Detention motivated me to join the struggle

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The story of Dorothy Dore Kagweda, aka Medeline Chimurenga

I WAS born in Mutasa District, Nenjerama, Manicaland Province.

I did my primary school at Nenjerama Primary School  from 1967, finishing  Grade Seven in the year 1974. Due to social and economic injustice of the white settler-regime and the ongoing liberation struggle, I was forced to drop out of school.

In 1975, Mozambique got its independence and I was motivated by the songs of the liberation struggle on Radio Maputo to take part in the war. 

The messages of solidarity and songs disseminated through the radio were paramount in shaping the liberation movement’s line of thought, giving us enlightenment.

My first involvement in the liberation struggle was as a chimbwido in 1976. 

There were comrades organising a meeting with the masses to mobilise support for fighters operating in our area.

The meeting, to explain the objectives of the war and support required from the masses, became my first encounter with the freedom fighters.

I helped prepare food for the guerillas, marking my first act as a chimbwido.

It was also my first encounter with Rhodesian forces’ brutality.

We had been sold-out.

The meeting, when it was about to end, was suddenly interrupted by the Rhodesian forces.

Vanamukoma vanished into thin air.

The rest of us who were untrained were slow to act and were rounded up.

Together with my sisters Sophia Dore and Basy Bofu, we were taken to Nyanga and for three days we were brutally tortured for co-operating with and aiding freedom fighters.

The torture was meant to dissuade us from working with the guerillas but it had the opposite effect.

It strengthened our resolve to fight the brutal regime.

It was during the relentless torture that I felt I had to be more than a chimbwido.

I decided there and then that I was going to Mozambique to receive military training.

In September 1976, I made the journey to Mozambique to join other sons and daughters of the soil in the struggle to liberate our beloved Zimbabwe.

It was on a Sunday night, when together with my sister Sophia, we embarked on our long journey by foot.

We walked for more than 30 km, from Nenjerama to Watsomba.

Upon arrival, we were advised by the locals to go to Chief Mhandire’s place for regrouping.

Senior comrades asked us to prove we were bona fide cadres-to-be.

When we couldn’t, they told us to go back home. With wisdom of hindsight, I realised this was a test of our resolve to fight.

We found a local resident who vouched for us and convinced  the fighters taking recruits to Mozambique.

We crossed the border through Pungwe River, accompanied by comrades Apollo 11, Bizoni and two others who I don’t recall; they operated in Mandeya Two.

Comrades Apollo 11 and Bizoni helped us to cross the river into Mozambique but, on their way back, tragedy struck; they were spotted by Rhodesian soldiers manning the area.

The freedom fighters were ambushed and two fighters lost their lives.

We arrived at Manica and proceeded to Villa Katandika.

We ended up at Doiroi Refugee Camp in early October 1976.

At the camp, we were given Chinese and Russian literature for political enlightenment.

I spent the next two years at Doiroi and, as young cadres, we were offered educational studies whiles others were involved in agricultural and building activities. 

In early 1978, we then moved to Gondola Base where people were screened for military training at Chimoio.

In 1978, I began military training at Pungwe Three, with the likes of Agnes Miti.

We went for further training at Muzingazi Training Base also known as Takawira Two.

While we were at that base, one of our cadres had a dream of Rhodesian soldiers destroying the base and encouraged  everyone to relocate during that very night to Pungwe Two and we complied.

And the dream became a nightmare when the base was attacked by the Rhodesian Airforce.

We survived that airstrike because of our ancestral guidance.

I spent the next six months receiving combat training. As soon as we finished our training, we went into a transit base where I met Cde Susan Rutanhire under whom I served as personal assistant till early 1979. 

I fought my first battle as a trained guerilla near Buhera enroute to Zimbabwe.

Weeks later, our senior nationalists went to Lancaster House for ceasefire talks; I was then stationed at Dzapasi Base in Buhera.

I was selected among the cadres to be trained for the independence drills for the next three months which was conducted at Acturus. I was privileged to be among the cadres who participated in the independence drills in 1980 at Rufaro Stadium. 

In 1981, I was demobilised and I opted to get married to my late husband (Cde Risky Kagweda) in 1982. He was also in the liberation struggle and was one of the first licenced pilots in the airforce of Zimbabwe.

I was also involved in the Third Chimurenga, taking back our land. I managed to get 53 hectares in Mashonaland East near Marondera which was our main motive and objective in taking up the arms. 

Through agricultural activities, I am also contributing to food security on the land I was given.

Compiled by Blessing Dirwayi

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