The story of Cde Viola Mushawevato
WE listened with pain and were heartbroken as Rhodesians gloated they had wiped out a band of terrorists in Chinhoyi, then Sinoia.
The Battle of Chinhoyi was the first military engagement between guerillas and the Rhodesian government forces on April 28 1966.
It marked the beginning of the Second Chimurenga.
A team of seven ZANLA cadres engaged the Rhodies valiantly, but were outnumbered and killed after they ran out of ammunition.
While the nationalists ‘went wild with joy’, for the Rhodies had been given a rude awakening, the majority of us ordinary people had been in the dark and were quite surprised that fighters had come into the country.
We did not know of the presence of vanamukoma in the country.
This proved a weakness for the fighters who included Simon Chimbodza, Christopher Chatambudza, David Guzuzu and others.
They fought bravely, but had nowhere to retreat, they had no support base in the country.
Seven months after the Battle of Chinhoyi, Josiah Magama Tongogara returned from Nanking Academy in Peking where he and others had undergone training in mass mobilisation strategy and tactics.
The leaders of the struggle emphasised that to win the revolution, it was not only guns that were needed, but also mass mobilisation.
Thus after the 1966 attack, leaders of the liberation struggle went back to the drawing board.
And we found ourselves among the very first people who were conscientised by the guerillas.
For the war to be waged successfully, it was realised guerillas had to work hand-in-glove with the people.
I was a 14-year-old girl in 1972 at this decisive phase of the struggle.
At that age, I knew of the brutality and oppressive nature of the Ian Smith Regime.
Our freedoms were limited and so were our opportunities.
We could not freely visit our father who worked in Salisbury (Harare); moving from my home area of Chiweshe to the city required us to get passes which were issued after ‘convincing’ reasons for visiting.
It is against this background that we received the guerillas in our area.
And it was Cde Solomon ‘Rex Nhongo’ Mujuru, whom the Rhodesians came to fear and respect, who paid us a visit.
It was in December 1972.
We heard knocks on our doors in the dead of the night.
Villagers were being woken up and instructed to go and gather at the homestead of Headman Chinehasha.
We did not know what awaited us there.
When we had all gathered, Cde Rex Nhongo appeared to address us.
“Vabereki tauya, tatove muno,” was his opening remark.
On this night, myths and rumours about the guerillas were dispelled.
“Hatina miswe, hatina inda, hatidye nekuponda vanhu,” he said.
“Tiri vana venyu tinoda rubatsiro rwenyu kurwisa muvengi.”
Most importantly, we were informed that although we had not crossed the borders to Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania, China and other countries that trained our people to be effective guerilla fighters, we were critical in the execution of the struggle.
We were among the first mujibhas and chimbwidos of the liberation struggle and we received our instruction manual.
The guerillas were fish and we would be the water.
Cde Rex Nhongo led a group that was to open up the Mozambique-Zimbabwe north-east war zone, the Nehanda Sector.
They were to fire the shots that would mark the resumption of the war.
And they visited us to conscientise us so as not to repeat the mistake of 1966.
We would be their eyes and ears.
We would supply them with food and clothing.
The Rhodesians, after 1966, were now on high alert and conducting patrols to determine the extent of guerilla infiltration in the country.
The Rex Nhongo-led unit was going to attack Altena Farm and it had no intention of perishing in that attack.
They cut telephone lines in the area and mined the roads.
And we informed them that about 15 trucks had come into the area with soldiers supported by helicopters to inspect the cutting of the lines.
Using this information we supplied them, they successfully carried out their mission of attacking Altena Farm, the property of the cruel Marc de Borchgrave on December 21 1972.
None of the guerillas were captured as with our assistance, they successfully retreated and two days later, they went on to attack Whistlefield Farm where de Borchgrave had escaped to.
I can proudly say we were part of the first mujibhas and chimbwidos who helped in the successful waging of the liberation struggle.
Compiled by Evans Mushawevato