The story of Cde Alex Makotore,
aka Cde Bruce Taparara
THERE was something on the news those days — the Lancaster House Conference!
The idea behind such previous conferences was to stop the momentum of the war ,which was to the enemy’s advantage.
I was very disturbed by the mission to Mozambique, which I considered useless since the war was coming to an end.
Since June 1978, I had not returned to ‘Mosken’ (Mozambique). We made our journey to Mozambique through Buhera, avoiding the then volatile Radio 5.
The main reason we avoided Radio 5 on our route to Mozambique was the situation which had remained hostile after the Sharara Battle.
Three weeks later there was another attack at Chitendereno where one of our sections, led by Cde Soul Tsikai, was involved in a fierce gun battle with helicopters.
The second-in-command of that section, Cde Churu ‘Papa Mzonzi’ Mupedzanhamo one of the Mgagao veterans survived.
Cde Papa Mzonzi is today farming in Tengwe, Hurungwe, and happily married to Ela Kuture, a girl from one of the shops where he survived death by a whisker at Gunje-Chitenderano. They have 15 kids together.
We reached Mozambique without incident and stayed a day at Chikamba Dam Base getting fresh supplies.
I got fresh supplies of medicines, some of which had come from Europe. There were also nice T-shirts and overcoats which, we were told, had come from Sweden. I liked the T-shirts which were branded ‘I LIKE ABBA’, that famous musical band, on the front. Accompanying us was a locally trained mujibha from our Mudhara Majengeta, a strong supporter based at Sabi Drift-Buhera.
The young man was armed with a 303 rifle. We crossed back into Rhodesia at night and proceeded to Mutambara-Mandambiri,Wengezi area. The mujibha, a comrade Zaire and I remained behind because of fatigue.
At sunrise we could not proceed fearing to compromise the mission. The others proceeded and crossed Mutare Road and Odzi River and set up base on the Bocha-Marange side.
I dozed off at a homestead, in the cattle pen. Our presence had been reported to the comrades operating in the area. We were summoned to where the comrades were based. I hesitantly agreed and proceeded to the base. It was already 7:30 am. I got to the command post and the comrades there had no kind words for me.
They told me of the bad-enemy situation in the area and how indisciplined I had been not to come early to join them.
The section commander was a Cde Newone and the security man was Cde Jays (Charles Mutasa).
Cde Charles Mutasa’s duty was to deploy me to a post for the day.
Cde Zaire and the mujibha had already been deployed. I was posted to a position on the north of the command.
As I got to the spot, fire started; I was carrying my bag and rifle and wearing a long overcoat. I fell into a ditch and rolled over to the bottom.
There was rapid fire from the direction we were headed, which meant we had been trapped into a killing bag by the enemy’s L-shaped decoy.
I saw Cde Zaire run into enemy positions. It was sad. We lost him.
The retreat or escape was a blind act, meaning it was by the grace of God that I got away unscratched.
I found myself in the company of a Cde Widz. I had met him a long while back at Doiroi Camp in Mozambique.
He had also survived the surprise attack.
Cde Newone, the commander, died on the spot together with Cde Zaire and five or so others. Bodies of the dead were displayed at the shops for everyone to see.
It was disheartening to hear people recounting the sad spectacle.
I quickly wanted to forget the whole debacle and resorted to booze that night.
The following day I communicated with my section and by 3 pm I was escorted by the local comrades across the Odzi River to join my crew. I had a tough time explaining to Cde Shaky, the commander, what had transpired. But I always had a way of getting around such situations.
After a day and night’s march, we reached our operational zone, Zviyambe, where it was safe and quiet.
I remember the conference in London was now big news all over. The locals were briefing us all the time. We based at Kamera Farm on Christmas Eve when the news came on Radio Maputo.
Cde Josiah Tongogara had died in a car crash. Cde Musabeke was devastated.
All of us could not take it. We could not understand the circumstances from the radio.
He was gone!
Our Comrade Tongo had died!
However, information reaching us pointed towards a ceasefire.
I realised freedom was coming.
There was an old ZANU slogan — ‘Pasi neCeasefire!’ (Down with Ceasefire!) — this had been adopted after other conferences had yielded nothing but misery for the comrades.
There were Victoria Falls, Geneva, Malta, Lusaka and now Lancaster talks. We were not very sure of our future and could not trust the Rhodesians.
It was a situation imposed on us. No command came from our seniors in the rear as to how we were supposed to respond to the call by some high ranking military officials already in Salisbury (Harare) from both ZANLA and ZIPRA who were announcing on radio urging combatants to cease fire and move to Assembly Points.
Our field commanders were the most affected with skepticism.
Areas like Marange,Bocha, and even Zviyambe in Wedza, had become semi-liberated zones with very limited interference from the Rhodesians.
The centre of power had shifted to the ‘terrorists’ command structure.