Cde Charles Tongobaya Mabhunu, “Cde Zanz”
My birth name is Charles Zvidzai. My Chimurenga name was Cde Charles Tongobaya Mabhunu. I was later given the nick-name Cde Zanz by Cde Gula Ndebele after he discovered in Mozambique that I liked putting on clothes from South Africa.
I met Chinx when I was recalled to the rear around 1978. Chinx was moving around with a section of comrades that was operating around Chiduku area. I had joined the liberation struggle in 1975 from Mabvuku. I received military training at Tembwe. We received military training soon after the group that included Cde Gula Ndebele.
I went to the war front in August 1976. I operated around the Tangwena Sector. First I was around the Mandeya area, then Honde Valley, Mt Jenya, Makoni, Chiduku and Hwedza. Our first commander was Cde Fred Matanga who was a member of General Staff. Later came Cde Stan Mabhande others called him Mabhurugwa. Cdes like Dominic Chinenge and Tonderai Nyika were our provincial commanders in Manica.
We were the first group to operate in the Tangwena sector. While at the war front, I was recalled to the rear because the leaders wanted me to go for further training specialising in security intelligence in Yugoslavia. On our way to Mozambique, that’s when we met Cde Chinx. We were coming from Hwedza and so we had to pass through Chiduku area.
When we crossed into Chiduku that’s when we met this section of comrades that was moving around with Cde Chinx. I think someone had informed the Rhodesians about this section. Also, someone had sold out Chinx because he was assisting the comrades who were operating around Chiduku area. Aivagadzirisira mawatch nekuvatengera fodya nedoro and so on. So he had been sold out and he could not move freely. That’s why he had to stay with these comrades for quite a while.
So when we met, we were at some homestead painzi paKamhiripiri. This was during the night and from nowhere we were attacked by Rhodesia soldiers. I think it was around 7pm. We were about to eat supper. Some of the comrades were inside the house and I was seated outside with other comrades. Chinx was also seated outside.
The Rhodesian soldiers just started firing at us vakahwanda mudhunduru. We had to return fire. After returning fire we managed to escape. We couldn’t see properly where exactly the enemy was and we couldn’t see how many there were, so we had to escape. Some of us managed to escape back into Hwedza. We escaped together with Chinx with two or three other mujibas.
As far as I remember, we didn’t lose any comrade during this battle. We all managed to escape.
When we got to Hwedza, we stayed for about a week trying to assess the situation on the route to Mozambique. This was the time I started talking to Chinx. It’s very difficult for me to describe Chinx because by this time, I hadn’t spent much time with him. The comrades he was staying with around Chiduku area would describe him better.
As we waited, I told Chinx that I had been recalled to the rear in Mozambique and I suggested that we should go together since the Rhodesians were hunting for him. I told him that it was better for him to cross into Mozambique because his presence was also putting other comrades in trouble since the Rhodesian soldiers wanted to make sure they captured him. I told him that the Rhodesians would continue attacking all the comrades in the area because vaimuda zveshuwa. I also realised that it was not safe for him to continue moving around with the comrades because he had not received military training. It was better for him to cross into Mozambique and receive military training.
By this time, Chinx had not yet started singing revolutionary songs but I think zvakanga zviri maari. He started composing revolutionary songs when he was in Mozambique.
When I suggested to Chinx that we should cross together into Mozambique so that he could receive military training, at first he was reluctant because akanga ajaira life yekugara nemacomrades. That life yakanga yamupinda. Even myself, when I was told to go to Mozambique, I didn’t want. I was saying to myself, why should I go to Mozambique when at the front we had everything?
You see kana wapindwa nehondo, you don’t think about other things. There were also many incidents that made you feel safe at the war front. In Mozambique you could be bombed by the enemy whereas at the war front, you could defend yourself. No one could say ndokurova. At the war front you say tinorovana. Also there was a lot of adventurism at the war front and many enjoyed this life.
One of the battles I vividly remember that I was involved in happened on 16 November 1976. The Honde Mission Battle. You can google it. The Rhodesians wrote about it. We had gone to take some recruits from Mozambique. There were about two detachments. When we got to Honde Valley, the section yemuHonde Valley yakanga yatengeswa. So when we got to Honde we camped about 500 to 600 metres away from where this section was. We didn’t know these comrades were in that position pagombo repaHonde Mission on the eastern side.
This battle started around 5am and went on till in the evening. Pfuti dzichitsva. I think when the Rhodesians saw us coming with reinforcements, they thought we knew that they wanted to attack our fellow comrades. They wanted to mount a surprise attack in the morning. So when they saw us they also called for reinforcements from Ruda.
When this battle started, we saw helicopters, jets and ground force coming. It was a fierce battle. We fought back and these new recruits wanted to impress saka vakarofa pfuti. We had lots of ammunition. Haa, pakafiwa. The Rhodesians were surprised. We downed quite a number of helicopters. Ndege dzakauya dziri mudhuze not knowing kuti takanga takawanda. Waitoona kuti munhu ari apa uyu in a helicopter. Our firepower took them by surprise.
However, we lost some of our comrades during this battle. Some of the recruits had to retreat back into Mozambique. This is one battle I will never forget but this had nothing to do with Chinx. It’s just a battle I vividly recall.
During the time I took Chinx to Mozambique I was the detachment political commissar having taken over from Cde Salisbury. We passed through Nyazura Mission, went kwaZuze until we crossed into Mozambique via Ruda. We had to walk during the night. We spent days to get to Mozambique. Because we walked during the night, we used stars and the moon for directions.
After crossing into Mozambique, we left Chinx pabase painzi paKufa. This is the base where most recruits were taken to go for military training. From there I went to Chimoio then flew to Yugoslavia.
I later met Chinx in 1980. It was a pleasant surprise to meet after all the years. Whenever Chinx had a show after independence, he would say “mudhara wangu haabhadhare” and whenever I met Chinx he would tell people that “uyu ndiye akaita ndiende kuhondo.” He even came to my workplace with his first wife.
Chinx was one of the few comrades with a talent to sing. There was also Cde Mhere, Cde Murehwa and others. Chinx was among this best crop of singers. One of my favourite songs by Chinx is this song yaanenge achitukirira murungu. I really like the song but I can’t remember the name. We used to socialise a lot with Chinx.
When I heard that Chinx was sick, I was really hurt. Zvakandibata. I met him at Munhumutapa one of the days and he told me kuti “haaa, shamwari ndakurwara.” I was hurt and i told him kuti shinga comrade. But chinhu chakanyanya kundirwadza was his house that was destroyed. After that kind of investment munhu ongouya kuzopunza imba yako. People doing that to Chinx. You remember akatobuda paTV ari pamusoro pemba yake. Hazvina kundiitira zvakanana. Chinx of all the people? Why?
Then when I heard of his passing on, I couldn’t believe it. Chinx? Gone? Umm, zvinorema. It’s a great loss to this nation. His songs unified people and they had strong messages. Up to now if you listen to the songs, you hear the songs have deep meaning. You wonder kuti is he the one who composed those songs or aipihwa nevadzimu? The songs are just too deep and can fit into any liberation struggle. They inspire people.
Chinx did his part. The best way to remember him is through his music. He is a hero. His music will never die. I don’t want to say much. We have lost a good man. A good comrade.
Let’s comfort the family that he has left behind. They must know that Chinx was a unifier. They should take comfort in this. His voice will never die.
This article was taken from the conversation that Cde Charles Tongobaya Mabhunu had yesterday with our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni
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