How my brother paid the ultimate price

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The story of ambuya Miriam Kapunza

THE Rhodesian Government introduced some of the harshest tax laws which included the hut and dog tax which everyone was obliged to pay. 

Everyone was expected to keep a minimum of just eight cattle on the defence that the grazing land would not be able to sustain cattle over that number; this was despite the fact that land had been unequally shared, with the white settlers owning almost all of the fertile land. 

To make sure these laws were followed, the Rhodesian government had one of the most vicious and merciless police forces in the BSAP.

The BSAP earned a reputation for their brutality and ruthlessness when it came to dealing with black people. 

I experienced the wrath of the police force in 1972 when my brother was brutally killed over false accusations that he was part of the crew that had vandalised the local dip tank. 

I lived in Makonde District, Mashonaland West Province, in an area known as Zvombondo. 

My older brother lived and worked in Harare, then known as Salisbury.

Due to the harsh tax laws and the unreasonable requirements to keep only a few cattle, frustration, naturally, mounted among the people. 

The fact that you were expected to pay multiple taxes while being deprived of your only source of income which was land and cattle had left people on edge.

If you defied the law of keeping just eight cattle, the BSAP would come and forcibly take the remainder from you for no pay.

The cattle would be sold to the Cold Storage Commission of that time which I think is the main reason the company was very viable those days.

During Christmas holidays of 1972, my brother came to the rural areas and it was celebrations as usual, but little did we know of the fate that awaited us a few days later. 

As the news of the liberation struggle was fast spreading and gaining momentum, people caught up in the spirit of the struggle began to engage in sporadic acts of sabotage.

One night, a few days after Christmas, the local Zvombondo dip was heavily vandalised by unknown perpetrators.

The matter was reported to the police and the the District Administrator was furious. He then called the commissioner of police in Chinhoyi who then ordered the police to drag every single man in the area to the police station and torture them by any means necessary until they revealed the culprits.

The legal way, of first calling for an investigation and evidence-gathering before any arrests were initiated, was only a privilege for the white people. 

Soon after the order, the BSAP was unleashed into the village armed with guns and sjamboks.

Unleashed the BSAP was serious business accompanied by terror, which is exactly what happened in this case. 

They would arrive at a household and ask for the man of the house and his sons, if he was said to be absent, they would immediately storm the house, unnecessarily turning it upside-down, to verify the absence. If you were found hiding, all hell would break loose.

They arrived at our home at around 12 noon. We had, in the morning, urged my brother to run away to Chinhoyi as we knew the kind of people the BSAP were but he kept insisting he was innocent and had nothing to hide since he had spent the whole night home on the night of the offence. 

They parked their truck just outside and it was already filled with other unfortunate men who looked to be deep in pain. 

My brother immediately went out to try and explain to them who he was and how he could have not been part of the vandals but the policemen would have none of it.

They immediately started accusing my brother of damaging state property together with his accomplices who he was going to name one-by-one after they dealt with him. 

They instantly handcuffed him and despite the law forbidding a police officer from beating up a cuffed person, they started to mercilessly beat him until he fell unconscious. 

They hauled him onto the truck and drove away.

What happened at the police station, we are not sure of but what we do know is it was hell. 

My brother came back severely injured and could not even speak. 

This was evidence of the inhuman torture my brother and other village men had gone through at the police station. 

We then ferried him to Chinhoyi Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. 

This was a deep emotional scar inflicted on me, my mother and my siblings as we had lost our father less than two years back. 

I cannot tell the number of men who survived but were condemned to live with permanent injuries. 

This was just one incident that manifested the brutality of the Rhodesian Police Force and is one of the reasons my younger brother went to Mozambique to join the liberation struggle to fight our common enemy, the settler-government.

Compiled by Tawanda Kapfidze

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