‘We taught Rhodesians a lesson in Sipolilo’

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The story of Cde Issac Marisa
Chidhakwa alias Cde Rex Bongozozo

I WAS struck with fear when I saw a troop of Rhodesian soldiers approaching our killing bag.
The Rhodesians were full of energy and for a moment I lost confidence in ourselves.
This was my first time to be involved in a battle at the warfront.
As a fighter, I had vowed to die fighting but it’s not easy to accept that reality when it faces you.
I was worried and for a moment I felt I would not come out of this engagement alive.
A sell-out had informed the Rhodesians about our presence in Kachuta Village, Guruve, the then Sipolilo.
I was among 42 guerillas who came from Dande to resume operations which had been brought to a halt by the Détente of 1975.
It was now November of 1976.
Kachuta was in Percy Ntini sector which was under ZANLA’s Tete Province.
As per norm, we approached Sekuru Mutota, a spirit medium, to seek spiritual guidance.
Upon completion of rituals, the security cadres gathered information to the effect that Rhodesians were well informed about our presence in the area and were planning an attack.
We were staying at a base on a mountain adjacent to Dande River.
We swiftly changed our base and laid an ambush on a mountain about a kilometre from Dande River.
Our commander, Cde Ray, an experienced fighter, commanded us and crafted the strategy for the Rhodesian ambush.
Since it was a rain season, there was sufficient vegetation for cover.
We carefully laid the ambush.
I kept still in my position waiting for our prey.
Kutaura chokwadi hana yangu yairova.
We patiently waited since we did not know when they intended to attack us.
At around 8am, a large number of Rhodies entered our killing bag.
We were well armed with three mortar bombs, two bazookas, an RPG 2 and RPG 7, three LMGs and three rifle lancers.
Cde Ray fired his pistol, the first shot, and we started firing at the enemy, unremittingly.
We caught them by surprise because they were going towards our first base which we had abandoned.
I don’t know where I gathered the strength and courage.
We fired for about 15 minutes and there was great commotion and confusion among the enemy.
The Rhodies returned fire, but it was not effective as we never encountered any casualty.
Cde Ray instructed us to stop firing after the Rhodies ceased firing.
We dispersed to regroup at the gathering point we had agreed on.
We could not move as a large group to avoid detection from the Rhodesian air force since it was in the morning, so we dispersed and made for the gathering point as individuals. , in pairs or in small groups.
I made for the point in the company of Cdes Kadanha Mabwe MuZimbabwe, Vatema Tichatonga and Soul Mudzimu.
As we moved towards the agreed point, we walked into a Rhodesian Grey Scouts ambush.
Their horses neighed and that was when we realised we were getting into an ambush.
There was no time to waste, we had to fight our way through it.
There was no retreating, we were in a Rhodie killing bag.
We started firing and advancing.
The horses panicked when we started firing and this worked to our advantage.
Much to my personal astonishment I fought bravely like an experienced soldier in this battle.
The Grey Scouts failed to return fire as their horses turned wild, causing mayhem.
Our heavy gunfire was enough signal to fellow guerillas who came to reinforce us.
Takaita mabiko pakurova maGrey Scouts.
Rhodesians and their horses perished.
We had no time to count the casualties because we knew the Rhodesians’ re-enforcement were on their way.
We had to move to our gathering point as fast as possible.
Sudden heavy rains worked to our advantage as it cleared our footprints.
It took us about four hours of trotting in the rains to reach our gathering point.
My group was the last group to arrive since we were ‘disturbed’ by the Grey Scouts.
We were happy when we realised that we came out of those battles alive and that we had no casualties.
Dogs, we heard, feasted on the horse meat.
These battles fortified me.
Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande

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