The story of Rodrick Erengwi, alias Cde Tichafa Muhondo.
MY name is Roderick Erengwi and this is my story.
It is now decades since Nyadzonia, in Mozambique, was attacked by Rhodesians, but memories of that horrific attack still haunt me to date.
In 1976, I made the bold decision of leaving Zimbabwe to join the liberation war in Mozambique.
I was 14 years old.
The decision came after my father was captured by Rhodesian soldiers when he was sold out for collaborating with vanamukoma (freedom fighters) in my home village, Manyengavana, in Zimunya, on February 15 1976.
He was taken to Grand Reef where he was detained and tortured for two weeks.
When he came back, he had bleeding wounds all over his body.
I arranged with my fellow friends to go to Mozambique when I was in Grade Seven at Murare Primary School.
I left my home village with Biggie Kanyore, Booker Mutereko, Richard Kanyore, Chenai Mudhombozi and Naison Nyamutamba.
We left in the dead of the night, got lost along the way and ended up in Burma Valley. However, we managed to navigate through the thick forests of Burma Valley and crossed the border into Mozambique the following day.
FRELIMO soldiers intercepted us when we were about to pluck off some bananas and unaware to us Rhodesians used to poison the bananas because they knew would-be guerillas would feed on them.
We were interrogated before they took us to their military base, Chirara, in Manica.
We stayed at that base for a week before we were taken to a transit base in Manica Town.
In Manica, we joined other recruits and stayed there for a week before we were again taken to Chimoio where we stayed for a few days.
At Chimoio, I was selected, together with my friend Richard, to go to Nyadzonia and join the Red Guards (young recruits). We would do light duties and attend school lessons because we were young hence could not receive military training as yet.
On August 9 1976, I woke up in the morning with Richard and we rushed to the kitchen to check if there were any ‘special meals’ since we had celebrated our special holiday the previous day, ZANU Day.
It was around mid-morning.
I saw a convoy of what we perceived to be ‘FRELIMO’ soldiers entering the camp and we rushed to welcome the visitors and to also bid farewell to our comrades who were set to leave for Tanzania.
As we approached the Assembly Point, we heard the security cadres shouting and instructing everyone to take cover.
We were under attack from Rhodesians disguised as FRELIMO.
The quisling Morrison Nyathi had sold us out to the Rhodies.
Richard and I instantly threw ourselves to the ground, side-by-side.
There was heavy gunfire exchange, but our security cadres were overwhelmed by Rhodesians who were sufficiently equipped for that attack.
We kept still for the next three hours, but little did I know that my friend had died.
I only realised Richard had died when Rhodies were doing their mop-up – killing all survivors and the injured.
I do not know why, but I was grabbed and taken to the Assembly Point with some survivors.
That was the last time I saw Richard, my best friend, shamwari yangu yeropa.
I will never forget how I left him lying in that pool of blood.
As we went to the Assembly Point, I heard comrades groaning in pain as Rhodesian military trucks crushed those injured.
It was barbaric.
At the Assembly Point, it was agreed that we would be shot and Rhodesians started firing at us.
I don’t know how I gathered the courage to bolt and, to date, I don’t know how the enemy’s bullets missed me.
I ran towards Nyadzonia River where I was assisted by a fellow comrade to cross to the other side.
The comrade who helped me also picked up a baby along the way as we made good our escape.
We saw many injured comrades along the way but unfortunately could not assist. It was a very painful experience, leaving a fellow comrade and not knowing whether he or she would make it.
That was the most painful part of the war.
We took about three hours to get to Pungwe River where we saw many comrades who had managed to escape but the challenge was crossing the raging river.
Senior comrades then organised ropes for us to cross.
I was assisted by the same cadre who had helped me cross Nyadzonia River.
There was a chopper which was giving us directions to get to where FRELIMO military trucks were waiting to ferry us to a citrus farm which later became known as PamaOrange Base.
It took us four days to get to the trucks.
That is how I survived the Nyadzonia massacre.
To Richard I say: May your soul continue to rest in peace my friend!
Your death was not in vain!
Till we meet again Cde!
Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande.