The story of Valentine Chimonyo
I SURVIVED death by a whisker when Rhodesian forces were ambushed in Maparura Village in Tanda area, which is in Chief Makoni’s area.
It was April 1975.
I was with my friend Isaac Hapandiwa guarding our maize field from baboons.
A bus from Harare (then Salisbury) stopped at Chapwanya Primary School to drop off some passengers.
Out of curiosity to see who was disembarking, we rushed to the bus.
But we were chased away as the driver accelerated off at a command from Cde Masamba Asiyana.
We were about to disturb their trap for the Rhodesians.
Cde Masamba and his fellow guerilla fighters had learnt that the Rhodesian forces, who patrolled in that area, were to use that road on their way to Rusape from their military base in Mayo.
The bus driver was told to reverse and swiftly drove back and took the other route to Mayo as freedom fighters had planted landmines for the Rhodesian convoy.
We rushed back to our fields which was about a kilometre from Chapwanya Primary School.
In that instance, we heard a loud sound.
The Land Rover which was in front of the convoy had been blown by the landmine.
It was followed by a Rhodesian military lorry before the freedom fighters started firing at the Rhodies.
All in all, the convoy consisted eight vehicles.
But only two were blown by the landmines.
We were frightened and kept still as it was our first time to witness a battle.
The attack only lasted for about 20 minutes before the freedom fighters, who were firing from Nyagombo Mountain, ceased fire and vanished in the thicket of the forest.
Together with my friend, we swiftly rushed back home where there was a traditional ceremony of initiation of a bull.
They had heard sounds of the fighting as well.
All the people who were in the hut were trembling with fear because this was the first big battle to be fought in our area.
The Rhodies who had survived the ambush came to our homestead as it was nearby.
We were all force-marched to the wreckages of their trucks.
By the time we reached the wreckages, four helicopters of the Rhodesian air force were hovering above.
There were four corpses of Rhodesian soldiers.
Three wounded black Rhodesian soldiers were crying for help in pain.
A white Rhodesian soldier, who had been shot in the leg, charged towards us and threatened to burn the whole village.
We were all instructed to sit down as we waited for transport to ferry us to Mayo for intensive interrogation.
The helicopters landed and removed corpses of the Rhodesian soldiers.
They did not want us to see corpses of their fellow soldiers as this would prove the superiority of the freedom fighters.
A lorry came after about an hour of waiting.
We were loaded onto the lorry like cabbages as there were more than 30 of us.
On our way, as we approached a bridge, the lorry reduced speed.
I took advantage of the reduced speed and jumped off.
One of the ladies from our village called after me ordering me to stop.
She was afraid I would be shot if I was seen by Rhodesian soldiers who were following us.
Unfortunately, her shouts alerted the Rhodesian soldiers who had not yet noticed that I had escaped.
The lorry was stopped and I fell to the ground on hearing gunfire.
It’s true ukainzwa kurira wapona.
I felt weak and could not stand up.
I was struck with fear when I turned around to face the Rhodesian soldiers who had come to apprehend me.
I remember seeing Nyika, an infamous black Rhodesian soldier notorious for torturing people in our area.
Nyika kicked me heavily in the stomach before he dragged me back to the lorry where he severely assaulted me in front of other captives.
I lost consciousness only to come to at Mayo Rest Camp where we were severely tortured.
However, that successful ambush of the Rhodesian soldiers convinced me freedom fighters meant business and victory was certain.
Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande