Review: Battle for Hurungwe – John Padbury

Battle for Hurungwe by John Padbury is not about WW1, but rather an account of John’s involvement in the Zimbabwean civil war of 1965-1979 as part of Special Branch. 

It’s not the typical ‘bush war’ type book detailing battles and engagements. Instead it traces the evolution of a group of white men who saw the cause they were employed to protect being one of ultimate destruction and that the way forward to a better future for all was to work and live together. 

Using Mao’s Little Red Book, John discerned the thinking behind communism and used the same methods against the ‘terrorists’. A policy which bore positive results in the area of Hurungwe until politics denied Bishop Muzorewa an African solution to the struggle and the situation dissolved into a different violence.

This is a detailed, meticulously referenced book, verified by independent research conducted by Joshua Chakawa. In a few places, clearly annotated, the names and identities of individuals have been changed to ensure their and their families’ safety. Numerous maps, reports, air logs and photos are included. Apart from the strategies and tactics employed, John also covers the role of the Viscount plane shot down. 

What appeals with this account is the striving for peace within the armed struggle – changing minds and building trust in the face of counter-propaganda is no easy task. The book contains a blue-print to help bring other conflicts to a win-win conclusion. A point summed up in ‘politics is war without bloodshed; war is politics with bloodshed’ – and as Kitchener discovered, all the progress that soldiers make towards peace is so often undone by politicians. And for politicians wanting an insight to what they have to overcome, perhaps a reading (and intellectual digestion) of The Challenge for Africa by Wangari Maathai might help.

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