Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Conscripts and not Volunteers: Indigenous Peoples, Tradition and The Postcolonial Question of Reconciliation in Zimbabwe

Pascah Mungwini


The social and political landscape in much of postcolonial Africa exhibits multiple and persistent fractures relating to problems of inherited boundaries, ethnicity, poverty and inequality amid living memories of usurpation and subjugation, all of which, not much has been done in terms of redress. This is the legacy of the colonial state. In this work, I focus on the problem of an ill-conceived reconciliation initiative at independence in Zimbabwe. Considering events over the past decade, it seems appropriate to analogize the reconciliation to a building erected without a proper foundation. Apparently, buildings without foundations do not always collapse. In this case, they hang on precariously until they are shaken or exposed to the slightest of forces. This work argues that within the grand scheme of founding a new nation at independence, reconciliation was usurped by the ruling elite with little or no regard for the thoughts and feelings of the majority indigenous peoples. On one side of the colonial chapter is the so-called civilizing mission, which laid the foundation for the historical right of conquest. On the other side is its cognate, reconciliation, which served to rationalize and preserve colonial legacies. Premised on the controversial “principle of shared amnesia,” the program of reconciliation in Zimbabwe was doomed from the onset. I argue that Zimbabwe’s reconciliation narrative was not in any way different in logic to the colonial civilizing mission that preceded it in that once again the ordinary people found themselves as conscripts and not willing participants in the entire process.


reconciliation; conscripts; zimbabwe; postcolonial; tradition; politics

Full Text:


Journal on African Philosophy. ISSN: 1533-1067 (online).
Editor: Olufemi Taiwo.

Published by Africa Resource Center, Inc. All inquiries about rights, permissions, reprints and license should be directed to AfricaResource.

Copyright © Africa Resource Center, Inc., 1999 - .