Children in the liberation war…a reaction to Rhodesian forces’ brutality

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SOME audacious writers from the Western hemisphere, especially whites, love to peddle fallacies that the people of Zimbabwe never supported the liberation forces out of choice and that they were sandwiched between ‘terrorist’ forces who all were making demands on them.
They say the demands were backed by violence which was so unpredictable no-one could be at peace.
Patricia Hayes and others in 1992 said: “Rural people were caught in the middle between Government forces who wanted information about guerilla activity and the guerillas who wanted information about Government troop movements as well as food and protection.”
Thus the villagers lived in perpetual fear, it is posited, caught between a hard rock and the deep blue.
Hayes also accuses freedom fighters of actively recruiting schoolchildren; but the truth is, the liberation movements never wanted children in the struggle.
All those below 18 years who left of their own volition were put in schools during the struggle.
For such ‘brutes’, freedom fighters had an uncanny way of bringing out the best in people.
Boys and girls were so much at peace with them.
So eager to join the liberation struggle, they pleaded with them to take them to Mozambique or Zambia and when the freedom fighters refused because they were too young, the children never gave up.
On their own, they braved the forests, raging rivers and enemy bullets to get to the rear to be trained so that they too could be part of these freedom fighters.
The story of Mbiko Dube tells of a young boy who, after experiencing brutality at the hands of the Rhodesians, chose to join the freedom fighters — the only hope that existed for him in this nightmarish life that Rhodesia reduced the people of Zimbabwe to.
Because he was too young to be trained to be a freedom fighter, he was enrolled as a student at Jason Ziyapapa Moyo School in Zambia.
Here is Dube’s story:
“It was on Monday morning when the Rhodesia Front (RF) forces arrived at our home.
As a young boy (nine years) I was busy milking the goats.
A lovely dog of mine barked in a strange way, and when I stood up to see what was happening, the sound of a gun was heard.
My dog was shot dead, green colours were everywhere.
Those were the RF soldiers who were questioning my mother and father.
Some were standing around the goats kraal asking me the whereabouts of the (terrorists) guerillas.
One of those soldiers jumped into the kraal and threw me out.
I landed on a rock and became unconscious for some time. When I woke up, I found that my father was standing next to me and his body was red with blood.
He was crying like a helpless child.
He had handcuffs on both hands and feet.
He was taken to the police camp and the following morning we were told that he was dead.
The brutality of the regime was clearly revealed to me and I decided to join the struggle.” (Schools in the Struggle: 1991)
Dube chose to join the liberation struggle in reaction to the brutality of the Rhodesians.
He would not have decided to join the war if freedom fighters were equally or more brutal.
Clearly freedom fighters had demonstrated they were a force opposite to what the Rhodesians stood for.
John Mbaira is another example who braved the long journey from Gokwe to Zambia to become a freedom fighter.
Below is his story:
“My school was closed early in 1978 by the freedom fighters. Fortunately I met them when I was visiting my grandmother. They told me that in Zimbabwe, by then Rhodesia, we were oppressed by the whites.
They told me many things until at last they said they were from Zambia and had been trained as fighters of freedom for Zimbabwe.
I told them I also wanted to fight for my country.
Moreover, I said if it meant death let me die for my country because I knew that even if I did not fight I would one day die.
That consciousness made me to directly foot from Gokwe to Zambia.
Footing from Gokwe to Zambia is not a joke.
It’s more than painful and needs more than determination. Thinking of it makes me cry.
I will never ever forget it.
So I went to the struggle with a full aim and knowing that life was not as easy as one might have guessed.
What I wanted was to be trained and become a freedom fighter. Surely I was physically young but mentally mature.” (Schools in the Struggle: 1991)
Mbaira would not have been fired to such dedication and commitment had the freedom fighters, in their word and deed, not represented the opposite of the oppression they criticised.
It means the freedom fighters were credible witnesses of the Zimbabwe they represented, of the future they rallied people to fight for.
When the children of Zimbabwe joined the liberation struggle, they remained resolute.
They did not cry to go home.
What they encountered was consonant with the hope that had drawn them to the war.
They accepted Rhodesia was the enemy and they stood firm that they were in the struggle to combat this enemy.
A child reports what happened one day at a camp in Mozambique:
“It was really the enemy’s day to pay us a bitter visit.
We woke up for breakfast and were on the line to get our shares as my company was to eat last that day.
All others had started moving out to hide in the bushes out of the camp.
I only remember one of my commanders shouting for order and from there it was an air to ground message.
Of course whenever an aircraft moved past the camp we felt unsettled.
Ours was not an attack, but it was just a flight with a message from Abel Muzorewa and his delegates.
The whole camp was polluted with papers from the jet as it flew past our barracks.
Muzorewa was asking us to return home since he thought of the country being independent and him being the Prime Minister. All we could do was to run with fear that the jet might have gone to collect its friends to help it drive us out of Mozambique. Of course we never stopped our quest for freedom because of this.” (Schools in the Struggle: 1991)
There is no doubt that children are the most accurate litmus test. They feel injustice more keenly than adults and are most sensitive.
They cannot bear cruelty and they do not condone evil because they are still too pure, so idealist.
Their testimony and judgment on freedom fighters was that they were friends, the very best of friends to protect them from what is unbearably evil — the nightmare of Rhodesian rule.
Thus, in the footsteps of the freedom fighters they were prepared to suffer whatever it took to free their country.

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