‘Ipi loAction: Yakatora baba


I PICKED up juicy titbits from some of the cadres that were part of that daring team that snatched a bhunu deep in the country and whisked him to Mozambique in 72 hours.
Credy says it was not a planned operation, apparently the section had gone on reconnaissance at the farm, which was near Arnoldine Mission.
Arnoldine was the launching pad of numerous operations before and after the abduction of the farmer.
It is said they went to the compound, mixed and mingled with the farm labourers the whole morning.
Apparently the white farmer no longer slept at the farm but operated from Rusape.
They went into the farmhouse and started ransacking it.
It is said in their exploration a refrigerator started humming as the thermostat switched on. Credy says everyone hastily ran out thinking it was some aircraft .
After the false alarm they returned to continue with their ransacking, the coast was clear.
It is said sometime before noon they heard a car drive into the yard and Johannes Maartens stepped out. Oblivious of what was happening he stepped into his house ndiye mahwekwe with Action and his team.
It appears there was a battle of wits as each mapped out a survival strategy.
For Action there were two options… shoot the bhunu and get out of the area as fast as possible, apparently he found it difficult to kill the bhunu in cold blood.
This had nothing to do with Red Cross’ conventions of war or Mao’s eight points of attention; it was a purely pragmatic decision.
Option two was taking the murungu prisoner and going with him to the rear.
It had its logistical challenges such as marching through farms for over 50km with a prisoner at night.
Then after that the difficult terrain of the communal lands of Rateiwa and beyond.
A decision had to be made, fast, time was ticking away.
Maartens, that was the name of the bhunu, played along.
He remained calm and knew that raising any alarm would be suicidal.
He was a prisoner in his own house.
I think someone had also cut the telephone lines as per standard practice.
Gwanzura and Shupai say they spent the afternoon at the farm then Action decided to take the farmer with him, which was the safest move, leaving him behind, alive, would have been an act of great folly.
By sunset they had left the farm with their captive.
I am not sure if they passed through the mission.
It is said they commandeered a truck, which took them to Epiphany Mission some 30km south east of Arnoldine.
After a quick supper they were soon on the road, down in the relative safety of the communal lands of Nyakuima next to Rateiwa.
Shupai Mamvura said they arrived early in the evening and Action announced tauya nemurungu.
It is said Batsirai, the section leader who was there, bolted out of the house ready to open fire.
Everyone was unsettled.
This was unheard of; the last many of them had heard of such a feat was the capture of Gerald Hawkesworth in 1972.
A decision was quickly made after a brief meeting.
Batsirai’s section would march the prisoner as far as St Barbaras Nyaduve.
Meanwhile, Action’s section remained in the area ready for the inevitable.
There would be a manhunt – until either the murungu was found as a living being or as a dead body.
It is said the driver of the vehicle that drove Action, his unit and the prisoner was detained and only saw freedom in 1980 when guns fell silent.
I am still to confirm that story.
The aftermath of the capture of Johannes Maartens was an absolute nightmare for all the villages from Rusape to the border, from Inyanga to Odzi.
The farmer’s son took part in the operation and probably sometimes got into the way of the professional soldiers trying to do their job.
Ganyabvu, the medic in the section at the time of the abduction, says that several units swept down Nyakwima Village spilled into Rateiwa and Mupfupi going down Nyatande River as other teams swept the Nyanzou River.
Action’s section saw the posse while camped at Mutindindi – a village at the foothills of Mawango, mounted troops came uncomfortably close.
But the horses refused to advance into the firing range.
Probably they picked up the unfamiliar scent of guerrillas and were not sure what they were going into.
But it is wherever Johannes’ son went he would scream “Ipi loAction yakatora baba vangu.”
It became a song long after the follow-ups of Johannes Maartens.
In the next 48 hours the posse had reached the border.
Ironically, they were always a few hours behind their quarry as he was handed from section to section and 72 hours later he was in Chimoio.
Some of us escaped the effects of the search because we were in the advance area, where it was least expected to encounter guerrillas.
The other reason was we were well off the track that Maartens had followed.
I have narrated elsewhere how unit after unit was caught unawares and casualties were inevitable.
Meanwhile, the man responsible remained safe with his unit close to where it all began in Rateiwa Village in the headwaters of Nyatande River.
After all the hum drum died down commanders had the unenviable task of regrouping scattered units and rebuilding those that had lost men.
It was also around that time that a fresh fire force, the Fanya Haraka, came in fresh from Nachingwea, Tanzania.
Action was summoned to the rear – probably he went as far as Chimoio.
I can only speculate why he was called, maybe it was out of sheer curiosity to see this daring comrade who could snatch a murungu in the middle of the country and march him to the border without being caught.
It required extraordinary pluck and daring to achieve this especially where it was easier to eliminate him after all he was just an enemy.
To be continued


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