My liberation war experience: Part Three

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By Sydney Mukwenje

AT one point in time at our Mabvuku base, I carried out some reconnaissance; saw heavily armed Rhodesian soldiers approaching us.
I informed vanamukoma and they took positions ready to open fire.
I told them boldly not to because of the Rhodesian soldiers superior fire power comprising of several NATO machine guns against our one LMG, five rifles and 16 submachine guns.
Besides the Rhodesians superior arms, some povo were going to be caught in cross fire because the whitemen were coming from the direction of Nyatande River and cattle kraals where the povo were busy digging manure.
In 1979 or Gore reGukurahundi, at the height of the liberation struggle, there are two events that have refused to escape my imagination.
I said earlier on that one of the first groups to politicise us was led by Biggie Mupositori Muchena who looked like Nicholas ‘Madzibaba’ Zacharia.
Once he narrated to you about Chimurenga one would want to go to Mozambique straight away.
That gradually affected him according to some of our observation.
A traitor is always a traitor according to what later transpired.
One day after supper and the comrades’ daily meetings, I saw him standing pensively by the gate of Mundenda homestead.
I informed one of the comrades, Cde Anti Air about what I had observed and he said, “Biggie hamumuzive here?
“Sometimes anotoda kuenda paguard ega”.
However, from 8pm, Biggie was gone.
Vigorous searches for several days were conducted to no avail until a letter from him was delivered by a seven-year-old girl from Jenya Village.
The letter said, “Please ndisiyei ndakadaro, amai vangu ihure, ndiri mwana wehure.”
There were other useless statements written in there that I cannot remember.
After two days, he was caught, hand cuffed and brought back to Mundenda base. He tried several times to run away claiming that he knew his colleagues wanted to assassinate him at a time Zimbabwe was on the brink of independence, why?
It was now clear to everybody’s observation that his brain had gone nuts but no, Biggie had other ideas up his sleeves.
While being taken back to Mozambique for rehabilitation, he bolted away somewhere in Tsonzo towards Mutare.
People who saw him later told the comrades who had accompanied him that they had seen someone jumping into the back of an army Puma.
So Biggie was gone and all comrades were placed on high alert.
After two weeks Biggie was on a rampage.
He came back dropping some pamphlets and announcing from a helicopter loud speaker that all comrades were fighting a losing battle so everybody should surrender and go back home.
After independence, I was reliably informed that someone met him at Market Square in Harare, but he is now history.
Sometimes the comrades could disperse for various reasons that could not be disclosed to us povo.
We could still make speculations like they could have gone to Mozambique to replenish their ammunition.
So we the mujibhas, myself, Pheneas Kasiyandima, Daniel and Josphat Nyamugure and two others that I cannot remember, were asked to take a break.
During that break, one early April morning I was sent by my grandfather to her sister in Mubvakure Village across Nyatande River close to St Killians.
Before I arrived at my aunt’s residence, I was called by a group of comrades.
One of them was Cde M60-Mukoma Shaw.
He told me to be vigilant since some mujibhas there had been sent elsewhere.
I did that and in no time I saw about 150 Rhodesian soldiers and Maskuzuapo or ‘Pfumo Revanhu’, those Muzorewa soldiers.
They were gathering in a depression a few metres away from my aunt’s home getting instructions from two white soldiers.
I went back and told the comrades what I had seen and was told to disappear immediately.
After about five minutes, I heard a bomb blast, looked back and saw heavy smoke and objects flying in the sky followed by nonstop gun fire.
I could hear bullet sounds whistling and my limbs became weak as a result of those tracer bullets.
I started walking towards home, but quickly crossed Nyatande River before helicopters came.
However, instead of going straight home, I began shooting birds with my catapult along the banks of Nyatande River on the Mutasa side.
While enjoying myself, I heard a whistle, looked towards that direction and saw someone waving towards me on the Makoni side.
At first I hesitated because Skuzuapos could disguise themselves as vanamukoma, but, having realised that he was a genuine comrade, I crossed Nyatande River to where he was.
I was happy to see he was Tasangana Mabhunu.
He instructed me to check the situation at Machemedze homestead where anaCde Simba and others were.
I did so and beckoned him in.
We arrived just in time for sadza and while the Chimbwidos were serving us, all hell broke loose.
There was a loud bang.
We peeped outside and realised that there was gunfire already being exchanged right next door at my aunt, Mrs Machemedze’s homestead which is close to the late wrestler Kutsanzira ‘The Moon Dog’s homestead.
Names of chimbwidos like my late niece, Vhangiri were being called by the enemy.
We bolted out and sprinted towards Nyatande before we were seen by the enemy. In no time, Tasangana was already a kilometre away from me.
That was when I realised that those guys were really trained.
I gave up running because I had failed to understand what was happening around me.
I crossed Nyatande River back to the Mutasa side, but that time towards Chikumbu Village, the comrades on that day who included Anti-Air, Simba Muhondo, Justice Muhondo and Joseph Muhondo later told me that they were actually besieged by the Rhodesians including the Skuzuapos.
Some of the Rhodesians could be seen walking in the yard firing randomly towards the houses in which the comrades where.
My aunt had just gone into the granary to get some mealie-meal before the battle started.
Luckily she survived.
The comrades ended up firing back and hurling some grenades while besieged in the huts.
After the gunfire died down, the comrades bolted out towards Nyatande River including my old aunt.
Almost 20 Rhodesian soldiers perished that day.
Unfortunately, Cde Simba remained there injured and was captured only to be released at independence.
That group of comrades was sold out by three young men three weeks before who had come pretending to be seeking assistance to go to Mozambique.
We had spent a week with them not knowing they were spying on us.
It did not take the comrades long to realise who had sold them out and in two days the sellouts were caught and later ‘shown the actual route to Mozambique’.
While walking casually, mukoma Tasangana emerged from the bush by the roadside and we smiled at each other victoriously.
We walked together for 10 minutes and arrived at Mbuya Chinhanhu’s homestead.
He asked for her old dress, a cloth wrapper (chari), tswanda and a small hoe.
He put on the dress, put the small hoe into the tswanda, wrapped his rifle into the chari and gave it to me to carry on my shoulder like a log.
Mukoma Tasangana balanced the tswanda on his head in a ‘womanish’ style while I walked behind him like his little grandson.

To be continued

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