LAST week, Cde Comrade Gomba Midson Mupasu whose Chimurenga name was Cde Norman Bethune spoke about the ZANLA strategies during the early years of the liberation struggle. He spoke about fighting Red Indians and Israelites who had been recruited by the Smith regime to join the Rhodesian forces as the war intensified.
In this interview with our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike, Cde Bethune talks about the love life at Nampundwe Farm in Zambia. He has no kind words for some comrades who crossed from ZAPU to ZANU and describes Nhari and Badza as cowards.
Read on . . .
SM: Comrade, let’s talk briefly about life at Nampundwe Farm. By this time female recruits were now coming to join the struggle. Didn’t you have instances where the comrades would fall in love at the farm?
Cde Bethune: Issues to do with love are between two people. As commander the word was always that “hakuna vanhu vanofanirwa kudanana nguva yehondo.” But these were grown-ups and some ended falling in love but the main problem was that no one of them knew when they would leave the base and where they would be deployed. So falling in love was very difficult. I was personally against it.
I would ask the comrades kuti iwe wakunyenga hauchaita zvehondo here or iwe wanyengwa hauchaenda to carry materiel here? I made the comrades aware that this farm was not for lovers.
You know some comrades would come as husband and wife. We would respect their marriage, but on many occasions husband and wife would be deployed to different areas.
As one of the pioneers of the Second Chimurenga who opened the North East front with other comrades, I knew that taiva nechiga chekuti usanyenge mukadzi. We were told that taisafanira kunyenga mukadzi kana kubikirwa nemukadzi achiri kugeza. Our generation was really committed to this, but apo neapo vakazviita vamwe vakazokuvara zveshuwa.
For example, when I left the farm, Kid Marong’orong’o was still alive. James Bond was still alive. They were deployed in Chiweshe area and I later heard that Kid got injured at one of the bases. I am told that there were some girls at that base. Some of the girls were actually injured and others were captured by the Rhodesian forces. When he got injured during this battle, Kid was later captured and he was hanged under a helicopter as the Rhodesians showed povho in Chiweshe that they had killed him. The Rhodesians were celebrating saying taribata gandaga riye guru.
SM: But we were told that Cde Rex Nhongo got one of the female comrades pregnant?
Cde Bethune: Yes, that happened but Rex was actually going against the dictates of the war. Rex got Cde Mahwinei pregnant. She was among the first group of female comrades to join the liberation struggle. Our generation whether at the front or at the rear, we were committed to stick to order that we were not supposed to sleep with women. Some of us we were actually afraid of proposing love to female comrades. Even myself, I didn’t have a girlfriend even though I was the commander.
SM: Are you being honest comrade?
Cde Bethune: Yes, I didn’t have a girlfriend. But female comrades washed my clothes. I actually remember one of the female comrades, Cde Nyemwererai. This Cde Nyemwererai later when we were at Chimoio fell in love with Cde Zhepe who was an instructor. This Cde Nyemwererai is still alive. There was also Cde Mabel who is now Colonel Mandizvidza. These are the two female comrades who used to wash my clothes. Mabel later fell in love with Cde Webster Gwauya. You need to know that later, as many recruits joined the liberation struggle they didn’t know shoko rambuya Nehanda rekuti musanyengane. Some of these comrades who came later didn’t believe in the words of Mbuya Nehanda. This message yekuti musanyengane was disregarded by many from around 1975. This advice from Mbuya Nehanda was supposed to be adhered to by comrades both at the war front and the rear in Lusaka and Maputo.
SM: But Cde Rex…?
Cde Bethune: Rex Nhongo was not our policy. He was just an individual. Why are you centring on him as if he was our policy? You also need to know that Rex came from ZAPU. He was among the comrades who didn’t believe in the words of Mbuya Nehanda. The ethics in ZAPU and ZANU were completely different. I worked with Rex for a long time and I knew him very well. You know when information got to Chimoio that the Rhodesians were thinking of attacking Chimoio, I informed Rex about it. I told him kuti zvanzi nemweya varungu vari kuuya and he told me point blank kuti ndezvako. When he gave me that response, I wasn’t surprised. He was coming from ZAPU where they didn’t believe in these things and they also lacked political orientation. They only got military training. So it was duty now to explain to the 14 bases at Chimoio camp what vana sekuru had said about the impending attack. Rex was just an individual person. You can’t paint all of us with the same brush. At the farm there were between 3 000 and 4 000 comrades.
SM: Ok, while at the farm in Zambia, we are told that there were also some Zimbabweans living in Zambia who assisted ZANU during these early years.
Cde Bethune: Yes, there were people like Mudekurozva, Mazhandu, Kombayi and many others. Those people played a crucial role and it’s unfortunate they were never recognised. These business people and farmers helped us a lot especially when Smith gave us free publicity by saying he was fighting ZANLA forces. These people knew we had made impact in Rhodesia and they gave us lots of support. Even Zimbabweans who were dotted around the world started assisting us. Patrick Kombayi and people like Mazhandu supported ZANU and they did all they could to provide resources. You know kuti mabhero ehembe amava kuona nhasi uno takaaona kare ikoko. Many countries offered so many things.
SM: Tell us of the assistance you got from the Zambian government?
Cde Bethune: The Zambian government was against us. Zambia caused détente when it arrested the majority of our leaders. I have my reasons for this. How can they arrest our leaders when Chitepo had been assassinated by the enemy and the fact that the Zambian government didn’t have any evidence linking our leaders to the assassination? They just jumped into conclusion that it was tribalism.
SM: But before the assassination of Cde Chitepo there were disturbances in ZANU?
Cde Bethune: What disturbances?
SM: The Nhari-Badza Rebellion.
Cde Bethune: Nhari and those who were implicated in that rebellion were militants. I was also a militant. The Nhari issue is another different story. This wasn’t about tribalism. Nhari was a coward. Militarily he was trained by ZAPU. What I understand and know is that he was accusing the leadership that had deployed us to the war front that they had sent us with inferior weapons. How could he quickly judge AK47 before using it? From nowhere he started questioning why the leadership had given us small arms. Guerilla warfare is never fought using big weapons. He was a coward in general. Same, same with Badza. He would go around nedumwa either muruoka, muchiwuno or in the pocket kwanza kuzvidzivirira muhondo.
When we crossed Zambezi River, they were made to cross one by one after it had been discovered that vane madumwa ekusaruka. So ukapinda nevamwe in Zambezi vamwe vese vanofa iwe uchipona. Our generation taibudirana pachena kuti haa vakuru, rasai mishonga yenyu iyi or ucharwa wega. Or you go back to the rear. We were very frank with each other and taidanana. That is why even as we were 45 at the war front during the early years, we made lots of impact. Shamwari yeropa proper, proper. That is why during these days we didn’t have many squabbles. When people like Nhari came from ZAPU, they started kusvora our ammunition. Kusvora kuti wapihwa AK47, wapihwa RPG7 or RPG 2? Wapihwa Light Maching Gun (LMG)? Or mortar 60mm or 82mm? Our generation we didn’t have the semi-automatic rifle.
You then just come and say you want tankers. From where and how? What we had was enough and we used them effectively. But after failing to use these weapons, they started blaming the weapons instead of blaming themselves. They were cowards.
SM: You keep saying “they came from ZAPU” and you don’t seems to have kind words for these comrades. Why?
Cde Bethune: They showed that they were cowards. It showed they lacked proper training. I operated with Nhari and Badza around Muzarabani area before we moved to Dotito. Their problems started in Muzarabani around Kakwidze area. These complaints against the ammunition started during deployment when we got to Zambezi. That is when Nhari and Badza started saying “hee matipa pfuti diki and so muri kutituma kuti we go and get captured.” Ko how do you get captured iwe une yako pfuti? That is the mind of a coward. How can you talk about being captured before deployment?
SM: We have spoken to Cde Chemist and others who argue that Badza and Nhari were just misunderstood as they had valid arguments.
Cde Bethune: That is not true. Kunzwisisa chii chacho?
SM: They say these comrades were at the war front and they knew what was required.
Cde Bethune: They were not alone at the war front. We were deployed together. The first comrades kupinda kufront included people like Cde Khumalo, Cde Chimedza, Joseph Chimurenga among others. So ihondo ipi yakarwiwa naNhari and Badza yavaitaura kuti zvombo zvidiki? From Zambezi to Mavhuradhona we came across many ambushes, around Mukoma, Chadereka, Mukumbura and so on as the Rhodesians fought to keep us from advancing deep into Rhodesia. They wanted to keep us along Lower Zambezi Valley. However their tactics failed. We used guerilla concept.
The problem was that in ZAPU they had been trained regular warfare. Regular warfare and guerilla warfare are totally different. Regular warfare you have an infantry at the front with supporting weapons like tanks at the back. Guerilla warfare is about hitting and running. Comrades like Nhari and Badza had inferiority complex. Kuwona kuti umm, murungu handingamukunde nepfuti idzi. You know Nhari was very light and handsome. He would look at himself and say “inini nehunaku hwangu ndingafe inini?” Saka wawaida kuti afe ndiani?
SM: (Laughing) But Cde Bethune …
Cde Bethune: I don’t want to mince my words. Those comrades were cowards. Nhari was a coward. If they had received military training that we had got from the Chinese, they wouldn’t have acted the way they acted. What is AK47? What is RPG 2 and RPG 7? What is LMG? What is 60 mm and 82 mm mortar bomb? They didn’t know these weapons and their effectiveness. If they knew these weapons, they wouldn’t behave the way they behaved.
SM: When these comrades crossed from ZAPU to ZANU, didn’t you retrain them?
Cde Bethune: I am told that they crossed from ZAPU to ZANU because in ZAPU only the Shonas were being deployed to the war front. There was tribalism. As for their retraining when they joined ZANU, that was an issue for the leadership. I was a fighter. They were never retrained. They just joined us. What I know is that they lacked political orientation. In Zapu there was no political orientation. We thought they would catch up with us as we spoke about political orientation.
I hear some saying Nhari and Badza wrote reports to the rear with requests but those requests were ignored. I don’t believe that at all.
SM: True some say they wrote reports …
Cde Bethune: What reports? Let’s be specific. Let’s not generalise.
SM: But …
Cde Bethune: Hold on, hold on. The main problem at the war front was food. As comrades we were supposed to mobilise the masses so that they could support us by providing food. We could also go to the shops and take whatever we wanted. I remember we went to shop yemurungu ainzi Savory and we took what we wanted.
SM: Just taking?
Cde Bethune: Yes, just taking. We went around 7pm and took what we wanted from this shop. I remember mabhunu akanga akagara padip paChahwanda. When they heard about this the Rhodesian soldiers tried to track us and failed but we were at a mountain near Karanda hospital. We could actually see them from our position. After taking whatever we wanted from the shop, as we retreated, takangogadzika 25 litres of cooking oil at the intersection of the road that goes to Dotito and Karanda hospital. They actually brought a landmine specialist to establish whether there was no bomb under the 25 litre gallon. There was nothing under that gallon but they panicked big time. You know gaba iroro rakaita about one week vakariwunganira until they brought a specialist from Salisbury. When they later discovered that there was nothing under the gallon, vakasvotwa zvakaoma.
SM: Who came up with this idea of putting the gallon there?
Cde Bethune: Ahh, this was war. I told you we were trained to lead other comrades and so we had to think fast. We had to come up with all sorts of plans to instil fear into the enemy. As field commanders, Nhari and Badza should have come up with survival plans but they failed because they were cowards. They went to war with a defeatist mentality. If it was about ammunition, had they spoke to Cde Khumalo and Baba Juru who were responsible for that?
SM: They were also complaining about strategy.
Cde Bethune: What strategy? As commanders they were supposed to apply their strategies depending on what they wanted to do. That’s why I am saying they were cowards. They wanted more ammunition for what when they had not yet done much in their areas? These allegations of ammunition are just too shallow.
SM: We are also told that Badza had been demoted?
Cde Bethune: One’s demotion depended on the crime he would have committed. For example, Badza was cruel generally. Ini he attempted kundirova and I told him straight up kuti ukandirova ndokupfura. I will shoot you.
SM: What had you done?
Cde Bethune: I had answered him back in a way that he thought was rude. He also clashed with Cde Kenny Ridzai. Kenny and his group went for an attack but when they got to the spot, they discovered that they could not attack for a number of reasons. When they came back Badza wanted to punish they saying “you should have just attacked the Rhodesians.” Badza said Kenny ndokurova, Kenny akaramba kuti hazviiti. From that time Badza carried that grudge but as a commander, we never thought he would carry a grudge.
SM: I put it to you Cde Bethune that you are saying all these negative things about Badza and Nhari because they at some point wanted to beat you up?
Cde Bethune: No, no, not even. Nhari never attempted to beat me but I was saying all these things. I have explained to you why these comrades were cowards.
SM: You don’t have a grudge?
Cde Bethune: I don’t have a grudge because this is past to me. Hondo kwaiva kutambudzika and they failed to understand that. I am not even saying all the comrades who came from ZAPU were bad. No. There are some of them we worked with very well. People like the late Robson Manyika, Rex Nhongo and others. We worked well. These two were just power hungry cowards.
(to be continued next week)
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