Soviet mil­i­tary ad­vi­sors join Zipra

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Big Read -

WE con­tinue our in­ter­view with Cde Jef­frey Ndlovu whose pseu­do­nym was Cde Ken­neth Mur­wiri. Cde Ndlovu started as Zipra’s Ad­ju­tant-Gen­eral be­fore be­ing pro­moted to the rank of chief of tech­ni­cal engi­neer­ing dur­ing which time he lost his sight in a land­mine blast in Septem­ber 1979 near the Zam­bezi River on the Zam­bian side.

In the past two weeks in an in­ter­view with our As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor Mkhu­l­uli Sibanda (MS) Cde Ndlovu spoke about his train­ing at Moro­goro in Tan­za­nia, de­ploy­ment and oper­a­tions, in­ter­nal prob­lems in Zapu, the re­sus­ci­ta­tion of the war by Zipra and the im­por­tance of the use of land­mines in guerilla war­fare. Be­low are ex­cerpts of to­day’s in­ter­view:

MS: Last week Cde Ndlovu we were still talk­ing about mas­sive in­fil­tra­tion of gueril­las into the coun­try and you were talk­ing about the mas­sive sup­port you were re­ceiv­ing from the masses, may we pick our in­ter­view from there.

Cde Ndlovu: As you might be aware that be­cause of the in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion of the war, the Rhode­sian forces were forced to di­vide the coun­try into op­er­a­tional ar­eas, Hur­ri­cane (December 1972), Tan­gent (Au­gust 76), Re­pulse (May 76), Thresher (February 76), Grap­ple (Au­gust 77) and Splin­ter (June 78). Such a move by the en­emy was be­cause Zanla was pour­ing in from the other side of the coun­try in large num­bers while we had also in­ten­si­fied and were de­ploy­ing heav­ily from Zam­bia. Such a de­ci­sion by the Rhode­sians was a clear sign that the en­emy was feel­ing the heat and that the op­er­a­tional ar­eas of the free­dom fight­ers had ex­panded, the war was be­com­ing too hot for them.

MS: Then Cde Ndlovu let us look at your side, the Zipra com­man­der Nikita Man­gena died in a land­mine in­ci­dent, how then was the army re­con­sti­tuted. I’m ask­ing this ques­tion be­cause by then you were still the Ad­ju­tan­tGen­eral, that in­for­ma­tion should be at your fin­ger­tips.

Cde Ndlovu: It was an un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent as Cde Man­gena was a bril­liant mil­i­tary strate­gist and able com­man­der, but the war had to go on. Im­me­di­ately af­ter his death, Cde Lameck Mafela (Look­out Ma­suku) was pro­moted to take over. Mafela had pre­vi­ously been a mil­i­tary in­struc­tor hav­ing trained in the Soviet Union and when Zipra was es­tab­lished tak­ing over from the Spe­cial Af­fairs De­part­ment, Mafela was the army’s po­lit­i­cal com­mis­sar, a rank just be­low that of the over­all com­man­der.

MS: When Ma­suku took over, did he make whole­sale changes?

Cde Ndlovu: Not at all. It would be wrong to say he made se­ri­ous changes. What hap­pened was that he took over at a time when Zipra was un­der­go­ing some re-or­gan­i­sa­tion. In 1978 that is when Zipra was be­gin­ning to im­ple­ment things fully what all along had been on the ta­ble since 1972 and what all along the com­mand el­e­ment had been work­ing on. Here I am talk­ing about the train­ing of spe­cial forces such as the air force, ar­tillery, tanks and so on, the build-up started in 1972 when Zipra was re­con­sti­tuted, from time to time req­ui­si­tions were made by the com­man­der, sent through to the Revo­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil via that or­gan’s sec­re­tary who was Du­miso Dabengwa. Then in 1978 the army had reached a stage what the com­man­ders wanted it to be, so even if Cde Man­gena had not died those things we are talk­ing about were go­ing to be im­ple­mented any­way.

MS: High­light some of the things that Mafela car­ried out.

Cde Ndlovu: Be­fore I speak about that, I think it is im­por­tant to men­tion at this stage that af­ter the death of Cde Man­gena, Zipra re­ceived two mil­i­tary ad­vi­sors from the Soviet Union, one was strictly for the army, that is to com­bat oper­a­tions while the other was for the in­tel­li­gence and he worked closely with the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Or­gan­i­sa­tion (NSO). How­ever, be­fore that we al­ready had an­other mil­i­tary ad­vi­sor from the Soviet Union who came to Zam­bia be­fore the death of Nikita and that one was a mil­i­tary com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist. Then turn­ing to the struc­ture that Look­out Ma­suku came up with some changes were made here and there and they were in­flu­enced by the sit­u­a­tion on the ground as Zipra was now ready to wage a full scale war on the Rhode­sians, con­ven­tional and spe­cial­ist forces had been trained while weapons had been ac­quired. I should em­pha­sise here that de­vel­op­ment was the cu­mu­la­tive prepa­ra­tions that had started in 1972. Be­fore that as you know large units of gueril­las had been de­ployed into the coun­try to soften the en­emy. Now we were at a stage where the con­ven­tional forces were ready.

MS: Be­fore you speak about the changes made by the Ma­suku com­mand, were the Soviet ad­vi­sors merely ad­vi­sors or they were tak­ing over the com­mand con­sid­er­ing that they were the ma­jor back­ers of Zipra?

Cde Ndlovu: Let me be hon­est with you, they were there to ad­vise only and they stuck to that man­date. I have no rea­son of hid­ing any­thing here, peo­ple need to know the true his­tory as what we are do­ing here is writ­ing that his­tory. Then turn­ing to the changes that you asked about I was per­son­ally af­fected as I was moved from be­ing Ad­ju­tant-Gen­eral to the rank of chief of tech­ni­cal engi­neer­ing and a struc­ture was put in place. My po­si­tion as ad­ju­tan­tgen­eral was taken over by Cde Ish­mael Gondo.

MS: Then what be­came of the whole Zipra struc­ture con­sid­er­ing that the war sit­u­a­tion was chang­ing?

Cde Ndlovu: Nyika (head spe­cial forces-air force, ar­tillery, stral­lar units and so on), in the ar­moured units there were com­rades like Devine Mal­aba, Mb­he­jelwa and David Nde­bele, re­con­nais­sance there was cur­rent ZNA com­man­der Lt-Gen P V Sibanda (An­na­nias Gwenzi), Ed­die Si­goge and Jimmy Mhandu, the late Re­tired Bri­gadierGen­eral Mike Reynolds (Charles Grey) was chief of oper­a­tions, Zwafa (Em­manuel Moyo) chief of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. How­ever, Zwafa was later killed in a bomb­ing at­tack and in came now Re­tired Colonel Tshinga Dube. As for the Women’s Brigade it’s com­man­der was Cde Sihle Ng­wenya.

MS: Some com­rades are of the view that some things might have been done in a par­tic­u­lar way had Man­gena not died. Any com­ments on that?

Cde Ndlovu: My com­ment on that is that all what hap­pened af­ter the death of Nikita had been in the pipe­line. Some of the ar­range­ments might still have hap­pened even if Nikita was still alive be­cause most of those things were a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion. We should also be aware that what­ever Zipra as a force was get­ting it was com­ing through the party. The party is the one that had di­plo­matic re­la­tions with other coun­tries not Zipra di­rectly. Our back­ers sup­ported Zapu first and then Zipra. All the lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port was com­ing through the party. MS: Take us through your new as­sign­ment. Cde Ndlovu: It was sort of start­ing afresh as we had to come up with a stand-alone team of engi­neers. Our train­ing camp was at CGT. Com­ing in as the head of engi­neers I was deputised by Benon Dube. Then we had James Sa­vanhu (Pe­nous Dube) who was em­bed­ded to us hav­ing come from the in­tel­li­gence unit, NSO. To com­plete the top four was Nkosi Maphosa (El­liot Mahlole). We drew up a train­ing man­ual and op­er­a­tional plans. How­ever, we also got al­ready trained spe­cial­ist engi­neers. From the four of us Cde Sa­vanhu was then de­ployed to Mashona­land West Prov­ince where he started work­ing with Cde Richard Mataure (Rtd Col Richard Ng­wenya) while Cde Mahlole was sec­onded to the south­ern front and was then based in Botswana. How­ever, he was later cap­tured to­gether with Cde Makepesi Tshuma in a raid by the Rhode­sians in Botswana and they were never seen again. Within a short space of time we had be­come a fully fledged unit with more than 1 000 engi­neers. We got most of the guys from those who had trained in An­gola and had gone un­der the tute­lage of the Cubans. MS: How was your de­ploy­ment like? Cde Ndlovu: I should bring it to your at­ten­tion that prior to the cre­ation of a stand­alone squadron of engi­neers, mil­i­tary engi­neers were part of the oper­a­tions de­part­ment. In fact all those who trained un­der Zipra were well trained in mil­i­tary engi­neer­ing but oth­ers of course were sent for fur­ther train­ing in that field. Then as for oper­a­tions, Sa­vanhu re­mained on the field in Mash West un­til the cease­fire and his team is the one among many oper­a­tions that blew up power py­lons from Kariba to then Sal­is­bury in 1978 that saw whites in sub­urbs such as Mal­bereign spend­ing Christ­mas with­out elec­tric­ity. A team of engi­neers usu­ally op­er­ated with small num­bers of be­tween three and five but in most cases they were at­tached to some units. In a bat­tal­ion we at­tached about 30 engi­neers. Most oper­a­tions needed engi­neers who be­sides their ex­plo­sives were armed with small arms such as AK-47s. Our engi­neers usu­ally car­ried Soviet-made TNT ex­plo­sives which were very ef­fec­tive in de­stroy­ing rail lines, bridges. By the time of the cease­fire some of the engi­neers had started pen­e­trat­ing ur­ban ar­eas, in Bu­l­awayo, Don­ning­ton Po­lice Sta­tion was hit by them. That was meant to ha­rass the en­emy and also send a mes­sage to the en­emy that ur­ban ar­eas were no longer safe as well.

MS: Now the war was on, then can we take us to the un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent where you were in­jured, re­sult­ing in you los­ing your sight.

Cde Ndlovu: A lot hap­pened lead­ing to that in­ci­dent. I had been on the op­er­a­tional field as at that time I used to move to the front on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. At first I had been to Liv­ing­stone where I man­aged to see the de­ploy­ment of some of my guys, the same peo­ple who hit Don­ning­ton Po­lice Sta­tion and were led by Agent. I then moved to the other side where there was Richard Mataure and Sa­vanhu. A num­ber of com­rades were cross­ing the Zam­bezi go­ing to Mash West. We met a fight­ing force of about 85 com­rades who were com­ing for sup­plies on the Zam­bian side. I had also brought 15 engi­neers who were go­ing to Nyakasaka where there was Cde Sa­vanhu. They man­aged to cross and then on my way back to Lusaka I passed through the po­si­tion of the First Bat­tal­ion which was un­der the com­mand of Cde Man­dliwa (Re­tired Ma­jor-Gen­eral Stan­ford Khu­malo).

The in­ter­view with Cde Ndlovu ends in our next is­sue when he gives an ac­count how he was hit by the land­mine. He will also talk about how he has man­aged to sur­vive con­sid­er­ing his dis­abil­ity. He will re­veal the peo­ple who have man­aged to as­sist him in his wel­fare among them be­ing the com­man­der of the Zim­babwe De­fence Forces, Gen­eral Con­stantino Gu­veya Chi­wenga and

his wife Mary.

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