In May 2013, our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni had a riveting interview with Cde Dick Chingaira Makoni known by many as Cde Chinx .We reproduce the interview below.
He does not want to be referred as Mr or Sir .He says he will remain a comrade till death .he says his great grandfather, Chief Chingaira , was sent to England . Music was my gun during the liberation struggle. Born on September 27 1952, Cde Dick Chingaira Makoni , known by many as Cde Chinx (short cut of his username ), says music was the lubricant that oiled the wheels of the libration struggle . Our Assistant Editor MUNYARADZI HUNI sat down with the revolutionary to understand how Cde Chinx the musician was born.
MH: What exactly pushed you to develop an interest to join the liberation struggle?
Cde Chinx:There was just too much oppression in this country .White never regarded us as people .I used to earn seven dollars a week and if we asked for an increment ,they would just add one cent . And just imagine I was the machine operator? Whites who were at my level had cars and motorbikes .We were not treated the same .And can you imagine at the entrance of Harare Gardens there was a big sign that says “Dogs and Africans not allowed!’’Whites saw us as dogs .While all this was happening .Radio Mozambique continued churching information about the struggle and I really got interested to join the struggle .In the country we would hear that the comrades are defeating Smith forces during many battles . In 1976, I heard that the comrades were operating around my rural area and I decided to quit my job. I then went to our rural home and my parents knew that I wanted to join the struggle. They then advised me that “macomrades haatsvagwi, if you do that they will suspect that you have sent by the Smith regime”.
MH: So this was their way of making sure that they don’t recruit infiltrators from the Smith regime?
Cde Chinx: You were never supposed to look for the comrades if you wanted to join the struggle .They would call you on their own. Zviya zvekufamba uchiti uri kutsvaga macomrades , ahh ahh ,kuti zvaita sei? Ndiwe ani iwe? Watumwa naani. That was never done , but I said to myself I would defy all that . Together with my big brother`s son Takesure ,who had came from Bulawayo , we walked about nine kilometers looking for the comrades . I am from Rusape around Chiduku area . Before we could locate the comrades we were sort of arrested by the povo which thought that we were agents of the Smith regime . Some people I used to meet du8ring church gatherings ,including my girlfriend , disowned me . They said they didn’t know who I was and they even called me mutengesi . Later in the evening , the comrades came and the povo handed us over to them . The comrades were talking in msuacing voices saying that they were going to kill us . This was very scary .
MH: Do you still remember who was leading these comrades?
Cde Chinx: There was comrade Zindoga Sekuru Chutaukire Kurongamhuru . I told the comrades trhat I wanted to join the struggle and follow my young brother. I actually ha d quit my job to join the struggle. The interrogation continued for some time and the comrades so0metimes looked like they were not believing our story . I later told the comrades that whites had killed my grandfather Chief Chingaira , that’s when they started believing our story . Cde Zindoga then told us that if we were agents of the Smith regime, the comrades would destroy the whole village and kill our parents .We were sent back home . After two weeks the comrades were now operating near our village and I started working closely with them, especially during pungwes . We used to sing the songs sendekera mukoma and I really enjoyed it. During the pungwes, the comrades would then explain the reasons they were fighting the war against the Smith regime. After explaining to us, they would then ask us questions to see whether we have grasped what they were saying. As someone who was keen to join the struggle, most of my responses were correct and the comrades were impressed.
MH: During these pungwes , how many comrades would be there ?
Cde Chinx: Usually there were about eight. About three would be standing at observation points looking out for the enemy while others would be taking turns to address the povo , sing chimurenga songs and ensure that people got food . I started travelling around the comrades and , in the end , the comrades were based at our homestead . Unfortunately, the Rhodesian forces later came and destroyed our homestead . Someone had sold us out.
MH: What exactly happened :
Cde Chinx: The Rhodisian solders came , led by this big hairy white man we used to call Madrum.l remember that day we had Cde Nyambuya , we used to call him Cde Mike Mutare , there was Cde Handeipamwe , Cde Chikara Hachizofi and others . We gathered for the pungwe in the evening and we didn’t know that the Rhodesian forces were watching from a distance from the mountains. Hondo yakauya ipapo haina kunaka . It was around 7:30pm when we were about to get our food. They first threw a laser nad they started firing randomly. Musha wababa vangu wese was brought down .(pause) One of my friends Christopher Nyika died , his sister who had been cooking was hit in the head as she tried to escape through the window while one of Takesures’s friends who had also come from Bulawayo and wanted to join the struggle was also shot dead .
MH: Did the comrades fire back?
Cde Chinx: Yes they did. As we were escaping I rolled on the ground together with Zanz who is now in the President’s office. Bullets were flying all over the place. The comrades jus ordered us to take cover and we would roll while escaping I had not received any training, but I just saw that the comrades were doing an dui followed them. I remember kamuzukuru kangu kainzi Maud, she was around four or five years old, she didn’t know what was happening, and as the bullets were flying all over, she followed me as I rolled on the ground shouting “musandisiye musandisiyewo kani!” My heart almost stopped as I watched her running. I thought any minute she would be hit by a bullet. The Rhodesian were tracer bullets and we could se ethe bullets flying all over. Surprisingly that child was never hit and up to now Maud is still alive. We escaped and all the comrades came out without any injuries. The Rhodesian solders then came and burnt our homestead. Nothing and absolutely nothing was recovered.
MH: After this didn’t you think that joining the liberation struggle was not worthy it?
Cde Chinx: I actually said to myself, if I had my gun, I would hunt down these Rhodesian solders. My parents then said to me “you see, we told you that you will be putting all of us in trouble by joining the struggle. Look now our homestead is gone.” I said to my father ndiyo hondo yacho. Now these Rhodesian solders were looking for me. It pains me because the bodies of these three people were never discovered after they were taken away by the Rhodesian solders. We suspected these were some of the people whose bodies were dumped in mine shaft in Rusape. After a while, my father then agreed that I could go and join the liberation struggle, but he said chisiya watsvaga mukadzi umubarise, ndozosara ndichiona muzukuru. The comrades later came back and called people from the whole village and instructed that everyone should assist in the rebuilding of our homestead. The comrades said I should bid my parents farewell and if they say I should not join the struggle, and then the comrades would not defy them.
MH: After this battle that destroyed your homestead, when then did you leave home for the struggle?
Cde Chinx: It was after about three months. The Rhodesian solders were still looking for me but there were more comrades in the area in the area and our village became sort of a liberated zone. However, in frustration, the Rhodesian solders would burn houses in nearby villages. The people were really tormented.
MH: So you went to say good bye to your parents. Take us through what happened after that.
Cde Chinx: My father agreed and said but“ when you join the struggle, you really need to fight these white these whites because if you don’t, they will torment those who would have remained behind in such a way that you may lose support .” He said “you should know that you may die there or come back when we are all dead.” My father said I should not tell my mother that I was leaving to join the struggle. He said he would later tell my mother. So I just told my mother that I was going with the comrades and would be away in Rusape for some time. We then left via Nyazura but before leaving we went and slashed tobacco at a nearby farm that belonged to some white man.
MH: How many were you as you left your village?
Cde Chinx: We were about 160 recruits being accompanied by 40 comrades. On our way, we were joined by some guy from Munyoro family whose mother was protested heavily. That day we failed to continue with our journey as the comrades bickered among themselves. Later some of the comrades went and inquired from the mediums why we were having these problems and they were told that this guy who had joined us was supposed to go back because his mother was not happy. The spirit mediums actually said that if we continued the journey with this guy, we would get into a battle and many of us would perish. We had walked for about two days with this guy but he comrades ordered him to go back and we continued with our journey. I came back from the struggle and that guy was still alive. When we got to Mount Jena near Nyanga, we saw a fellow comrade, Cde Brown, who had been injured. As we approached Honde Valley, we were ambushed by selous scouts. We were caring food while others were caring the injured comrade. From nowhere we heard gun shots. This was during the night and we were walking in single file. What we saw first was a laser that hit the barrel of the gun of the comrade who was in front. This means that all of us were in the killing bag. The comrades shouted that we should take cover and we went down and started rolling. The comrades fired back and a fierce battle ensued. We ran into some gullies that were nearby and rushed to cross the border. I think the selous scouts were taken by surprise by the return of the fire and after a while they retreated. By the way when we were walking all the recruits were caring poles that from a distance one would think we were heavy armed. This was meant to train us to carry a gun and also to scare the enemy.
MH: You were walking during the night and after such a battle, how would you regroup or how would you find each other in such darkness?
Cde Chinx: Every day, we would have a new password that we would use to identify each other. One comrade would shout “Duri!” and the other comrade would say “raMbuya Nehanda!” or one comrade would shout “sub!” and the password would be “chiororo.” This was our way of communication. Also before embarking on the journey, we would be told that in case something happens, the gathering point (GP) would be such and such a place. There was no going back after a battle. Every day we would be given the GPs so we crossed into Mozambique and discovered that no one was injured seriously.
MH: How many days did it take you to cross into Mozambique?
Cde Chinx: We spent five days and would walk only during the night. During the day, we would take cover in the mountains so that the Rhodesian solders would not see us. Every day before the journey, we would we would sing the song that went something like this: “ kana tichifamba, tichifamba rwendo, tinofamba naChaminuka.” We would sing this song two or three times, thump our feet on the ground and then start walking. The we got into Mozambique; I was then made the leader of the whole group. Other comrades were coming with other recruits.
MH: Who were some of the comrades you were within your group?
Cde Chinx: There was comrade Pfumojena who is still alive. This comrade, while we were still in the then Rhodesia as I was going around with the comrades, was involved in a battle that really left me shaken. We were somewhere near Nyazura when the Rhodesian solders came with a helicopter and dropped napalm which burnt many trees. You see during the war many of us walked around nemachira emudzimu so after some time machira aya aiita inda. So we had washed machichira aya and hung them on the trees. When the helicopters came the Rhodesian solders saw them and they thought that they had located us. They started firing at these pieces of cloth and we took cover. So Cde Pfumojena had inhaled fumes from this napalm and he was bleeding heavily from the nose and the mouth. I could see him from where I was hiding and the Rhodesian solders also spotted him. The helicopter came close but just as the Rhodesian solders were about to fire at him, Cde Pfumojena shouted saying “aaaayyiii!” He took his gun and started firing heavily at the helicopter. It was clear kuti anga asvikirwa and he fought until the helicopter had to hurriedly fly away. This comrade is still alive and I will never forget this incident. It really inspired me a lot. There was also comrade Mvura Yehondo and many other comrades whose names I can’t remember.
MH: What happened after you were led leader of this group?
Cde Chinx: We were at Manica base in Mozambique. This was a base for Frelimo so for us this was just a makeshift base. After a few days we were taken to another base called Duff. We were now around 250 recruits. This was near Chimoio
MH: So all the way from the then Rhodesia to Mozambique, Cde Chinx the singer had not been discovered?
Cde Chinx: I would sing just like others and we had been told that when you get to Mozambique, don show off too much that you are good at this and that. We were told to take it easy. Kwete zvedzungu, otherwise would be mistaken for a sellout. So at Duff, I didn’t show my true colours. After a week we were taken to the main base called Doroi. We were told that after Doroi we would be taken to Chimoio for military training. This was in 1977. When I got to Doroi, that’s when I started showing my true colors that I was a good singer and I could compose songs. We were taught basic political orientation by Cde Mhereyarira MuZimbabwe who had been injured at the war front and was now only working at the rear. He was my first political instructor. This is where we also got our chimurenga names and officially became Cde Chinx. Cde Mhereyarira later also said I could be a political instructor together with three other comrades. We then went for a short course so that we could become full political instructors
MH: So exactly how was this Cde Chinx the singer in the bush?
Cde Chinx: Most comrades who were in my group had seen the war and were fired up to join the struggle. Our morale was very high. We would not be told to boost the people’s morale but we just found ourselves doing it. There was Cde Gudorimwe , Cde Shupikai, Cde BB and many others. The majority of these comrades are late now. Cde Mhereyarira then said we should start a choir. He really enjoyed my singing. I would sing the song “sendekera” and put my own words. The comrades really liked it. Many comrades would say “hey muimbiro unoita recruit rakauya manje manje apo akaoma .” some of the manders actually left their bases coming to hear me singing. Cde Rex Nhongo and also Cde Tongo came to see me singing. If only we could get into free Zimbabwe with Cde Tongo. That was a great commander. A war machine. So we started this choir with Cde Mhereyarira. After two months, our choir was now very popular. Cde Mhereyaririra was later called to Maputo and I thot the choir was going to be disbanded.
MH: How many comrades were in this choir?
Cde Chinx: There were about 80 comrades. It was called Takawira choir. When Cde Mhereyarira left I continued singing with this choir and started composing my own songs. In the beginning I would think about the gospel hymn. The first song I composed was called “Rusununguko MuZimbabwe “ I just took that him that says “ mweya wangu inzwa tenzi, muponisi arikureva and put the rylics that say “ Rusununguko MuZimbabwe rwevatema.” Many comrades really enjoyed this composition.
MH: You still had not gone for military training?
Cde Chinx: Not yet all did bwas kurova morari after being taken through political orientation.
MH: How would you come up with the lyrics to your songs
Cde Chinx: You see I really wanted to fight the struggle? I remember one day when Cde Tongo gave us his last address. He swaid to me “Chinx, sing the national anthem.” I sang the national anthem and he called me to the front he then said “ Tese dai taida hondo sezvinoita mwana uyu , mangwana chaiwo taipinda muHarare .” You see after composing a song I would ask myself how the message in the song could all the comrades and the povo back home. Music was the only way I could do this I could make sure that I composed songs that were loaded with meaning. I wanted to demystify the white man through music.
MH: After recording your songs,how would the music get to the radio?
Cde Chinx: People like Cde Webster Shamu who were working at the radio Zimbabwe Mozambique, would come right in the bush and record songs for the radio. I would choose about 40 comrades and we record the song in the bush.
MH:Comrade tell us, what was the importance of music during the liberation struggle ?
Cde Chinx: Music was the carrier of the message both to the povo and to all the other comrades at the war front and at different bases at the rear. We would use music to politicize the masses music was the lubricant of the wheels of the revolution. The Smith regime engaged in many acts to demoralize the comrades like the ruthless bombing of Chimoio and so on and we would boost the morale of the comrades through music. We would uplift the spirits of the comrades to make it appear as if the struggle was easy when in actual fact the struggle was tough and rough. Music was also like a sedative that would calm the comrades.” Baba namai , musandinyeche, kana ndafa , ihondo ndini ndakazvida ,kufira mass. Ropa rangu mchariona, pasi pemureza weZimbabwe.” We also used music to educate the masses. We music to fight white propaganda and because of that we were never supposed to promise something that we could not deliver. We were told that we must link theory with action every time. So it was difficult to lie because everything we said was supposed to be put into practice
MH:When did you finally go for military training ?
Cde Chinx: I was now a political instructor and the commanders said I should go for military training so that I could become a complete freedom fighter. Despite all my achievements, there was a rule that there is no one who knows better than the other. This is up to this day. I went for training at Mavhonde, base around 1978/79 after ( British prime minister Margaret ) Thatcher had called for the Lancaster House talks . While at Mavhonde, the Smith regime wanted to have an upper hand during the talks in London and so the regime attacked us.
MH: We hear so much this battle at Mavhonde. what exactly happened comrade?
Cde Chinx: Mavhonde was attacked twice. During the first attack we had not yet arrived. The second attack started as we were preparimg to go for lunch. From nowhere we just saw planes dropping bombs and there was serious pandemonium in the base.
MH:What were you doing when this attack started ?
Cde Chinx:We were in discussion group talking about war strategies and so on. By this time we now had our guns. This base was between mountains and so right on top of the mountains there were the comrades with anti air machine guns. I remember one comrade we used to call Mberengwa he hit one helicopter and destroyed it with a mortar. The helicopter was torn to pieces. We were scurrying for cover but when this happened our spirits were uplifted. The comrade is still alve. However, the bombardment continued.
MH:Had you finished your training by this time?
Cde Chinx:We were supposed to finish the training in six months , this attack happened during the fourth month. Like I told you, Smith wanted to use this attack to have an upper hand during the Lancaster House talks. His army dropped all kinds of bombs. Later that when I composed the song “Iyoiyo hondo yakura muZimbabwe.”
MH:Earlier on you told me that you came face to face with death, during this battle. How did this happen?
Cde Chinx: You see when the bombing started. We took cover under very big trees near anthill. The Rhodesian forces were dropping bombs randomly and they dropped one the bombs and it fell a few meters away from where we were hiding. We all saw the bomb and thought this was the end. I instructed the other comrades to remain in their positions. With fear clearly written on our face. We watched this bomb thinking that anytime it was going to explode. After a little while, we crawled to the other side o0f the anthill. This bomb never exploded. After this attack our commanders actually came to see the bomb. Indeed if it had exploded ,it was going to tear us to pieces.
MH: But comrade,there you are lying under cover watching this bomb and thinking it can explode. What went through your mind that moment and why do you this bomb never exploded?
Cde Chinx:We were about 12 comrades at this position and I think we all said our last prayers as we watched this bomb. I think the bomb didn’t explode because midzimu yakaramba. The other reason could be that, you see the Smith regime used propaganda even during battles. His army could drop big but fake bombs in a bid to scare us. The idea was to make us believe that the Smith had sophisticated weapons so it’s possible this was one of those big but fake bombs, I, however, thinking mudzimu yakaramba kuti tife.
MH:How many comrades died at Mavhonde?
Cde Chinx: I am not sure exactly, but very few comrades died. The majority were injured. I , however saw some comrades vachifusirwa nemuti after a bomb explosion. These comrades had taken cover inside the trenches we had dug around the base. And so they were buried in the trench when a tree that was nearby was uprooted following a bomb explosion. I watched as this tree fell on top of these of these comrades.
MH:Do you remember the names of these comrades?
Cde Chinx: There was Cde Duma (who was a member of the general staff), Cde Highforce and Cde Actio (who were in my mbira unit). My choir had a mbira unit and these two comrades were very good mbira players. These were between 600 to 1000 comrades at this base when the attack took place, but less than 20 comrades died.
MH:How did this experience affect you?
Cde Chinx: We were really affected. You see later I was taken by Cde Mike to go and attend a fellow comrade who had been injured. This injured comrade we used to call him Cde Driver. His stomach had been ripped open and all his intestines were hanging outside. So together with Cde Mike we were trying to return these intestines back into the stomach.” Dzorerai hura hwangu, macomrades ,” Cde Driver said in a voice clearly showing excruciating pain. After several attempts without success,Cde Driver said ,”hazvina mhomsva macomrades torai pfuti yangu .” He clenched his fist and said ; “ Pamberi nehondo, macomrades! Kana dai ndikafa tinovakunda chete.musadzokere mumashuer macomrades .” He then passed away while we watched him (tears welling in his eyes ). Nd ikafung Cde Driver, ndinonzwa hasha and misodzi inobuda . zororai murugare cde Driver!
MH: after death of a fellow comrade, what would you do before burying him or her?
Cde Chinx: We would sing our national anthem : Moyo wangu watsidza kufira Zimbabwe ,Mumakomo nemunzizi ndichararamo dzamara pfumo rangu ramutsa Zimbabwe , Pese pese rufu kana rukauya , honai vakomana vapera yuwi maiwe vakomana vapera, yuwi maiwe hama hama dzapera , After this we would then bury our comrade.
MH:After this battle at Mavhonde , where did you go?
Cde Chinx: Later we heard that our leaders had agreed to ceasefire during the Lancaster House talks . we were told to start preparing to go back home. But before that, we were told that Cde Tongo was going to come and address us. We were skeptical at first that indeed Smith had genuinely agreed to the ceasefire. So we waited for Cde Tongo to come, but we heard he had died in a car accident. This was one of the darkest days of the struggle.
MH: There is that famous video where people see and hear you’re you singimg; mazura vapambepfumi . Where were you?
Cde Chinx: some of the videos were shot while we were still at Mavhonde , but the one you are talking about where there is Cde Rex Nhongo we were now at Dzapasi training point Assembly Point near Buhera.
MH:Many people really like the way you sing Mazura vapambepfumi . what inspired you to compose that song ?
Cde Chinx: After being taught the national grievances during the political orientation, I really wanted other people to benefit from what we had learnt. My music was supposed to carry the message to all corners of the country and beyond.
MH:This interview would be incomplete if you don’t sing that song Cde Chinx,
Cde Chinx: Really? Ok. With the choir saying “ Mazura here maruza ,” the song goes something like this; vakauya muMuzimbabwe , vachibva Britain , vachibva kuAmerica , vaichibva ku France ,vaibva ku Germany , vachibva ku Canada kwavakatandaniswa nenzara , ivo vapambepfumi kutinangananga na Zimbabwe , havaiziva inyika yavatema izere huchi nemukaka , asi ndezvenyu kaimi vatema . Hondo mukurumbira Pavakauya muZimbabwe vaine gidi kekutanga vachiti vanovhima vodzokera iko kuri kunyepa vapambe pfumi. Asi vavhimi vavo vana Selous vaiongorora mugariro vweveZimbabwe nenzira dekupinda nadzo mangwana, tuhama twavo taitevera aizodaidza vapambepfumi nenguva isipi takatoona zimudungwe richibva nekuchamhembe kwenyika yezimabwe tande ku Fort Tuli, tande ku Fort Vic, tande Pa Fort Charter dzamara mu Harare. Vapambe pfumi vatopindamunyika yavatema. Vachangosvika mu Harare kwakutodzika mureza wavo, kupangidza vatopamba nyika wainzi iwo Union jack. Asi ndiwo aya ma pioneer, dzaive nhunzvatunzva, nharadada vanhu vasina mabvi vaingoda kuzvifadza voga, kukanganwa isu ve Zimbabwe varidzi venhaka tererai nyaya iyi, rimwe zuva mudzviti wodzika kumusha kwangu, akanoti kwati nemutondo wanikwe zvaramba, woti kwati nemupfuti zvoramba ngwengwere ngwengwere zvindege, kumakamba ewatema aninira kuenda kuita kwake iye mupambe pfumi. Zvino veZimbabwe tavadzidzisa, manzwa vapame [pfumi kuti ukaona muvengi odai ava pedyo kudzokera kwake kumushaka kunonhuhwa nhamo, kune masango anotsura nzara, mazitama anonyepa, mazimhino akabhenda, mazimhanza anokuya dovi, kunetukadzi tuneunyope tunongoita zvekurodza znara dzekutikwenya veZimbabwe…
MH: This was quite a loaded song. Now, Cde, when you look back at the role that you played, would you say you also fought the struggle through music?
Cde Chinx: Yes I did. The music did a lot. The teaching it gave the people, the teaching it gave to the cadres and the way we boosted morale both at the rear and at the warfront. The music and dance took the enemy by surprise.
MH: Would you sit down to write the songs?
Cde Chinx: I would listen to what our leaders would be saying and I would put their message in my songs such that many people could hear what the leadership was saying. I would write down the main points of the message, in the evening I would rehearse the songs with a few comrades and after a day or two the whole choir would practice the song and later sing it for all the comrades. I would be corrected here and there, but the message never changed.
MH: Which one would you say was your best song?
Cde Chinx: That’s very difficult. There is this song that I composed thinking that it could be our national anthem. You see Cde George Rutanhire was the deputy political commissar from Cde Mayor Urimbo. He came to me and said we have taught the whites a lesson and we should now come up with a national anthem to sing in a free |Zimbabwe. I wrote the son Vanhu Vese vemu Africa. I really thought it could be our National Anthem but it was later judged to be too militant. I, however didn’t see that. At one time we sang the song Vanhu Vese vemu Africa in the presence of President Samora Machel without instruments, but he cried. He couldn’t hear exactly what we were saying but tears rolled down his cheeks. That’s when I also discovered that this song was touching.
MH: So how many songs did you write approximately?
Cde Chinx: After returning from the struggle we counted and discovered that I wrote about 305 songs. I however don’t even know where to get some of these songs.
MH: Cde Chinx, it really has been a pleasure talking to you.
Cde Chinx: Ppppooooossssittivvvvve Rogggggger!.
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