Given recent events in Zimbabwe I am curious about the country's origins, and have been reading various articles on Wikipedia. Principally this on the Rhodesian Bush War.

I would like to know why PRC supported ZANU won, and Soviet supported ZAPU lost? As I understand it, the following seem to be important factors:

Firstly, ZAPU's strategy was to build conventional forces, and use them to backstab ZANU when they were on the cusp of a military victory over Rhodesia. ZAPU did not anticipate a mediated peace and hand over from white minority rule to majority rule which would unite Rhodesian and ZANU military forces against them. (Formerly Rhodesian soldiers and ZAPU militants together stopped the Entumbane Uprising by ZAPU in 1981.)

Secondly, ZANU's leader Robert Mugabe was Shona, who were by far the largest of Zimbabwe's black ethnicities. ZAPU's leader Joshua Nkomo was Ndebele, who were an ethnic minority. This infused an otherwise ideological struggle between Marxist-Leninist ZAPU and Maoist ZANU with tribal loyalties, relegating the former to an unsustainable minority position.

By the time the war ended, ZAPU/ZAPRA and ZANU/ZANLA had comparable military power, so was the primary issue tribal loyalty in favour of ZANU, and strategy which undermined ZAPU? Did the Soviets/Chinese simply get lucky and unlucky allies respectively? Or did they make good and bad decisions about who their allies would be? I assume neither power had that much influence or control on the ground. Did they incorrectly assume ideology rather than tribalism would be the biggest factor? Why did ZAPU not win the peace when their strategy had been focused on diplomacy?

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    AFAIR, tribalism was indeed the main factor. A secondary element was that ZAPU had concentrated its efforts in urban centres (particularly Bulawayo in Matabeleland) while ZANU had a strategy of mobilising the rural population. – sempaiscuba Nov 16 '17 at 17:47
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    The Shona people in Zimbabwe have about five times the population of the Ndebele. All else being equal, it is no surprise they dominated the outcome. – Aaron Brick Jan 1 '18 at 23:24
  • This article by William Cyrus Reed seems to be full of relevant insights. – Brian Z May 5 '19 at 14:28

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