The Contact by Garikai Mutasa
Mambo Press (1985)
IT is always refreshing to get hold of a book by a Zimbabwean who witnessed the liberation struggle sharing their experiences on the war.
One such book is The Contact written by Garikai Mutasa.
Bookshelves are full of books on the liberation struggle by Rhodesian writers, telling the story from their perspective.
Mutasa who during the liberation struggle was a teacher at Chivi Secondary School served as a mujibha.
During the liberation struggle the mujibhas and chimbwindos, played a pivotal role as they were the go-between between the masses and the freedom fighters. Simply put, they were informers.
Their roles included relaying information to the freedom fighters on the whereabouts of the Rhodesian forces, helping to organise pungwes and collecting food and clothes for the freedom fighters.
The writer is telling the story from his perspective, having witnessed the war and experiencing the wrath of the colonial regime, he tells the black man’s side of the story.
Mutasa’s story is set in the then Rhodesia, Shiku area in the district of Zvishavane which at that time was known as Shabani.
The story revolves around a group of seven fighters operating in the area.
The seven led by Gadzirai Nyika who was the leader of the group, Godwin Hondoinopisa, Marx, Tichatora, Mao, Bazooka who was the political commissar and Bruce Lee.
Through these characters, Mutasa highlights some of the reasons why thousands of young men and women left home to join the liberation struggle that birthed Zimbabwe’s independence.
The seven as Mutasa writes, “were dedicated young men who were going to live and fight till they were dead.
“Chimurenga was not a war against people of an opposite colour, but a war against the wider injustice and oppression caused by what the guerrillas explained as capitalism and imperialism.”
One of the other reasons behind the taking up of arms by the masses was the need to see Zimbabweans enjoy their heritage.
“We are not fighting the war so that the whites will become second-class citizens……we are not fighting against the colour, parents….we are fighting against what that colour represents…..against capitalism and colonialism,” writes Mutasa.
“We are fighting against the capitalist stooges and their lackeys.”
Through his characters, the writer brings about some of the things that transpired during the pungwes and interactions with the locals.
It was through such meetings when people were told about the core of the struggle and why they needed to support the freedom fighters.
“We left you so that we could take up arms and liberate our country,” said Gadzirai while addressing the locals.
“It is not an easy task.
“We stay in the forests, we sleep there, sometimes it is raining, and sometimes we go for days without food.
“No, it is not an easy task.
“That is why we need your help.
“With you we can destroy the enemy.”
Mutasa takes a look at the incidences when some locals betrayed the freedom fighters and worked in cahoots with the Rhodesian forces.
The Rhodesian forces infiltrated the locals to get information on the whereabouts of the freedom fighters.
In some instances, locals were bribed using money and other used personal vendettas to try and get rid of their enemies.
In one instance, Homwe who wanted to be chief informs about an impending pungwe where he knew the chief would be and likely get killed by Rhodesians.
Fortunately, Homwe discussed his plans with Peter his son who was a mujibha who in turn informed Gadzirai about the impending danger.
Homwe is punished by the freedom fighters.
Mutasa highlights that there were some necessary evils the freedom fighters did for the sake of the bigger goal which was to topple the colonial rule.
Cases of sell-outs were rampant during the liberation struggle with one case being that of Morris Nyathi that lead to the massacre of thousands of people at Nyadzonia in 1976.
By punishing Homwe, the freedom fighters were setting an example for would-be sell-outs.
Mutasa concludes his book after the war ended with Gadzirai and his team living to see an independent Zimbabwe.
With more books from people who participated in the liberation struggle, the true experiences of Zimbabweans during that era will be known.
It defies logic for Rhodesians to fill our bookshelves yet blacks can tell their own side of the story too.