The story of Cde Heather Chonyera
AMONG the freedom fighters who came to my home village for the first time to give us political orientation was Cde Musorowatsomba and Cde Tendai Vadzimu.
The meeting held at a Base in the Mashongayika area and the political orientation was convincing.
It fortified my ambition to assist in sourcing and cooking food for the freedom fighters.
Since my home area is less than 50km from the capital Harare, then Salisbury, Rhodesian forces’ operations were intense, making it difficult to assist vanamukoma (freedom fighters).
We, however, took the risk.
Auxiliary forces were also all over the place since they operated from their home areas, hence getting food for guerillas from fellow villagers was a big risk.
Had it not been for the workers at Makumbe Hospital, logistical support for freedom fighters in our area would have been near impossible.
Rhodesian Selous Scouts, led by the notorious Roy ‘Muzezuru’ Bennett, also had a base at Makumbe Hospital, hence the security was tight in our area.
We only got money from the Makumbe Hospital Liberation Workers Committee led by one John Mtizwa.
Comrades Mtizwa, Richard Mashumba, January, William Muchapondwa, Sabastine Makumbe and Silas Zenzere are unsung heroes of the liberation struggle in our village.
Prior to the hospital workers’ involvement in supporting the liberation struggle, Cde Musorowatsomba, in his address at a pungwe, encouraged hospital workers and parents with children working for the government to keep working and getting salaries to donate towards the liberation struggle.
That was important for the progression of war at the front.
Workers took the risk of supporting freedom fighters whilst they were working at the hospital where the infamous Bennett was persecuting supporters of ZANLA fighters.
If caught supporting ‘terrorists’, capital punishment was certain.
In 1977, a new group of freedom fighters came into our area, led by one Cde Mudzimu Ndiringemuhondo.
Cde Mudzimu Ndiringemuhondo and fellow freedom fighters Cdes Pfumo Rinobaya, William Sango, Tendai Vadzimu, Netsai Mabhunu, Fungai Chimurenga and George Tichatonga were a thorn in the flesh to Abel Muzorewa’s Pfumo Revanhu and the Selous Scouts who were tormenting villagers in Masembura and Chinhamora.
The victories of the ZANLA forces in their attacks did not go well with the Selous Scouts operating in our area.
Unfortunately, a sellout from Matimha Village sold out Cde Mudzimu Ndiringemuhondo.
We learnt that the sellout sent a student with a letter to Rhodesian soldiers at their military base at Chinhamora Police Station, popularly known as Chimudhuri.
Cde Mudzimu Ndiringemuhondo was coming from a pungwe in Mukwesha Village when he was ambushed by Rhodesian soldiers at Makore Mountain.
I remember seeing three trucks full of soldiers while we were heading towards Makore Mountain, taking breakfast to ZANLA guerillas.
I was with Cde Annah Dzumbunu.
A fish eagle suddenly appeared in the sky and this was a sign of impending danger.
We abruptly changed direction and went to hide in a nearby bush, taking advantage of the cover since it was in January during the rain season.
The sky was suddenly filled with ugly killing machines.
I threw away the bowl of food I was carrying and took cover under a musamvi tree.
We were about three km away and this was my first time to witness heavy contact at a close range.
I remained still for the next four hours.
There was bombardment at the base, but vanamukoma managed to hold the enemy.
We lost six comrades, among them, the most wanted Cde Mudzimu Ndiringemuhondo.
Three days later, we learnt from the villagers who were forced to load corpses of Rhodesian soldiers that more than 20 perished in that battle.
Rhodies took the corpse of Cde Mudzimu Ndiringemuhondo to Chief Chinhamora to prove to the chief who supported the liberation fighters that they had killed the most famous guerilla.
After a week, a new group of guerillas arrived, led by one Cde Jimmy Crook.
Rhodies and their fellow Auxiliary forces were now based at Tsvina Business Centre in Masembura, together with the Selous Scouts.
A revenge attack was organised by Cde Jimmy Crook.
On the day of the attack, three groups of ZANLA guerillas were deployed on different positions around Tsvina Growth Point.
We were left at a base on Zhenje Mountain about 10km from Tsvina Growth Point.
Most of the Auxiliary and Rhodesian forces had left for Bindura to get their salaries and the ZANLA guerillas patiently waited for their return.
Around mid-day, the trucks of the enemy approached Masembura Business Centre.
Villagers had already been told by war collaborators not to go to the business centre, an order we had received from vanamukoma.
Freedom fighters started attacking the Rhodies as they approached Chitunhu, a few kilometers before Tsvina Business Centre.
It was indeed a surprise attack.
They were massacred and only a few managed to escape.
I vividly remember three military Bedford trucks coming to collect the corpses of the enemy.
The escapees were finished off by the other group of freedom fighters who had laid an ambush at Monwe dip tank.
The battle in Chinhamora and the attack at Tsvina Growth Point freed parts of Chinhamora and Masembura, making them liberated zones.
Compiled by Emergencey Mwale-Kamtande