ZANLA teaches Rhodesian forces a lesson

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The story of Anorld Makuvise

ONE December in 1978, I witnessed a battle between my fellow Auxiliary soldiers and ZANLA forces in Mumvumi Forest, Domboshava.
An informer had reported the presence of ZANLA forces in their area.
The informer gave details of the guerilla base in the forest.
It housed a new group that had recently arrived from Mozambique.
During the liberation struggle, we had informers whom we paid 10 Rhodesian pounds.
They were paid their money in cash upon delivering information we deemed vital.
Bonuses were paid for information of ‘notorious’ ZANLA fighters and villagers who supplied them with food.
Most of the informers we dealt with came to us on a voluntary basis and the information they supplied was reliable.
It was in their nature to sell-out.
After receiving information of the base, a platoon was dispatched to deal with these guerillas.
Domboshava was supposed to be a no-go area because of its proximity to Salisbury, now Harare.
We were instructed to ensure that ‘anashamba wamedza’ never operated in the area.
We called freedom fighters ‘anashamba wamedza’ because they had no time to wash their hands before eating meals.
They were swift; we could never catch them even when we got to places they were said to be having meals.
But this time around, we got to the guerilla base before they became any wiser.
I was left behind and did not join the first platoon but we could hear the heavy exchange of gunfire.
We knew this was a fierce battle; what we had thought and assumed was wrong.
This was no walkover, a simple wiping-out of guerillas.
At exactly 2:30pm we received a radio signal for reinforcements.
I picked up my FN rifle, my box of Peter Stuyvesant, a swig of some whisky when the emergency whistle was blown and swiftly rushed to the jeep to take us to the raging battle.
There were only six of us at the base and for a moment we thought the informer had lied about the number of the guerillas
But our informers were reliable.
Since we had been told during training that ZANLA forces were poorly trained and could be easily captured, I did not hesitate to go to the battlefield.
I was ready to put into practice what I had received in the three-month training at Musana.
I was ready kuenda kunobata matororo.
And finally the terrorists were in my home area.
I knew Mumvumi Forest like the back of my hand.
This is the place where I used to herd cattle and I knew every single rock and tree in that forest.
I wondered why my fellow soldiers were being held at bay by the ZANLA forces whose ‘poor’ training saw them moving only during the night.
We joyfully sang on our way.
This was my first battle and I was excited.
Unlike ZANLA forces, we openly operated during the day and we would sing on top of our voices.
It took us 20 minutes to drive to the battlefield because of the rough terrain.
I was not scared because air reinforcements could easily be summoned.
Our driver stopped before the flooded Nyaure River and we took positions.
I could not believe what I saw.
My compatriots were retreating.
There were Rhodesian paratroopers who had been dropped by helicopters and we were not aware of this.
I could not believe it when I saw the Rhodesian forces retreating together with the Auxiliaries.
Kwaitove kutiza.
I never fired a single shot.
I silently sneaked from the battlefield and crawled to Cheutsi Mountain.
I witnessed something totally different from what we had been taught during training.
ZANLA combatants were indeed fighters.
These guys were highly trained and would never be taken lightly.
These were fierce fighters.
The Auxiliaries retreated, vamwe vakatoita zveku mhanyira murwizi rwanga rwaka zara.
Four of our soldiers perished in flight.
There was a sudden silence after all our forces retreated and the ZANLA forces disappeared.
As I descended from that mountain, I realised that some of my fellow soldiers had also hidden on that mountain.
ZANLA forces gave us a hard time and a real lesson in war.
We lost more than 30 soldiers in that battle.
This battle changed my perception of the ZANLA forces.
I realised that we had been misinformed.
ZANLA forces were highly trained and had sophisticated weapons.
Vaiiziva hondo varume ava.
Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande.

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