The story of Cde Aaron Mupakamiso, alias Cde Benson Makaya

MY name is Cde Aaron Mupakamiso and here is my story.

Cde Aaron Mupakamiso, aka Cde Benson Makaya, escaped death by a whisker.

After my primary education, which I passed with flying colours at Mandadzaka Primary School in 1972, I was denied enrolment to secondary schools around my home area, Bikita.

I was 15 years old and considered too old to enrol for Form One. 

I searched for employment but was discriminately turned down because of my stature — I was too short. 

I was forced to relocate to Bulawayo in January 1975 and was fortunate to secure a job as a gardener.

While in Bulawayo, I met four young men whose political ideology stimulated my dedication to join the liberation struggle. 

Henry Machinga, Philip Makwara, Mandla Ndlovu and Cousin Ndlovu were the young cadres who ‘opened my eyes’ to the colonial injustices of the British imperialists.

I was introduced to the late nationalist Cde Enos Nkala who was delighted with my radical mentality towards the unbearable yoke of the Rhodesian brutal colonial practices.

I was assigned to join the security team which I happily accepted.

During those days, there were many political abductions, hence the security of our African nationalists was a priority.

Nationalists would spend the better part of the night giving us political orientation.

We were also given Chinese and Russian political literature which enlightened us.

On realising that I was now ripe for military training, Cde Nkala assisted me with funds to go out of the country.

It was in November 1976.

I was not eloquent in Ndebele, hence instead of following the set route to Freedom Camp in Zambia where ZIPRA cadres were receiving military training, I diverted my route to Mozambique.

I commenced my journey in the middle of the night.

I boarded a newspaper delivery truck which dropped me off in Masvingo at around 6am.

My first encounter with the infamous Rhodesian police was at Deure Bridge.

The bus I boarded was intercepted at the bridge and all passengers were instructed to disembark and produce their particulars.

During those days, a lot of young people were now well politically conscious and were willingly crossing the Eastern Boarder to join the liberation struggle.  

I remember there were 16 of our age group and we were put in groups of fours. 

I was the first to be interrogated by an African Ndebele-speaking Rhodesian policeman who could hardly hear or speak Shona

He liked my poor Ndebele and asked me to help him with interpreting.

That saved me from a thorough interrogation and I was given a dollar and a pass that would later save me along my journey.

I proceeded to Mutare where I intended to skip the border into Mozambique.

In Mutare, I boardered a truck that left me in Vumba, a few kilometres from the border.

I got lost and ended up in a Rhodesian military base. Fortunately it was raining, so I managed to escape safely.

I managed to skip the border around midnight and the following morning I walked towards Machipanda shops where I was intercepted by FRELIMO soldiers.

I was heavily interrogated before I was taken to Manica where I joined a group of ZANLA recruits.

I cheated death in Manica while at a transit base which was under the command of Cde Mashatini who was responsible for receiving recruits who came through the Manicaland border and facilitated their transportation to Chimoio.

After lunch, at around 2pm, I decided to go and buy a drink at Manica Hotel which was a few metres away. 

The base was attacked just before I opened my drink.

There was mayhem as people ran for their lives as Rhodesian fighter jets were dropping bombs.

A lot of recruits were injured by bomb fragments.

After the attack, Cde Mashatini and other senior trained combatants arranged our transport to another base, Dhafu, where we stayed for two weeks before we went to Doiroi.

Zimbabwean refugees at Doitoi Camp in Mozambique during the war.

That attack hardened me.

It strengthened my resolve to dislodge white colonial rule in Zimbabwe. 

The gun was the only language the settler-regime would understand and we were not going to back down.

That resolve fuelled us into finally winning the war.

Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande.

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