A war hero who doesn’t know what happened
UNDER the blistering sun in tinder-dry Mberengwa, a depressed-looking Cde Samson Mpofu (60) cuts a lone figure and without both limbs, a mere glance at him gives a picture of a man condemned by both geography and fate. And with a bumpy walk which comes with a distinct slouch, Cde Mpofu appears a tormented soul probably not ready to share his fate especially with a stranger.
But the former liberation struggle collaborator, who was abducted at the height of the independence war before his hands were chopped off, is surprisingly in high spirits and is willing to talk about his misery, albeit with some jerks of pain.
He is ready to share his grisly story that resulted in him losing his hands - which until today, he doesn’t know what became of them.
“I was abducted and tortured for three days in 1979 by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian soldiers. They accused me of being part of the mujibhas (war collaborators) they hunted for allegedly stealing cattle from white farmers and slaughtering them to feed freedom fighters.
“As they continued interrogating and torturing me, they later agreed to kill me. One of them shot me in the hip and I went lights out. When I gained consciousness, I tried to balance with my hands to stand up but I was shocked to discover they had chopped off both my hands. Until today I don’t know what became of my limbs,” says Cde Mpofu.
The war of liberation had reached fever pitch in 1979 and Rhodesia had pleaded for ceasefire. The warring parties had agreed but some individuals still held grudges.
At least there was some reason for all and sundry to start celebrating a supposed end to a bloodletting fight.
But to some rogue elements, personal grudges held fort. Cde Mpofu became a victim of a ceasefire breach and 36 years into independence, it still haunts him and it will haunt him for life.
Today, he is a hapless chap with no limbs and a huge hole in his body after a bullet was pumped into his left hip. To make matters worse, he feels forgotten.
At times he dons artificial limbs which he got at Independence in 1980 and have never been replaced. They are now worn out. At his homestead, a visibly poor man’s settlement nestled on the foot of a hill in the remote Pandashango Village in Mberengwa District, Midlands province, Cde Mpofu’s life is one terrible tale.
With the 1980 acquired artificial limbs now worn out, every morning he wakes up a tormented soul, slouching to every corner of his yard before sitting in the shade where his loving wife, Esline Zaereka (47), spoon feeds him like a baby.
In arid Mberengwa, food is hard to come by and with the El-Nino-induced drought having worsened the situation, the food supply situation in the district is very bad and Cde Mpofu’s family is badly affected. His wife has literally become a scavenger. She fends for the family from scavenging and begging.
Esline does everything; building structures and thatching the huts, farming, fending for the family and everything else that is normally done by men. Cde Mpofu is a mere spectator.
After losing his limbs, he was picked up by a passer-by who took him home and subsequently to the hospital. In 1980, he got the set of artificial limbs, which he has never managed to replace.
“These are the same artificial limbs I’ve been using since 1980 but they no longer serve their purpose, most of the time I tell my wife not to put them on as I’ve accepted not having limbs at all,” he said.
Cde Mpofu, who has eight children, is grateful for his wife who has accepted him the way he is.
“With my condition, I never thought I’d marry but as God would have it, I married my wife in 1986 after she accepted my situation and today she is my saviour.
“She is the one who built all the huts here. She is the one who thatched them, she also does everything, including making sure that I eat and bath,” he said.
Cde Mpofu occasionally had emotional breakdowns during the interview saying the experience haunts him.
“As I sit and reflect on my situation every day, it hurts and feels like it’s still war time. Maybe it’s because I can’t do anything that can keep me occupied. Every day, I sit there waiting for my wife to feed me. I feel even more hurt when she struggles to put food on the table.
“She struggles to raise money to send our children to school. She struggles in everything but she perseveres. I thank God for her,” said Cde Mpofu, with tears rolling down his cheeks.
He bemoaned the remoteness of his home area saying his situation would not be as terrible had he been closer to Harare.
What with him failing to get a donor for artificial limbs for 36 years? — Zimpapers Syndication Service.
Cde Samson Mpofu (right) and wife Esline (left) with some of their children