The untold story of a mass grave

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Recently in Beira, Mozambique

AFTER being defeated at the Battle of Mavonde, named ‘Man-to-Man Battle’ by the Rhodesians on September 4 1979 ,the Rhodesian Forces attacked Nyangau, a ZANLA transit base in Beira and killed 33 people.
Rhodesians attacked the base in a desperate effort to frustrate the Patriotic Front, composed of ZANU and ZAPU, during the Lancaster House talks of 1979.
Nyangau was the last ZANLA base to be attacked in Mozambique during the liberation struggle.
The base was attacked on December 10 1979, just 11 days before the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement on December 21 1979.
Nyangau has remained relatively unknown.
The Lancaster House Agreement was signed after Rhodesian imperialists accepted military defeat.
As ceasefire seemed imminent, the Rhodies attacked guerillas hoping a victory would reverse the freedom fighters’ gains.
However, at every turn, they were repelled.
The guerillas proved a formidable force that had stamped its authority.
By 1979, most areas in the country had become liberated zones, becoming no-go areas for the Rhodies.
On that fateful day, December 10 1979, Rhodesians bombed a ZANLA military transit base 20km to the south-west port of Beira, in Nyangau Village under Chief Chimuti, killing 25 ZANLA trainees and eight Mozambican civilians.
Canberra bombers, Hunters and Vampire jets were used for this cowardly act.
According to Cde Florence Miti alias Pronica Chingandura, who was a member of ZANLA’s General Staff, paratroopers and heliborne troops were deployed on three sides of the camp into various stop groups and sweep lines who killed those fleeing from the attack.
All cadres who were killed at this base had been destined for Tanzania for further military training.
Upon completion of military training in various camps such as Chimoio, Tembwe and Nyadzonia, some ZANLA combatants were sent to Tanzania to receive further military training at Nachingwea, Mgagao and Morogoro.
The trainees would be transported by road to the port and they would stay at Nyangau Base waiting for the ship to transport them to Tanzania.
According to an eyewitness by a Mozambican national, Rufu Chikomo, the base was bombed at around 6am.
He said fear struck when he saw a spotter jet flying towards the base which was a few kilometres away from their homestead.
Said Chikomo: “In that instant, the sky was filled with helicopters dropping bombs,” he said.
“My parents were caught in the crossfire and I was lucky because I had gone to fetch water.
“Since Mozambique had gained its independence in 1975 when I was 10 years old, I knew whites would not spare civilians.
“I immediately dropped my bucket of water and started running towards Dondo together with my friend Bibitu Karitu. We managed to reach Dondo safely and took refuge at a FRELIMO military camp for four days.
“Upon my return from Dondo, I could not believe what I saw. There was a black carpet of vultures feasting on human flesh. I arrived two hours before a bulldozer came from Beira to bury all victims in one mass grave.
“By this time, the corpses were decomposing.
“The stench of the decomposing corpses was unbearable.”
This was brutal killing, deliberate genocide by the Rhodesians.
Throughout the war, they had committed these atrocious acts, failing to break the spirit of the freedom fighters.
No amount of killing would deter the guerillas. Instead, the massacres spurred them on.
It was a brutal war in which Rhodesians in their desperation to keep on exploiting and oppressing the black majority, unleashed their ‘might’ but it was in vain.
Over time, guerillas had become a formidable force and with the huge numbers of people that voluntarily left the country to receive military training to topple the colonial government, they became an unstoppable wave.
Maria Parafino, a Mozambican volunteer maintaining the Nyangau Mass Grave, urged Zimbabweans to maintain the grave as it was an important part of the country’s history.
Zimbabweans rarely visit this mass grave in honour of comrades who perished at the hands of the enemy fighting for independence as it has not been publicised and its story remains untold.
“Zimbabweans visit Chimoio, Nyadzonia and Tembwe mass graves, but rarely come here,” said Parafino.
“The mass grave site belongs to Zimbabweans, so they must come and pay their respects to these gallant sons and daughters who perished in service to their nation.
“Zimbabweans who died here were fighters of the liberation struggle.
“They deserve to be honoured.”

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