MK’s Luthuli Detachment and ZAPU in a joint operation


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Sunday, 13 August 1967

Umkhonto we Sizwe's (MK) Luthuli Detachment in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Zimbabwean African People's Union (ZAPU) guerrillas engaged Rhodesian forces in Wankie (now Hwange) Game Reserve, near the border of Zambia and Botswana. The operation became know as the Wankie Campaign. This joint overall operation was meant to give added military impetus to both the African National Congress's (ANC) and ZAPU's broad strategies for liberation. For the ANC this would achieve the immediate goal of resuscitating the internal struggle by placing trained ANC guerrillas back on South African soil. The planners of the campaign wanted to avoid unnecessary armed clashes with the Rhodesian security forces. From the very outset therefore, the idea was to march along the western outskirts of the Wankie Game Reserve, thereby avoiding contact with civilians, and most importantly confrontation with the Rhodesian security forces. However, this was not to be.

Although initially unknown to the Rhodesian authorities, the presence of the guerrillas was later detected and a number of armed clashes took place. The Rhodesians called their military campaign against the ANC-ZAPU unit Operation Nickel. During the course of the ensuing battles both sides claimed victories. Within several weeks of having crossed the Zambezi River some of the guerrillas were killed or captured by the Rhodesian and Botswana security forces, whilst some would willingly surrender to the Botswana security forces. A few guerrillas found refuge in Zambia or in Swaziland and at least one MK guerrilla managed to reach Durban, South Africa, but would later become an askari.

Click here to read Nicole van Driel's mini-thesis about Wankie Campaign on our site.


• Chris Hani, 'The Wankie Campaign', from Dawn (Journal of Umkonto we Sizwe, Souvenir Issue, 1986)[online], Avaliable at [Accessed:16 August 2013]
• Nicole Van Driel, 2003, '
The Wankie Campaign',from THE ANC's FIRST ARMED MILITARY OPERATION,[Online], Available at:, [Accessed: 18 July 2013]

Last updated : 19-Aug-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011