Freedom Mutanda and Sifelani Tonje: Post correspondents
My name is Takesure Majuta and my nom de guerre is Chaparadza Muhondo; some of my fellow comrades called me Rough grinding stone. Born in 1953, I grew up when ZAPU and ZANU ruled the roost in politics. Those were the days when there was a vicious cycle of poverty at my home at Zapfupfu near Muchawaya Farm where my father worked. I worked there for some time and went to Smaldeel Farm where coffee was the major crop apart from the wattle trees that were grown in abundance.Briefly, I went to Ratelshoek for my primary school work and went as far as Grade 6. At the time, we shot at Blue line buses with our catapults. These buses were owned by a white man, Ellman, I think. At times, we cut down telephone poles to stop buses from moving. Something inside me told me the white system of oppressing the blacks wasn’t right. Apparently, a spirit of defiance invaded my psyche and camped there.
One night in 1975, I went on a solo mission to Mozambique from Smaldeel Farm. We had a white farm manager, Beyapeya, who used Chilapalapa in his interaction with workers. He had a slight limp which made workers to coin a nickname, Beyapeya that stuck to him. The compound had very few toilets which made people to use the bush more often than not. My solo journey led me to Jersey, Mudhe and Espungabera. I arrived at Doroi in early 1976 and stayed there as a refugee among thousands of young and old people who had turned their backs on racist Rhodesia in a bid to effect a new dispensation in the country of their birth.
In much of my travels from Espungera, FRELIMO supported me immensely until I left Doroi for Chimoio for training. At Chimoio, there were companies such as Nehanda and Chaminuka.
Attack during training at Chimoio
We had to endure physical exercises over and above the Maoist teachings and gun handling. We were about to get rifles in the morning one particular morning in 1976. We heard the sound of a spotter plane.
‘‘Ndege! Padhuze pedu pakandwa bhomba!’’ A comrade under training shouted in a language our commanders taught us to use when we were under attack.
Cde Zanla Mbada returned fire. Arumanya suddenly attacked us before they threw a bomb. A number of people died and I lay among the dead as blood soaked into my thin shirt. I crawled slowly but would only stop when I felt someone may see my movements. Three planes still hovered overhead for more than an hour. My appearing ‘dead’ saved me. Commotion everywhere made me lose focus; eventually, the leaders galvanised everyone into action to save the injured. We buried the dead before gathering at Gondola.
We joined a Fanya Haraka group that had recently been trained in Tanzania. We helped that group when it attacked Ruda camp but the commanders realised we had minimum military training. Moreover, we had extensive injuries from the Chimoio attack with shrapnel embedded in our bodies and our bodies afflicted by wounds that had pus dribbling down necessitating our stay in hospital.
Thus, we returned to Gondola and stayed at Pungwe 1.
I trained at Nachingwea in Tanzania at Base 2. Borniface Sigauke was my instructor. I trained in Sear (rifle) AK 47, LMG, recoil-less rifles; after that, I specialised in destroying tanks, bridges and buildings. Some of my commanders were Muchadura and Hitler. The late Colonel Kufa trained me as well.
We returned from Tanzania and I joined the Chaminuka sector. We went to Nyanga via Kambudzi Mountain which is tricky to use. We went to Hwedza via Rusape, Nyazura and Rukweza.
Hwedza centre attack (1978)
To test the effectiveness of our weapons, we launched an attack on a police camp at Hwedza. We had approached the local traditional leadership and it gave us its blessings. In January 1978 we struck.
We shot at the camp with bazookas, M90 and RPG 2; the policemen could not retaliate; consequently, several of them got killed. We crossed the Mhare River and reached ST Anne’s where we stayed for some time as we patrolled Mukamba Township.
Maromo Mountain attack
We heard before we saw the spotter plane. At that moment, we decided to disperse but it was too late; the enemy had spotted us. We spaced out to the GP on the foothold of Maromo Mountain.
We went through a pass. When we were about to get out of the firing zone, we heard the unmistakable burst of heavy machine gunfire. We had thought of retreating for us to plan a new strategy. Jekanyika who was leading from the front, got hit.
We could not just hit back before identifying the source of the rapid fire; soldiers were perched in the mountain. We did not return fire but had to use guerrilla stratagems to get out of that messy situation. We retreated and dispersed. How we did that is still a mystery to local villagers. Accordingly, they said gandanga rinonyunguduka.
I joined another platoon as a Political Commissar tasked with mobilising people to rally to our cause. I was now operating in Chivhu near Jemedza Mountain that had many caves. Once one got into Jemedza one must not comment on anything that one sees lest the spirits of the area would be offended and mete instant justice on us. Snakes did not bite us; we had good defences against the settler army. We used snuff as we communicated with our ancestors.
It is a truism that if you are holding a gun and you are drenched to the bone by rain, you become a wild animal. I remember us fearing nothing out there in the Jemedza.
Ceasefire came with its attendant pros and cons. Most of the areas I operated in were liberated zones even after Bishop Abel Muzorewa had taken over the running of a country with a surname-Zimbabwe-Rhodesia. The local people asked us if the news about the ceasefire they were hearing over the radio had any iota of truth.
As we were privy to the negotiations that were underway at Lancaster in London, England, we set the record straight that indeed, the dawn of a new era was fast approaching.
Matambanadzo buses ferried us to Dzapasi Assembly point in Buhera. Basten Beta led us at that time. I was part of the group trained under the partnership between our government and Britain-BMTT (British Military Training Team). We went to Mbalambala and stayed with ZIPRA as a precursor to integration. After a week at Ruthiga camp, we went for further integration and training. We became friendly with our erstwhile ZIPRA and Rhodesian colleagues but initially, there was tension among us especially with Rhodesian soldiers.
I remember 25 March 1980 as the day we were released from training in order to parade in recognition of senior officers. At the front, there were no luxuries of parading because the hot war did not allow such beautiful displays to distract us from the matter at hand which was the liberation of Zimbabwe.
When I look back at my sojourn as a ZANLA combatant, I don’t regret facing the wild animals or sell outs and God helped me to escape death by a whisker, I believe, during the Chinhoyi attack.
The army did not disappoint me as I went on refresher courses culminating in my being employed as a stores man at Mudzi barracks and saw action in the DRC in defence of legitimacy. I worked with Lieutenant General Philip Valerio Sibanda at KG V1 in the canteens. I got promoted to Sergeant before retiring from the army in 2003. I went for further training in artillery at Cranborne.
Having married Lydia Cherida Mathambo-may her soul rest in eternal peace— in 1981, we were blessed with seven children, I am glad, I can say I was there when national duty called.
I am the chairperson of the war veterans in Chipinge East and I want you to know that unity will bring us victory against poverty and other vices that visit Zimbabweans.
For your views and opinions, sms,call or whatsapp on 0777582734 or email me at [email protected]