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Vanamukoma taught us a lesson

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The story of Garikai Chiwanza (not real name)

 

IT was around 9am on April 14 1977 when the assembly bell rang.

I was 14 years old and in Grade 7 at Cheza Primary School in Domboshava.

I left the classroom and rushed to the assembly point and, to my surprise, there were two Rhodesian military jeeps.

Rhodesian soldiers, two whites and four blacks, were already at the assembly point holding their riffles putting on stern faces.

The Rhodies’ faces were painted with black polish.

These were not good visitors at all

Rhodesians were suffering many casualties at the battlefront, losing a lot of soldiers, hence they started to forcefully conscript students into their army in an operation they code named ‘Call-up’.   

All boys were instructed to line up in a single file and we did likewise.

My huge stature saw me being selected among six other boys to go to a Rhodesian military base at Makumbe Mission Hospital.

I wet my pants because I knew it was not going to end well.

Rhodies had strategically established their military bases with torturing chambers at the mission hospital and all civilians who were accused of collaborating with the freedom fighters were ‘treated’ there.

We were driven to Makumbe military base, about 7km west of our school.

Our headmaster, Sejiyo, was taken with us after he tried to plead with the soldiers to leave us since we were young.

He was accused of resisting a military order and collaborating with the freedom fighters.

I will never forget seeing Sejiyo rolling and groaning in agony as the Rhodies took turns to beat him.

He was left for dead.

We were later taken to a barrack where we met other students from Chinhamora, Makumbe and Nyakudya Primary schools who were also being forced to join Abel Muzorewa’s  UANC’s military wing, Pfumo Revanhu.

We were all young because the oldest in our group was 15 years old.

That night we were addressed by a Rhodesian white soldier who spoke Shona eloquently.

He told us that ‘terrorists’ (freedom fighters) were now getting close to the capital city, Salisbury, hence we were supposed to stop them. 

He said it was our duty to ‘defend our country’ and we were promised a ‘good salary’ of Rh$37 per month as well as a house after the war.

We had no choice and could not run away since going to Mozambique was not easy as we stayed far from the border.

The following morning, we were loaded onto four jeeps and driven to Muchapondwa Business Centre where the Auxiliary Forces were based.

We would stay in Jeta and Dungwi Mountain during the day and sleep in nearby shops. 

I received military training for two months and was deployed with my fellows to our home area.

I was trained by Max (a former ZANLA guerilla), Chris Amigo, Andrew and Jecha Mukaradhi (who was coloured).

Unlike ZANLA and ZIPRA freedom fighters, who operated far away from their homes, we operated from our home areas.

I was deployed together with two of my classmates.

In December 1977, at around 3pm, I panicked when I saw jet fighters and helicopters flying towards the Masembura area, about 15km from our base.

ZANLA cadres’ were spotted in Nekati, Tsunda and Chipuko villages by a Rhodesian soldier who was on an observation point on Njedza Mountain.

We had hard times with ZANLA forces on the ground hence we heavily relied on the Air Force.

A soldier would be dropped with all supplies for two weeks on top of a huge mountain where he would monitor the movements of the guerillas and contact the Air Force for raids.

There was heavy bombardment and gunfire exchange for about three hours.

To be honest, it was my first time in life to see such a fierce battle.

ZANLA cadres blew two helicopters.

There was a huge flame and a big cloud of smoke. 

I panicked and prayed that we would not be tasked to go for reinforcement and, fortunately, the Lord heard my prayer.

Our base commander also panicked and told us to go and hide in a cave on Ngomakurira Mountain.

The following morning, we went to Makumbe Hospital where our military base was to collect food rations and ammunition.

I was shocked by what I saw.

There were numerous corpses of Rhodesian soldiers. 

White soldiers were being taken to Inkomo Barracks while black soldiers were being taken to Chikurubi for cremation.

Had it not been that we decided to hide, we would have perished in that battle.

I lost six fellow soldiers, whom I had trained with, in that battle.

ZANLA showed us that they were ‘vanamukoma’ indeed! 

Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande.

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