Support for Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle: Part One…..Asante Sana Tanzania!


THE Zimbabwe liberation war’s decisive phase would never have taken off and succeeded without the support of independent African countries in Southern African were later baptised ‘Frontline States’.
It is the aim of this article, which is in three parts, to recognise and appreciate the great role that the Frontline States played in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. This week we start by looking at the role played by Tanzania.
When liberation war heroes, especially ZANLA fighters, came back home from the bush in 1980, ordinary Zimbabweans went out in large numbers to greet them in their camps.
One of the things the people enjoyed was seeing the freedom fighters marching happily.
What particularly caught the people’s attention was the fact that the orders issued out to the marching soldiers by their commanders were in a strange, but very poetic language.
Yes, they heard orders such as ‘Mwendo wapore, tembeya!’ (slow march, go!) ‘Mwendo wafanyaharaka tembeya!’ (quick march go!) ‘Uma geuka!’ (about turn!) etc.
The reason ZANLA commanders used Swahili in shouting orders was because it was in Tanzania that the first fighters for the decisive phase of the liberation war were trained.
Below we show how Tanzania helped in the military training of ZANLA cadres from the very beginning until the very end.
First, the Tanzanian government gave to the entire liberation movement of Southern Africa a full General to oversee the training of freedom fighters from the various countries.
His name was Hashim Mbita.
This man not only supported freedom fighters logistically in their camps, he most importantly ensured cadres got excellent military training.
The first training camp for ZANLA cadres during the decisive phase was opened in Tanzania at Intumbi.
Intumbi Camp opened in 1965.
It was located on an abandoned farm which included a disused gold mine dating back to the German colonial era in Tanzania before the First World War.
William Ndangana, a member of ZANLA’s high command, led the first intake.
Josiah Tongogara (who was ZANLA army commander until the war came to an end) led the second intake at Intumbi after giving up a comparatively comfortable life in Lusaka.
It is important to note that the Tanzanian government, besides giving ZANLA a place to train, also provided them with well qualified instructors in the shape of the Chinese.
The Chinese training mission was based on a co-operation agreement signed between the Chinese and Tanzanian government and was renewable every two years.
It came into force in 1969 and ended in 1975, when the Chinese experts were satisfied that ZANLA had developed the capacity and requisite expertise to sustain the training programmes.
Besides the Chinese instructors, the Tanzanians were also heavily involved in the training.
Instructors from the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TDDF) took charge of drill and physical fitness.
A good number of the early ZANLA commanders were trained at Intumbi.
The following come to mind; Mayor Urimbo, Sheba Gava (Vitalis Zvinavashe) ,Joseph Chimurenga, Patrick Mupunzarima, Ernest Kadungure, Chauke and many others.
Once these cadres had been trained, they were then sent to the front to start operations.
In December 1969, 10 of the trained guerillas were infiltrated into Zambia.
In June 1970, a group of guerillas including Urimbo, Chimurenga, Kadungure, Chauke, George Magobeya, Mupunzarima and Kuzvipa were sent secretly to the Zambezi Valley with the task of carrying out reconnaissance along the river from Feira on the border with Mozambique to Kariba.
Urimbo and three others eventually went into Zimbabwe to begin the war in Muzarabani district.
The Intumbi camp was eventually abandoned and in its place the Tanzanian government gave ZANLA a new camp, Mgagao.
That camp was near the southern Tanzanian town called Iringa.
The first intake at Mgagao was made up of some of the cadres who became household commanders in ZANLA .
For example, Josiah Tungamirai and many others.
These cadres were trained by 20 Chinese military experts in Tanzania.
The choice of the Chinese military experts was based on competitive selection from 25 different Chinese divisions, each expert coming from a different one.
The three leaders of the experts had all participated in the revolutionary war with Mao Ze Dong, each having taken part in the strategic retreat dubbed the long march.
What the above tells us is that the Tanzanian government went out of its way to bring highly skilled and experienced military instructors from China who would give the best military education ever to Zimbabwean freedom fighters.
It then came as no surprise when ZANLA fighters outwitted the Rhodies at every turn when the war came into full swing.
When FRELIMO, who were using a camp in Tanzania called Nachingwena, won their war against the Portuguese in 1975, the generous Tanzanian government gave the camp to ZANLA to use.
This resulted in numerous Zimbabwean freedom fighters being trained at any one time.
This assisted the liberation war effort tremendously.
There is therefore no doubt that Tanzania was responsible for the military training of ZANLA fighters.
The above narration only touches the major highlights of the big work that the Tanzanians did to help Zimbabwe become free.
It is therefore apt for us to say to the government and people of Tanzania ‘Asante Sana’.


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