‘My Doiroi experience’

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The story of Cde Alex Makotore, aka Cde Bruce ‘Lee’ Taparara

DOIROI was the replacement for Nyadzonia.
I found myself at the camp in 1976.
I vividly remember when I first arrived at this camp.
When we got to the boomgate, we were told to jump off the truck and line up for inspection.
The camp was manned by FRELIMO soldiers and young Zimbabwean guerillas.
I admired the one in jeans and in his teens who spoke with authority.
I was beginning to feel proud of my whole adventure into nowhere.
Ticha was the name of the ‘Sequranza’ (security detail).
We were given instructions as to what the whole process was all about and from there marched to some security offices on the west of the camp, which was now in our full view.
It was an old farm with a farmhouse called PaKaitano.
While still in formation outside the security office, l saw somebody I knew from Kambuzuma, Kenny Dzimwasha (KD), l felt at ease but not at home for sure.
The place was not home, in all respects.
Kenny was not in good shape as l could read from where l stood.
They were on their way to the kitchen, it was late afternoon.
The camp had pole and dagga huts thatched with grass.
This was definitely no hotel, everything pointed to affairs being hard and brutal.
I had begun to have an inkling that this was no picnic when at Chimoio this slogan statement had been repeated over and over again.
‘War is not a dinner party’.
I had wondered what they meant by that.
Now l had a clue.
There was a process called three checkups.
This was to ascertain your willingness to the cause of the war and be ‘born again’; surrender your old name and adopt a new one in the process. 
I was asked what new name l wanted to adopt and l quickly settled for Bruce Lee.
During my stay close to the Rainbow Cinemas at Kambuzuma, Harare, there were two very popular movies then, Furious Monk and Enter the Dragon by Bruce Lee. 
These had inspired me to choose that name.
To my surprise, there was some sort of military set-up at Doiroi and yet it was a refugee camp.
I was deployed into Company Rusununguko. 
My commander was Comrade Bomber, and my political commissar was Comrade Killer. 
Food was a problem, there was no food.
Malaria was killing tens per day.
Malnutrition and lack of iron in the bones, were some of the challenges we encountered.
I was one of those who ran out of clothes early and Com Bomber, as we used to call him, referred me to Com Killer, the PC whose duty was to look after our welfare.
I was taken to the logistics office for new clothes.
The clothes (mabhero) were of good quality but there was nobody to match the sizes, I was losing weight drastically because of poor diet.
I had to tie the buckles together with a string on the new corduroy trousers I had gotten from the storeman.
There were no shoes, so l started to walk barefooted.
There were jigger fleas at Doiroi called matekenya — l suffered.
That pest would hatch in-between your toes and create a nest in there creating big sores.
I remember that during meals which we had standing at the kitchen, we would trade sadza and salt.
If you had more sadza you would trade it with one with more salt — for sadza and salt were a good combination.
There were illegal escapades outside camp by the boys at night, these would bring goodies into camp like dry fish and meat.
So you would hear the boys moving around the kitchen area shouting ‘ndiyani ane salt ndimupe jest (sadza)’, ‘ane jedaz ndimupe baks’, baks was dried fish, bakayawo.
One evening at the parade ground, my name was called out — ‘Bruce Lee’! and I responded ‘icho’! and Ronnie was also called out.
We went to the ‘Commando’ (commanders quarters) wondering what was going to happen to us.
I went into an interview with Comrade Roy Wenyevhe and Comrade Gora (the late Alexander Kanengoni).
Roy was responsible for camp security.
The Camp Commander was Comrade Hambakwe (Ambassador Moses Mvenge), the Camp Political Commissar was Comrade Gora (the late Alexander Kanengoni, the author) other trained guerillas there were comrades Blessing and Fundisai Chirinda.
Roy gave me the history of the struggle and Party.
How I was to defend the Party’s ideology.
He told me I was now working in the Security and Intelligence Department.
The whole evening l was lectured on the importance of security.
So for me, Zimbabwe’s freedom came at a cost.

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