How Zipra rose from the ashes

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Big Read - Rtd Brig-Gen Abel Mazinyane

IN our pre­vi­ous in­stal­ments of our Col­umn Lest We For­get we have been car­ry­ing out ar­ti­cles on for­mer Zipra camp com­man­der, in­struc­tor and a mem­ber of the High Com­mand, Cde Jack Mpofu. Cde Mpofu, the late Roger Mat­shi­mini and now Re­tired Bri­gadierGen­eral Abel Mazinyane con­sti­tuted a unit that car­ried out an op­er­a­tion when Zapu’s mil­i­tary wing was re­con­sti­tuted into Zipra fol­low­ing the in­ter­nal prob­lems that af­fected Zapu.

The trio’s op­er­a­tion marked the first mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion un­der Zipra. Fol­low­ing the nar­ra­tions by Cde Mpofu, Rtd BrigGen­eral Mazinyane felt it nec­es­sary to also give his side of the story on that his­toric in­ci­dent. Un­for­tu­nately Cde Mat­shi­mini is now late. Be­low is an ar­ti­cle by Rtd BrigGen Mazinyane:

The po­lit­i­cal cri­sis in Zapu ex­ter­nally, that led to its Vice-Pres­i­dent, James Chik­erema who had been tasked by the party to lead the armed strug­gle dev­as­tated its armed wing that was called the Spe­cial Af­fairs then. Dur­ing the cri­sis the Spe­cial Af­fairs had sol­diers in Zam­bia, Tan­za­nia, Bul­garia, North Korea, USSR and in Rhode­sian pris­ons. In 1970 those who had been un­der­go­ing train­ing in East­ern Europe and North Korea were brought to Moro­goro, Tan­za­nia. Our group was un­der­go­ing train­ing.

Among those who were brought to Moro­goro were Cde Rex Nhongo (Solomon Mu­juru), David Tod­lana, John Mugabe, Njen­jema, Mat­shi­mini, Mb­he­jelwa, Zex, Shel­ton Si­wela and many oth­ers. Ev­ery­one was moved to Zam­bia be­gin­ning of 1971 ex­cept those who were in train­ing in Moro­goro. A bulk of this group plus most of those who were in Zam­bia de­serted the armed strug­gle. The only per­son who de­serted Zapu to join Zanu was Rob­son Manyika who had been Chief of Staff to Ackim Ndlovu who was com­man­der then. Twelve oth­ers de­serted from Moro­goro to Froliz. This talk of peo­ple “dump­ing Zapu for Zanu” is not true. The truth is that they de­serted the strug­gle.

They were sol­diers, sol­diers who leave the or­gan­i­sa­tion or in­sti­tu­tion desert. To sugar coat de­ser­tion with imag­i­nary rea­sons like say­ing for ex­am­ple, in Zapu some tribes were not be­ing pro­moted while in Zanu pro­mo­tion was on merit de­feats logic.

The sec­ond in com­mand at the main Zapu mil­i­tary train­ing camp was Rob­son Manyika, a Shona speak­ing cadre. Now Re­tired Bri­gadier-Gen­eral Am­brose Mutin­hiri was the com­man­der of the only Zipra mil­i­tary train­ing camp just to men­tion a few. After all what had peo­ple done to look for pro­mo­tion. Did they look for pro­mo­tion just be­cause they had com­pleted train­ing?

Any­where in Zipra de­ser­tion was never con­sid­ered a merit. After all a rev­o­lu­tion­ary strives to up­lift his/her or­gan­i­sa­tion not ad­mire other or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The hon­est truth is that free­dom fight­ers face two fears: the fear of death and the fear of liv­ing like a coward. I think one had to choose be­tween the two. This meant that one would pre­fer be­ing called a coward than face death or flee than leave with be­ing called a coward.

After Chik­erema had formed Froliz and most cadres had de­serted to wher­ever, Jane Ng­wenya, Ge­orge Silundika and Ja­son Ziyaphapha Moyo came to Moro­goro to ad­dress the Zipra forces that were in Tan­za­nia. This was the main Zipra force mi­nus the 12 that had joined Froliz. The only re­main­ing mem­bers of Zipra that were in Zam­bia were Nikita Man­gena, Report Mphoko, Tap­son Sibanda (Mun­yanyi), Cephas Cele, Charles Ng­wenya (JD), Jab­u­lani Ncube, Pet­ros Khu­malo, Tshombe, Mgewu, Donki, Mab­huku, Mat­shi­mini, Lemmy, Njen­jema and a few oth­ers I might have omit­ted.

Re­main­ing in the party after Chik­erema had left were; Ja­son Ziyaphapha-Moyo chair­per­son of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil, Ge­orge Silundika, Ed­ward Ndlovu and Jane Ng­wenya (all mem­bers of the Zapu Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive), Aaron Ndlovu (Sec­re­tary, Zim­babwe Work­ers Union), Du­miso Dabengwa (Sec­re­tary of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil), Philmon Makonese, Swazini Ndlovu, Easter Ndi­weni, Isaac Ny­athi, Vic­tor Mlambo, Din­gani, Stephen Vuma, Ethan Dube (di­rec­tor Zim­babwe In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice-ZIS). Bokwe ,Wil­bis, Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu, Lazarus Mpofu, Thomas Ng­wenya, Nkomeni Nleya, Nai­son Khezwana, Ju­lia Masang­weni, Jack Ng­wenya, Nyampingidza, Is­dore Dube, Ackim Ndlovu, Luke Mh­langa, Josiah Ncube, Sikhwili Khohli Moyo.

In Zam­bia there were 10 re­cruits, namely Elias Moyo (Zwafa), Stool Mati­waza, Ntashana, Don­ald Boy Mati­waza, Cleopas Jubane, Skinny, Makanyanga, , DC, Ma­hang Dube (Seka Mbon­isi). There were also students study­ing abroad such as Ben Mati­waza and oth­ers. There were also one or two peo­ple de­ployed in Moscow in the USSR.

In Tan­za­nia is where the bulk of ZPRA per­son­nel was and these were the fol­low­ing; Mlefu Dube, Je­van Maseko, Martin Nleya, Lawrence Sibanda, David Dube, Christo­pher Sibanda, David Nde­bele, Tsha­bal­ala, Tshile Nleya, John Nko­mazana, Abel Mazinyane, Matswaha Ndlovu, Jeffrey Ndlovu, Ed­die Mlotshwa (Si­goge), Flem­ing Mnkandla, Fredi Khuphe, Chauke, Richard Dube, Nkosembi Maphosa, Ben Maphosa, Ng­wenya (Tang­wena) Kenny, Tshuma, Zulu, Raphael Zulu-Chief Li­tunga, Ten­dayi Nyamkapa, Matha Nleya, Toddy Nkomo, Car­los Ma­suku, Ny­athi (Hwadalala), Solomon Ndlovu, Ncube (Phoso Mogo), Masala Sibanda, Chilis Bhuka, Con­er­lius Dube, Peter Ndlovu, Stan­ley Nleya, Aaron Gumede, Lemon Khu­malo, Ernest Magutshwa, Joshua Mpofu, Adam Sibanda (Shy­lock), Lameck Ncube, Kelly Mal­aba, Alexan­der Ng­wenya (Try next door), Themba Mbambo (Ma­guswini), Charles Ncube (Taffy), Sam Mfakazi, Philip Maphosa, Look­out Ma­suku, Chimwe Ny­athi (James Sakup­wanya).

Some­time in 1971 nine of us were or­dered to place our bags and get into a Land Rover. The nine in­cluded Lemon Khu­malo, Christo­pher Sibanda, Kelly Mal­aba, David Nde­bele, God­frey Ndlovu, Joash, Taffy and I.

We trav­elled to Tun­duma, the bor­der post be­tween Tan­za­nia and Zam­bia.

There we met Tap­son Sibanda who had been ap­pointed Chief of Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence in the ZPRA High Com­mand. He took us across to the Zam­bian side where we found an­other Land Rover wait­ing to whisk us to Lusaka.

On ar­rival at Lusaka, Jeffrey and Lemon got off the ve­hi­cle at the Zim­babwe House while the rest of us were kept in the Land Rover and lo­gis­tics were loaded. Our fi­nal des­ti­na­tion was DK in the Zam­bezi Val­ley. Here we car­ried out in­ten­sive pa­trols along the Zam­bezi.

We watched Rhode­sian sol­diers pa­trolling by boat and on week­ends swim­ming with their part­ners. This helped us com­pile a rich dossier about the en­emy’s be­hav­iour and equip­ment.

At DK we found Cde Njen­jema who be­came com­man­der of the base. He was a strict dis­ci­plinar­ian. He wanted si­lence around the base but we were young and al­ways broke the rule ar­gu­ing among our­selves loudly dur­ing his ab­sence.

On ar­riv­ing he would send a sig­nal which was usu­ally a sound of a lo­cal an­i­mal or bird to check if it was safe to en­ter the base. Be­cause we al­ways spoke loudly dur­ing his ab­sence we could not hear the sig­nal. To at­tract our at­ten­tion he would fire one or two shots into the base forc­ing us to dive for cover. He would en­ter the base to find some of us in need of med­i­cal at­ten­tion due to the panic caused by his shots. He would say “ngabe ngam­ab­hunu ngabe seli­file.”

When we left DK for op­er­a­tion my col­leagues en­vied me. I was ex­cited that at last I will have a chance to fire at a live en­emy. My moral was very high that the chief of op­er­a­tions, JD said to me at the cross­ing point, “Don’t try to desert.” I think he thought the op­er­a­tion gave me a chance to desert. I think even my se­niors were not sure of how I would be­have once on Rhode­sian soil.

While mak­ing prepa­ra­tions Mat­shi­mini used to walk bare­footed. I think he had al­ready de­cided that he would or­der us to take off our shoes once in Rhode­sia. He was con­di­tion­ing his feet.

The other thing that Jack did not men­tion is that in our at­tempt to cross the Zam­bezi he was swept by the strong cur­rent. I ran along the river and res­cued him about 70 me­tres from the spot of in­tended cross­ing. The in­ter­est­ing thing is that he held to his gun de­spite the strong cur­rent.

How­ever, when I asked him to give me his gun so that I could pull him out, he gave me the bar­rel in­stead of the butt.

I knew his gun was cocked and ready to fire. Him hold­ing the trig­ger end was very dan­ger­ous. Any­way there was no time to ad­just, I pulled him out with his gun point­ing to my chest.

The other thing that Jack did not men­tion is that while I was un­der the small bridge plac­ing ex­plo­sives the moon came up and I re­alised there was sud­denly a lot of light un­der the bridge. I bolted from un­der the bridge think­ing the train was ap­proach­ing.

They then told me it was only the moon. I re­turned and com­pleted the task. After this op­er­a­tion ZPRA was on the roll ready to lib­er­ate the colo­nial world.

The few peo­ple who had re­mained in Zapu when Chik­erema left re­built the armed strug­gle and caused Ian Smith to close the Rhode­sia/Zam­bia bor­der in 1973.

A bro­ken down bus is parked dan­ger­ously at night across the Bu­l­awayo-Vic­to­ria Falls road near In­suza. The driver uses stones as a warn­ing sign in­stead of the re­quired re­flec­tive tri­an­gle. (Pic­ture by Eliah Saushoma)

Ja­son Ziyaphapha Moyo

Al­fred Nikita Man­gena

Ge­orge Silundika

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