The story of Cde Zeckias Depe
RHODESIANS delivered pain in dosages that shook one to the core.
They were good at it, delivering pain, physical and psychological, in amounts we never thought the human body could take.
In 1979, I was 26.
That I would live to become Kraal Head, Zeckias Rusike, was at that time a far-fetched dream.
I was a resident of Gororo Village, under Goromonzi District and a war collaborator.
The war had progressed from Mutoko into our territory.
For as long as I live, I will never forget the brutality that characterised the war.
Acts of Rhodesian cruelty will forever remain etched in my mind.
Being caught in crossfire, for example at a pungwe, was another thing, but being ‘dealt’ with, directly, by the Rhodesian forces was another.
When a humongous war machine descended, in full force, upon hapless and unarmed civilians, the results were never in favour of the helpless villagers.
One morning in March 1979, a desperate, angry and vengeful Rhodesian army descended upon our village.
It meant serious business.
At this stage, the Rhodesians knew they had lost the war.
Genocides at Chimoio, Nyadzonia and Freedom Camp had not stemmed the tide of war while vakomana just got more efficient by the day, wreaking havoc on the clueless and overstretched Rhodies.
That fateful morning, we first saw a spotter-plane in the sky.
Our hearts sank.
It meant trouble.
And surely, a few minutes later, we heard rumbling sounds.
Land Rovers snaked into our village.
The ominous trucks carried soldiers who carried fury and hatred which they unleashed to devastating effect.
They could easily have been black mambas, it was that bad.
They headed for the residence of Headman Makombe.
Meanwhile, I, as a mujibha, had begun instructing fellow villagers to vacate their homes.
The number of vehicles and soldiers did not need us to stick around to find out what they wanted.
This mission was not meant to find guerillas but deal with us villagers.
Thus we all made haste to escape.
Our headman was not so fortunate.
They got to his homestead and accused him of harbouring ‘terrorists’ (guerillas).
The Rhodies, there-and-then convened a kangaroo court, tried him and found him guilty.
It was a court in which his defense did not matter.
They were out for blood.
And they executed their brutal judgment.
Headman Makombe was bayoneted in the belly.
He died with his intestines hanging out.
Two days later, we found his grandson who was with him, shot dead in the nearby maize field.
Six helicopters hovered over the villages, offering support to the marauding soldiers.
Many villagers escaped into nearby mountains.
All the while, I was directing the escaping villagers away from the soldiers.
From Gororo Village, the Rhodesians proceeded to Magwaza and then Mhange villages.
Finding no people to harass and brutalise, they began torching homes.
These had been our homes for years.
Our homes carried not only our property and hard-earned wealth but our collective memories and vital histories.
Some of us had been born in these houses.
Life-savings were in these homes.
That rare picture of mother and father’s wedding, of the long gone grandfather or grandmother, was in the house.
Many of us expected to come back when the rabid soldiers left to continue with whatever we had been doing.
But our absence did not dissuade the Rhodies from acting in the cruel manner only they could act.
Like the wounded dying lion which will claw if at nothing, but the earth on which it lies breathing its last, the Rhodies dealt with the next thing they felt would cause us pain.
They began burning down our homes.
We watched helplessly as our homes went up in smoke.
The terror lasted for more than five agonising hours.
Indeed the Rhodesians, if they could not find the fish, the guerillas, then they were hell-bent on drying the sea in which the fish swam.
But this was a futile exercise.
Their effort was akin to attempting to empty the sea with buckets.
Our resolve, as we watched the unfolding horror, was strengthened.
We would not stop supporting the guerillas.
When they left, we returned home to pick up the pieces and continue with the struggle.
Many, for days, would not return to the burnt down villages, opting to remain in the safety of the mountains.
Headman Makombe was only attended to two days later.
For as long as I live, I shall never forget the brutality of war.