‘Better to die in battlefield’

COMRADE Gilbert Musekiwa Simon Majiri, whose Chimurenga name was Cde Chabudaishudhu Kufahakuurayi is an unassuming war veteran. Born in 1938, Cde Chabudaishudhu who now stays in Mvurwi, grew up in Shamva, around the Bushu area and went to school up to Standard Six.

Cde Chabudaishudhu was part of the Group of 45 which received military training in Ghana in 1964. In this interview with our team (SM) comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike, Cde Chabudaishudhu narrates how the late VP Joshua Nkomo named “his 11 enemies” after the split of Zapu, he explains Zanu’s five point liberation programme and reveals for the first time why Zanu was known as four-in-one.

The humble war veteran frequently recites the popular Chinese saying: “Better die the quickest death in the battlefield than die a slow death by hunger, oppression and suppression,” to explain how he rejoined the liberation struggle in 1975 after serving 10 years in the notorious Rhodesian prisons. Read on…

SM: Comrade Chabudaishudhu, tell us how you joined politics and what the situation was like during that time?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: I join nationalist politics in 1957 during the time of the ANC when I was staying in Salisbury (now Harare). I used to attend rallies by politicians such as Chikerema and Nyandoro at areas such as KwaMai Musodzi. During that time there was ANC in Zambia, ANC in South Africa, ANC in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and ANC in Malawi. I later joined NDP.

When the OAU was formed in 1963, the organisation said all revolutionary organisations should be registered. By this time, Zapu had been banned for about 11 months and it wasn’t easy for Zapu to be accepted by the OAU because they were saying the party is banned. But the party was not dead. Through General Hashim Mbita, leaders in Zapu were instructed to go and deliberate on which party to register. Zapu had its executive comprising 12 members. This executive sat down and some suggested to register a new party but the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo said doing so would be a betrayal of the agreement he had made with Parirenyatwa never to form another political party. Reverend Sithole then stood up and challenged Nkomo saying there was need to form a new party.

Nkomo then convened a meeting where he announced that he had expelled 11 members of Zapu. I personally attended that meeting and I can tell you Nkomo at this time was very popular. He started the meeting by saying “I am going to name my 11 enemies. Ndabaningi Sithole, Robert Mugabe, Herbert Chitepo, Leopold Takawira…” He named the 11 members. I just said to myself on this day “uumm, out of 12 iwe wega ndiwe wazongoita munhu kwaye chete?” One out of 12, it means he had been outvoted. I was just thinking to myself.

This new group led by the 11 leaders was labelled as New Party, New Movement Anti-Nkomo splinter group. This is what Zanu was called by its enemies before it came up with its proper name. On August 8, 1963, that’s when Zanu (Zimbabwe African National Union) was formed. I remember Zvobgo was the publicity secretary at the time. The leaders used to say Zimbabwe African National Union is four-in-one, meaning it’s a political party, a nationalist party, a revolutionary party and a pan-Africanist party. This really excited us. The leaders said this is a dynamic political organisation based on five point liberation programme — kwanzi tirikuda kurovana huma nehuma with the Smith regime. The leaders called for freedom through direct confrontation through the five point liberation programme — that is mass mobilization, consolidation, recruitment, training and waging the war.

SM: Did you have any position in Zanu by this time?

Cde Chabudaishudu: I was chairman of youth in Zanu for Highfield Branch. I was also in the African Trade Union Congress which had split from the Southern Rhodesian Trade Union Congress. Together with other leaders we fought for the rights of back workers and I tell you it was an uphill struggle. I used to work together with Davison Ziwande. In Highfield in the beginning, there were only seven youth leaders who were actively involved in Zanu politics.

SM: Who were these seven?

Cde Chabudaishudu: There was Thomas Marere, Mutsetse, Davison Ziwande, Noel Chabvunga who used to stay in Old Highfield, Donald Maizivei. I can’t remember the other comrade. We terrorised those against Zanu in Highfield. Due to these constant clashes on 11 July 1964, ndakabaiwa nebanga on my right leg ndichienda kumusha kuShamva after a fight over Zanu. Kwanzi kurasa Nkomo uchida Sithole unofa uchibaiwa nemapanga. I however fought back, kurova vanhu nemabhotoro but I was eventually overpowered. I spent five weeks in hospital. While in hospital, neshungu ndaitova nebanga ranguwo randaigara ndakavhura just in case. While in hospital I received a letter from Davison Ziwande saying they were coming to take me because some Zapu youths were planning to come and finish me. That day I pretended as if I was much better and so I was discharged from hospital.

SM: So how then and when did you leave the country to join the liberation struggle?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: After a few months, I came back to Harare in Highfield were I continued mixing politics and my trade union work. One day I went to the Beatrice Cottages where I informed Trinos Makombe that I wanted to leave the country and join the liberation struggle. He advised me to go and see Eddison Sithole. I went to see Sithole and that’s where I met vaMuzenda. I told them that ndirikuda kuenda kwakaenda vamwe. They told me kuti hatina mari but luck enough money was somehow found and I was also lucky there was an I.D, chitikinyani belonging to Watson Chihota. That’s the I.D I used to leave the country crossing into Mozambique. However, when I got to Mwanza Police station, I was deported to the border. I later escaped and walked to the road to Malawi where I saw a Clan Transport truck. I spoke to the driver, who was from Rhodesia, who told me that there were roadblocks along the road. He, however, agreed to take me to Blantyre where there was the Zanu representative called Mawere. When I got to Malawi, the Malawi Young Pioneers yaipenga zvekupenga zviya. Vaipenga zviya zvekuti munhu aikwanisa kungotsakatika. These were the comrades who welcomed me in Malawi. When I told them that I was from Zanu, ahh, vakanditambira zvakanaka chose. These comrades took me to Limbe where Mawere was staying.

This is where I met comrades Mundondo, John Makwasha and William Ndangana but he wasn’t there for long. I met Mawere the next day. After a few days, arrangements were made for us to go to Dar es Salaam. We went to Dar es Salaam without passports. We just had a letter that had been written by Mawere. All the way we would be stopped at roadblocks but on seeing us, the slogan was “Your Skin is the Passport to Africa.” We were about 16 on this journey. I remember Cde Guzuzu who later died at the Chinhoyi Battle in 1966 was part of this group. Even in Dar es Salaam the slogan was still the same.

We later met the Zanu representative in Dar es Salaam, Mombeshora. I think he was the father to the current Minister Mombeshora. We spent two weeks as Mombeshora was sorting out our passports. We later got our passports and we proceeded to Ghana. From Dar es Salaam we flew to Mombasa, from there to Nairobi, then to Addis Ababa, then Khartoum and then Lagos. In Lagos that’s where we saw the first black pilot tikabva taita shungu kuti hoo saka munhu mutema can also do this? From Lagos we flew to Accra, Ghana.

We met five comrades, who included Cde Dzvukamanja, Cde Nyangoni. I can’t remember the other comrades. The Zanu representative in Ghana was Stanley Parerewa. Later we were taken to Half Asini training camp, about 300 miles from Accra. At Half Asini we joined comrades who included Clackson Mudemu, Ndangana, Titus Chakavanda, Andrew Muchenje and many others. This was still in 1964. At this camp we received training in mobile warfare and regular warfare from Ghanaian military experts.

From Half Asini we were taken to Oben Masi, another training camp for security reasons. This camp was about 125 miles from Accra. While at Oben Masi, 13 Chinese military experts came to train us. They gave us lessons on guerilla warfare, mobile warfare and regular warfare.

SM: Can you explain what you mean mobile warfare and regular warfare?

Cde Chabudaishundu: Regular warfare is about fire to fire. You fire and I fire back. Mobile warfare ndeyekuti ukapfura, ukaona kuti situation yandibvumira, you go to another position and fire from there. Like I said, the Chinese came and taught us guerilla warfare were you only hit the enemy when you are sure of victory and when the enemy is not expecting to be hit.

We used to sing one song while marching with a verse that said “God will give us power,” and the Chinese changed that saying we should say “mass will give us power.” We also used to sing the song entitled “We are members of the guerilla brigade.” (Cde John Makwasha joined the interview and the two went back in time singing the song as if they were at some military parade. The two went on to sing another song with the following words:

“Kana torangarira, kana torangarira nyika yababa vedu iyo

Nyika yababa, nyika yenhaka, iyo nhasi yotongwa nemabhunu”.

Cde Chabudaishudhu: We would cry while singing this song. The song would bring all the memories of the ill-treatment of blacks in Rhodesia. It would inspire us to train even harder.

The Chinese trainers told us that hamungakwanisi kuenda kuAmerica or Russia to buy zvinoputika so munofanira kugadzira mega explosives. I think we were at Oben Masi for about four months. We left in March 1965.

Towards the end of the training, we were joined by some comrades who included Simon Bhene who later turned out to be a sellout. On our way back, Bhene just disappeared and went straight to Rhodesia where he informed the Rhodesian government about our training in Ghana. This led to the arrest of many of our comrades when they were deployed into the country.

SM: Tell us exactly what the Chinese taught you?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: They taught us political orientation vachitipa mweya wekuti simbaradza kuti tizvisunungure. They told us of the Chinese Long March inspired by Chairman Mao. They would tell us kuti ukatora bhora risina mwena, harisimuke saka unofanirwa kutanga wari pombera mweya. Saka they would tell us kuti tangai mazadzwa nemweya wekuti muri kunorwisa muvengi arikukudzvanyirirai. They told us that our oppression could only be finished by the barrel of the gun. That’s when they told us the slogan that; “Better die the quickest death in the battlefield than die a slow death by hunger, oppression and suppression.”

So the Chinese vakatizadza mweya wehondo kuti chako ndechako. You have to fight to get it. You see, the First Chimurenga chana Mbuya Nehanda nana Sekuru Kaguvi, they tried to fight and so the Chinese told us that they only way to get back our country was to fight. There was a subject on Army Combat – which taught us that unogona kutanga hondo usina chawakabata. That’s why when we were later deployed, we crossed into Rhodesia without any weapons because we were going to use zvombo zvemuvengi. That’s why when most of us were arrested, we didn’t have any weapons and that’s why the Rhodesian government found it difficult to sentence us to death.

SM: Tell us of your journey from Oben Masi?

Cde Chabudaishudu: From Ghana we flew to Nairobi. We were quite a group. Some of our comrades had not been booked to proceed to Dar es Salaam where there was our leadership. My group proceeded to Dar es Salaam and we were welcomed by Simpson Mutambanengwe, who was in charge of foreign affairs in Zanu. Am not sure what happened to my other comrades, but I know that about three comrades flew back straight to Rhodesia and these comrades together with Bhene alerted the Rhodesians that we were soon to be deployed.

From Dar es Salaam we were transferred to Mbeya, near the Tunduma border with Zambia. At Mbeya we found Peter Mutandwa as the commander at that time. We spent about three nights there and I think we were about 20. One of the evenings, we illegally crossed into Zambia and just a few kilometres into Zambia, we were arrested by the Zambian Regiment. They told us that there was no need for us to illegally cross into Zambia as they were aware of our mission. They advised us that our leaders should speak to the Zambian leadership so that we could cross into Zambia legally. So we were taken back to Tunduma. We were taken back to Dar es Salaam and we later came back through Blantyre in Malawi. We were now in small groups. Takazouya tiri three. I remember there was Christopher Sakala, Benard Mandizera and myself. Like I told you, the Rhodesians had been alerted that we were coming and so we were arrested as we were trying to cross into Rhodesia.

SM: How did this happen?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: We were coming from Malawi and went through Nyamapanda border in Mutoko. Nyamba situation kuno kumusha yanga yatoipa kare. We were arrested and taken to Kotwa police station. We had letters from Malawi. So we were like Malawians coming to Rhodesia. I don’t know how they had made this arrangement. We were given these letters by the Malawian government, their Labour office. Remember during those days Malawi could give its citizens letters showing kuti vanhu ava vari kutsvaga basa in Rhodesia. Unfortunately, this tactic had already been exposed by those sellouts and by some comrades who had been arrested earlier. So the Rhodesian Special Branch was actually waiting for us. We were arrested right at the border while in a bus. The bus was stopped and we were all searched by the police. They identified the three of us saying imi chimbosarai pano. We were then taken to Kotwa police station. From Kotwa were taken to Salisbury main police station, now Charge Office. We stood in a line and I was identified as Gilbert Majiri, the former trade unionist. I knew it was game over and we suspect that one of comrades who had been arrested earlier, was assisting police to identify us.

SM: When you left Malawi with those letters, what were you told that you were supposed to do in Rhodesia?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: We were supposed to blow Rhodes’ statute that was along Julius Nyerere in Salisbury. Next we were supposed to go and hit another target in Mabelreign, then St Georges Hotel that was in Avondale. We were also supposed to hit some nightclub where most whites frequented to have fun. Taifanirwa kugadzira maexplosives tega while in Rhodesia and hit these target. In Rhodesia we were supposed to join a group led by Cde Shadreck Chipanga, which we called “Flying Squad” because they were not based at one place. This group sort of coordinated the activities of the other groups.

SM: What exactly was your role?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: I was a field engineer, responsible for kugadzira zvinoputika zvacho. Shadreck Chipanga was the commander of the Flying Squad. The leaders in Malawi who had given us these instructions were led by Percy Ntini, who had just been transferred from Zambia. The whole strategy was mapped while in Malawi because we knew all the streets of Salisbury. We were supposed to hit these targets on different days. After hitting, we were supposed to disperse and meet another day at a given gathering point. Our first contact on arrival in Rhodesia was a teacher called Ndoro who was at Ranchhouse College. He is the one who was supposed to tell us where to stay and so on.

SM: What was the reason to hit these targets?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: We wanted to harass the Rhodesia authorities and whites in general. The Chinese had taught us that; “When the enemy is active, you retire and when the enemy retires, you attack.” When we were arrested, we were branded as terrorists. Other comrades who had been arrested included Andrew Muchenje. I can’t remember the other names, but when we went to court we were now 28.

Some of our comrades stood as Crown Witnesses testifying against us. These comrades included Tungamirai (not Josiah Tungamirai) and Maraza. I can’t remember the others. I was put in a cell at Avondale police station. After briefly appearing in court I was transferred to Darwendale police station where I spent some weeks. I was later brought to the High Court and it took about five weeks for the 28 of us to be sentenced. We had been divided into two groups. We had two lawyers and the prosecutor was called Masterson. This prosecutor was white but was very fluent in Shona. We were sentenced to 10 years in prison. We were taken to Khami Maximum Prison. Before going to Khami we met some of our comrades who had been sentenced to death like Richard Mapurisa and two others. We were at Salisbury prison in A -Block while these three were in cells reserved for those sentenced to death. From our Block we would sing the song “Garo tumira vana kuhondo” and all political prisoners would join in singing this song. We would cry while singing this song because we knew these three had been sentenced to death.

While at Khami, the treatment was inhumane and I think my fellow comrades have told you in details how we were treated like dogs. In was in prison from 1965 up to 1972. In 1972 I was put under detention in Salisbury Remand Prison. That’s where I met vanaMugabe, vanaTekere, vanaMorton Malianga and so on. That’s the time vanaMugabe has formed a school while in prison. VaMugabe used to teach English Literature and Tekere taught us English Language. We used to tell vaMugabe kuti “mukanwa menyu makafira British” because hakuna munhu mutema aitaura chirungu like him. We actually protested that we wanted vaMugabe to teach us English language, but he said Literature was also important. When Tekere spoke, his first English words were “Over and above…” We then said, “ahh, anenge anotogona chirungu wani?”

Later the Rhodesian authorities said they had made a mistake mixing “magandanga and platform politicians, the nationalists like vanaMugabe. We were then taken to Hwahwa while others were taken to Sikombela. While at Hwahwa, that’s when we were mixed with comrades from Zapu. I met Zapu comrades like Cain Nkala, Chikanya, Fox Adolfas Muwani and many others. I was now the chairman of the Zanu group at Hwahwa. At Hwahwa we started another school and Garikai Mandizha was the headmaster.

While at Hwahwa we wrote a strong-worded letter to the international community saying the Smith regime was cruel such that they wanted to kill us. I then said to the authorities, we wanted to go for the Review Tribunal which was done once a year. I told the comrades that at the Tribunal, all the comrades were supposed to leave everything in my hands. When we went for the tribunal I said as citizens we had the right to criticize our government as was written in the letter. After this tense tribunal, I was then put under home restriction. The idea was to remove me from the rest of the political prisoners. This was now in 1975. Ndakanzi chienda unogara kumusha kwako, kuShamva. I remember I left Hwahwa on 11 March 1975 and arrived in Shamva on the 14th after passing through several police stations were I was supposed to report that I was now under home restriction.

SM: We have spoken to some comrades who say those comrades who went for the tribunal and were later released or put under home restriction were sellouts?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: I am aware of that talk but that was not the case with me.

SM: So when you were put under house restriction, what happened to the other comrades?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: They were taken back to Hwahwa prison. I was also taken back to Hwahwa but was released on March 11, 1975. I think Chikanya was later released and other comrades. Garikai Mandizha, Shadreck Chipanga, Watson Chihota and others requested that they wanted to go outside the country to further their studies. They indeed went out of the country, but the Smith regime still considered them as prisoners.

When I got to Shamva, I secretly started getting involved in politics again. In 1976, the comrades were now entering into the country through Mozambique. One day I was asked to go to the base revakomana – the comrades there asked me about my military training and I told them. To make sure these comrades were genuine, I asked these comrades to tell me the fundamental principles of guerilla warfare and they told me “Preserve yourself and eliminate the enemy.” I instantly knew these were genuine comrades.

SM: Who were some of these comrades at this base?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: I only remember the names of comrades Guy Medicine and Gwenyambira. I then told these comrades to go and see the spirit medium in the area called Murombe. They were supposed to go kunosuma kuti tauyawo in your area. Tine basa ratakatumwa rekusunungura Zimbabwe. I actually took these comrades to this svikiro.

SM: Why was this important?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: That was the only way to protect yourself. Up to this day hana yangu inorova kuti one day Government is going to abandon chivanhu chedu, and say we are a Christian country and we will be doomed.

Even today when we say Mash West, Mash east and so on, I always ask myself, ko vadzimu vedu vanoziva here what this means because kupatsanurwa uku came with colonization?

SM: You told us that after staying in Shamva under house restriction, you later re-joined the liberation struggle?

Cde Chabudaishudhu: Yes. Ndiri pamusha many comrades kept passing through and I would help them because they trusted me. One day some comrades wanted to attack some whiteman called Derrick and they failed. They came back and I asked them how they had failed to hit the whiteman? After hearing their explanation, I decided to accompany them back. We went to Shamva Country Club and saw many whites having fun there. We however decided against attacking these whites because we knew they would call reinforcements quickly. So we planted several landmines on the routes they were later to use. Several whites were killed by these landmines and the Rhodesian Special Branch knew I had something to do with this since I was an expert in explosives. They found me at home and they tortured me. Ndakaita kunonzi kuporomorwa, kuzvamburwa.

After this I was put in the same cage with those vicious police dogs and taken to Shamva police station. Later, I was taken to Bindura police station. After a day, I was driven back to Shamva and was shocked to be dropped at my homestead. The white CID inspector who was driving the car said; “We are hot on the heels of tuvanhu twenyu turi musango utwotwu. We are coming after all of you.” I said; “thank you mambo, thank you mambo!” When I arrived home, people said “auya Jonah, asvika Jonah, asvipwa nehove.”

I knew that the authorities were going to come after me and bomb the whole village. Kashavi kaya kemaChina kandibata futi “better die in the battlefield.” One day around 6pm, I escaped and met some comrades pamusha wekwaChiyanike. Vainzi vaSapeta kureva shortcut for Elizabeth. We started walking with these comrades and when we got to Gwetera river, they gave me a gun, a submachine. I can’t remember all the comrades but I know there was Cleopas Marunda. We were later join by other comrades including Cde Moto Chaparadza. We were more than 11 comrades.

While walking along Gwetera, we saw some white Rhodesian soldiers and our commander asked “is this the right time to fight, if so let’s fight.” We took positions and the comrade who had a motor fired just once. We took them by surprise and rakava baravamhanya varungu vachitiza. We were instructed not to fire to preserve our bullets. After this, we continued walking until the next day.

We decided to rest still along Gwetera river and I don’t know how this happened. I suddenly saw mabhunu walking towards our direction. This was now around 2pm. The other comrades were deep asleep including Cleopas. I realized that there was no time to alert him. I took aim at this group of white soldiers and started firing. My other comrades were taken by surprise but they quickly took cover when they discovered what was going on. After a while, we decided to retreat and paimhanywa ipapo. We had now split into two groups. Takazosangana kubase rekwaJonasi kuChesa in Mt Darwin in the evening. One of the comrades, Cde John had been hit padumbu and he was struggling to walk.

After a few days resting we started walking again tichibva tapinda mune imwe hondo paKaterere one evening. This was now in Rushinga. We were planning to go to Mazowe Bridge and we were told that Chief Katerere akasungwa achinzi ndiye ano supporter magandanga. While walking along Bhinya road, we came under attack. First they threw a tracer bullet and kwakabva kwachena kuti mbuu. Dzakarira pfuti ipapo. There was a guy called Fox Bapiro, ummm mukomana anga akaoma iyeye. Akarova pfuti mabhunu akatiza. Somehow ndakarasana nevamwe macomrades and I spent the whole night walking. I think I spent about five days failing to locate the other comrades.

On the fifth day, I saw some school children and I decided to capture them. I instructed some of them to go and call Sabhuku Machisa. I was later taken to a nearby base where there were some comrades. I was starving because I had not eaten any proper food for five days. Ndaipona nemapfura. These comrades gave me some food and in no time it was time to move. Cde Shacky Zhazha was the leader of this group.

We walked for about four days and decided to rest at some base where there was Nobbie Dzinzi whose Chimurenga name was Cde Kufa Muchapera. Cde Muchapera, who was the detachment commander, then said I was supposed to be under his detachment.

The security comrades under this detachment were led by Cdes Mushunje and Mao.

I later operated in Rushinga for quite some time. Later I was called to Chimoio after the establishment of the Chitepo Ideological College. I resisted for a while because I was now used to the war, but I was later persuaded by other comrades to go. I went to Chimoio with other comrades.

Next week, Cde Chabudaishudhu continues his narration telling us of his time at Chitepo Ideological College and the horrifying scene he saw when Chomoio camp was attacked by the Rhodesians. Make sure you buy your copy of The Sunday Mail to hear this fascinating story in full.

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