Narrow escape at Tembwe

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The story of Cde Charles Gwenzi alias Cde Tichatonga Mabhunu.

POLITICAL orientation from my history teacher Mr Muza at Mavhuradonha High School was enough to convince me to quit education and join the liberation struggle.

I was 15 years old and doing Form Three but I was pained by the yoke of colonialism.

At that age I knew that this was no way to live, life could be much better for black people, the owners of the country.

It was in October 1976 when I left school for Mozambique together with Dorothy Ngaripinde, Spiwe Nyoka, Tarisai  Bere, Mary  Panganai, Amon Gororo and Tasi Manjorokoto among others.

It took us a week to get to the border since we travelled during the night to avoid Rhodesian forces that patrolled during the day.

We were fortunate to meet four FRELIMO soldiers upon crossing the border who escorted us to their base where we were interrogated by ZANLA combatants who were under the command of Cde Mhaka.

We stayed at the base for two weeks before we were taken to Kambototo Base where I stayed for two weeks before I was transferred to Itubi Base which was located on the banks of Zambezi River.

At Itubi I was among the group that went to Tembwe ZANLA’s military training camp which was popularly known as  Chikoro Chehondo.

I survived death by a whisker when the enemy attacked Tembwe on  November  27 1977.

I woke up and had a feeling that something terrible was going to happen, in that instance a Fish Eagle flew  past the base.

For us the bird was a messenger that brought warnings of impending danger.

An hour later a spotter plane known as the ‘alumanya’ flew across our base.
This was a sign of impending doom.
The spotter planes were usually followed by air raids.

After about 20 minutes, the sky was filled with helicopters that dropped paratroopers on the eastern side of the camp.

The helicopters were followed by Hawks and Mirage jet Bombers.

In no time the whole sky was filled with the ugly killing machines.

The first bomb, if my memory serves me right, fell at exactly 7am.

I was preparing to go to  the parade and I vividly remember Cde Gava giving us order to fire at the enemy and meet at the gathering point if we survive.

We were caught by surprise.

I vividly remember seeing my friend,Cde  Tichakunda Chimurenga crying in a pool of blood.

He was hit by fragments of a bomb that seriously injured him, unfortunately I could not help him.

Flashbacks of that scene still haunt me today. I rushed towards the south of the camp and took cover on a huge baobab tree since I had o gun.  

A bomb was dropped close to the tree and my stomach was injured by the fragments exposing my intestines.

I fell to the ground in agony.

Cde Simbai Magorira came to my rescue an hour after the bombing, I pleaded with him to  shoot me because I could not walk.

He refused to finish me off, instead he tore my t-shirt and bandaged me.

We crawled for about 400 metres before he found a place to hide me.

He left me and promised to come and ferry me when it was clear, he never came back and I never saw him again.

I spend the whole day at that place.

At around 7 O’clock in the night some two comrades passed by where I was and took me to a nearby village.

I was later ferried to Tete town where I received medical treatment. 

I later heard that more than 3 000 ZANLA recruits perished in that attack which lasted for four days.

It took three days to dig mass graves where the dead comrades where buried.

Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande.

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