‘ZANLA gunned down Rhodie soldiers in Chinamora’

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The story of Cde Mavis Senzere

FEAR struck me when I heard the heavy sound of gunfire for the first time.
I was 15 years old and the eldest of four sisters at our homestead in Cheza Village, Chinamora.
Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) freedom fighters attacked and thwarted the Rhodesian army which was based at Manyati Chiweshe’s homestead, about three hundred metres from our home.
In October 1978, the Rhodesian forces established a base in Manyati’s field to render protection to road construction workers putting a kilometre stretch of tar along the Domboshava-Bindura Road.
The road that passed through a steep area was not safe for Rhodesian military trucks which were being constantly hit by the guerillas and they felt widening and clearing the stretch would make it safe.
The construction crew, which came two weeks prior to the attack, was protected by about 20 troopers of the Rhodesian and Auxiliary forces.
I was a war collaborator working together with Fungai Mawire, Rudo Mujeki, Annastancia Murwira and Sarudzai Zindoga.
Cde Farai Muhondo, in charge of security, instructed me and Fungai Mawire to go into the Rhodesian Base and ascertain the number of Rhodesian soldiers, types of guns they had and their positions.
He did not tell us about his intentions and we never suspected he was preparing for an attack.
This information was confidential and we were not supposed to disclose our findings to anyone; secrecy was crucial to our operations.
During that time, guerilla operations in our area were limited, hence the enemy was not highly alert, which worked out to our advantage.
We discovered that most of the soldiers were young boys, barely out of school, who had been conscripted into the Rhodesian army for national service.
We delivered our report and for the next three days, everything was normal.
On the fourth day, at around midnight, I was shocked to hear the sound of gunfire for the first time in my life, at close range.
I had escorted my little sister Evelyn to the toilet outside our hut.
We fell to the ground with shock when we saw the sky lit up as bullets flew from the guerillas’ AK killing machines.
I thought we would die as the fire intensified for the next 30 minutes.
War was no child’s play; we were frightened to our core.
I used to hear stories about ‘contacts’ between freedom fighters and the Rhodesians from my uncle who stayed in Rusape when he visited us.
I spend about 10 minutes motionless after the fire had ceased before looking for my little sister.
I whispered my sister’s name for fear I might be heard and killed.
She was a stone’s throw from me and I wondered how we got separated.
I rushed to where she was, grabbed her by the hand and led her back into the hut.
That was when I realised that I had soiled myself.
There was dead silence in the hut for those inside had also heard the gunfire and were also ‘frozen’ with fear.
While we stood pondering our next move, a young white soldier, in his teens, barged into the hut, terror written all over his face.
He was in his underwear only.
He told us the ‘terrorists’ had attacked their camp and killed almost everyone.
He instructed me to go into my father’s bedroom and get my father’s clothes; I silently complied.
I knew guerillas had already left since I learnt from my uncle that their modus operandi was to hit their enemy and disappear and also that they would not risk civilians’ lives by remaining in the area after an attack.
But I did not hesitate to get the clothes. I wanted this young Rhodie soldier to leave as soon as possible. I was afraid his presence would lead to some calamity.
The young soldier swiftly put on my father’s clothes and vanished into the darkness.
Rhodesian soldiers came with two lorries to ferry their dead.
We never again saw the brave comrade Farai Muhondo.
The Rhodesians were caught by surprise and feared the guerillas.
They relocated to Makumbi Mission Military Base, about seven kilometres away.
Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande.

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