A war hero who doesn’t know what hap­pened

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/analysis/national News - Free­dom Mu­panedemo

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

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