Musami massacre unravelled

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ON February 7 1977, Rhodesians massacred seven missionaries at St Paul’s Musami Mission.
These were two priests, a brother and four nuns. Three nuns — Sr Magdala Lewandowski (43), Sr Epiphany Schneider (73) and Sr Ceslaus Stiegler (60) were from Germany while Sr Joseph Wilkinson (55) was from England.
The priests were Father (Fr) Christopher Shepherd Smith (33), a Briton born in East Africa, Fr Martin Thomas (45) from London (both Jesuit priests) with Brother John Conway (57) from Trailee, Ireland.
The Smith regime claimed it was the work of ZANLA forces, ZANU’s armed wing.
Enemies of the liberation struggle also blamed the freedom fighters.
Why was this massacre blamed on the liberation forces and not the terrorist bands of Ian Smith who committed this dastardly act?
Why, when the evidence pointed it to be the work of Rhodesians.
The political, philosophical and spiritual foundations which underpinned ZANU and ZANLA were the quest for liberty and justice for their people, the liberation of Zimbabwe from British bondage.
They were pursuing a noble cause to free their people; to end the exploitation and oppression of their people by the British armed robbers.
The Rhodesian regime on the other hand was a terrorist machinery whose philosophical and political foundations justified terrorist and brutal acts against whatever and whoever stood in their way.
But there was a method to the liberation war. Contrary to what many thought, the eight points of attention which guided the liberation struggle did not come from Chairman Mao of the Chinese Revolution, they actually came from the spiritual leaders of the land.
Top on the list was ‘no adultery’ or Musikavanhu would not protect the fighters; no cruelty to both the masses or the captured enemy, no looting or plundering of the dead enemy and many other details.
It was to be a people’s war; the fighters and the people had to be one, the fighters had to be at peace with the masses.
Consequently, in the execution of the war, the freedom fighters observed the lore of the land, always consulting with the spiritual leadership in each area they operated, with the traditional leadership. Because of this approach which respected the culture of the people, which educated the masses about the cause of the struggle, the hearts and minds of our people were won to the liberation struggle.
And the struggle grew from strength to strength. The people became an impregnable fortress of the liberation struggle.
For this reason, the Rhodesians hatched an evil plan. The infamous Selous Scouts, masqueraded as freedom fighters to commit an evil act meant to denigrate everything the struggle stood for.
It was a move meant to make the people turn against the freedom fighters.
The Selous Scouts, masquarading as freedom fighters, abused women. They knew this was anathema to our people and would alienate the people from the comrades.
The other was indiscriminate killing. They were also notorious for drinking and substance abuse which was done to portray a picture of an unruly guerilla outfit.
Brutal killings, abuse of women and harsh, disorderly as well as unpredictable behaviour was designed to make people run at the sight of the freedom fighters.
But the liberation forces soon caught up with the imposters and educated the masses how to identify the real from the fake.
And so the liberation struggle made strides despite this evil menace. This made the Rhodesians desperate.
The massacre at Musami Mission was one such desperate attempt to arrest the liberation struggle by senseless cold blooded killing of innocents.
An excerpt taken from the Memoirs of Ted Rogers, a Jesuit, published by Cluster Publications, Dorpsruit, South Africa, strenuously avoids laying the blame where it belongs — squarely at the feet of the Rhodesians.
Discussing this post with Comrade Canaan Mugadzaweta, a veteran freedom fighter, he noted revealing indicators that this could never have been the work of ZANLA.
“The killers were dressed in various uninforms”, said the post — Cde Mugadzawet described that as ridiculous: “But we never dressed like that, we were not in uniforms.”
Another part said: “The main evidence left at the scene of the murders were footprints from army boots which were imprinted on a wall as the murderers ran away.”
Anybody who came into contact with the freedom fighters would know that they did not wear standard issue army boots.
The post also says that the armed men argued among themselves as to who was going to shoot the missionaries.
“ZANLA forces never had such arguments. We did not operate like that; we were an organised force which executed missions with precision and not confusion,” he said.
What is interesting is that Rogers leaves out details which are narrated by Father Dunstan Myerscough, a survivor of the massacre, to Sam Dhliwayo who was a Form One pupil at Musami Mission at the time of the massacre, that as the murderers prevaricated over the shooting one said: “We should shoot so as to tarnish the image of vana mukoma,” that is the freedom fighters, as they were affectionately known by the masses.
The Rogers memoirs are silent on the fact that the mission worked hand-in-hand with the freedom fighters, providing them with bales of blankets and clothing, food and medicines as Father Myerscough said to Dhliwayo: “It was also no secret that the priests and the nuns provided huge bales of clothing and foodstuffs to the comrades.”
Neither does it say anything about Brother Adamson who escaped the killing because he happened not to be in his room when the killers came.
Brother Adamson would travel with the comrades at night and would go with students to listen to Radio Maputo, ZANU’s broadcaster during the liberation struggle.
Without these pertinent details, the path is cleared to pin the massacre on ZANLA.
Later, it was established that the Selous Scouts had committed this crime to punish the missionaries for supporting ZANLA.
It was not only to punish the missionaries, it was also to mobilise international opinion against ZANLA and the liberation struggle especially by making the massacre a racist act as the African mission staff were left unharmed.
The Rogers memoirs do not acknowledge that freedom fighters were on a mission of justice and freedom while the Smith regime was a terrorist force seeking to maintain its robbery of the land and wealth of the people of Zimbabwe.
Ours was not a racist war. It was not a war of injustice. We were not murderers but freedom fighters.
We are grateful to many people from all over the world who supported the liberation struggle, people of all races, including the missionaries murdered at Musami.
We could never kill anyone because of their race, but we fought those who came to take away our land with force of arms.
Pinning the Musami massacre on ZANLA freedom fighters is to negate everything they ever stood for; freedom and justice, true liberation.
It is also to discredit the missionaries who were the friends of ZANLA.
This is a travesty.

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