Nhari-Badza re­bel­lion was al­ways com­ing

Com­rade Kenny Con­stan­tine Mabuya, whose Chimurenga name was Cde Kenny Ridzai (born 1952), was de­ployed to the war front in Rhode­sia in 1972. He fought many bat­tles and was at one time mis­taken for a sell­out by Fre­limo com­rades who went on to tor­ture him.


SM: Last week you in­di­cated that af­ter you met some of your com­rades, you re­fused to go to the rear to rest and was de­ployed around the Cen­te­nary area. Tell us of your oper­a­tions there.

Cde Kenny: Like I told you when it was sug­gested that I should go to the rear to rest, I said I was not in­jured and han­d­isati ndany­at­sorova hondo. Of course I had been tor­tured by the Fre­limo com­rades and I was skinny but I wanted to go back and fight the strug­gle. So on de­ploy­ment, we were put in sec­tions. A sec­tion would have seven com­rades. Our com­man­der at this time was James Bond. There was also Cde Mab­honzo, Kid Marong’orong’o and oth­ers. We were in­structed to go and open the war front around Karuyana. This area bor­ders with Cen­te­nary, where there were some com­mer­cial farms. We were de­ployed in three sec­tions, I was lead­ing one of the sec­tions, the other two were be­ing led by Cde Ta­mai and Cde Christo­pher. Our mis­sion was to mo­bilise povho. We were sup­posed to ed­u­cate povho about the war. How­ever, if we met Rhode­sian sol­diers, we were sup­posed to am­bush them and plant land­mines along roads that the Rhode­sians were us­ing. So around that area, we had only two am­bushes — one at Karuyana bridge where all the three sec­tions con­verged for this of­fen­sive. We planted a land­mine close to the bridge. We had been told that every Mon­day, Rhode­sian sol­diers would drive past the bridge. So we planted a land­mine, an anti-tank mine and waited. Around 9:15 am, the Rhode­sian sol­diers came. They had a mine de­tec­tor ve­hi­cle at the front, but for some rea­son they failed to de­tect this land­mine. I think there were about five Bed­ford trucks. The first truck yak­abva yat­sika land­mine and ex­ploded. We then started fir­ing.

SM: Did the Rhode­sian fire back?

Cde Kenny: Yes, they tried to fire back, but they were just too con­fused to know what was hap­pen­ing. They quickly re­treated but takavarova kwete mbichana. But this was guerilla war­fare so im­me­di­ately af­ter this am­bush we es­caped. We knew that in no time the Rhode­sians would call for air­power. So we es­caped. We planted quite a num­ber of land­mines around this area. We would tell povho that such and such an area is now a no-go area. Some didn’t heed our call and chikochikari chairo­hwa neland­mine chichi simuka mu­denga. Even some buses aiputikirwa but we would warn peo­ple against us­ing roads where we would have planted the land­mines. This was around 1973.

The other bat­tle hap­pened when Rhode­sian sol­diers spot­ted us at our base. We were ac­tu­ally hav­ing tea when sud­denly we saw mu­jiba achisvika achimhanya. He told us that varungu vari ku­uya and we quickly took po­si­tions. Some­one had sold us out and so the Rhode­sians wanted to take us by sur­prise but we quickly took po­si­tions and got ready for them. We ac­tu­ally moved a bit away from the po­si­tion we were. Takaswed­era in the di­rec­tion that they were com­ing from so we would take them by sur­prise. And in­deed we took them by sur­prise. Takarovana kusvika va­tiza.

SM: How many did you man­age to kill?

Cde Kenny: I am not sure be­cause like I told you, af­ter the at­tack, we had to escape quickly be­cause we feared their air­power. Af­ter about two/three months, we would re­treat to Mavhu­radonha moun­tain to give our com­man­ders progress re­ports. We then moved to Bakasa area where we had a bat­tle with Rhode­sia sol­diers and we downed one he­li­copter.

SM: Can you briefly de­scribe the Rhode­sian sol­diers, what kind of sol­diers were they?

Cde Kenny: Hondo vakanga vasin­gainzwi­sisi. Hondo in­oda ex­pe­ri­ence. These sol­diers had re­ceived mil­i­tary train­ing just like us but the dif­fer­ence was that they were fight­ing for money and we were not be­ing paid. Inini ndakanga ndakashinga kuti pasina mari ndoda ku­fira Zim­babwe. Ivo they were not pre­pared for that. The other thing is that we were young so the brav­ery was just some­thing.

Be­cause we were young, we didn’t have fam­i­lies to worry about. These Rhode­sian sol­diers would be think­ing about money and their fam­i­lies, so they were not re­ally com­mit­ted to the war. Some of them af­ter a bat­tle vaitiza net­soka ku­tosvika pakupondwa nepovho. Slowly we started hav­ing semi-lib­er­ated zones, ar­eas were Rhode­sian sol­diers could not come.

Af­ter a while, James Bond was moved to an­other area and our new com­man­der was Thomas Nhari, that one weku­zopan­duka. His deputy was Cephas Ticha­tonga. Badza was also there. So from Karuyana, we moved to Cen­te­nary. Our task was ku­vhura front. Ku­vhura front meant mo­bil­is­ing povho about the war.

SM: Dur­ing mo­bil­i­sa­tion what would you tell the povho?

Cde Kenny: There were so many re­stric­tions that were against black peo­ple. We would tell them kuti kana nyika yava yenyu munoita zva­mun­oda. We told them that they would have op­por­tu­ni­ties to open their busi­nesses and even own farms. We also told them that kana nyika yava yedu, we will have the free­dom ku­taura zvatin­oda. We told them that the peo­ple will be the gov­ern­ment and so they will be free to say what they wanted. Smith was forc­ing peo­ple to do cer­tain things and we were say­ing all that would stop. We said ours will be the peo­ple’s gov­ern­ment and so in­o­fanirwa kuita zvido zve­vanhu. We were fight­ing for the peo­ple, fight­ing to free the peo­ple. But first we had to re­move Smith and his sol­diers. Re­move his sys­tem.

SM: Were you as free­dom fight­ers in­spired by other African coun­tries that had at­tained their in­de­pen­dence?

Cde Kenny: For me not quite. Re­mem­ber I was now liv­ing in Zam­bia. Yes, Zam­bia had fought some war but it was to­tally dif­fer­ent from our war. In Zam­bia it was mainly talks be­tween vana Harry Kum­bula, We­len­sky, Du Pont, Kaunda and oth­ers. Of course liv­ing in a free Zam­bia was dif­fer­ent from liv­ing in a colonised Rhode­sia but in terms of the war, ours was com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

So we went to Cen­te­nary which was mainly a com­mer­cial farm­ing area. There were many to­bacco farms. These white com­mer­cial farm­ers are the ones that were giv­ing Smith lots of sup­port. So we knew that in Cen­te­nary, Smith akanga ak­a­bata. Our first mis­sion here was to de­stroy the to­bacco and kuita maam­bush. Of course, later we had to mo­bilise povho in these farm­ing ar­eas. So we did this in Cen­te­nary. By this time, I was now the com­man­der of the three sec­tions. The other task we had to carry was to burn makom­boni.

While in Cen­te­nary, one day we had prob­lems with a spot­ter plane which kept on fly­ing over us. On the ground, we could see Rhode­sians on horses mov­ing all over the place. We re­ally couldn’t move on this day. We then sat down in the evening and said mab­hiza aya and that plane zvi­no­rara kupi? We then planned to go and hit the camp where these horses and the spot­ter plane were kept dur­ing the night.

We dis­cov­ered that this spot­ter plane yaigara about 500 me­tres from the home­stead yeumwe mu­rungu. There was a small airstrip at this farm. In the evening, my group went to hit that spot­ter plane. We were told that at that home­stead there were Rhode­sian sol­diers so we used a mor­tar, which we used to call kaduri kam­buya Ne­handa to throw bombs onto the home­stead. Be­fore all this we cap­tured the sol­dier who was guard­ing this spot­ter plane. This sol­dier then showed us around and we went for the at­tack. We de­stroyed the spot­ter plane while the other com­rades at­tacked the home­stead. Every­thing was timed to make sure that the Rhode­sian sol­diers would not have a chance to fire back. The sur­prise el­e­ment was im­por­tant.

So we de­stroyed the spot­ter plane, killed the Rhode­sian sol­diers and killed all the horses dur­ing this night. We then es­caped into the moun­tains. This was our way of sab­o­tag­ing and weak­en­ing Smith. When we went back to give re­ports to our com­man­ders, Nhari and Badza, they com­plained that we had not burnt makom­boni. I then said, it was not ad­vis­able to burn makom­boni be­cause this is where we were get­ting in­for­ma­tion and food. I told them that the farm work­ers were as­sist­ing us to de­stroy the in­fra­struc­ture at the farms.

SM: But you were putting the farms work­ers in trou­ble?

Cde Kenny: Yes, but we de­vised a plan where we would leave the farm work­ers ne­makasha emabara so that they could show the white farm­ers that ma­g­a­n­danga anga ane pfuti so they forced us to de­stroy fodya. This trick worked to a greater ex­tent. The farm work­ers would show the white farm­ers makasha emabara to in­deed con­firm that we were in the area.

So when I told Nhari and Badza that it was not nec­es­sary to de­stroy makom­boni, they ac­cused me of not fol­low­ing or­ders. They then said I was no longer a pla­toon com­man­der. They de­moted me and they ac­tu­ally wanted kuti ndi­rare pasi vandirove. This was com­mon pun­ish­ment dur­ing the war but some of my com­rades vakaramba kuti aiwa hamunga­murove. They sup­ported me.

So I was de­moted from pla­toon com­man­der to sec­tion com­man­der. They also said hauchad­zok­eri kuCen­te­nary. I was de­ployed around the Gu­ruve area.

SM: So much have been said and writ­ten about Badza and Nhari. What kind of peo­ple were these com­rades?

Cde Kenny: I first met Nhari and Badza at In­tumbi in Tan­za­nia. I don’t know how they had joined the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle. We were how­ever told that vakanga va­tiza kuZipra. I think they had com­mit­ted some crime kuZipra and they came to join Zanla. Both of them vakanga vari vanhu vane hasha ne­humbim­bindoga. Zviya zvekuti zvan­dataura ndizvozvo.

So I was de­ployed in Gu­ruve and con­tin­ued with our usual oper­a­tions of mo­bil­is­ing the masses and am­bush­ing the Rhode­sian sol­diers. This was now around 1974. Then kwaka­zouya maScuzapo, these were black Rhode­sian sol­diers who would pre­tend to be free­dom fight­ers. Some of them were fel­low com­rades who had joined the Smith regime, va­pan­duka. These com­rades knew our oper­a­tions and our bases. They were hired by the Smith regime to pre­tend to be free­dom fight­ers.

One day while at our base, mu­jibha came say­ing kune ma­com­rades ak­abva kuMozam­bique. I asked this mu­jibha kuti how did you know these are free­dom fight­ers and he said vane pfuti maAK and so on. He said these “com­rades” had pam­phlets writ­ten “Pam­beri ne­hondo” signed by Cde Ton­gog­ara.

I sus­pected that there was some­thing wrong. We sent one of our com­rades to pre­tend to be povho to es­tab­lish who these peo­ple were. It was not pos­si­ble for re­in­force­ments to come from Mozam­bique with­out any com­mu­ni­ca­tion so I sus­pected there was some­thing wrong. This com­rade went in the evening and came back say­ing these com­rades looked sus­pi­cious. He said uu­uum han­d­i­fungi kuti ma­com­rades. He showed us the pam­phlets and my sus­pi­cion even grew. I then said let’s see what will hap­pen to­mor­row. Dur­ing the evening, these fake com­rades went pamba pasab­huku say­ing show us where the com­rades are. Sab­huku akaramba for a while. He then got into his house pre­tend­ing to be chang­ing his clothes. He then sent one of his sons to quickly come and alert us what was go­ing on. As this boy was try­ing to sneak out of the home­stead, kak­abva ka­batwa kak­ab­vun­zwa kuti uri kuenda kupi?

Around 4am, I woke up to go and re­lieve my­self. I saw some­thing that was look­ing sus­pi­cious. As I was try­ing to es­tab­lish what was go­ing on, pfuti dzikati dzarira. We were un­der at­tack. That bat­tle was in­tense. We later learnt that as they were ad­vanc­ing to­wards us, these mascuzapo vakanga vakaisa sab­huku pam­beri. Be­fore get­ting to our base sab­huku ac­tu­ally called say­ing “pam­beri ne­hondo.” I ac­tu­ally heard him from where I was try­ing to re­lieve my­self. Im­me­di­ately af­ter this, that’s when the bat­tle started. This sab­huku was shot and killed ipapo. I was shot in the leg. We lost two com­rades but I man­aged to escape. Oth­ers got in­jured. Af­ter run­ning for a while, I saw a he­li­copter com­ing. This is when it re­ally dawned on me that these mascuzapo were un­der the Rhode­sian forces. These were fel­low com­rades who had been cap­tured and were now work­ing for Smith.

This was my third time to be shot and in­jured, but this in­jury was trou­bling me. That is when I was or­dered to go to the rear for treat­ment. This was 1974 around Oc­to­ber, I went to Chi­fombo. I didn’t stay at Chi­fombo for long. I then went kuZanu farm that was near Lusaka. I was the se­cu­rity aide waCde Chigo­hwe. In no time af­ter my ar­rival at the farm, we were told that there were dis­tur­bances at Chi­fombo. We were told that Nhari and Badza were be­hind the dis­tur­bances. These com­rades had ar­rested all the com­man­ders who were at Chi­fombo. They were now say­ing they had taken over as com­man­ders. This was sort of a coup.

SM: As some­one who had worked with Nhari and Badza, were you sur­prised to hear this?

Cde Kenny: I wasn’t sur­prised at all. You know I am con­vinced that the death of Chitepo later, the prob­lems started at the war front. When Nhari and Badza or­dered me to move from Cen­te­nary to Gu­ruve, there were so many sus­pi­cious things that were go­ing on.

SM: What sus­pi­cious things were hap­pen­ing?

Cde Kenny: Kun­gorova ma­com­rades zvimwe zvisina tsarukano. Also nyaya dze­vakadzi. You could see kuti vanhu hava­sisina shungu ne­hondo.

SM: What do you mean nyaya dze­vakadzi?

Cde Kenny: Ahh, Nhari had a wife, Badza wake and Cephas wake. They were go­ing around with these girls. This was not al­lowed but they were do­ing it openly. We would re­cruit fe­male com­rades, ivo vo­tora vo­vaita vakadzi vavo. When I got to Chi­fombo, I ac­tu­ally told the com­man­ders there kuti zvakuitwa nema­com­man­ders enyu kufront hazvi­iti.

I wasn’t sur­prised at all when they tried to take over the strug­gle. Vakanga vatopan­duka kud­hara. So when we were told of these dis­tur­bances at Chi­fombo, we said hazvi­iti. We waited for them to come ku­farm. We were ready to fight them but they never came. They ac­tu­ally went to Lusaka hop­ing to cap­ture mashef vana Ton­gog­ara, Chitepo, Ha­madziripi, Gumbo and oth­ers. These rebels were heav­ily armed. They were about 33 and if I am not mis­taken there were three fe­male com­rades in this group. Next week, Cde Kenny will narrate how the Nhari-Badza re­bel­lion was dealt with and how the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle con­tin­ued af­ter this dark episode. Don’t miss your copy of The Sun­day Mail

— Pic­ture by Ku­dak­washe Hunda

Cde Ken Ridzai (right) re­sponds to a ques­tion from The Sun­day Mail Deputy Ed­i­tor Mun­yaradzi Huni dur­ing the in­ter­view.

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