The just war tradition in Zimbabwean historiography: Dis/entangling the Gordian knot between religion and morality of war

Paul Gundani


Three wars stand out In Zimbabwean historiography with regards to the use and application of the just war tradition. The first was occasioned by the murder of Fr Gonzalo Da Silveira, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, in 1560. After seeking the advice of the Ecclesiastical Council, the Portuguese King decided to send an expedition under the leadership of Francisco Barreto to wage war against the Mutapa Empire.  Deliberations by the Council hand concluded that the military expedition would constitute a ‘just war’.  The second war broke out in 1893, at the instigation of the British South Africa Company (BSAC). This war often referred to as the ‘Matabele war’ was a war of conquest against the Ndebele kingdom. Again, the ‘just war’ theory was applied. Thirdly, the concept was also utilised in writings by political and Church leaders in support of the Chimurenga/ Umfazo II (1966-1979).  In this article, we argue that the three wars fell short of the moral bar to which the just war tradition aspires. Instead, the three wars were geared to and indeed succeeded in, serving parochial and sectarian interests of those behind the war at the expense of the lofty ideals espoused by the just war tradition. The study will rely on available secondary sources that form part of Zimbabwean historiography.

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