Cde Felix Muchemwa took the responsibility on behalf of the ZANLA Commander, Cde Rex Nhongo (Solomon Mujuru), and decided to attack the Rhodesian Security forces, while sparing the Australian ceasefire monitoring force, writes Dr Felix Muchemwa in his book The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe (1890-2010) that The Patriot is serialising.
February 10, 1980
AROUND 1:55pm on February 10 1980, Cde Robert Mugabe was travelling in the lead car of a three vehicle convoy on the road to Fort Victoria (Masvingo) Airport, returning to Salisbury (Harare) after addressing a mass rally at Mucheke high density suburb in Fort Victoria.
There was a huge explosion just behind the last car.
It turned out that a 30-40kg of unknown explosive had been placed together with a TM57 landmine, under a road culvert and fired by a ‘command detonation’ from about 100 metres.
“Mr Mugabe, travelling in the leading car, was unscathed, but two following cars were damaged and four occupants were treated at Fort Victoria Hospital for minor injuries and shock.” (The Herald, February 11, 1980, p.1)
Meanwhile, in the Mutapa suburb of Gwelo, a suspected 35kg explosive caused a huge explosion that ripped apart and completely destroyed the municipal-owned two storey Musika office block in the early hours of the same February 10 1980.
The building had often been used by ZANU PF members.
Smear campaign: Church bombings
Late on February 14 1980, four teams of Selous Scouts, acting under orders, carried out church bombings throughout Salisbury in an operation meant to tarnish ZANU PF and ZANLA forces as anti-Christian. (Stiff, 1999: p.292)
The Presbyterian Church in Jameson Avenue (Samora Machel), the International Church at Kingsmead in Borrowdale, the Catholic Cathedral in Fourth Street (Simon Muzenda) and the St Michael’s Anglican Church in the Harare (Mbare) African Township, were all targeted.
In Barbara Tredgold Street, close to St Michaels Anglican Church in the Harare (Mbare) African Township, Selous Scouts operatives, Lieutenant Edward Piringondo and a white sergeant accidentally detonated the bomb they wanted to place in the St Michaels Anglican Church and blew themselves up in the Renault 12 they were using. (Stiff, 1999: p. 292)
The car literally disintegrated in the explosion and residents saw ‘human limbs everywhere’. (The Herald, February 15 1980, p.1)
Reverend David Manyau, an assistant priest at the church, collected the human remains scattered all over the explosion area and buried them in the same vicinity. (The Herald, February 16 1980, p. 1)
The second explosion took place at 10:45pm, and almost completely destroyed the Kingsmead Chapel in Borrowdale.
No one was injured in the explosion.
Five minutes later, a bomb explosion in the Presbyterian Church in Jameson (Samora Machel) Avenue shattered window panes in the Monomotapa Hotel, injuring four men.
A fourth bomb was disarmed after discovery by Father Dennis Mangani at the entrance into the Catholic Cathedral in Fourth Street (Simon Muzenda Street) just after 6am on February 15.
It was a time-bomb comprising 2,7kg of TNT and a Chinese mortar bomb tacked in a leather briefcase whose inside had been written the slogan ‘Pambere neMugabe!’ (The Herald, February 16 1980, p. 1)
The bomb had obviously been intentionally made faulty (Stiff, 1999: p. 292) for easy identification as a ZANLA Communist bomb intended to destroy not only a Catholic Cathedral, but Christian civilisation as a whole.
But the give-away was the slogan of ‘Pambere neMugabe!’
ZANLA guerillas as well as Africans never used such wording. The faulty language was only possible with Europeans.
Lastly, just before 3am on Sunday February 24 1980, a TM 46 landmine, containing about 8kg of explosives destroyed the printing machines of the Catholic Mambo Press in Gwelo.
Five drums of benzine inside the printing building certainly added to the damage.
Parts of two bodies, one black and one white (which consisted of only a leg) as well as a damaged Tokarev pistol were found in the rubble.
None of the Mambo Press employees was missing, and it looked like the Selous Scouts operatives had entered the building through a window that had previously been closed. (The Herald, February 25 1980, p. 1)
Planned attack on Assembly Points
Rhodesian Security forces now knew that their preferred candidate, Abel Muzorewa, was going to lose and were extremely desperate to get the pending elections nullified.
An alternative plan was a combined air and ground attack on the Assembly Points in the event the Patriotic Front won the elections. (Stiff, 1999: p 292)
Assembly Points which were close to mountains or kopjes were to be bombed by the Rhodesian Airforce, directed from nearby observation posts (OPS).
On February 15 1980 such a plan was already unfolding at Assembly Point Bravo, Magadzi Mine in Shamva.
Cde Muchemwa (accompanied by Cde Zororo Duri — Security) was visiting Assembly Points Bravo and Alpha on behalf of ZANLA Commander, Cde Rex Nhongo, when the ZANLA Tete Provincial Commander, Comrade Perence Shiri, alerted him to the presence of Rhodesian security forces on the Magadzi Mountain, within Assembly Point Bravo boundaries.
The agitated Provincial Commander was threatening to hit both the Rhodesian Security forces on the mountain top and the Australian ceasefire monitors unless Cde Muchemwa returned to the ZANLA Command Post in Salisbury and brought back the ZANLA commander, Cde Nhongo, to sort out the Rhodesian security forces inside Assembly Point Bravo.
However, Cde Muchemwa took the responsibility on behalf of the ZANLA Commander, Cde Nhongo and decided to attack the Rhodesian Security forces, while sparing the Australian ceasefire monitoring force.
The relevant orders were subsequently given to Detachment commanders, Sectorial commanders and members of the ZANLA General Staff to form a unit which quickly took positions on the Magadzi Mountain top, ready to assault and overrun the Rhodesian Security forces.
Meanwhile, Cde Muchemwa had assembled the Australian Ceasefire Monitoring Force commanders to brief them on the presence of Rhodesian Security forces on top of Magadzi Mountain, and his decision to attack them.
While the Australians expressed surprise at the presence of the Rhodesian security forces inside Assembly Point Bravo, the Rhodesian Police officer with them, a superintendent from Shamva Police Station, threatened to call the Rhodesian Airforce to carpet bomb Assembly Point Bravo if the Rhodesian Security force unit was attacked.
Comrade Duri quickly responded by knocking down the superintendent, challenging him to call the Rhodesian Airforce.
At that point, ZANLA forces opened fire and overran the Rhodesian unit now reinforced by about nine SAS operatives who had established an observation post on the mountain.
Within 15 minutes, the battle was over.
The Australians moved onto the battle scene, to monitor the situation accompanied by Cde Duri and in the process, they walked into an ambush, which was quickly controlled by Cde Duri.
One Australian had a heart attack and was resuscitated by Cde Muchemwa. He was flown by Puma to Andrew Fleming Hospital back in Salisbury.