences on the liberation struggle impossible. Rather, the conundrum of Zimbabwean historiography is not to pave over the admitted bumpiness of real, considerable postcolonial social advances with the asphalt of current disgust and disappointment. Under these pressures, drawing a coherent narrative from the dedication of the 1970s through the optimism of the 1980s, the increasing jadedness of the 1990s, and the despair, cynicism and collapse of the twenty-first century is an exquisitely difficult task. Some authors have recently sidestepped this problem by reciting and analyzing the multiplicities of historical narratives. Chung, in contrast, navigates one path through these tricky currents using a barometer of political skillfulness: some protagonists were astute enough to read national and international winds, and others were not. There is no gold standard of achievement or behavior that she can measure their political decisions against. In the end, as the pieces that were to make up Zimbabwe were put together and then fell apart, perhaps the only cohering force in the story is that Chung herself lived through all of it.

Chung maintains a diplomatic silence on many issues. Why did she finally leave ZANU? What does she think now of Robert Mugabe? Who, for heaven's sake, killed Herbert Chitepo in 1975? She provides no direct answers, but between the lines, she provides detail on the multiple divisions [End Page 114] within the liberation movement from practically its first days of life, escalating in the difficult 1970s. By proposing that what were seen externally as the successes and failures of the liberation armies were all in fact the results of intricate personal, ideological and political power struggles, she achieves narrative coherence while maintaining a cohering thread of an abiding rejection of colonial racism.

Chung's feminism is constantly mediated through her position as a participant in a revolutionary movement. As she is no stranger to the idea of the political use of violence, she maintains that the liberation armies...


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