‘I never saw my uncle again’

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The story of Elizabeth Mandlazi

AFTER finishing my primary education in 1978 at Mutema Primary School in Chipinge, I had no choice but to be a farmworker.

I was 15 years old and staying home was risky because Rhodesian soldiers used to rape girls, accusing them (girls) of being girlfriends of vanamukoma (freedom fighters).  

The farm was a safe place while waiting for my turn to cross into Mozambique to join the liberation struggle.

During those days, crossing into Mozambique was being facilitated by the freedom fighters who would be operating in the area because Rhodesian forces had intensified their operations along the border. 

I found a job at Meikles Farm, popularly known as ‘Mikiri’, with the help of my uncle Pamwasiira Dhliwayo, the foreman. 

Farm life was thorny as I was exposed to racial prejudice by our white employers.

This was during the peak of the war when freedom fighters were gaining ground. White South African supervisors were running away and being replaced by Rhodesians.

Among the Rhodies who replaced South Africans who were running away from the war was one, Remington Wallace, nicknamed ‘Chamboko’.

He was given the name ‘Chamboko’ because he used to beat up workers with a whip he always carried.

The Rhodesian also moved around with an FN riffle and two pistols.

Wallace had no respect at all for Africans as he used to beat people on the tea fields.

However, Wallace ran out of luck when he beat one of the war collaborators whom he had mistaken for a farm worker.

The collaborators had come to deliver a letter with requirements from freedom fighters.

The collaborator who had joined us in the fields was spotted by Wallace stretching his back.

The collaborator was buying time on the fields, waiting for the foreman to arrange the freedom fighters’ supplies.

He was thoroughly beaten together with six other farm workers.

Apparently he had to pretend to be one of us for security reasons. 

The wounded collaborator later left with his package of clothes and tennis shoes.

We later heard the collaborator told the freedom fighters of our ordeal and vanamukoma reacted swiftly.

The ZANLA forces managed to ambush the infamous Wallace during his night patrols at the farm and smartly kidnapped him.

This was during the rain season and there was a lot of vegetation which provided cover for ZANLA forces as they walked through Devuli Range to Mozambique with their ‘captive’.

It is a four-day’s walk from Mutema to Mozambique and the freedom fighters managed to cross without being detected.

The following day, Rhodesian police and soldiers came for investigations and that was when we learnt of Wallace’s abduction.

The abduction news came as a relief to all the farmworkers.

At lunch time, all farm workers were told to assemble at the farm offices.

We were ordered to sit and witness the first stage of interrogation.

Pamwasira Dhliwayo, Charles Nyoka and Gondayi Mayahle were the first to be interrogated.

The three professed ignorance of contact with freedom fighters but the infamous Special Branch had been tipped of my uncle’s involvement with vanamukoma.

We all watched as the three were beaten.

The merciless Rhodies beat them thoroughly before taking them to their camp.

I will never forget my uncle begging for mercy before being tied behind a horse and dragged all the way to Chipangayi Military Base. 

Nyoka and Mayahle came back after a fortnight, with injuries sustained during their two weeks of torture.

As for my uncle, Pamwasiira, he never came back. 

We don’t know where and how they killed him, but I believe he died a painful death after being sold out for supporting the liberation struggle.

Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande

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