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  • Michael Chalk


Updated: Apr 16

When I set out to write The Unravelling, I vaguely sensed the significance of attempting to articulate the tumultuous events of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The reasons for this feeling escaped me initially, but the conviction was profound. Having now completed and self-published the book, I'm beginning to grasp the essence of why this project was important. I hope you don’t mind if I share my thoughts with you.

Above all, the writing process has proven to be cathartic. Much like many who lived through that era, both black and white, we seldom allowed ourselves to truly explore and understand the array of emotions that accompanied those days. For the privileged whites, the events leading to the transfer of power in 1980 likely stirred up profound feelings of grief, loss, anger, and confusion. Rather than confronting these emotions, many of us may have merely locked them away, thereby delaying, not avoiding, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

Conversely, for those without power, the blacks, the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement in December 1979 and the subsequent one-man-one-vote general elections would have evoked positive emotions—jubilation, hope, and a lifting of despair. However, as hopes were later dashed, and enduring pain and despair became a reality, I expect the anguish you have experienced may have been greater than that felt by your white counterparts in 1980.

The act of writing the book necessitated thorough research into the recorded history of those times. This research illuminated that the events etched in my memory were not mere accidents of history, but were, in fact products of history. My research also underscored how global powers can manipulate events in distant lands for their own selfish objectives, irrespective of the consequences for the citizens in those far-off places—a reality that has regrettably persisted into the 21st century.

Moreover, the research revealed the extent of my often misguided and ill-informed views. In the moment, many of us were too busy or self-involved to question what was unfolding. The course of history could have been altered significantly if those with influence had the moral fortitude to challenge and transform prevailing social norms.

Winston Churchill's famous quote, "History is written by victors," holds especially true in a country that has undergone drastic changes since 1980. While ZANU-PF has the right to shape the narrative of the Rhodesian Bush War, that doesn't invalidate the perspectives of white Rhodesians or the views of the black Ndebeles. The stories of the vanquished remain valid, and if untold with candour, honesty, and gravity, history stands to lose.

In crafting The Unravelling, I aimed for an even-handed portrayal of the historical events. However, acknowledging Prince Harry's reminder that all our psyches harbour some element of unconscious bias, I recognise that the book would have taken a different form if I were of Shona or Ndebele ethnicity.


As you know, The Unravelling is historical fiction. As a work of fiction, I hope it transcends the mere recounting of historical facts. If it does, I trust that the fictional story will help readers better understand the complex and multi-dimensional history of those days.

Lastly, let’s not forget that the white population in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe has always been a very small minority, a percentage likely further diminished since 1980. Those white persons who experienced the events of the late 1970s/early 1980s are aging. It is our responsibility to share our stories before they fade into oblivion.

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Excellent article Mike. It is the unbiased research that unravels the tragedy of this unnecessary and unwinnable war.

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