At Chimoio, my sister’s death became a small matter

IT’S very possible that since we started publishing interviews with Cde Noel Museredza whose Chimurenga name was Cde Ignatius Dzvotsvotsvo, many people haven’t noticed that he is blind. Cde Dzvotsvotsvo became blind in 2007 and is a bitter man.

However, in this interview with our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike, Cde Dzvotsvotsvo says he hopes the story of his life will inspire some people. He narrates how Rhodesian forces massacred thousands of people, including children at Chimoio and how they buried their decomposing bodies in mass graves.

He says the death of his sister during this massacre became a small matter. Read on to understand why.

 

SM: Cde Dzvotsvotsvo, we are now rounding up the story of your life during the liberation struggle. Cde, tell us, as someone who operated at the war front for some time, tell us how you would co-ordinate operations at the war front and the rear in Mozambique?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: We had runners. When we were arrested after getting into Mozambique taitotevera marunners edu who had not come back. Waiti ukatuma munhu haadzoke. So we decided to follow, that’s when we got arrested. When we got arrested, the Frelimo comrades ill-treated us because they were saying why are you still fighting when Muzorewa has declared ceasefire.

When our leaders insisted that Muzorewa’s ceasefire meant nothing, Frelimo later listened. That’s when we were released and I was sent to Chomoio to be the camp security. Cde Bethune was the camp commander at Chimoio. I was at Chimoio until 1977 when that massacre took place.

SM: Take us through what exactly happened on the day of the attack.

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: We had quite a number of bases at Chimoio. That day I woke up early checking documents of some comrades who were supposed to go to Romania. So I was supposed to go to Chimoio town to sort the papers. So I woke up, checked the papers and went out ndikamutsa the Land Rover that I was using. I then went to brush my teeth.

I was supposed to go to Chomoio town together with Cde Nenguwo, the late General Chimombe and another comrade I can’t remember his name. As we were driving to Chimoio town, we passed through Percy Ntini Base and heard a loud bang. We turned and saw ndege mudenga. Cde Chimombe said ngatirove mota tiende. Takarova mota and managed to get to Chimoio town. From a distance we could see kuti Chimoio camp was under serious attack.

We rushed to Frelimo comrades and told them that Chimoio camp was under attack. They told us that they were waiting for orders from Maputo. Ndege dzakabhomba Chimoio camp almost the whole day while the Frelimo comrades kept saying they were waiting for orders from Maputo.

We felt powerless because takanga tabuda mucamp without pfuti. Cde Chimombe later suggested that tokumbira pfuti and go back. We were advised against this because the fire-power was just too much.

We insisted and were later given the guns but hubenzi hwataiita. When the attack had stopped we went back to the camp and hey, hey, hey, people had died. Many people.

SM: Tell us exactly what you saw when you went back to the camp.

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: (long pause) It was bad. Moto wakanga uchiri kutobvira. Dead people scatted all over. It was bad. We quickly drove back to Chimoio town and phoned Cde Tongogara telling him what had happened.

We then went back to the camp to bury the dead comrades. At first we were burying the comrades, each one in his or her grave but we discovered hapana kwataisvika. Cde Chimombe said let’s go tinokumbira Grader from Frelimo. That’s when we buried the comrades in mass graves.

It was horrific and zvakanga zvisingatarisike but takaguma tajaira. Do you know unopedzesera wajaira rufu? I remember mukadzi waTekere ainzi Ruvimbo.

Takati tichienda kuChaminuka base we found her hiding mutsvina in a blair toilet. Tsvina yemunhu kusvika muhuro. We heard her shouting, macomrades ndirimuno. You know she had spent about four days in that blair toilet? We then pulled her out.

Vanhu vakanga vakakuvara zvisingatarisiki. I actually have a sister, Juliet, who died during that massacre. Her Chimurenga name was Cde Seredzai. She had a child with Cde Tungamirai. The child was called Tommy.

I don’t even know how many people we buried but I can tell you there were thousands. It was horrific. Some bodies within a few days started decomposing and the smell was just too much.

Takatanga tichibata nemawoko then we later discovered kuti hazvichabatsiri. Waiti ukabata ruoko rwemunhu rwomwawuka from the body due to decomposition. Vanhu kuita honye.

Takarwadziwa tikapedzesera tavanhinhi.

SM: Did you try to look for your sister’s body?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: You know the death of my sister became a small matter because of the numbers that had died? I didn’t even have the time to look for her body. We were too busy with the task at hand. Unotsvaga yako hanzvadzi kuti uite sei? The mass graves were the descent burial we could afford these comrades.

SM: Who actually chose the sites of those mass graves?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Hapana anyone who chose the sites. Panga pakawanda vanhu became a site for a mass grave. There was this area called Chindunduma, all who died there were school children. That’s where you find the biggest mass graves.

SM: Do you think someone sold out to the Rhodesian forces leading to this attack?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Yes, I think someone sold out our position. We had our intelligence system but what happened on that day, you can’t even tell how things unfolded.

SM: As you were burying these comrades in the mass graves, did you perform any rituals?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: There was no time for that. The situation didn’t permit that. We only managed to take those who were injured to Chimoio town. You know tainhonga vana whose parents had died and take them to Osibisa.

You know after the Chimoio massacre, we opened another base, which we used to call kuStores where we were keeping documents and that base was later bombed again. That base was close to Chimoio camp.

It was myself, Kenny Ridzai, Oppah Muchinguri, Matanda and others. On this day we were playing that game Crazy 8 inside one of the houses. So after playing for a while I told Kenny Ridzai and Oppah that I was tired. I went outside ndikagara pamotor bike that I was using.

I first saw a plane flying past. I told Matanda kuti taurira vanhu vari mumba kuti pane ndege yadarika. Paakanga akubuda mumba kudzoka, a bomb was dropped right at the door.

Matanda died on the spot. I got onto the motor bike and escaped to Chimoio. That is when I injured my collar-bone and up to this day it’s not in place. I fell down from the motor bike as I was getting to Chimoio town.

SM: During the first massacre you escaped using a Landrover and here you were again escaping on a motorbike. Why didn’t you think of fighting back?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Comrade, there are times when fighting back is a waste of time. Unoti kapfuti kako tototo uchiti uri kuitei? I am talking of ndege throwing bombs. How do you fire back when a bomb has been dropped right on top of your fuel tank?

When I fell from the motorbike, I was later picked up by Cde Pamberi Nehondo. I am not sure where he was coming from with a Scania truck. He wasn’t even aware that we had been attacked.

He took me to Chimoio hospital. They failed to treat me so I was flown to Tanzania where I got treatment. I was in hospital for a whole year. After this I was sent to Mozambique where I was working in the security department led by Cde Mnangagwa (now President of Zimbabwe). This was now in 1979. I was working with people like Monica Mutsvangwa, Kenny Ridzai and others.

After ceasefire, we came back to Zimbabwe and I was deployed to Bulawayo as the liaison officer responsible for opening Zanu offices there.

SM: In 1979, Cde Tongogara passed on. Where were you when this happened?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: I was actually in Maputo when he left. I saw him leaving actually. He was with Tobias, he is still alive but not very well. There was also Museera, who passed away and Oppah.

There was Axcillia also. I am not sure where she is. The comrade who was driving that vehicle I saw him after the war. He comes from Mutare. I think he is now living in Gweru.

Later we heard that Cde Tongo had died in a car accident. It was unbelievable. People came up with so many theories regarding his death. I always wonder why people make stories when some of the survivors are still alive.

SM: Cde it was not easy to win the liberation struggle. Now, what is your comment on some people who mock war veterans and even go to the extent of saying “endai munosungirira nyika kwamakaisunungura?”

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Iyoyo imhepo. I don’t even listen to such people. That is actually one of the reasons why we were not willing to talk about the liberation struggle.

SM: But don’t you think some people say this because after the liberation struggle, no one really spoke about what you went through?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Shamwari, Zanla akanga ari munhu ane discipline. Even up to this day. So we were never going to speak just like that. We realised that some people were not willing to listen and we said we will die with our stories.

Talking to people who don’t believe zvinoita kunge tiri kutaura nonsense. Zvinoita kunge taiita firimu but no, people died and people were injured. Panorira pfuti panofanirwa kufiwa kana kurarama. It’s those two things. Pfuti haingochemi kungoti pfoo!

SM: We are now living in a free Zimbabwe. As a war veteran are you happy?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: I am happy that we fought the war and got our country back. What is unfortunate is that as war veterans we are not given the respect we deserve. Some people actually think war veterans marombe.

Handisi rombe ini. It’s unfortunate some people will never know about our sacrifices. But I know that someday in future, people will really appreciate us and they will respect us.

SM: Some people may not notice that you are blind. What happened to your eyes?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: In 2007, ndakaita problem yesugar. Yakatanga to damage my legs. Mari yainetsa yekuti nditsvage mushonga. So after my legs, I started having problems with my eyes.

My children wanted to take me to the UK for treatment but the UK embassy here refused to give me a visa. The problem continued until I got blind. Until now handione. That’s the story of my life.

SM: Now that you are blind, are you bitter?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Yes, I am very bitter.

SM: Why?

Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: If only I got assistance in time. Now ndava kutengerwa mushonga but it’s too late. I am already blind.

Ndava kuzvibaya mainjection ndichizvirwadzisa kuti ndirarame but there is no hope yekuti ndichawona futi one day. I am bitter. But I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my full story. I hope it will inspire someone someday.

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  • Long Nose

    This story is inspirational and needs to be compiled with others to create a 1979 War Memorial