What it costs to love Zimbabwe…

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I COME from Zimbabwe.

This small territory of some 150 000 square miles, set in central Africa, landlocked and occupied by a small white minority of some 230 000 is known by the name of Rhodesia.

We, the Africans, do not like it to be called Rhodesia.

Rhodesia is the name that was given to it following the ‘occupation’ of our land by troops commanded by a man known as Cecil John Rhodes in 1890.

The country was named after him.

Cecil John Rhodes was probably the richest and most ambitious of all empire builders known to British imperial history. The establishment of the country by the white people was really as a commercial enterprise.

The company that established it was known as the British South Africa Company, whose chairman was Cecil Rhodes.

Its purpose was to exploit the minerals, the land and animal resources of our territory.

And the history of Zimbabwe by the white settlers, ever since, has been to exploit, not only the natural resources of the country, but the people (as well).

In fact, the people were looked upon as an exploitable natural resource.” (Chitepo:1974)

Thirty-nine years ago, this tragedy ended, not by the waving of a magic wand but because our people committed to end it “…so fired with that vision they have been prepared to take up arms to fight against the regime that oppresses them, to establish a new Zimbabwe, a new country, a new justice, a new economic system, a new society” (Chitepo: 1974).

It is for us to bring into reality this society they envisioned, a united and prosperous Zimbabwe.

This 39th anniversary of the liberation of our Zimbabwe, I am retracing the footsteps of those who said NO to the armed robbery of our land as a commercial venture by Cecil John Rhodes; they laid down their lives to end this travesty.

Cdes Amai Victoria Chitepo and Vivian Mwashita who both left this material realm on April 8 2016, as well as Cde Alexander Kanengoni who joined them four days later are some of the cases in point. 

These three are great heroes who fought for Zimbabwe’s liberation and were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for its freedom.

Musikavanhu spared their lives in the armed struggle so that they would continue the work of defending this liberation and build Zimbabwe. 

We were privileged to have them serve us for 36 years, indeed a very generous gift.

In greater depth, however, I will retrace the footsteps of Cde Chinodakufa, who gave nothing less than his all to ensure that Zimbabwe was restored to its owners.

Cde Chinodakufa was one of the great sons of Zimbabwe who were first sent to open the North-Eastern Frontier of our war of liberation in 1972. 

He, together with Cdes Chiridza and Cephas were sent by the Dare reChimurenga to the north-east of Zimbabwe to ensconce with the spiritual leaders of our land, as essential preparation for the commencement of the war. 

They presented to the spiritual leaders of the land their intention to wage the war of liberation and obtained their blessing. 

They reported back to Chairman Chitepo, Cde Tongogara and the other leaders. 

They were then sent on a second mission to carry out reconnaissance in the area, to lay a firm foundation for the armed struggle to take root in this area. 

Their brief was to be at peace with the masses, to respect, honour and obey the spiritual leaders of the land, to observe the cultural practices, to seek to understand and cherish the ways of the people, in that context then to present to the people; their intention to wage the war of liberation. 

“We now have weapons to fight the white-man unlike when the whites first came, we are now able to fight the whites man-to-man,” they said. 

“But for food and clothing we depend on you,” they explained. 

The result was a deep rapport with the masses who also gave their blessings and committed to fight side-by-side with the comrades. 

Cde Chinodakufa and his team took the good news back to the leadership. 

It was only then that they were sent with an armed contingent to commence operations, thus opening the North-East Frontier of the war.

The contingent was divided into three groups which were deployed as follows: Cde Rex Nhongo’s group targeted Alterna Farm which was frequented by whites, Cde Chinodakufa’s group  based at the Gwerevende Homestead in the Chaminuka sector, the third group, under Comrade Chiridza, based in the Nehanda Sector. 

The three groups were to launch  co-ordinated attacks in order to deny the enemy time to regroup and retaliate.  

This set the stage for the historic battle of Januray 1973 fought at the Gwerevende homestead in which Cde Chinodakufa’s section captured Gerald Hawksworth, the Rhodesian Land Development Officer (LDO) in the Chesa area of Mt Darwin. 

Hawksworth and two of his colleagues (white) had come to the Gwerevende homestead breathing fire because the comrades had foiled his robbery of a general dealer shop belonging to Gwerevende and his brother-in-law Mutandiro.  

Thus began Cde Chinodakufa’s journey back to Mozambique with Hawksworth as a prisoner of war. 

On this journey, Hawksworth had the privilege of experiencing first-hand the stuff ZANLA was made of. 

ZANLA did not have to read the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, it was written in the hearts of ZANLA forces. 

This was not a war of attrition, it was a just war; and you cannot achieve justice through injustice. 

It was easy for Rhodesians to track Cde Chinodakufa’s group. 

It was in January and villagers were out in the fields. 

They easily spotted the whiteman in military fatigues. 

They had recognised one male of the Kaseke family (Cde Chinodakufa) from the nearby hills, they were informed. 

Unaware of the betrayal, Cde Chinodakufa and his team stopped at his homestead, where Hawksworth confessed he enjoyed sour milk curds, that he could also drink the home brewed beer although he asked for KB beer, which the comrades bought in quite some quantities.

The Rhodesians were hard on their heels but they never caught up with them. 

Failing thus, they did what they did best, terrorised innocent, unarmed civilians. 

They prosecuted his wife, his mother and father, an uncle and his wife as well as another uncle; each was sentenced to three years in jail. 

In addition, they took Cde Chinodakufa’s 21 head of cattle, and 75 head from a neighbour, the Kajongwe family. 

To this day, Cde Chinodakufa still asks: “My cattle where impounded to look after Gerald Hawksworth’ s children, what about my children?”

Who looked after his children when their mother, grandparents and close relatives were all jailed?

The news of the treachery at his home caught up with them too soon. 

Cde Chinodakufa tells of how his fellow comrades thought of taking his gun away in case he would commit suicide, but he was in the struggle for all it cost; that was far from his mind.

This land is sacred because it was consecrated in the blood of the most selfless love of comrades such as him and thousands others.

Congratulations comrades, our greatest accomplishment is 39!

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