Massacre at a quarry


The story of Cde Menziwa Ndlovu

ONE day in April 1979, in Matshiya Village, Chief Mabhikwa area, Lupane, Matabeleleand North Province, we were visited by guerillas at our homestead.
They were on a mission to conscientise us.
We established a working relationship.
We clearly understood that they were fish and we were the water in which they would survive.
On this particular day, we gave the freedom fighters food and some new clothes.
An hour after the departure of the freedom fighters, Rhodesian soldiers also visited our homestead wanting to know if the guerillas had passed through.
They asked about the whereabouts of the guerillas and we did not reveal anything despite the comrades having actually spent the previous night at our place.
We had cooked and clothed the guerillas.
We remained mum about these activities.
The Rhodesians resolved to force us to speak.
We were beaten and interrogated from about 9am to 4pm in a bid to extract any information about the freedom fighters.
Our names were recorded in some books to instil fear in us and to serve as a reminder they would return for us.
At 4pm, we were released and sent back home.
The Rhodesians further cautioned us not to be involved in the liberation struggle, in anyway.
When we arrived home, the comrades came back to our homestead.
Cde Hlongwane was commanding these comrades.
The comrades asked us what the whites wanted from us.
The commander, Cde Hlongwane, then told us the comrades wanted to show us what war meant and what they were capable of doing.
I was only 14 years old then.
We had received some basic military training to enable us to get out of tight situations.
The comrades needed our assistance to locate the exact camp of Rhodesians operating in the area.
Thus we began tracking the Rhodies.
We were instructed that when we found the Rhodies, we would simply tell them that we were looking for our cattle.
We caught up with the Rhodesian forces.
They rounded us up again and trouble started for the second time, inside one day.
We told them we were looking for our cattle but they were not convinced at first.
They took us to a nearby gravel site where the Ministry of Roads collected gravel for road maintenance.
This is where the soldiers had made a temporary camp.
They had dug holes in the gravel in which they slept.
We were detained there for an hour or so after which the soldiers released us and we went back home.
Before they released us, they fired some shots in the air to scare and threaten us.
They gave us tins of beef as a bribe not to share with the comrades what we saw at the quarry.
When we got home, we were de-briefed by the comrades on what we had seen.
We told the comrades the whites were likely to sleep at the gravel site because by the time we left, the soldiers were already preparing supper and setting up some tents.
The comrades told us to destroy the canned beef as chances were high that it was laced with poison.
At around 7:30pm, the comrades asked us to accompany them to the gravel site where the Rhodesians had camped.
We stayed back as they got to the camp.
The whites were there, smoking and making merry.
They were about 17 Rhodesians at the camp.
We had been instructed to rush back home.
The comrades were 11.
We had been given clear instructions not to panic at the sound of gunshots and explosions, but to lie down until the battle was over. Our homestead was just four kilometres away from the gravel site. Before we had settled down at home, the comrades had started firing at the camp.
The attack continued up to around 9pm.
After destroying the camp, the comrades came back to our homestead.
One of the guerillas was wounded on the elbow and was bleeding.
I helped my mother to dress the wound of the injured comrade.
The comrades told us the camp had been destroyed and 14 of the 17 whites were killed in that battle.
I was instructed to drive the goats early in the morning through the path that had been used by the guerillas to cover the blood drops of the injured comrade as well as their footprints.
From that experience, my respect for the comrades grew tremendously.


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