How I lost my leg in Zam­bia

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

CLAD in a blur of olive fa­tigues, Cde Fal­con Dube was un­fazed by the air su­pe­ri­or­ity of the Rhode­sian Air Force as he pointed his pow­er­ful anti-air gun to the en­emy’s fighter jet and sub­se­quently bring­ing it down in mid-air.

Cde Dube (58), a Zim­babwe Peo­ple`s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Army (Zipra) ex-com­bat­ant, is a survivor of the Mu­lun­gushi at­tack by the Rhode­sian Air Force in De­cem­ber 1978.

He is one of the coun­try’s free­dom fight­ers who fought tire­lessly and un­der painful cir­cum­stances to lib­er­ate the coun­try from the shack­les of colo­nial­ism and op­pres­sion un­der the Ian Smith re­pres­sive regime. Cde Dube, who was at­tached to the Zipra’s air de­fence unit, dis­tinctly re­calls how he downed a Rhode­sian Air Force fighter jet.

“I re­call it was on 22 De­cem­ber 1978 at around 8AM when the Four Rhode­sian Air Force jets and five he­li­copters de­scended on Mu­lun­gushi Camp and at­tacked us. I was a gun­ner who was on the front­line with my anti-air gun and there was an in­tense ex­change of fire dur­ing which I man­aged to bring down one of the fighter jets. How­ever, be­cause of my po­si­tion, the en­emy man­aged to spot me and sub­se­quently launched their mis­sile, which hit me,” he said in an in­ter­view re­cently in his home dis­trict of Beit­bridge in Mata­bele­land South Province.

Cde Dube was hit on the left leg and sus­tained se­ri­ous in­juries, which re­sulted in his leg be­ing am­pu­tated. He said 28 free­dom fight­ers were killed dur­ing the Mu­lun­gushi at­tack while sev­eral hun­dreds were in­jured.

“The mis­sile hit me on the left leg and I fell down. I was taken to Mak­eni Clinic which catered for the in­jured free­dom fight­ers and it was dur­ing my stay in hos­pi­tal that I learnt of the death of my 28 col­leagues. I was among the in­jured hav­ing sur­vived the at­tack,” he said.

Be­cause of the na­ture of the in­juries Cde Dube’s left leg had to be am­pu­tated. He said he was then taken to a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre at Ka­fue where he pur­sued his stud­ies. Cde Dube also re­calls an­other air raid by a joint air force of Rhode­sia and South Africa at CGT2 base of ar­tillery in Zam­bia where they were at­tacked by 24 he­li­copters, five fighter jets and a Dou­glas C-47 Skytrain com­monly known as a Dakota.

Dou­glas C-47 Skytrain is a mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft de­vel­oped from the civil­ian Dou­glas DC-3 air­liner. It was used ex­ten­sively by the Al­lies dur­ing World War II and re­mains in front line ser­vice with var­i­ous mil­i­tary op­er­a­tors. Dakota shot down sev­eral he­li­copters.

“I also vividly re­mem­ber in Oc­to­ber 1978 when the en­emy brought 24 he­li­copters, five fighter jets and a Dakota and launched an aerial at­tack. We how­ever, man­aged to re­pulse the en­emy and they re­treated,” he said.

Cde Dube crossed the bor­der to Zam­bia on Jan­uary 30 in 1977 af­ter drop­ping out at Grade Seven to join the armed strug­gle. He ar­rived at Nam­pundwe Camp, lo­cated about 45 km west of Lusaka in Fe­bru­ary be­fore pro­ceed­ing to An­gola three months later to un­dergo mil­i­tary train­ing.

At Nam­pundwe this is where the screen­ing ex­er­cise was done as peo­ple ar­rived from Zim­babwe to join the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle.

The ar­rival at Nam­pundwe was re­mem­bered as dis­tress­ing and dis­ori­ent­ing ow­ing in part to the stark dif­fer­ence be­tween the re­cruits imag­i­nary of war and what they found in the camp. On ar­rival at Nam­pundwe many had ex­pected to be handed a gun and then quickly dash back to the then Rhode­sia to en­gage the en­emy in com­bat.

How­ever, that was not to be as the in­duc­tion at Nam­pundwe was not com­plete with­out go­ing through what was known as “meet­ing the old man,” a term used to re­fer to the late Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo. Dr Nkomo, a fig­ure of heroic pro­por­tions had in­spired many to join the armed strug­gle. Ac­cord­ing to ex­cerpts from some pub­li­ca­tions it made sense to re­cruits that Dr Nkomo would wel­come them, but what hap­pened sub­se­quently was de­scribed as ter­ri­ble shock.

“In Jan­uary 1978, I com­pleted my train­ing on an­ti­air­craft in An­gola and de­ployed to CGT2 base of ar­tillery un­der the de­fence sec­tion of anti-air guns,” he said.

In the later stages of Zim­babwe’s lib­er­a­tion war, Cuban and Soviet In­struc­tors trained a sub­stan­tial force of some 8 000 sol­diers in mil­i­tary camps in An­gola. The An­golan-trained group prob­a­bly con­sti­tuted a third of Zipra forces by the end of the war. Af­ter the war in 1980, Cde Dube re­turned home and con­tin­ued with his ed­u­ca­tion.

“I used part of my de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion al­lowances to fur­ther my stud­ies. I wrote my ‘O’ Level in 1986 be­fore en­rolling at the Bu­l­awayo Polytech­nic where I did my di­ploma in ac­count­ing and fin­ished in 1988,” he said.

Cde Dube was em­ployed by the Min­istry of Health as an ac­count­ing clerk be­fore mov­ing to the Min­istry of Youths Af­fairs. He is cur­rently pur­su­ing a Bach­e­lor of Com­merce de­gree in Ac­count­ing with the Zim­babwe Open Univer­sity (ZOU).


The dev­as­tat­ing 1978 “Green Leader” raid on Zam­bia (Pic­ture cour­tesy of Zenzo Nkobi)

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