‘We were sold out by fel­low com­rades’

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

TO­DAY we con­tinue our in­ter­view with Cde Joko Thod­lana pseu­do­nym Hughes Mhon­doro, a for­mer High­landers Foot­ball Club ju­nior player who left the field of play to join the armed strug­gle and op­er­ated in the South­ern Front 3 (SF3) that cov­ered Mangwe, Kezi, Gwanda, Beit­bridge and Fi­l­abusi dis­tricts. Cde Thod­lana op­er­ated in Gwanda from 1977 up to the cease­fire in 1979. Be­low are ex­cerpts of the in­ter­view with As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor Mkhu­l­uli Sibanda (MS).

MS: Af­ter your brief stay in Fran­cis­town, you said you were taken to Lusaka and then driven to Nam­pundwe Tran­sit Camp. How long were you there?

Cde Thod­lana: We were there for a long time, in fact I can say we were for­got­ten as we stayed with­out be­ing vis­ited by the Zapu lead­er­ship, re­sult­ing in our per­sonal sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Al­though there was no prob­lem of food, we had no clothes, peo­ple were dressed in tat­ters. There was no wash­ing and bathing soap, we turned to inkuzane and those who smoked turned to the leaves of trees, it was un­bear­able, abantu baphen­duka baba ngokunye. There was also the is­sue of the lib­er­a­tion move­ments fight­ing over re­cruits, while there, peo­ple from the Bishop Abel Mu­zorewa side were com­ing try­ing to en­tice us to their side. Those from the Mu­zorewa side at the camp num­bered about 60 while us the Zapu cadres we were about 400. In fact the is­sue of fight­ing over the re­cruits started while we were still in Botswana. I think it is im­por­tant that I go back and re­late what hap­pened in Botswana be­fore we got to Zam­bia.

MS: Go ahead about the Botswana events.

Cde Thod­lana: Okay. It went like this, while we were still in Gaborone at Broad­est Farm we would go and re­port daily to the Special Branch. Then one day our rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Zapu, Mthuthuki and Muk­wili­bindi took us to the Pres­i­dent Ho­tel where we met Dr Joshua Nkomo who was in the com­pany of John Nkomo. Dr Joshua Nkomo greeted us and that mo­ti­vated us a lot, we felt the urge to go and fight. Af­ter that John Nkomo spoke to us, he told us that trans­port would be pro­vided to take us to Fran­cis­town to join oth­ers who were there en-route to Zam­bia. As for the is­sue of fight­ing over re­cruits, there was Saun­yama and Par­erwa from the Mu­zorewa side who tried to take us to their side, but we re­fused. They even gave us some money, which could have been be­tween 15 and 16 Pula, but we stood our ground. In fact we were ad­vised to take the money by Du­miso Dabengwa who came to see us there in Gaborone. DD told us to take the money and ig­nore their over­tures. Even when we were at Nam­pundwe, Saun­yama kept on com­ing, but he failed in his mis­sion.

MS: You were still talk­ing about the dire sit­u­a­tion at Nam­pundwe, how was the is­sue re­solved?

Cde Thod­lana: Like I said the sit­u­a­tion was not good al­though there was plenty of food. We would eat to­gether with our col­leagues from the Mu­zorewa side. There were also Zam­bian soldiers there, but as for the food I think it was pro­vided for by the United Na­tions. At times those Zam­bian soldiers were rough as they pun­ished us heav­ily, I think they thought we were trained personnel. That did not go down well with us. As for the prob­lem of cloth­ing, there was a house within the camp, where we dis­cov­ered that there were bales and bales of clothes. So com­rades started se­cretly go­ing to re­trieve the clothes.

MS: In other words you are say­ing you were steal­ing.

Cde Thod­lana: (laughs). Sasin­gath­ini si­hamba nqunu, of course we stole from there. My­self, I got a nice black and white t-shirt and a Lee cor­duroy. Some of course were afraid, but angi­funi ukuthi ngithi babengo bhare. They just did not do it. It was while we were still at Nam­pundwe that Si­mon, my friend whom we had left the coun­try to­gether crossed over to the Mu­zorewa group. Again Saun­yama and his group would visit their peo­ple and bring them lo­gis­tics while we from Zapu were wal­low­ing in poverty.

MS: I think you might have re­gret­ted leav­ing the coun­try to join the war?

Cde Thod­lana: Not all. Those con­di­tions in fact hard­ened us. You know mos­qui­tos and int­wala (lice) be­came our com­rades. Dur­ing our stay there, there was a man whom I be­lieve was a Selous Scout, while all of us were suf­fer­ing, we would hear of sto­ries that he had been seen driv­ing a car and was al­ways smart. He even used to boast to us that what was left was for him to fly an air­craft, he had a lot of in­for­ma­tion about ev­ery­thing. How­ever, fi­nally the Zapu lead­er­ship came and ev­ery­thing im­proved, we got soap, Soviet cig­a­rettes, No­vasta, whose smell does not go far. We were also joined by some re­cruits who had been at Mboroma where they shared a camp with Zanla. Our num­ber then grew to more than 800, that is how our group be­came known as the Group of 800. Among us we had the first women, in fact girls to train as gueril­las un­der Zipra, I am talk­ing about Jane, Au­drey, Grace Noko, Toriso Phiri or Vhundzayi and Belinda. It should be noted that dur­ing our stay at Nam­pundwe we were in­tro­duced to the mil­i­tary ex­er­cises by a Mozam­bi­can, Humpty Good. As for po­lit­i­cal lessons while we were still in Botswana we had them through an Umkhonto WeSizwe cadre, a Ndlovu. So from Nam­pundwe we moved to Mwem­beshi, our group was the first to open that train­ing camp, the struc­tures there were put by us. We built it from scratch. The camp com­man­der there was Sam Madondo and chief of staff, Stan­ley Gag­isa. Among the in­struc­tors were Em­manuel, Todd Mpisi, Billy Mzamo, Bu­sobenyoka, Phinda, Thod­lana (Tshaka Moyo), Bos­ton, Ndumba and Lemmy.

MS: How was the in­tro­duc­tion to real mil­i­tary life like?

Cde Thod­lana: That train­ing yayinga yenzi, very tough but the morale was high among us. Ob­sta­cle cross­ings were tough. How­ever, we did not stay long there as one day we were vis­ited by Cdes Ed­ward Ndlovu, Cephas Cele and oth­ers. Ed­ward Ndlovu told us that we were be­ing moved to Tan­za­nia to join Zanla at Mga­gao. It was dur­ing the for­ma­tion of Zipra, a de­vel­op­ment that was sup­ported by the Front­line States, so we had to go there. Mga­gao was a Zanla camp while Moro­goro be­longed to Zipra. So our group moved to Mga­gao while some cadres were sent to Moro­goro to join Zipra. In his ad­dress Ed­ward Ndlovu told us that

they were sur­ren­der­ing the party to us, he said we were the ones who would pro­tect Zapu and see to it that it grew. Those were touch­ing words. So we moved to Mga­gao, the 800 of us in­clud­ing the eight girls. We also moved with Sam Madondo, Gag­isa and all our in­struc­tors. When we got to Mga­gao we were greeted by our Zanla col­leagues singing Chimurenga songs. How­ever, we set­tled there, but we could not fin­ish the train­ing as there were se­ri­ous ide­o­log­i­cal prob­lems and mis­un­der­stand­ings, which when one looks at now were sup­posed to be mi­nor and could have been re­solved am­i­ca­bly. At times we would fight over cook­ing du­ties, there were lot of sus­pi­cions and we failed to co-ex­ist. Then there were clashes, which re­sulted in us los­ing some of our com­rades in­clud­ing our in­struc­tors Lemmy and Ndumba. Af­ter that we moved to Moro­goro where we com­pleted our train­ing. How­ever, our in­struc­tors from Mwem­beshi were taken back to Zam­bia, so we found our­selves un­der the men­tor­ship of Sam Mfakazi, who was the camp com­man­der deputised by Dubhu (Tshile Nleya) who was the chief of staff, oth­ers were Ed­die Si­goge, Dry Phet­sheya, Richard Dube (Gedi), Ken­neth Chi­ta­mbo, whose fam­ily ran a busi­nesses here in Bu­l­awayo un­der the name Goveya and Ma­landu. Also there was now Gen­eral PV Sibanda, Rod­well Nyika and Jack Mpofu (Daki). Our group re­ceived com­mando train­ing, taught the use of many weapons in­clud­ing the Gun-75 as well as mor­tar 82 mm. Af­ter the train­ing we moved from Moro­goro in small groups back to Zam­bia, then to for­ward bases near the Zam­bezi River. Oth­ers like An­drew “Vol­un­teer” Ndlovu were sent to the Soviet Union and other coun­tries for fur­ther train­ing.

MS: Then tell us about your de­ploy­ment to the front. Cde Thod­lana: At first I was de­ployed in a unit of just eight com­rades and we were sup­posed to op­er­ate in the Hwange area and that was early in 1977, soon af­ter com­plet­ing our train­ing at Moro­goro. How­ever, we did not go far af­ter cross­ing the Zam­bezi River as we had a con­tact with the Rhode­sian forces. The Rhode­sians used ground and air at­tacks, a sit­u­a­tion that left us in dis­ar­ray. We scat­tered and lost each other. We had no choice but to cross back to Zam­bia. We ended up at Nam­pundwe where we as­sisted the in­struc­tors in car­ry­ing out ex­er­cises for the re­cruits. I was later sent to Free­dom Camp (FC), which was un­der the com­mand of Ten­dereka that time. It was dur­ing that pe­riod where the first group sent to An­gola was there, it was a big num­ber of 2 000 or so. Then while I was at FC I looked for my sis­ter, Ruth and her hus­band, Patrick Matika and man­aged to visit them there. They were run­ning a suc­cess­ful busi­ness, which was as­sist­ing Zapu in many ways.

To Page 17

Cde Joko Thod­lana

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