The day of massacre


The Story of Cde Mary Mukoyi

I was a war collaborator, a chimbwido.
War was ugly.
For as long as I live, I will never forget the ugliness that I witnessed.
My Father worked in South Africa and had access to various items required by the guerillas.
The items include the much-needed khaki clothes and shoes.
One day, in 1978, my father returned home and, as usual, he had brought his consignment of clothes for the comrades.
It was a normal day, as normal as it could be in a war situation.
Along with my father, we trooped to the next village where we were to drop off the supplies he had brought for the freedom fighters.
We crossed Odzi River westward from our village, Manyasha Village, nestled in Mount Jenya area, Mutasa District, Manicaland Province.
We headed for Chiremba Village.
We staffed the khaki shirts and trousers in a tattered sack mixed with some green vegetables to conceal the clothes and to hoodwink spies (vatengesi) who were worse than the soldiers.
Vatengesi lived among us and we didn’t know who they were. They could cause serious damage.
The solution was never to give out information unnecessarily or divulge one’s movements and plans.
Being intercepted by the Rhodesian killing machine with such clothes meant death, it was considered treasonous.
We got to the village at around 9am.
There was a particular house where we were to drop the clothes.
My father handed over the clothes to the comrades who had come to the house.
We then started sharing stories with the comrades.
The atmosphere was relaxed despite it being a war situation.
Paiva nemorari chaiyo.Taitofara zvedu.
Though I was just a teen, 16 to be specific, I fully comprehended the issues that were being discussed.
The war collaborators were a vital cog of the liberation war.
One of the comrades sent me to collect some cigarettes at a nearby homestead.
Upon arrival, I discovered there were other comrades there.
While at the homestead, we suddenly heard a huge sound.
We all kept quiet, decoding the sound.
There was no need to share our deductions; it was clear to all that it was the Rhodesian airforce.
Zvikopokopo zvanga zvasvika.
The Rhodesian airforce was infamous for dropping bombs and zviporridge (napalm).
It was now around 11am.
At first we thought the planes were targeting us.
This was not the case, as the planes started bombing the homestead where my father and the other comrades were.
The planes comprised of two helicopters and a jet fighter.
Bombs rained on the homestead for what appeared to be an eternity.
My father and a few people at the homestead survived the bombing.
While the bombing was in progress, they managed to come out of one of the houses and surrendered, standing at an open space.
They were civilians, this was an ordinary homestead and not a military camp.
My father and fellow villagers were then interrogated by soldiers who had been dropped by one of the helicopters.
The interrogation took hours.
To save lives, the guerillas had ‘disappeared’ from the scene. Engaging the Rhodies would lead to loss of many innocent lives.
But the homestead was reduced to rubble.
Hapana chakasara pamusha uyu.
All structures at the homestead were destroyed except the toilet which somehow escaped the Rhodesian firepower.
The other chimbwidos and I escaped into the mountains and crossed Nyatande River into Makoni District where we stayed for three days.
I was really impressed by how the comrades chose not to engage the enemy for the sake of the povo and expertly disappeared.
To where, I don’t know but havana kufa musi uyu.
But the aftermath of the bombing was ugly; villagers and animals perished.
Up to now, we are not sure whether someone sold out to the Smith regime or it was just happenstance that brought the Rhodies to the village.
Since my father was not aware that I had left the homestead, he feared I had been caught up in the bombing and was among the dead.
On the other hand, I was also convinced that my father was among the dead. It appeared no one had survived the senseless attack on unarmed villagers, even if there were guerillas there.
Eventually my father was let go after convincing the Rhodies that he was just visiting relatives at the homestead.
The guerillas had disappeared with the clothes, thus there was no evidence of collaborating.
When I arrived back home after three days, there was pandemonium.
Mourners thought I was a ghost — all believed I had perished in the bombing, that is how bad it was.
I could also not believe that my father was alive.
However, the incident did not deter me from continuing with my duties as a chimbwido.
It emboldened me to continue supporting the freedom fighters until we were victorious.
Compiled by Tobias Manyuchi


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