Why we needed the guns


Cde Clark Mpofu is one of the first peo­ple to push for the use of weapons against the white set­tler gov­ern­ment in Rhode­sia. He is also fa­mous for es­cap­ing from Grey Prison - now Bu­l­awayo Prison - among a num­ber of ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle. Our Deputy News Edi­tor Levi Mukarati in­ter­viewed Cde Mpofu at his home in Nketa, Bu­l­awayo, where he chron­i­cled his po­lit­i­cal jour­ney. We pub­lish the first part of the ques­tion and an­swer.

Q: You are revered as one of the first peo­ple to un­dergo mil­i­tary train­ing in China as na­tion­al­ists ratch­eted up pres­sure against the white colo­nial gov­ern­ment. What was your back­ground be­fore ac­tive pol­i­tics? A: Clark Mpofu is my name. It is the name I also used dur­ing the war. I was born on 8 April 1938 in Nkayi, where I at­tended school at Ziyan­geni Mis­sion. At this mis­sion school in 1957, while I was in Stan­dard Six, our teacher told the class that Gold Coast, now Ghana, had be­come in­de­pen­dent. He ex­plained that the in­de­pen­dence meant the coun­try was now be­ing ruled by blacks. That sent a shock wave in­side me, I itched to see our coun­try also fol­low that same route be­cause we were all aware of how the whites were ill-treat­ing our par­ents. Dur­ing those days, a white per­son, be it an adult or a small child, in­duced fear in us. They were a “su­pe­rior race” and we were “in­fe­rior”. They made us look like we were lesser hu­man be­ings. So the in­de­pen­dence in the Gold Coast struck me. I then moved to Bu­l­awayo, af­ter Stan­dard Six, where po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties had started to in­crease. It was mainly along the lines of trade union­ism, as black work­ers de­manded bet­ter treat­ment from their white bosses, bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions and good wages. At that time, there was the South­ern Rhode­sia African Na­tional Congress formed in 1957, which we com­monly re­fer to as the ANC. This party had lead­ers like (Joshua) Nkomo, James Chik­erema and Abel Mu­zorewa. My un­cle, my mother’s brother, Al­fred Ma­then­dele Sibanda, had been ac­tive in the ANC. Dur­ing those days, they were go­ing around the coun­try mo­bil­is­ing peo­ple to join their quest for free­dom. The ANC was banned in De­cem­ber 1959 and my un­cle, Al­fred, was ar­rested and de­tained in Maran­del­las, now Maron­dera. The ar­rest and de­ten­tion touched me be­cause we were close. My dis­like for the colo­nial gov­ern­ment in­creased. Q: Can we then say the ar­rest of your un­cle her­alded your

en­try into pol­i­tics? A: It is dif­fi­cult to draw the line to say when ex­actly I be­came ac­tive in pol­i­tics. At that time, we were liv­ing in an en­vi­ron­ment where pol­i­tics could not be avoided, there were those who were in the fore­front and those sup­port­ing. I was among those sup­port­ing the cause to end colo­nial rule. So when ANC was banned, the NDP was founded on 1 Jan­uary 1960, with Michael Mawema as in­terim pres­i­dent. Joshua Nkomo was to be elected pres­i­dent of NDP in Novem­ber 1960. I was part of th­ese de­vel­op­ments. I had also been fol­low­ing the po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties in the coun­try. I was not just com­ing from nowhere. The NDP was talk­ing about rul­ing our­selves; one man, one vote and Joshua Nkomo used to say, “Free­dom is around the cor­ner”. I was 22-years-old when the NDP was formed and Nkomo’s state­ments gave us zeal as the youth. At the NDP Novem­ber 1961 Congress where Joshua Nkomo be­came Pres­i­dent, Mor­ton Malianga was elected deputy pres­i­dent, while Ge­orge Silundika be­came sec­re­tary-gen­eral. At the Congress at McDon­ald Hall in Mzi­likazi, that is when I first saw Robert Mu­gabe, who was elected pub­lic­ity and in­for­ma­tion sec­re­tary. There was also a woman, Sally Heyfron, who was in­tro­duced as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Pres­i­dent of Ghana, Nk­wame Nkrumah. She was com­ing from a coun­try that had gained in­de­pen­dence and was my in­spi­ra­tion. But we did not know that Sally was com­ing here to get mar­ried to Cde Mu­gabe. At that Congress, Herbert Chitepo spoke strongly against the 15 Par­lia­ment seats that were be­ing of­fered by the whites to the blacks. He spoke in Shona and said, “Zve Par­lia­ment yenyu zvaramba, tati ha­tidi 1961 con­sti­tu­tion”. It was re­solved at the Congress, that we re­ject that con­sti­tu­tion. I also re­mem­ber Mu­gabe say­ing that the youths must “self-deny and fight for the lib­er­a­tion of this coun­try”. That touched me, I felt tears welling in my eyes and said to my­self, “now, we will fight!” The end of the Congress marked the “Zhii” pe­riod, when we took demon­stra­tions to the streets and em­ployed rudi­men­tary meth­ods to re­sist set­tler dis­crim­i­na­tion and op­pres­sion by throw­ing stones and petrol bombs to dam­age the white peo­ple’s in­fra­struc­ture. Q: Still at the Congress, what role did you take? A: We were still youths. We were lis­ten­ing to what the lead­er­ship was plan­ning. You see, as youths, there were tasks that we were given to en­sure the lo­gis­tics were in place. The run­ning around with chairs and pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity, pa­trolling, among other du­ties. But we were in close prox­im­ity of what would be hap­pen­ing and the de­lib­er­a­tions. While we were not at the top ta­ble or seated as Congress del­e­gates, we were there car­ry­ing out other roles. But we were present at the Congress and we were very ac­tive. How­ever, NDP was to be banned on 7 De­cem­ber 1961, lead­ing to the for­ma­tion of Zapu on 17 De­cem­ber 1961, with (Joshua) Nkomo as pres­i­dent, Samuel Tichafa Parireny­atwa as vice-pres­i­dent and Nd­a­baningi Sit­hole chair­man. Mu­gabe was in­for­ma­tion and pub­lic­ity sec­re­tary. But we also had Chitepo in Zapu. Many peo­ple miss that Chitepo was in NDP and Zapu. They only as­so­ciate him with Zanu. Q: Can you elab­o­rate on Cde Chitepo be­ing in NDP and

Zapu? A: His­tory has been dis­torted to make it ap­pear as if Chitepo had noth­ing to do with NDP and Zapu. No, that is not true. I could be right to sug­gest that it was anaTekere and Mu­gabe who were try­ing to play tribal pol­i­tics. We were youths then and in­ter­acted with Chitepo, a hum­ble and soft-spo­ken, but tough man. I know he was there be­fore Zanu be­cause I was part of th­ese po­lit­i­cal par­ties dur­ing their for­ma­tion. We were the ac­tive youths then, to­gether with peo­ple like Bernard Mu­tuma, Ethan Dube and Du­miso Dabengwa. I knew Dabengwa be­fore the NDP was formed. He was among the first Africans to be em­ployed as tai­lors, mak­ing clothes for Bar­clays Bank em­ploy­ees. This was an at­tempt by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to try and show that there was no dis­crim­i­na­tion in this coun­try. Sir Roy We­len­sky was then Prime Min­is­ter of the Fed­er­a­tion of Rhode­sia and Nyasa­land be­tween 1956 and 1963. But the is­sue is that Herbert Chitepo was very ac­tive in the NDP. When the NDP was banned, he had se­cured em­ploy­ment in Tan­za­nia af­ter be­ing asked by Pres­i­dent Julius Ny­erere to work for his gov­ern­ment as di­rec­tor (of) prose­cu­tions, but he still re­mained ac­tive in pol­i­tics. When NDP was banned, we also had Dr Tichafa Parireny­atwa. We used to call him Dr Pari, again a soft-spo­ken but tough man. A pow­er­ful man who talked or ad­dressed us softly and humbly as if we were his age, we re­spected that man. Dr Pari was like that; Herbert Chitepo was also like that. I re­mem­ber be­fore we flew from Tan­za­nia to China via Soviet Union, I spoke to Chitepo from across the ta­ble and ad­mired his at­ten­tive­ness. A tough per­son against the whites. The oth­ers who were soft like Mu­gabe and Nkomo thought we could only be freed by sab­o­tage only and not through the use of guns. Chitepo and Dr Pari were not like that, they had taken a tough po­si­tion that un­less we start killing th­ese whites with guns, we would re­main op­pressed. But to­day, and for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, some peo­ple heav­ily linked to the old Zanu want to say Chitepo started pol­i­tics as chair­man in Zanu. No, that is not true and I want that placed on record that Chitepo formed NDP and Zapu. Un­for­tu­nately, Chitepo died in a bomb in Zam­bia and Dr Pari died in an ac­ci­dent af­ter his driver mis­judged the speed of a train at a rail level cross­ing be­fore Hlam­ba­baloyi just out­side Bu­l­awayo on the then Bu­l­awayo-Sal­is­bury Road. The per­son who was driv­ing him is Dan­ger Ncube, he is alive and is now based in Lon­don. Q: Ear­lier, you men­tioned the ri­ots of the 1960s. How

did they pan out? A: The ri­ots were se­ri­ous. I led youth from Makokoba branch and we were us­ing stones to at­tack the whites and their build­ings. That forced the British to hold a con­sti­tu­tional con­fer­ence in Sal­is­bury, which was chaired by Mr Dun­can Sandys. I was at that con­fer­ence that pro­duced the con­sti­tu­tion that was re­jected by the blacks. But the lib­eral Africans, who we called stooges, ac­cepted the con­sti­tu­tion and got in Par­lia­ment, 15 of them. We did not sup­port their move; that is why we called them stooges, the likes of Jasper Sa­vanhu, Michael Hove. We were say­ing no, we want one man, one vote. The NDP or­gan­ised a ref­er­en­dum to re­ject that con­sti­tu­tion and the ma­jor­ity vote said no. Then Nkomo took those re­sults to the British gov­ern­ment and met the Duke of Devon­shire, who was a ju­nior min­is­ter in the gov­ern­ment of the Con­ser­va­tive Party. He said to Nkomo, “South­ern Rhode­sia is highly in­dus­tri­alised and can­not be given to in­ex­pe­ri­enced hands.” That was an in­sult and we did not ac­cept it. When Nkomo re­turned and af­ter land­ing at the Sal­is­bury Air­port (now Robert Gabriel Mu­gabe In­ter­na­tional Air­port), he said if the “in­dus­try is go­ing to stand in the way of our free­dom, then that in­dus­try must go”. That mes­sage was enough for us; hence, the burn­ing of fac­to­ries all over the coun­try’s towns or the ri­ots of 1961. They were sparked by Nkomo’s mes­sage. I was on fire, I felt the urge for ar­son and destruc­tion to show my dis­like of white op­pres­sion. We were us­ing petrol bombs, but we had not per­fected that. I re­mem­ber then with my fel­low youths Gor­don But­she and Shadreck Nkomo ap­proach­ing one of the lead­ers, Ja­son Ziyaphapha Moyo, re­quest­ing the use of guns against the whites. He was reluc­tant at first but later con­vinced the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of Zapu to con­sider help­ing us get train­ing in the use of ex­plo­sives. In 1962, I had been cho­sen by Ja­son Moyo to lead a group of four youths to Sal­is­bury (Harare) to join oth­ers in or­gan­is­ing our tac­tics. I went to Harare with Elias Ngugama from Mpopoma; John Mundiya Ndlovu, an em­buth­weni youth; then Amen Chik­wak­wata - he was from Mpopoma. We were met at the Sal­is­bury Rail­way Sta­tion by the chair­man of Harare District, Cde Enos Chikowere, and taken to meet our con­tact in the cen­tral busi­ness district. I had been told that to dis­pel any sus­pi­cions of who we were, when we got to our meet­ing point in Harare, I must read my news­pa­per up­side down and then that is when one lib­eral white, Dr Ter­rence Ranger, who was at the Uni­ver­sity of Rhode­sia and Nyasa­land, came and took us. When he got to where we were, he said “Ja­son, Ja­son, JZ”, and I said Ja­son Moyo, he said, yes, and he took us. We were taught how to make petrol bombs us­ing ben­zene and other ex­plo­sive ma­te­rial. Th­ese lib­eral whites at the Uni­ver­sity of Rhode­sia and Nyasa­land un­der­stood our cause. There were also youths from Sal­is­bury for this train­ing and I re­mem­ber in that group was Phe­bion Shoniwa. Af­ter per­fect­ing our skills for about a week, we then re­turned to Bu­l­awayo to con­tinue our sab­o­tage by burn­ing white-owned prop­er­ties, com­mit­ting ar­son. That same year, in De­cem­ber, I was also sent to Zam­bia. The lead­ers trusted me and that is why they made me the leader of th­ese youth groups. I was sent to North­ern Rhode­sia, now Zam­bia, for train­ing by uMkhonto we Sizwe. Q: Who took you there and who re­ceived you in Zam­bia,

were you alone? A: We were taken to North­ern Rhode­sia by Ke­nius Mlalazi, a dark and tall man whose lib­er­a­tion strug­gle name was Iny­oni Yezulu. Upon ar­rival there, we were handed over to Cde Sik­wili Khohli Moyo. Like I said ear­lier, I was lead­ing the group and Amen Chik­wak­wata, John Mundiya Ndlovu and Elias Ngugama was to later fol­low. Th­ese were the same peo­ple I had led when we went to Harare to meet Dr Ranger. The North­ern Rhode­sia ex­er­cise was like fur­ther train­ing af­ter the one we had got at the Uni­ver­sity. Our in­struc­tor at Umkhonto we Sizwe was Cde Maki­wane. Re­gional move­ments were work­ing closely to­gether; that is, the ANC of South Africa and Swapo of Namibia and so on. We were trained with oth­ers from coun­tries in the re­gion. I spent the Christ­mas of 1962 in the bush in Zam­bia, get­ting this train­ing. North­ern Rhode­sia at that time was be­ing ruled by the British and there was only a gover­nor, but then the na­tion­al­ists were man­ag­ing to do their ac­tiv­i­ties un­der­ground. Q: Af­ter the train­ing, what was your im­me­di­ate task? A: Af­ter that train­ing, we were to re­turn back home and I was en­trusted with a big trunk which con­tained grenades and bombs. My col­leagues were not told about its con­tents. Cde Sik­wili Khohli Moyo in­structed me that af­ter we alight the train at Mpopoma Rail­way Sta­tion in Bu­l­awayo, there would be peo­ple to wel­come us. When we got to Mpopoma, we were met by Ethan Dube, who was later to be­come the first in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer of Zipra, but was cap­tured by the whites and killed in Botswana. He was very in­tel­li­gent. There was also Gor­don But­she wait­ing to re­ceive us. So they took me from Mpopoma and asked where we could hide the trunk and we agreed we take it to Mzi­likazi at my aunt’s house (R7, Mzi­likazi) for the night. My aunt, the late lib­er­a­tion hero­ine Cde Mafazi Moyo, was on our side and took the trunk in. The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Dube and But­she came and we took the trunk to Ma­tobo Hills and cached it there. So those bombs were be­ing used to turn up the heat against the whites and this re­sulted in the tense re­la­tions be­tween the whites and blacks.

◆ To be con­tin­ued next week

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