The missing Chesa battle story

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QUITE often we hear of the terms, especially in sporting or political contexts, ‘records set to tumble’, ‘on the verge of making history’, ‘history repeating itself’ or ‘history in the making’.
These terms describe historic events. Inherent in these terms are assumptions that the event is unique, momentous, surpasses previous ones and there are records to back up these developments.
Records, as in documents on historic events, are ultimately written, preserved and made accessible to a wide population as history.
A week ago, the lead-up to an English Premier League match between Manchester United and Bournemouth was dominated by historical innuendo; Bournemouth had not won against Manchester United since 1984.
While history appeared to favour Manchester United, Bournemouth saw this as a perfect moment to make their own piece of history.
Their match day programme was full of highlights of the 2-0 victory in 1984. By the end of the match last week, Bournemouth had written their own piece of history with a repeat of the 1984 victory.
A big act, documentary evidence and publicity, the essential elements were all there for the historic feat.
A day after Bournemouth’s historic victory I met a colleague, a veteran of our liberation struggle. We were talking about the re-launch of the Second Chimurenga in the north-east in 1972.
His memories gravitated toward one huge battle he was involved in sometime in March 1973 in the Chesa area of Mt Darwin.
He and his comrades were satisfied with the losses they inflicted on the enemy.
He was, however, curious to know how the battle had been reported in the Rhodesian press. As he had other pressing commitments I offered to go to the National Archives and carry out preliminary information search for him.
I went to the National Archives and requested all copies of the March 1973 Rhodesia Herald. Four issues (3rd, 5th, 19th and 22nd) were missing while five issues (11th, 14th, 18th, 25th and 28th) had missing front pages.
The biggest story on security operations along our northern border relates to follow -up stories on the December 23 1972 farm attack in Centenary.
On March 1 there were two stories on this; one on proposed compensation for African farmworkers who lost property in the attack at Chaona and Whistlefield farms and another on the trial of three ‘terrorists’ involved in the attack.
A follow up on this was on the 8th when it was reported the three freedom fighters had been convicted and sentenced to death.
Chaona and Whistlefield farm attacks appear to be the same as what is known as the Alterna Farm battle in liberation literature.
The second big story relates to other incidents that targeted Rhodesian farmers. On the 2nd, there was a report of the first guerilla attack outside Centenary in the post 1972 wave. The attack was in Mhangura. On the 10th, a Karoi farmer was killed in an attack while there had also been an incident at a farm store in the north. Another farmer had also been killed in Wedza as reported on the 31st.
A third prominent story was on engagements involving security forces. This was reported on the 7th (‘Terrorists’ killed), 9th (Centenary police ambushed and 6 ‘terrorists’ killed) and on the 24th about ‘SA policeman injured in landmine incident near Chirundu’.
The last security story involved African collaborators. On the 16th it was reported that three kraal heads and several villagers had been jailed for aiding freedom fighters while on the 27th it was reported that Mhako, a spirit medium from the north, had been put on trial for aiding freedom fighters.
Sadly my colleague war veteran’s story on the Chesa battle was missing in the National Archives’ March papers I perused. Could it be the story is in the missing issues and missing pages?
Was it in the ZANU PF archives? I know parts of it are archived in my colleague’s memories while other parts are definitely in the Rhodesian archives whisked to South Africa, UK and Australia at independence.
Where will this story be in 50 years’ time? Parts of it will be interred with my colleague’s remains. The Rhodesian version will have been transformed into bestselling Rhodesian war books celebrating Rhodesian gallantry.
In our National Archives the Rhodesian Herald will be a key source. And my colleague’s story will not be there.
Unless he shares it today and have it deposited in the National Archives. From the National Archives our historians would then need to take the story into our history books. And our curriculum would then need to support such stories. Only then can my colleague’s story become our story too.

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