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11 Chapter 2 Presentism, Contested Narratives and Dissonances in Zimbabwe’s Liberation War Heritage: The Case of Joyce Mujuru Fidelis P. T. Duri Introduction Zimbabwe’s liberation war heritage remains obscure, at times misleading and confusing, and largely unclear as a result of contested narratives, some of which were fabricated to fulfil socioeconomic and political agendas of certain individuals. In Zimbabwe, liberation war narratives, heritage and legacies were often invented and reformulated at strategic political moments. Liberation war narratives, and consequently the heritage, became an integral aspect of Zimbabwe’s political landscape as those who monopolised power often sought to maintain their hegemony by silencing and vilifying dissenting voices. This is evident in discourses of heroism pertaining to Joyce Mujuru, a combatant of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle until independence in 1980. Joyce Mujuru was born Runaida Mugari on 15 April 1955 in the Dotito Rural Area in the Mount Darwin District in north-eastern Zimbabwe. She only did two years of secondary education and left for Zambia in 1973 at the age of 18 to join the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), the military wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), which was fighting for the independence of Zimbabwe from the Rhodesian colonial regime (Afro-American Network 2004; Pindula 2014-2015). During the liberation struggle, she took up the war name Joyce Teurai-ropa (spill blood) (Baffour 2005; Wolff 2004). In 1977 while in Mozambique, where ZANU had relocated to from Zambia, she married Solomon Mujuru, a senior ZANLA Commander, whose war name was Rex Nhongo (Pindula 2014-2015). She is believed to have undergone military training and went on to occupy various 12 positions of responsibility in the structures of the liberation movement. After independence in 1980, she occupied several senior positions in government and later rose to become the VicePresident of Zimbabwe and the ruling ZANU-PF party, formerly ZANU, between 2004 and 2014 (Baffour 2005; Pindula 2014-2015). During the ruling party’s annual congress of December 2014, she was deposed on allegations that included the plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe (Pindula 2014-2015; Thornycroft 2014). Before her ouster, ZANU-PF regarded Mujuru as a heroine of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence, an image that some senior officials in the very ruling party itself dramatically reversed and obliterated after she was fired by President Mugabe and his Politburo. Joyce Mujuru’s liberation war credentials can therefore be classified into pre-2014 and post-2014 ZANU-PF congress versions which are fascinatingly at odds and largely shaped by prevailing political dispensations and struggles for power. This chapter articulates the dramatic shift in the liberation war narratives of Joyce Mujuru and argues that history and heritage can be manipulated according to political dictates and power dynamics of the moment. It further argues that the possible manipulation of history and heritage sometimes makes it difficult to judge who is genuinely a hero or heroine among those that are proclaimed or exalted by the dynamics of power of the moment. This illuminates some of the critical challenges associated with heritage management in the contemporary world in general and Zimbabwe in particular. Narratives of Joyce Mujuru as a heroine up to 2014 The image of Joyce Mujuru as a heroine of the liberation struggle from 1973 to 1980 and the post-independence era up to 2014 is derived from her own testimonies, the narratives of ZANLA and ZANU-PF officials and media reports which largely informed scholarly works. At the age of 18 in 1973, and having done only two years of secondary education, she left her home village in north-eastern Zimbabwe and crossed the border to join ZANLA in Zambia where she took up the war name Joyce Teurairopa (Afro-American Network 2004; Wolff 2004). 13 She underwent military training in Zambia for a few months before being deployed to the war front in the Murewa District in north-eastern Zimbabwe. At the age of 19 on 7 February 1974, after only 12 months of military training, she shot down a Rhodesian army helicopter using an AK47 rifle (Baffour 2005; Wolff 2004). “A helicopter saw me”, recalled Joyce Mujuru during an interview, “I lay on my back, aimed and fired. Bullets hit the machine and it fell out of the sky. There was black smoke everywhere as it hit the ground. A big bang followed…” (Wolff 2004: 1). She stated that five out of the 12 ZANLA combatants who engaged in this encounter with Rhodesian forces died...


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