Luthuli Combat Detachment crosses the Zambezi


Albert LuthuliAlbert Luthuli. Source:

Sunday, 30 July 1967

The 'Luthuli Detachment', made up of units of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operatives, and the Zimbabwean African People’s Union (ZAPU) guerrillas, crossed the Zambezi River from the Zambian banks of the river into Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) at the start of the Wankie and Sipolilo battles which continued until late 1968.

Fearing possible leakage of information to the Rhodesian and South African Forces, the area where the crossing was to take place was kept secret until the day of the event.

The primary objective of this operation was to march across Rhodesia to South Africa to set up underground operations to politically mobilise South Africans in different sections of the country. The other mission was to set up military bases, together with ZAPU forces, in north-eastern Rhodesia. The operation became known as the Wankie campaign, named after the Wankie Game Reserve, where the ANC and ZAPU guerrillas infiltrated into Rhodesia.


  1. ANC, (n.d.), ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe – timeline’ from African National Congress [online] Available at [Accessed: 17 June 2011]
  2. SAHO, (n.d.), ‘Umkhonto we Sizwe’ from South African History Online [online] Available at [Accessed: 17 June 2011]

Last updated : 04-Apr-2013

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

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