‘We had in­struc­tions to kill’


This week, we pub­lish the last part of an in­ter­view con­ducted by our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati with Cde Enock Sit­hole, com­man­der of the Croc­o­dile Com­man­dos, fa­mous for killing the first white man in Melset­ter. The at­tack sig­nalled di­rect con­fronta­tion against white colo­nial rule. Cde Sit­hole gives a nar­ra­tion of how they killed the white man as well as his dis­ap­point­ments with life in the post in­de­pen­dent Zim­babwe. Q: How did you kill the white man and who amongst you did it? A: We had bar­ri­caded the road with huge boul­ders about three kilo­me­tres to the Sky­line Junc­tion where the road led to either Um­tali or Birchenough. We did not do it at the junc­tion be­cause the place at­tracted a lot of move­ment and we feared our op­er­a­tion would be jeop­ar­dised. When the ve­hi­cle drove to­wards the rock bar­ri­cades, it stopped be­cause the rocks were huge and there was no way it could pass over them. The driver of the car, who was white, im­me­di­ately got out and at first stood near the ve­hi­cle lean­ing against its open door whilst talk­ing to an­other per­son in­side. He was prob­a­bly sur­prised and won­der­ing how such huge rocks could have ended up on the mid­dle of the road. The white man then started walk­ing to­wards the rocks, prob­a­bly to re­move them and gain ac­cess. Since we had lined up in the bush along the road, I whis­tled softly, which was our code to take ac­tion; and im­me­di­ately, we came out of our cover tar­get­ing the vic­tim. We pre­tended to be in­quir­ing on what had hap­pened. The man who we later knew was called (Petrus Jo­hannes An­dries) Ober­holzer be­gan shout­ing at us. Dur­ing those days, whites re­garded them­selves as su­pe­rior and as blacks were just some Kaf­firs they could kick around. So the white man’s im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion was to shout in­sults at us as we ap­proached him. He de­manded to know ‘why the bloody hell, we had blocked the road’. We did not give him a chance to un­der­stand what was go­ing on and started at­tack­ing him. He tried to fight back. As he tried to de­fend him­self, we heard him call to the peo­ple in the ve­hi­cle to lock them­selves in­side. The peo­ple in the ve­hi­cle had al­ready started to scream as we be­gan at­tack­ing this white man. The screams were that of his wife and child. Im­me­di­ately af­ter the screams, Mapotsa (er­ro­neously re­ferred to as Mapocha last week) and Ma­sunda ap­proached the ve­hi­cle, tar­get­ing the re­main­ing oc­cu­pants. One of the front wid­ows of the pas­sen­ger side was open, thereby ex­pos­ing the woman who was in the seat. Mapotsa and Ma­sunda went straight to the pas­sen­ger side and tried to smear some petrol in­side the ve­hi­cle. The in­ten­tion was to douse the ve­hi­cle

with petrol and set it on fire. The two com­rades later told us that the woman was very com­bat­ive and kept push­ing away the petrol bot­tle as they tried to pour it into the ve­hi­cle. In the end they had to hur­riedly at­tack

her in the face dur­ing the fra­cas. As for our­selves, we man­aged to over­power the white man, send­ing him to the ground where he was stabbed with an okapi knife a few times on the chest be­fore it was left lodged there. Q: Who ex­actly stabbed this white man and what weapons did you use to carry out this at­tack? A: If I re­mem­ber well, it was Dh­lamini. You can imag­ine the ur­gency with con­duct­ing such an op­er­a­tion, killing a white man, it was un­heard of. It was the four of us, my­self, One from China, Dh­lamini and Mlambo, hit­ting var­i­ous parts of the body to ac­com­plish our mis­sion in the short­est pos­si­ble time. There were some fears as­so­ci­ated with that act, so we had to be brave and fast. But I think it was Dh­lamini who used his okapi knife to stab the white man in the chest. Also you should un­der­stand that this act was com­mit­ted less than two months af­ter the Gwelo Congress where Sit­hole said use ev­ery­thing you have to drive out the whites. He said take your hoes, axes, picks, shov­els, bows and ar­rows, guns, knobker­ries and other weapons. My­self I had a knobker­rie, knife and small ar­row dur­ing this at­tack. The in­struc­tions were to kill the whites and sab­o­tage key in­fra­struc­ture such as dig­ging up roads or van­dal­is­ing elec­tric­ity lines. But our first task was to kill. Q: So this at­tack was just ran­dom, you had not un­der­gone any spe­cialised train­ing? A: At that time, spe­cialised mil­i­tary train­ing, no. But I was to later train in the 1970s in Tan­za­nia and then Cuba. Q: Go­ing back to the at­tack on the white man, at what point did you stop and what else did you do whilst still on the scene? A: When I saw that the man was no longer mov­ing, I stepped aside, but the other com­rades con­tin­ued hit­ting him with var­i­ous ob­jects to make sure he was dead. Since we had care­fully planned our mis­sion, I had writ­ten a cou­ple of mes­sages on small pieces of pa­per which we wanted to leave on all scenes to warn the whites of what was to come their way. I took out one of the note with a mes­sage that read: ‘This is the con­fronta­tion of the Croc­o­dile Gang, what­ever we catch will not be left alive. We will fight un­til all white set­tlers have gone and our land re­turned. Viva Chimurenga.’ I had un­der­lined Viva Chimurenga to em­pha­sise that we had de­clared war. I took out a small bot­tle and ex­tracted some blood from the white man that had be­gun to clot on his shirt. I was ful­fill­ing the in­struc­tion we had been given by the spirit medium. That is the blood I said ear­lier was used by the spirit medium to con­duct some cer­e­mony un­der a tree in Chi­man­i­mani which to­day needs to be con­cluded. Q: But how ex­actly did you leave the scene,

did you just walk away, like that? A: As Mapotsa and Ma­sunda bat­tled with the scream­ing woman, we no­ticed a beam of lights from a ve­hi­cle ap­proach­ing, that is when we all fled into the bush. Im­me­di­ately af­ter our op­er­a­tion, the Spe­cial Branch is­sued an alert. We found a place to rest on the Biri­wiri Val­ley and then pro­ceeded to the spirit medium that night. Af­ter the cer­e­mony, we spread out be­cause it was risky to move as a unit. But the news of the killing had spread as far as Sal­is­bury and by morn­ing af­ter the killing, there were se­cu­rity re­in­force­ments, the Spe­cial Branch was in the area trail­ing us. Q: With the Spe­cial Branch on your trail,

what hap­pened next? A: Af­ter the at­tack we spread out, but Dh­lamini was tracked and ar­rested in Chipinge, a day af­ter the killing. Mlambo was ar­rested just af­ter cross­ing into Mozam­bique af­ter two days. Ma­sunda was cap­tured at his home in Bikita as he col­lected some books to join us en-route to Botswana. I was with Mapotsa and One from China and we man­aged to sneak out of the area, head­ing for Botswana via Buhera. How­ever, we were cap­tured at a gum tree plan­ta­tion in Chivhu. We all found our­selves back at Nyanyadzi po­lice. Other sus­pects had also been rounded and these in­cluded Sawana, (the elder brother to Chubby Sawana who was part of the Chin­hoyi Seven lib­er­a­tion fight­ers), Khombo, Makuwaza, Shasha, Mughidho and his young brother Mushati, Mukome, Ndan­gana, Mutezo and oth­ers. We were all sub­ject to se­ri­ous tor­ture ex­cept for Khombo be­cause he was a lo­cal busi­ness­man and knew a lot of lo­cal whites. Q: Tor­ture, how did you han­dle it? A: At one time, my hands were tied to­gether with both legs. I was as­saulted in that po­si­tion and taken into a he­li­copter. The man lead­ing the tor­ture was a Spe­cial Branch of­fi­cer based at Nyanyadzi. He was called Denser. In the he­li­copter, they slid an­other rope be­low the one bind­ing my hands and legs and tied it. I was tossed off the he­li­copter. I thought this was the end be­cause what was hold­ing me was just the tight­ness of the rope used to tie my hands and legs to­gether. Af­ter what seemed like eter­nity, they lifted me back into the he­li­copter, de­mand­ing an­swers to the killing of

the white man. I de­nied any in­volve­ment in the killing and said I was in Buhera at the time of his death. Then on an­other day, Denser took me in a Land Rover ve­hi­cle from Nyanyadzi, passed Birchenough Bridge and then we ar­rived at Deure. The beat­ings were too much and I took out some money that I had to hand it over to Denser. I said, “Mr Denser please take this money, I can no longer feel any­thing. My body has be­come numb from your beat­ings. This money is to buy your am­mu­ni­tion so that you shoot me and let me die here.” It was at that mo­ment that Denser said he was con­vinced I had not taken part in Ober­holzer’s killing. I bled from the nose, ears and mouth from the tor­ture. Later, Mlambo, Dh­lamini and Ma­sunda were sen­tenced to death be­fore be­ing hanged. I was to be taken to Whawha Prison, to­gether with One from China and Mapotsa, where I was be­tween 1964 and 1966. In 1966, we broke out of the prison. We es­caped from Whawha Prison with Padera and Madyan­gove. Padera had a huge body and I would con­stantly pull him to keep up the pace, warn­ing him that if he failed to run and got caught, that would be his end. I went un­der­ground for some time, but re­mained ac­tive in pol­i­tics in the Nyanyadzi, Chi­man­i­mani and Birchenough area. I be­came one of Nd­a­baningi Sit­hole’s close al­lies and he used to send us, with Steven Mutetwa, to Mozam­bique to de­liver mes­sages to the then FRELIMO Pres­i­dent Ed­uardo Mod­lane. Q: You ear­lier men­tioned train­ing in Tan­za­nia and Cuba, can you shed more light on that? A: I went for train­ing in Tan­za­nia and then Cuba and I re­mem­ber re­turn­ing in 1976 af­ter the Nyad­zo­nia mas­sacre in Au­gust of that year. We helped bury some of the vic­tims. It was a painful sight of peo­ple’s skulls in the wa­ter that had turned to fish nests. This was af­ter Mor­ri­son Ny­athi had sold out to the whites. These peo­ple dy­ing for the coun­try, please don’t play with the sac­ri­fice of these peo­ple. But I had com­fort in that we were fight­ing for the land and we now have the land. The lib­er­a­tion strug­gle was not easy. We could go with­out food and had to map sur­vival tac­tics. At one time we killed a python and ate it raw be­cause we were fac­ing star­va­tion in the bush. This was to en­sure we fight for the free­dom of this coun­try. Look at me now, do I look like one of the con­trib­u­tors of the free­dom? Look at the six hectare farm that I got, af­ter se­ri­ous lob­by­ing, there is no one pro­duc­ing on that land. It is an area of tall trees and grass be­cause I do not have the means to work on it. Noth­ing. There is no hope, it pains to see oth­ers splash­ing their wealth when I suf­fer like this. I did not even get my de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion

money, I con­tinue to live in poverty? If I re­call the tor­ture I was sub­jected to

af­ter be­ing caught, I feel hurt. I even feel tears build­ing in my eyes. This is be­cause when I look at my life now, it is like that of a pau­per. I live in two rooms with­out elec­tric­ity in one of the farm com­pound houses. I have a few clothes, I strug­gle to carry wa­ter from the near­est wa­ter source to bath. But there are those who are clever, they drive in posh cars and have lots of prop­er­ties. For me there is no hope in life. It pains to see them driv­ing in cars that were bought as a re­sult of other peo­ple’s sweat. The sit­u­a­tion is just like that of a hunter, when a hunter and his dogs chase af­ter an an­te­lope. Af­ter a long chase, an­other per­son just ap­pears from nowhere to kill it and takes away all the meat. How does it feel go­ing back home empty handed to pluck out thorns from your feet? That is what is hap­pen­ing to us and it is very bad. What do I pos­sess here? Noth­ing. I am a war com­man­der my­self. I have a bul­let scar on my head, all to free this coun­try. Do you think we also did not want to go to school like what oth­ers were do­ing dur­ing the war? Q: What then hap­pened to you af­ter in­de­pen­dence? A: Af­ter in­de­pen­dence I went to Goromonzi, Chik­waka As­sem­bly Point. My chil­dren and brother had been look­ing for me af­ter the war and they found me there. It was dev­as­tat­ing to be told that my wife had died dur­ing my ab­sence in the war. But I later re­mar­ried and have a son called Hondo. He is 18 years old now and he is the only one I stay with. I have six chil­dren in to­tal but they are strug­gling with their lives and fam­i­lies else­where.

Cde Sit­hole

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