A spectacle in December

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The story of Blessing Mukome

I STILL remember that Rhodesian forces intensified their operations in my home village, Nyabadza, in Honde Valley, following their historic defeat at Hwahwazira Mountain in December 1978.

The Rhodies also launched a manhunt for war collaborators and a reward was offered for my head and other active collaborators, like Elisha Matimbira and Edward Nyabadza.

Mozambique was the only haven, but the Rhodesian forces had blocked all the routes since there was mass exodus of students to join the liberation war.

I was saved by my father’s visit, who, upon hearing my plight, decided to take me to Highfield in Harare (Salisbury). 

I was to hide there.

I will never forget that tiresome and painful journey, travelling for more than 300 kilometers in my father’s Ford Zephyr trunk.

We left my home village in the morning to avoid road blocks.

We left home while it was raining heavily, which also worked to our advantage because sellouts didn’t spot us leaving.

Rhodesians thoroughly checked cars that were driving to the rural areas, fearing they would be carrying clothes to the guerillas, but were not really concerned about cars coming from rural areas.

During the liberation struggle, villagers offered logistical support to the freedom fighters.

Businesspeople played a fundamental role of providing clothes and shoes, hence they were always under scrutiny.

Since we were coming from the rural areas, we easily passed through police roadblocks.

Since I was a wanted person, my heart would pound whenever we were stopped by the police.

We managed to pass through all road blocks and the wearisome journey took us about six hours.

I was relieved upon arriving in Salisbury. 

It was ‘peaceful’ and life was totally contrary to rural life in a war situation.

The only difference between Salisbury and Honde was the curfew.

In the city, people were forced to be indoors by 6pm by the Rhodesian security forces while in the rural areas, the nights were replete with enjoyable pungwe meetings.

The Rhodesian forces in rural areas only operated during daytime while the night was for vanamukoma (freedom fighters).

Life in the city was to be peaceful for the next two weeks.

There was a sudden surprise to the Rhodies on December 11 1978.

My elder brother came rushing into the house with shocking news of balls of fire in the sky.

I went outside to see for myself.

Highfield is a few kilometers from Southerton where fuel tanks had been blown by vanamukoma

Freedom fighters had sent a clear warning to Rhodesians that they were in town.

The sky was ‘burning’ and there were loud explosions which continued throughout the night.

Tanks would be thrown into the air and explode.

In my rural home village, I had witnessed ZANLA forces blowing up Rhodesian helicopters and in the city I was witnessing another spectacle.

I really enjoyed this spectacular humiliation of the Rhodesian regime and I will live to celebrate that ZANLA’s historic victory.

The attack was a huge blow to the Rhodesian Government which underestimated the strength and military intelligence of the ZANLA forces.

The following morning, the whole sky was filled with smoke as the fire continued for close to a week.

It took helicopters and fire fighters from as far as South Africa to put out the fire.

People were happy about ZANLA’s attack in the capital but could not express it because Rhodies were bitter and they intensified their security operations in all African townships, especially Highfield, since it was home to many African politicians.

That morning, Rhodesian security forces searched all houses looking for freedom fighters, arresting all suspects, but we later learnt the brave ZANLA fighters who carried out that task managed to escape back to Mozambique.

Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande.

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