The liberation war was a do-or-die mission for everyone who participated and this is captured in this week’s interview with a war veteran.
The Manica Post Correspondent, Freedom Mutanda, had a chat with a veteran of the liberation war whose nom-de-guerre was Cde Care Chimurenga.
His name is Cde Phibeon Machuwaire and he is currently a Councillor for Ward Five, Chipinge Rural District Council and an Alderman at the Council.
Below are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: Cde Care Chimurenga, tell us a little about yourself.
A: I was born at Kondo in 1952. I obtained a scholarship to enrol for Form One at Mount Selinda High School, one of the best schools in Chipinge District after coming out with flying colours at Grade Seven in 1971.
I had to spent four years at Mt Selinda High School before the desire to liberate the country got the better of me.
Q: We are told that you left for Mozambique a few days before your ‘O’ Level examinations at Mount Selinda High School.
Why did you decide to venture into the unknown at that critical point in your life?
A: On July 6, 1975, my friend Elias Ndaabare and I sneaked out at night from Dorm One and crossed Zona River on our way to Mozambique. Just as we were about to reach Espungabeira, we met a woman, a member of the Jekenisheni Church.
She told us that she knew we were going to join the liberation war.
She said we should not be cruel to the masses and never to shed innocent blood, and if we followed her instructions, we wouldn’t be hit by any bullet or fragment until the war ended.
Q: Did the prophecy come to pass?
A: We were never hit by a bullet right up to the end of the war. At the time, I didn’t take it to heart, but as time went on, I realised that an unknown spirit pushed us to join the war.
Of course, we were aware of the injustices that were around us. Key to that was land alienation.
Q: Take us briefly through your movements in Mozambique before you went for further training at Nachingwea in Tanzania.
A: From Espungabeira, we went to Machazi before settling at Chibawawa Refugee Camp.
The latter was ostensibly a refugee camp although it was a transit camp for boys and girls who wanted to train as liberation fighters.
The United Nations helped us with provisions although they were not enough due to the deluge of boys and girls who wanted to join the liberation struggle.
We later went to Tanzania in November 1976. We boarded a Mapinduzi ship which took us to Nachingwea where we were trained by Tanzania Defence Forces (TDF) and Chinese instructors.
Q: How are military training and ideology training linked?
A: The Chinese instructors infused in us the concept of mass mobilisation. They said the masses were the water and we were the fish.
To be a brilliant soldier bereft of ideology would leave you exposed.
That training would prove handy in the war. I was trained from February to November 1977 and was a member of the 5 000-strong Songamberi Group.
Q: After your deployment to the war front, which part of the country did you operate in?
A: There were three sectors in the Gaza Province, namely Sector One, Two and Three. I was in the Masuku Sector in Chief Gezani’s area.
Chief Gezani was a coloured and we nearly shot him thinking he was a sell-out. The Provincial Commander was a Cde Maths, and our Detachment Security Commander was Cde Dust. In the group where I commanded as a Section Commander, we were a group of 11 fighters.
Q: Among the so many battles you fought with the enemy, which one do you think was the toughest?
A: In March 1979, we had a face-to-face contact with Rhodesian Forces. It was at Masuku Village when we suddenly bumped into heavily armed Rhodesian Forces.
It was a toe to toe operation. They threw their Mortar 60 at us and we returned fire. It was a fierce battle, but we managed to survive.
Q: That was something, do you remember any other battle?
A: Yes, there was this incident when we wanted to replenish our provisions on the rear. We had about 300 recruits.
Our intention was to cross the river and use the Bhinya Road to get into Mozambique before being intercepted by the settler army.
I led the crossing since I was the most senior member in the group. Three other freedom fighters joined me in front.
We realised we had been ambushed at the bank of the river.
Suddenly, Mortar 61 could be heard booming as bullets whizzed past us. I had a cap that day, but a bullet struck it and it flew away.
We fought our way to the Bhinya Road. The other recruits had to retreat.
Only 12 continued with the journey. At that moment, we were not fighting to defeat the enemy, but to allow the recruits safe passage.
Q: Much has been said about the spiritual element in the liberation struggle, what is your comment on that?
A: Definitely, the spiritual element was there. To illustrate that, every morning we had to use snuff to ask for ancestral guidance.
We would repeat the same rituals at night to thank the ancestors for protecting us through-out the day.
Eagles and baboons were our guardian angels during our days in Chikombedzi.
Q: You came back unscathed and we are told that you were integrated into the Zimbabwe National Army on July 11, 1980.
Thereafter, you joined the ZNA’s Education Department where you remained until 2002 when you retired as a Major, what is your word of advice to young soldiers who now have the task to protect our sovereignty?
A: Independence came after a lot of sacrifices, with other people paying the supreme price.
Discipline is the hallmark of a soldier. Discipline will make them go places.
Without it, they become wandering young men and women without direction.
To the people of Zimbabwe, unity in diversity gives birth to a successful nation.
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