‘Ipi loAction: Yakatora baba vangu’ – Part Five


I GREW up seeing that funny picture of some Scotsman who wandered all over the Zambezi ultimately stealing the name Mosi-oa-Tunya and gave it to his queen.
It is said when he was too ill to walk he was carried on a stretcher by four men at a time.
It was the height of Scottish folly and cruelty to make four full grown men wander about in the bush with this stranger instead of being more productive.
I express these sentiments because I felt the burden of a full grown man for one long night.
That long night is indelibly printed in my mind.
I still see it as if it were yesterday yet it occurred some 33 years ago.
It is one thing to carry a man weighing over 80kilogrammes on a stretcher on a flat piece of land. It is quite another to do the same task in rugged terrain where there is nothing, but a path and you have to cross rivers, swamps, tall grass, trees, thick bush, anthills granite outcrops and in broken land there were steep slopes to contend with.
As per true guerrilla tradition we were always way off the beaten track … small footpaths used by the traveller commuting between villages, or routes used by some cattle herder.
At its widest such a track would carry the width of a beast.
Above all, at all times, we had to worry about the comfort of a very sick man who had lost a lot of blood.
Every slight disorientation in the level or position was marked by a groan or some sharp gasp of pain.
Probably worst of all was the varying heights of the bearer.
Some of us are nowhere near six feet, others were six feet others were more than that.
Imagine four men of different heights carrying a heavy man at shoulder level over 30 kilometres in the terrain that I have described.
Let me add another little complication: it was a dark moonless night.
I will save the worst: at least there was no rain.
Above all this was a journey that had to be covered in less than 10 hours.
We lost two valuable hours of darkness debating: to withdraw or not to withdraw.
The number that carried the stretcher was not some even figure of six or eight: it was funny odd figure and some did not carry it at all.
So rotation required a fair amount of coordination.
Fife carried the medical kit so he had to keep close to his patient and attend to him when we stopped to change bearers.
The Segurancas, PCs and commanders had other tasks so the manual task of carrying the casualty fell on some nine odd men of different heights, different strength.
And in all this you never counted your own weapon as a load.
The evacuation was the worst of nightmares we ever went through.
Carrying war material from the rear bases was one big nightmare on its own, but that was manageable because you were dealing with a load that did not have flesh and blood.
This one was alive, but seriously ill.
That is another story for another day.
We managed to negotiate through the tall grass, swamps and numerous fences of St Faiths Purchase lands.
All farm land was notorious for its barbed wire fences especially when you were in a hurry.
You can imagine what it meant to cross a fence for this human ambulance whenever it reached a fence.
We crossed Nyabadza Business Centre, around 3am.
Dawn caught us deep in the villages of Makoni.
I do not recall exactly where we ended up, but think it was near a place called Baradzanwa.
We left Fife and two others to spend the day with him.
The rest of us broke up into groups of three and spent the day resting recouping our energy for the evening.
We were ready to march again at sunset.
Pamberi nehondo comrade!
Never mind sore shoulders that had bravely borne a load all night.
It was decided our two units should march to near Mavhonde to replenish our ammunition. Action was left in the care of another team that would take to safer areas in the communal lands of Makoni.
Our section leader, Gondo elected not to lead his section because he complained of a sprained ankle: that was to turn out to be a fateful decision.
Five handed his patient to another medical officer and marched off with his section.
I was loaned to Mudzengere’s section in Chiteka Village.
My mission was to lay a mine or two near Temaruru near Mawango.
Somehow the mission never came to fruition and it was about the same time I was nursing a tooth ache.
As a ‘visitor’ in the section, I spent some time with Patts Zvenyika and he had picked up how Mhuru had become literate.
He openly expressed his wish to go to school as well.
So the lessons began.
We were making good progress when bombs fell over Action and others at St Barbara’s/Nyaduve.


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