The story of Elphas Mashumba.
AS the war of liberation intensified during the late 1970s, with the ZANLA and ZIPRA forces having an upper hand on the battlefield, the enemy became very desperate for soldiers hence a new system to conscript young African boys into the Rhodesian army was introduced.
A Call-up system of conscripting young boys in schools was introduced and the only way of escaping this system was joining the liberation fighters.
Crossing the border for military training was difficult for us here in Domboshava since we were far from the borders and Rhodesian military operations were intense in our area.
In late 1977, Abel Muzorewa’s United African National Congress (UANC), with the help of the Rhodesian army, established a military training base at Muchapondwa Business Centre, in Musana, 14 km from my homestead in Makumbe Village.
Some young boys voluntarily joined the infamous Auxiliary Forces which later came to be known as Pfumo Revanhu. A ‘good’ salary, food rations and a horse after the war were used to entice the weaker ones among us.
Unlike freedom fighters who operated under pseudonyms and far way from their homes, the Auxiliary soldiers operated in their home villages.
Up to today, I still wonder how the enemy managed to manipulate these young soldiers to fight their own.
The enemy tamed our brothers and turned them against their kith and kin.
They turned them into horrible barbarians.
The Auxiliary soldiers were the worst bandits who lived in this country as they tormented their own mothers and fathers, raping their own sisters.
Together with Felix Murombwa, Kilian Dzimati, Thomas Senzere and Cleopas Shonhiwa, all from Makumbe Village, we decided to work with the freedom fighters.
We operated with many groups of ZANLA forces since they came in small units.
I worked with the groups of Cde Musoro Wanzomba, Cde Granger and Cde Urayai, among other groups.
We usually took refuge on the banks of Nyaruvangwe River during the day.
Rhodesian forces and their counterparts from the Auxiliary Forces operated during the day
Our main task was gathering information on the operations of the enemy as well as collecting clothes and money from the Makumbe Liberation Fundraising Committee which was chaired by John Mutizwa.
We would get money from Mutizwa and give it to local businessmen who would bring clothes as well as cooking oil which was used by our mothers to prepare food for the liberation fighters.
War was indeed a collective effort.
In April 1978, I was apprehended at Makumbe Hospital where I had gone to collect money from John Mutizwa.
I was supposed to give the money to a businessman at Magwaza Shop at Makumbe Business Centre.
After collecting the money, I went to our meeting point where I met my fellow collaborators Felix Murambwa and Kilian Dzimati.
It was around 7pm.
We went straight to Magwaza Shop where we managed to leave the money.
The businessman was going to Salisbury (Harare) the following morning.
We were intercepted as we left the shop by a group of Auxiliary Forces.
They told me my brother was looking for us and they were going to take us right away.
We were driven in a military Jeep to their military base at Chinamhora Police Station, popularly known as Chimudhuri because of bunkers around the base.
I will never forget that horrible day.
We were put in a steel cabin under the guard of two armed soldiers who pretended as if they did not notice our presence.
These soldiers were my nephews from Mujeki Village.
My brother later came back drunk around midnight.
He came in the company of two young ladies whom he claimed were his girlfriends.
I was shocked because I knew them as our distant cousins from Govera Village.
My brother instructed his subordinates to baptise us with fire before we were told that we must join their force.
We were beaten and left for dead for our role of supporting the freedom fighters.
They interrogated us about the operations of the freedom fighters and people at the hospital who were supporting the struggle.
They had names but we professed ignorance which worsened our ordeal.
They left us half dead.
I was awakened by my brother the following morning.
My hands, feet and face were swollen just like my fellow mujibhas.
This time things had changed.
We joined other ‘recruits’ from other villages.
We were 15 and of the same age, all in our mid-teens.
I was 16.
We were addressed in Shona by a white soldier who spoke our mother language eloquently.
We were promised a salary of Rh$60, food rations which included cigarettes and beer as well as houses after the war.
The address was disturbed by a London Bakery delivery van that came with delivery of bread and buns.
I was randomly picked to assist the driver and his assistant carry the bread to the kitchen.
Much to my surprise, the assistant called me by name.
It was Cde Sydney Chovhiringa who had come for reconnaissance.
I don’t know how he had managed to convince the driver of the London Bakery to enter the camp with him.
He told me he had heard about our capture.
He told me that they were going to attack the camp the following night.
He said they were going to cut the wire on the far east of the camp and we were to use that route for our escape.
For the sake of security, I was told to only tell my friends after the firing of the best shot.
The following night the best shot was fired around midnight and I knew vanamukoma had come to destroy the camp.
It was a surprise attack on the less suspecting Rhodies and Madzakutsaku.
The best shot was followed by heavy firing towards the centre of the camp and we all managed to escape unhurt since fire was directed in our opposite direction.
That night, we ran in the darkness and fortunately, the rains started pouring as we maneuvered to Masembura.
We managed to reach Zhenje Mountain before dawn and stayed there for a week before we went home.
We went to our base in Nyaure River where we were told by vanachimbwido that Chimudhuri was reduced to ashes while Auxiliary and Rhodesian soldiers were in great panic.
It was no longer safe for us to be seen in the area hence we resorted to our old ways of operation from the bases with freedom fighters.
That attack on Chimudhuri saved me from joining the infamous Dzakutsakus.
Although it is now 45 years since that one encounter, I still find it difficult to forgive the Auxiliary Forces for tormenting their own.
I still can’t believe that my brother was ready to kill me to please our enemies.
Compiled by Emergency Mwale-Kamtande.