Contesting ‘Patriotic History’: Zimbabwe’s liberation war history and the democratization agenda

  • Itai Muwati
  • Gift Mheta
  • Zifikile Gambahaya


The article is an exegesis of the interface of liberation war history and democracy in the Zimbabwean polity. It draws corroborative evidence from an exclusively women authored historical narrative, Women of resilience: The voices of women ex-combatants (2000) published by Zimbabwe Women Writers (henceforth ZWW). Remarkably, the article observes that the exclusively women authored anthology on liberation war history offers an inventory of a gender based trajectory of memory, thus making gender one of the vital political resources in the nation’s democratization agenda as well as in contesting historical authoritarianism and reconfiguring historical and political discourse. The women’s voices use the gender card to discursively destabilize and delegitimate official memory reconstructions, particularly at a time when liberation war history in Zimbabwe is being brazenly and aggressively deployed as a political resource. Seen in this light, the article further lays it down that renditions of Zimbabwe’s liberation war history and the meanings/interpretations of and contestations for democracy in Zimbabwe’s violent politics of contested hegemony are inalienable, inextricable and even fungible. The various contesting categories in the nation use and interpret history for different purposes. The state, represented by the nationalist party (ZANU [PF]) largely operationalizes history as legitimating discourse. On the other hand, the sidelined demographic categories contest narrow ‘patriotic history’ by engineering counter discursive historical accounts.

S.Afr.J.Afr.Lang., 30(2) 2010

Author Biographies

Itai Muwati
Department of African Languages and Literature, University of Zimbabwe P.O. Box MP 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe
Gift Mheta
Department of Linguistics, Language and Communication, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7530, South Africa
Zifikile Gambahaya
Department of African Languages and Literature, University of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box MP 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117