By Dr Irene Mahamba
ZIMBABWE’s independence came while I was still in Maputo.
There were still a few of us from various departments who remained in Maputo, winding down Party business.
The Mozambican comrades prepared something special for us; a party to celebrate our day, our hard-won independence.
Of course we would have loved to be in Zimbabwe with the rest of our people; to be at Rufaro Stadium, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Zimbabwe flag go up and fly in the skies with the rest of the world, announcing the rebirth of a nation after 90 years of trauma under British fascism, but there was a purpose in assigning a few of us to remain in Maputo and for many others to remain in bases in Mozambique.
Schoolchildren were still in camp bases in Mozambique, at Matenje, Chibawawa and other camp schools.
But we still shared the joy and ecstasy with all those who were in Zimbabwe who watched the British flag come down and ours, the one born out of the fire of the revolution, go up, announcing that the British had been booted out.
It was a moment like none ever, never to be repeated in history, a one-time moment.
It was a special party, on this evening of April 17.
We enjoyed something very special with the Mozambican comrades.
We enjoyed food and wine, basking in the glow of a job well done for us and the Mozambican comrades who had walked with us every step of the way to this very moment.
They had held our hands all the way till this magic moment, only a few hours before the fireworks would explode to herald and honour the birth of our Zimbabwe and the permanent death of Rhodesia.
I had my first glass of wine ever, a taste of Mateus Rose.
It was victory and our peace was so deep.
The tears that had flowed deep inside us for so long were consoled; it was time to be at peace, to be thankful that something we had worked for, for so many years, which had cost us so much grief, so much pain and thousands of lives, had come to fruition.
The Mozambican comrades, ever so friendly, ever so self-sacrificing and so special as always, afforded us the platform to be the celebrities we were, on this our day.
So the days in Maputo were winding down, the days in the struggle at the rear were coming to a gentle close.
Revisiting these moments, I am humbled by the sense of peace that pervaded our hearts.
Something had happened in the deepest recesses of our hearts.
We had been called to a very special mission and it had been accomplished; we felt very special.
I think this is how people feel on their wedding day.
We went about our duties peacefully, quietly joyful. Naturally, we wanted to be going home, looked forward to going home, but we were not impatient or anxious about it. We would be going home, it was a matter of time, days, weeks, months and we would be on our way.
I had been in the liberation struggle almost two years, an experience that cannot be compared to anything.
I had experienced closeness, warmth, friendship and oneness with so many comrades.
It was amazing that the moment you got to any camp or station and you were introduced as a comrade, the bond was instant, deep, all because of our common commitment to die for Zimbabwe.
It was, and still is, closer than anything I have ever experienced.
Comrade means ‘shamwari yeropa’, one with whom I am irrevocably bonded to die for Zimbabwe.
I don’t know if anything is stronger, can be stronger.
For this mission, this pledge to die for Zimbabwe, comrade left everything behind — mother, father, spouse, all family, school, jobs, wealth of all kinds — literally everything, to enlist in the cause to save Zimbabwe by shedding his/her own blood.
There are so many special memories of so many gracious self-sacrificing spirits, so many, but just now I want to say something about Cde Simon ‘Mzee’ Muzenda, the then Vice-President of ZANU.
When Cde Muzenda left home for the liberation struggle, four of his children decided also to leave for the struggle with him. He did not dissuade them from joining the war.
The five of them enlisted in the army to liberate Zimbabwe, Cde Mzee, Tsitsi the oldest, Edith, Theresa and Vengai.
He set an unparalleled example.
When they got to the struggle, he did not stay with his children; they were assigned to camps like all other comrades. There was no special treatment for the VP’s children.
They were exposed to the vagaries of the liberation struggle, like every other comrade — the hunger, disease and all other hardships.
Three of them were at Chimoio, while Tsitsi was on a mission in Tanzania.
When the enemy struck on November 23 1977, Theresa was among the thousands who died at the hands of the Rhodesian terrorists at Chimoio.
Cde Muzenda took in so many comrades to stay with him at his residence in Maputo.
His own children were in the camps with others, with all of us.
It was only after the Chimoio attack that Edith was assigned on a mission to Maputo but even then, she was not assigned to the VP’s residence.
She lived at Zimbabwe House with other comrades.
It was also after the Chimoio attack, that Vengai, together with other comrades, was sent on a mission to train as an airline pilot in Ethiopia.
He served Air Zimbabwe diligently.
Though I understood our ethos in the struggle, that it was socialist, the example of Cde Mzee made me think deeply about this ethos of our struggle, about socialism and what it takes.
The utter selflessness humbled me.
In those two years in the liberation struggle, I experienced a life that was more advanced than anything I had ever experienced — it was socialist.
No-one owned anything and the norm was to share with other comrades whatever you had.
A comrade could never go naked if you had a spare shirt or dress.
You would never feel right to say it is only one extra dress, shirt or trousers, what shall I do tomorrow?
If, for some reason, you did not finish your share of food, you passed it on to the other comrades.
This was not enforced, it was the ethos, it is the way we lived.
At Matenje, we often said amongst ourselves, if people at home can love each other the way we did, then Zimbabwe would be a paradise.
It is what we hoped for.