A battle worth retelling

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By Eunice Masunungure

IT was on April 28 1966 when in Chinhoyi, Mashonaland West, seven brave young men advanced in an operation that sparked the Second Chimurenga.

These were David Guzuzu, Godwin Manyerenyere, Chubby Savanhu, Arthur Maramba, Godfrey Dube and Christopher Chatambudza, under the command of Simon Nyandoro, a former Catholic seminarian.

It is believed the fighters were part of a 21-member group that entered the then Rhodesia from the Zambian side.

Of course, back then Rhodesian forces had superior weaponry.

The battle began at 9am, ending at around 4pm when the freedom fighters ran out of ammunition. 

The seven guerillas fought to the last bullet and the last man.

The Chinhoyi Battle fighters were youths who, despite the uncertainties, had left school, families, siblings, all alike, to fight colonialism.

Some Chinhoyi residents say their remains were buried close to Hunyani River at Magamba Cemetery. 

Another version says the bodies were thrown into a disused mine shaft. 

The Chinhoyi attack signalled the start of what’s known in Zimbabwe as the Second Chimurenga (1966-1979), the war on whites led by Ian Smith of the Rhodesia Front, whose Government declared an illegal declaration of independence (UDI) on November 11 1965.

David Guzuzu’s mother, who was once profiled by The Patriot, still desires to see the remains of her son who, five years after the war, she still believed was alive until she met a war veteran in her village who had a list of those who fought in the famous Chinhoyi Battle.

Although there are many accounts being flighted already, there is still need to narrate again and again the Battle of Chinhoyi because we must not stop narrating our stories, but develop them in our own way as a people because they speak to us about the past, present and future.

One reason is, the Chinhoyi Battle has spiritual significance to the people of Zimbabwe since it fulfils the foretold words of Mbuya Nehanda. 

Mbuya Nehanda was influential in pre-colonial and colonial Zimbabwe. 

Mbuya Nehanda and other communicators of the divine spirit, like Sekuru Kaguvi, revealed the urge to drive the whiteman from the country to rid the country of problems. 

For her role in the resistance, a warrant was issued and Mbuya Nehanda was arrested in 1897. 

Mbuya Nehanda’s dying words were: “My bones will rise,” and the Battle of Chinhoyi, decades later, resonated with Mbuya Nehanda’s words.

The Battle of Chinhoyi must be told again and again.

It is a patriotic story inspired by loyalty, dedication and the collective interests of Zimbabweans and it is good to keep telling the story so that future generations will know the liberation struggle template.

It is this relentless spirit portrayed in the Chinhoyi Battle that bore independence.

To have the Battle of Chinhoyi story on a fresh page annually helps to show that freedom is expensive.

In an interview, Professor Charles Pfukwa said: “April 28 is a cardinal point on our national calendar. 

“The repetition is a part of reclaiming our national discourses of development. 

“It is a submission that ceases to peg this turning point to the liberation struggle as memorialisation of the liberation struggle but project it as a cardinal point on the national calendar.

“The Chinhoyi Seven story marks the beginning of a new epoch, where the original owner of the myth that the whites are invincible is overtaken. 

“It projects to the world that we Zimbabweans take the struggle to the very end and even at the cost of our blood. 

“Prior to 1966, blacks inhabited the position of inferiority since they were confronted by seemingly invincible nature of Rhodesians which was defeated by a successful struggle. 

“The Chinhoyi Battle was a physical statement written in blood. “It is the beginning of the narrative that follows for the next 15 years, ending in 1980. 

“We lose our historical loads if we do not tell our stories because, with time, memories of events fade when not revisited or reconstructed. 

“This becomes significant when there are watershed events like the Chinhoyi Battle. 

“If we do not narrate our stories constantly, we lose our identity and they will be erased by the colonial pen. 

“There is seizure of space and seizure of identity which takes place when a people’s past is undocumented and not constantly revisited.”

The Battle of Chinhoyi reminds us of people like Amílcar Cabral, an agronomist who led an armed struggle that ended Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde. 

Just like Cabral’s resistance contributed significantly to the dismantling of the Portuguese Empire in Africa, the Chinhoyi Battle becomes the face and also the voice of the anti-colonial stance.

The Chinhoyi Battle heroes also resemble other heroes like Kwame Nkrumah and Malcolm X, among others.

According to Cabral (1973:40): “At any moment, depending on internal and external factors determining the evolution of the society in question, cultural resistance (indestructible) may take on new forms (political, economic, armed) in order to fully contest foreign domination.”

The Chinhoyi Battle signifies armed resistance.

Amuta Chidi (1989), in ‘Fanon, Cabral and Ngugi on National Liberation Struggle’ argues: “The national liberation struggle as a historical act also becomes an act of cultural resistance to the extent that it is recognised that the object of national liberation is the freedom of a society and its values from foreign domination.”

To retell a battle is to retell freedom of a society. 

Amuta also calls it reproduction of values of society.

The only challenge, for now, could be that the genealogies of the Chinhoyi Battle heroes are not fully chronicled like that of astute diplomat, Cabral, for instance.

Indeed the Chinhoyi Battle story must be taken to another level where biographical details of the seven gallant fighters are floated to show that they are part of us and are appreciated now and forever.

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