How Pres Mu­gabe sur­vived as­sas­si­na­tion in Gutu

For the past four edi­tions, Com­rade Kenny Con­stan­tine Mabuya, whose Chimurenga name was Cde Kenny Ridzai, gave us his grip­ping story from 1972 when he joined the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle from Lusaka, Zam­bia. It has been a re­vert­ing nar­ra­tion. In this last inst


SM: Fi­nally, we are reach­ing the con­clu­sion of your in­trigu­ing nar­ra­tion Cde Kenny. We want to thank you so, so much for your time. Now, let’s con­tinue your jour­ney from 1977. Cde Kenny:

Thank you for this op­por­tu­nity to record my his­tory. I hope it will in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. I think around Au­gust 1977, some com­man­ders who were at the war front were or­dered to come back to the rear so that they could go for fur­ther mil­i­tary train­ing. I was cho­sen to lead this group that was go­ing to Nank­ing in China. We went to Nank­ing for about six months and came back in 1978. We were about 50 com­rades. We were now re­ceiv­ing train­ing in us­ing spe­cial weapons like anti-air ma­chine guns, how to op­er­ate tanks and so on. By this time, we knew that hondo yakura and any­time tinog­ona kuenda ku­musha. This was a sort of a com­man­ders’ course. Af­ter this train­ing, we came back to Mozam­bique and I con­tin­ued my du­ties of re­ceiv­ing re­cruits from home and re­in­force­ments from sev­eral train­ing camps. The war had spread all over the coun­try and kwese kwakanga kwazara ma­g­a­n­danga. By this time, some com­rades were al­ready think­ing of com­ing to Sal­is­bury. They wanted to come and fight the Smith regime right here in Harare. If you re­mem­ber that’s the same time that

those com­rades came and de­stroyed petrol tanks in Sal­is­bury. In 1979, that’s when we heard about the Lan­caster House talks. As some­one who was in the se­cu­rity depart­ment, I was cho­sen to be among the first ad­vance group to go the Lan­caster. Our task was to choose the places of ac­com­mo­da­tion for our Zanu del­e­ga­tion. We were seven in this ad­vance group. SM: Do you re­mem­ber the names of the

other com­rades?

Cde Kenny: Umm, I can’t re­mem­ber them. When we got to Lon­don, our first op­tion was that the Zanu del­e­ga­tion would stay at Cas­tro Ho­tel but we later dis­cov­ered that it was not ap­pro­pri­ate. The set-up was just not good. For ex­am­ple, on your way to your rooms you would pass through the din­ing-room and we said this was not safe. We started look­ing for ac­com­mo­da­tion some­where but the Bri­tish in­sisted that our del­e­ga­tion should stay at that ho­tel. We told them of our se­cu­rity con­cerns but they re­mained adamant. I think ipapo they had ar­ranged to kill VaMu­gabe. That’s my think­ing. SM: Why do you say that?

Cde Kenny: So many things that were hap­pen­ing at that time got me wor­ried. For ex­am­ple, af­ter they in­sisted, we came up with an­other route that the lead­ers of our del­e­ga­tion could use to go to their rooms with­out pass­ing through the din­ing-room but they re­fused. They in­sisted that our del­e­ga­tion should pass through the din­ing hall munenge makazara vanhu. Ai­wazve, munhu anop­fur­wazve. There were si­lencers dur­ing that time and we were afraid VaMu­gabe or other mem­bers of the del­e­ga­tion could be shot. Even if you read the book, “See You in Novem­ber”, there is con­fir­ma­tion that there was a plot to kill Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe. They knew he was the die-hard among the lead­ers. We told our lead­ers of our con­cern. We stayed in that ho­tel for just a week. We even re­fused to eat the food from the ho­tel. There were so many Zim­bab­weans liv­ing in Lon­don who would bring food but the ho­tel staff said we could not eat the food inside the ho­tel. We even told the ho­tel staff that VaMu­gabe van­oda sadza ravo remhunga or zviyo and so on but they in­sisted kuti hazvi­iti. There was a big fight over the is­sue. Tak­abva tatsvaga dz­imba dze­ma­sup­port­ers emu­sangano. I re­mem­ber there was Cde Gwanzura, Cde Fred­er­ick Shava, Wit­ness Mang­wende, Kom­bayi and oth­ers who had prop­er­ties in Lon­don. We iden­ti­fied some house which was se­cure tikati Pres­i­dent vanog­ara pano. We said tinobva tese from this house go­ing to Lan­caster House. SM: While the Pres­i­dent was stay­ing at this

house, where were you stay­ing? Cde Kenny: Taipinda neyedu. SM: Tell us how the sit­u­a­tion was when Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe ar­rived with his del­e­ga­tion.

Cde Kenny: Umm, it was quite some­thing. There was a big crowd be­cause many peo­ple wanted to see Mu­gabe wa­cho akaita sei. De­spite the big crowd, tiri seven ku­daro we would push peo­ple away. We would push some peo­ple vachi­wira kwakadaro uko. We had to do that oth­er­wise the del­e­ga­tion would not go any­where. Of course, we got as­sis­tance from the Bri­tish of­fi­cers. So Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe stayed at this house un­til the end of the Lan­caster talks. Af­ter the Lan­caster we came back and started prepa­ra­tions for cease­fire. Cde Tongo and Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe then said there must a con­tin­gent force that should be go into Rhode­sia and start work­ing with Lord Soames. I was part of this force and I re­mem­ber our sec­re­tary was a lady called Linda. We went to Beira and we were ad­dressed by Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe. He said ndiri ku­tu­mira my first con­tin­gent yeZanla kuSal­is­bury to go and work with Lord Soames. He said the team was to be led by Rex Nhongo with Kenny Ridzai, mean­ing me as his deputy. I know Web­ster Shamu still has this cas­sette when Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe was mak­ing this ad­dress. He was in the pub­lic­ity depart­ment. Af­ter this ad­dress, we left Beira around 3pm. The ar­range­ment was that our plane was sup­posed to land in Harare be­fore the Zipra plane. How­ever, for some rea­son ndege yedu yakam­bonzi haimhari so takam­bo­ten­der­era mu­denga. That un­set­tled us but af­ter a while we got as­sur­ances that all was well. The plane car­ry­ing the Zipra com­rades landed then we fol­lowed. SM: How was the sit­u­a­tion like at the air­port?

Cde Kenny: Umm, panga pakaipa. There were just too many peo­ple. Pakanga pane mab­hazi akawanda zvisin­gaiti. Vamwe vakak­wira pa­mu­soro pemab­hazi vamwe papi. It was just chaotic. Paiva nema­purisa anem­bwa but you know vanhu vaibaya imbwa nema­panga just to see us. Pakaitika nyaya on that day. Af­ter land­ing, I was the first one to come out of the plane

ndakasimudza AK47 and wav­ing flag yeZanu. Ahh, the peo­ple went wild. Povho yakaita ku­penga chaiko. They de­stroyed the whole fence at the air­port and killed many po­lice dogs. I think we spent about two hours from the air­port to Mushandi­ra­pamwe Ho­tel be­fore go­ing to the Univer­sity of Zim­babwe. There were cars and peo­ple ev­ery­where. The ex­cite­ment was just too much. The wel­come was just elec­tric. SM: In this ex­cite­ment, were you not afraid that the Rhode­sian sol­diers could put you into some trap?

Cde Kenny: Ahh, we were ready for them. Takanga tine pfuti dzedu and we were ready. Even when we were at Mushandi­ra­pamwe, pfuti taigara tak­abereka. We were there for about two weeks. Even though we car­ried our guns, we were very dis­ci­plined. Ha­pana kana one day rekuti takam­boridza pfuti. Some com­rades vaid­hakwa mum­ab­hawa but there was no in­ci­dent yekuridza pfuti. From Mushandi­ra­pamwe, we went to the Univer­sity of Zim­babwe. That is when the talks started nana Lord Soames and Peter Walls. We had a feel­ing that Walls was up to no good. His sol­diers had sur­rounded us at the Univer­sity. One even­ing we sneaked out tikaenda kuno­tora pfuti hombe get­ting ready for war. We then mounted our guns right round the Univer­sity just to show him that we were ready for any­thing. Some­times the Rhode­sian sol­diers would drive con­voys to­wards the Univer­sity and ap­pear like they were tak­ing po­si­tions. We would also take our po­si­tions to show that we were not afraid. We were stay­ing at the Univer­sity with our Zipra com­rades but not us­ing the same res­i­dence. They were stay­ing with other side of the Univer­sity. Lord Soames was stay­ing at State House. When the talks started, that’s when we re­ally trav­elled a lot go­ing to Assem­bly Points and so on. We would go and talk to com­rades to go to Assem­bly Points. Some­times some com­rades would re­sist and we would talk to them kusvika vanzwi­sisa. Kumwe vaitorova hondo chaiyo and we would go to in­ves­ti­gate. Dz­imwe nguva taitoramba kuenda nema­he­li­copter be­cause taitya kuti some of our com­rades would shoot at the he­li­copters. To­wards the end of 1979, maShef akatanga ku­uya into Rhode­sia. They were stay­ing at dif­fer­ent houses in Sal­is­bury. Dur­ing the evenings, mab­hunu aifamba ne­mud­hud­hudhu vachikanda grenades into these houses. They would first shout “you bloody son of …” then throw the grenades. Cde Kan­gai ndivo vakaita zvekuridzirwa bazooka chairo pamba pavo rikapinda nepah­windo. Aka­tiza akapinda muwardrobe. When I ar­rived, ndaka­towana arimo muwardrobe akah­wanda. Af­ter at­tend­ing to this at­tack, that is when I was moved by Cde Nhongo from the army to lead the group of com­rades that was pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity padz­imba dze­mashef. When the Pres­i­dent came, ndak­abva ndaiswa to be part of his mo­tor­cade. I was part of his se­cu­rity and we would go to­gether to all the ral­lies, in­clud­ing in Masvingo kwatakaridzirwa pfuti. SM: What ex­actly hap­pened?

Cde Kenny: Pakaridzwa pfuti and Pres­i­dent vaka­tora cover. We were at a rally when this hap­pened. Be­fore this in­ci­dent, we had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion that there were some sus­pi­cious peo­ple roam­ing around. So we had gone to Dza­pasi Assem­bly Point and came with some re­in­force­ments. We planted some of the com­rades mu­makomo around the area. I think pane pamwe patakasiya and I don’t know taka­pasiya sei. Ndipo paiva nevanhu vaida kup­fura Pres­i­dent ipapo. So as the Pres­i­dent was speak­ing, we just heard gun­shots com­ing in our di­rec­tion. Aah, pa­toipa, Pres­i­dent pasi. SM: You mean Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe tak­ing


Cde Kenny: Yes, ivava Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe. Vak­abu­ruka pastage tikati shef let’s go. We were kwaGutu. This is dif­fer­ent story from the story in­o­tau­rwa kakawanda yekuti he was in the Benz. That one was in Masvingo. I am talk­ing about the at­tack kwaGutu. Pfuti dza­karira ti­chi­tori par­ally chaipo. Chop-chop tatora cover, Cde Mnan­gagwa was there, paita com­mo­tion yeye what what. Tap­inza Pres­i­dent mu­mota. We had left our Dakota near some airstrip that was nearby. We de­cided against go­ing to the Dakota and we left Gutu for Masvingo by road. We said let’s leave Dakota be­cause these peo­ple vanog­ona kuridzira Dakota racho. Pres­i­dent vachin­gopinda muBenz it was wasara-wasara. The driver then was a com­rade, Cde Shumba. Ahh, munhu airova mota iy­eye. When we got to Masvingo ndipo patakati Dakota ngaite­vere ikoko. That day it rained heav­ily and the Dakota couldn’t land in Masvingo. It flew to Sal­is­bury, tikati in­o­zod­zoka the next day. Cde Mnan­gagwa then as­signed me and some com­rades kuti Cde Kenny go kwaGutu and in­ves­ti­gate what ex­actly had hap­pened. When we got back to Gutu we dis­cov­ered that some of those com­rades we had taken from Dza­pasi Assem­bly Point are the ones who saved us. While in their po­si­tions mu­makomo they saw where the en­emy fire was com­ing from and they fired to­wards the en­emy po­si­tion. They ac­tu­ally killed two Rhode­sian sol­diers. There was a nearby In­te­gra­tion Camp where the dif­fer­ent armies - Zanla, Zipra and Rhode­sian army - where be­ing merged into one army. This is where these sol­diers had come from. When we went to the camp, we found Zanla com­rades vachivava zvakaoma. They wanted to at­tack the In­te­gra­tion Camp. They had car­ried these two Rhode­sian sol­diers to the camp and they were de­mand­ing an­swers who was be­hind the at­tack. Other Rhode­sian sol­diers said ha­ti­vazivi and this is where the prob­lems started be­cause these dead Rhode­sian sol­diers were dressed in army uni­form. We got there and calmed things down. Nyaya ya­cho yakan­g­opera like that. I stayed as part of the Pres­i­dent’s se­cu­rity un­til 1982. I went back to the army. SM: What a jour­ney? When you look back at your con­tri­bu­tion dur­ing the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle, do you have any re­grets?

Cde Kenny: Not at all. I went to lib­er­ate the coun­try and we did ex­actly that. I never thought I would come back alive but here I am. I didn’t even have plans kuti kana nyika ya­su­nun­guka tichaita this and that. I was fight­ing to lib­er­ate the coun­try. SM: When you came back from the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle, did you con­duct any rit­ual?

Cde Kenny: Yes, I did. We did with my family. I went ku­musha and said ndad­zoka be­cause kunonzi munhu anogezwa. So pak­abikwa doro, vanhu vakawun­gana vakapem­bera. Ndaka­torwa ndikayendwa neni ku­sango ndikanogezeswa ikoko. Af­ter this I later went to that family yan­dakam­bog­ara nayo dur­ing the war. You know up to this day num­ber dzangu dze­chi­tupa it ap­pears like ndiri wek­waMakuni. I said I want to go and see that old man. I bought some gro­ceries. Gro­cery rakawanda stereki. I was say­ing I re­ally want to thank that per­son be­cause he saved my life. You can imag­ine Rhode­sian sol­diers vaimubaya nep­futi va­chiti iwe mud­hara taura gan­danga riri kupi but he never sold me out. He said gan­danga hand­i­rizivi ndine vana vangu chete pano. Un­for­tu­nately, ndakawana mud­hara wa­cho ava netwo years ashaya. But his wives and those two boys were still alive. They were sur­prised to see me. Vakawun­ganidza vanhu and I told them my story. Vanhu vakachema. I also cried. Mumwe muko­mana wa­cho ndakawuya naye ndikato­mutsva­gira basa. It re­ally was a touch­ing and emo­tional mo­ment.

Cde Kenny Ridzai

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