ZIPRA prisoners of war escape Khami Maximum Prison

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The story of Cde Martin Mwale, alias Cde Chenjerai

I INSTINCTIVELY fell to the ground when the emergency whistle was blown.
This was the only way to be safe when there was commotion in the prison cells because warders would shoot to kill anyone found standing.
And in this incident, some comrades had escaped from Khami Maximum Prison.
The comrades were later apprehended in Bulawayo.
Cdes Timothy Duri and Takura Muhondo, ZIPRA cadres who had escaped from prison, were brought to the prison yard to be beaten in front of everybody as a deterrent measure.
The two and another freedom fighter had managed to escape from the walls of the notorious Khami Prison. Sadly they were caught three days later.
The three highly trained fighters had managed to smuggle into the prison’s D Class cells a piece of soap which they punched on the keyhole.
Using the mark on the soap, they crafted a key to unlock their cell.
All went according to plan.
Using blankets, which they tied together to make into ropes, they managed to escape from prison.
Upon their escape, they parted ways but the two were soon caught as they did not find clothes to change into fast enough.
Alarm had been raised throughout the country with high rewards offered for their capture.
All prisoners of war were taken to the prison yard to witness the ‘results’ of trying to escape.
It was a cold morning of June 1972.
We quietly sat down as Duri and Takura were brought into the prison yard.
They were presented to us in handcuffs and leg irons.
Their faces were swollen and their prison clothes were a bright crimson from their blood.
They limped and staggered as their feet were swollen, indicative of the torture they had already undergone.
White prison officers’ chairs were arranged in the front and they sat presiding over this cruel and inhuman act.
Black prison warders, known as ndunas, were heavily armed and stood guard with dogs.
A prison warder, Chunga, told us how Duri and Takura had fooled themselves by trying to escape from prison.
He told us that the public assisted the authorities to capture the ‘terrorists’ because they did not like them.
He emphasised that we were hated by people, hence trying to escape was a waste of time because we would be eventually captured.
Torture started soon after the address by Chunga.
The ndunas started beating Duri and Takura.
We could feel their pain.
Sjamboks were wielded and flesh was shredded from the bodies.
There was nothing we could do but to sorrowfully watch and empathise.
Cde Nyazika could not stand the sight of a fellow comrade abused.
He sprang up and grabbed the prison warder who was beating Cde Duri.
Commotion then followed.
Fellow black prison warders covered their white superiors who were pleasantly watching the torture.
An emergency whistle was blown and we knew what that meant.
We all fell to the ground because the warders would shoot anyone standing.
Nyazika was ready to die. He kept a grip on the warder’s neck and the warders did not shoot because they feared they would kill their fellow warder in cross fire.
This was a highly trained prisoner of war who was in prison till the country attained independence in 1980: A trained guerilla who vowed to die to save another comrade.
A dog was the only option to save the warder from the angry ‘terrorist’.
The most vicious dog was given the instruction to attack Cde Nyazika.
There was dead silence as the dog rescued the warder and started a fight with Cde Nyazika.
Cde Nyazika held the dog by its front legs and struggled with it.
Much to our astonishment Cde Nyazika struggled with the dog for about 10 minutes.
I was overjoyed when I heard the racist dog whimper, I knew cde Nyazika had won the battle with the dog.
He ripped the dog apart and it died instantly.
He surrendered himself to the prison warders who did not waste time in continuing with their abuse.
They handcuffed and leg-ironed him and severely beat him until he fainted.
As if it was not enough, Cde Duri and Cde Takura were brought back.
They were beaten until they fainted as well.
We were all instructed to remove our clothes and for close to a month stayed semi-naked.
The Rhodies were afraid of the guerillas.
Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande

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