‘We were sold out by fel­low com­rades’

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

WE con­tinue our in­ter­view with for­mer foot­baller, Cde Joko Thod­lana about his ex­ploits in the armed strug­gle. Cde Thod­lana who op­er­ated un­der the pseu­do­nym Cde Hughes Mhon­doro con­tin­ues the in­ter­view with As­sis­tant Edi­tor Mkhu­l­uli Sibanda about their de­ploy­ment at the front. Last week Cde Thod­lana said he be­lieved his unit of 14 was sold out by fel­low com­rades when it was about to cross the Zam­bezi River.

MS: You said you were saved from the jaws of death by Cde Reg­gie who stopped you from us­ing that cross­ing point. Do you think you had been set up for slaugh­ter?

Cde Thod­lana: It’s pos­si­ble that within our ranks there were Rhode­sian moles. Why were we sup­posed to use a cross­ing point that was no longer deemed safe? It’s very dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand. Any­way we fi­nally crossed the Zam­bezi into Rhode­sia, the cross­ing point had a gorge which made it dif­fi­cult for one to move. It was very dif­fi­cult, but we man­aged to find our way. Our unit had AK-47 ri­fles, a bazooka while one was armed with a Si­monov, which was fit­ted with a grenade launcher. Our unit was a mix­ture of those who had been trained at Moro­goro and Mwem­beshi in Zam­bia. We moved through the Hwange area, en­tered the park and in ar­eas around the park that is where we en­coun­tered prob­lems, which re­sulted in us split­ting the group into two.

MS: What prob­lems did you face?

Cde Thod­lana: Af­ter the Hwange Na­tional Park we found a spot with water. Af­ter sat­is­fy­ing our­selves that the water was safe we started cook­ing be­cause those days gueril­las used to carry their own food sup­plies and were also given some money so that they could buy their pro­vi­sions. As for the safety of water, if some or­gan­isms in the water were alive we then could tell that it had not been poi­soned. We were not wor­ried about the amount of dirt, we were only afraid of the poi­son. So im­me­di­ately af­ter we had fin­ished cook­ing and had eaten, we heard the sound of an air­craft. The sound grew louder as it was mov­ing to­wards us. We then put out the fire us­ing soil. The air­craft ap­proached where we were and we re­alised that it was a mil­i­tary air­craft, okuy­isi­leyi. It then started en­cir­cling the place, but we had taken cover in the thicket. For some­time it was try­ing to lo­cate where we were, but failed. It then left. We then re­alised that the

Rho de s i ans would start look­ing for us, so a de­ci­sion wa s made t o split the unit into two. So Cde Mak­we­sha a vet­eran who had been in the op­er­a­tions for some time took the other, which had com­rades like Love­more Mpofu (Howard Ncube) while ours was given to Chirisa an­other vet­eran guerilla. They were in Zam­bia af­ter com­ing from Gwanda, so they knew the area where we were go­ing very well. So my­self, be­sides Bernard Chirisa I was with peo­ple like Kaizer and Mad­abud­abu.

MS: How did you move?

Cde Thod­lana: We went through Tsholot­sho-Plumtree area, Kezi and fi­nally we reached Gwanda. How­ever, the other unit ar­rived in Gwanda with six peo­ple, one com­rade Jimmy lost the group while they were in Mangwe. How­ever, he man­aged to find his way to Gwanda af­ter meet­ing other com­rades. So when we got to Gwanda, Go­batema area we found some com­rades al­ready on the ground such as Mdubane, Elling­ton, Tea­spoon and Toy­i­toyi. Some of these com­rades started oper­at­ing in Gwanda soon af­ter the death of Zipa.

MS: Then tell us about your op­er­a­tions. Cde Thod­lana: One of the ob­jec­tives we had in Gwanda was mas­sive re­cruit­ment, we were sup­posed to re­cruit and es­cort the re­cruits to Botswana, make sure those com­ing from ar­eas like Bu­l­awayo were given all the se­cu­rity to take them across the bor­der. We were also sup­posed to re­cruit from Gwanda and sur­round­ing ar­eas, the Manama Mission school chil­dren were taken by com­rades like Mdubane. We also took ad­van­tage of com­mu­nity gath­er­ings such as wed­dings to take away the peo­ple and move them to Botswana to join the armed strug­gle. We did not care whether one wanted or not, those found at the wed­ding and fit to train as sol­diers were taken. That in­cluded lo­mat­shada (the groom). While we were re­cruit­ing we also wanted to cre­ate a safe cor­ri­dor for the re­cruits and com­rades mov­ing to ar­eas like Mberengwa as well as for our com­rades

f rom Umkhonto WeSwizwe of ANC. That safe cor­ri­dor could be cre­ated only if we at­tacked the Rhode­sian forces, ha­rassed them by lay­ing am­bushes to re­strict their move­ments. We were re­cruit­ing and fight­ing at the same time. How­ever, soon af­ter ar­riv­ing in Gwanda I was sent to Beit­bridge to go and re­cover a weapon, an AK-47 which had been hid­den by other com­rades when its owner was killed in com­bat. It was the Mtetengwe area of Beit­bridge. We were given that mission to­gether with Kaizer and Mad­abud­abu. How­ever, things changed when we got there.

MS: What was the prob­lem this time around?

Cde Thod­lana: We man­aged to lo­cate the weapon, but two of my com­rades started say­ing we should not go back to Gwanda, but should op­er­ate in that area. In fact it was the home area of Kaizer, he started en­gag­ing in ro­man­tic ac­tiv­i­ties with lo­cal vil­lage girls and soon Mad­abud­abu joined in. The most wor­ry­ing thing was that when Kaizer, a com­rade we trained to­gether at Moro­goro left the coun­try to join the armed strug­gle he had left a wife and chil­dren. But now he was hav­ing an af­fair with an­other woman, ig­nor­ing the wife. Mad­abud­abu also had an af­fair with Kaizer’s rel­a­tive. The whole thing be­came messy and my ef­forts to talk them out of it fell on deaf ears. In fact it cre­ated a rift. I al­most lost my life be­cause of that sit­u­a­tion.

MS: They wanted to hap­pened?

Cde Thod­lana: One day we were out in the bush dur­ing the day. I was mend­ing my com­bat trousers and the two of them had de­ployed some me­tres away. They were play­ing some mu­sic on the ra­dio. Then came six Zanla gueril­las, they heard the sound of the ra­dio, I was watch­ing their move­ments. They stopped and sur­veyed the ground and they saw me. I was now ready for any­thing. Those Zanla com­rades looked at me and walked away, af­ter that brief and tense sit­u­a­tion Kaizer and Mad­abud­abu emerged from dif­fer­ent po­si­tions be­hind me. They started ask­ing where those peo­ple had gone, I re­alised that if an ex­change of gun­fire had started espe­cially if it were Selous Scouts, I could have been killed. I then left them and re­turned on my own to Gwanda.

To be con­tin­ued next week with Cde Thod­lana talk­ing about his op­er­a­tions and his role in the mutiny at Zezani Assem­bly Point in Beit­bridge where gueril­las held hostage se­nior com­man­ders who in­cluded Re­tired Colonel Tshinga Dube over al­lowances. Zezani was an Assem­bly Point

for both Zipra and Zanla.

Cde Joko Thod­lana

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.