JUST as Zanu made quite a number of mistakes during the early days of the liberation struggle, Zapu had its fair share of mistakes. This was understandable because both political parties had never fought a war before and mistakes were bound to happen.
Cde Noel Chikanya whose Chimurenga name was Cde Roy Mudzingwa narrates the story of his life as a Zapu youth in the early 1960s and his military training in Russia. He narrates in graphic details issues to do with tribalism and how a group of Ndebele and Shona Zapu comrades fought on a plane while on their way from Russia forcing the plane to land in France instead of Egypt.
With tears rolling down his cheeks, Cde Mudzingwa tells our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvazvike how a group of lions tore one of his comrades to pieces while he watched after they had been deployed into Rhodesia prematurely.
“I am angry because I think we were deployed into Rhodesia at that time so that we would either be arrested or be slaughted,” says Cde Mudzingwa.
Read on …
SM: After carrying out sabotage activities in Rhodesia, how then did you go for military training?
Cde Mudzingwa: During these days at the rallies the call was for One man One vote. The leadership in first the National Democratic Party then Zapu was saying we don’t want to fight the whites but they should give us one man one vote.
Things got to a stage where we said we have to fight the whites but we had no idea how to go about it. The only person who had an idea, was Ndabaningi Sithole. The rest didn’t know what to do. Sithole was saying lets send some youths outside the country for military training. Some people would say, ahhh, this Reverand anopenga chete. Ndiani munhu angabise murungu nepfuti iye murungu achifamba nendege?
In 1963, Zanu led by Sithole was formed and they started sending their youths out of the country. Zapu had been banned so there was PCC, ikati ahh takundwa. It also started sending its youths for military training.
That is when we were recruited to go for military training. I had a sister who was living in Zambia, Marian Chikanya. I went to see the Native Commissioner ndikanyorerwa katsamba. I was with my friend called Funny Madowazi.
So in September 1963, we crossed into Zambia by bus. When we got to Lusaka we found people like Mbonjeni waiting for us. We were then taken to Materu township. There were between 50 to 80 people waiting in Materu. These people had already been trained in countries such as Egypt.
People like Choga, Chifinya and many others. I can’t remember their names. The next day after our arrival, Dumiso Dabengwa came with a Land rover. He called our names – Noel Chikanya, Funny Madowadzi, Timothy Duri, Jeremiah Chamba. He drove us to what they were calling Zimbabwe House which was along Ndola and Lusaka road. We found people like James Chikerema, Nyandoro, JZ Moyo, George Silundika then another comrade from Gwanda. I can’t remember his name but he was buried at National Heroes Acre.
From Zimbabwe House we were taken into town where we were bought clothes – two shirts, trousers, one jacket and one pair of shoes. We stayed at Zimbabwe House for about two weeks.
One day around sunset still in 1963, we were ordered to get into the Landrover and the whole night Dumiso and Nkiwane were hitting the road. We didn’t know where we were going. We later discovered that we were on our way to Tanzania. We were dropped in Mbeya. Mbeya dzaiva dzimba dziya dzakanga dzatizwa nevarungu. We don’t know where Dumiso went to from there, but Nkiwane remained behind. There was also Wilfred Pasipanodya at Mbeya.
We were at Mbeya the whole of November. There are some things zvakaitika paMbeya apa. Uuuummmm!!! Hazvitsanangurike.
SM: No, comrade tell us what happened?
Cde Mudzingwa: Maybe some other time.
SM: Ok, so when you left Mbeya where did you go?
Cde Mudzingwa: Pasipanodya called us one day and he told us that we were now going to Dar es Salam. We went by bus, Timothy Duri, Funny Madowadzi and Jeremiah Chamba and myself. In Dar es Salam we were taken to Mutoni, which is south of Dar es Salam.
In Mutoni there was Mutemasango, Gideon Ngoshi, Arthur Patsanza and another Ndebele comrade who I can’t remember. While at Mutoni some Ndebele comrades joined us. There was Mpofu, Mandlela, Jeremiah Sibanda, Albert Ncele, the one at the Heroes Acre, Tshinga Dube and another comrade.
In the end we were six Ndebele comrades and six Shona comrades staying at Mutoni. While there, the issue about tribalism started. Taingogara tichirovana ipapo. Pairwiwa zvisiri zvekutamba but taizovakunda nekuti tairova kwete mbichana.
There was a Shona comrade called Arnold Chironda. Murume iyeye airova zvisiri zvekutamba. Isu taizobatsirawo hedu.
SM: What exactly was causing the fights?
Cde Mudzingwa: The Zapu representative in Dar es Salam was some Ndebele comrade, I think he was called Madlela. He would go behind our back and give these Ndebele comrades some money to go and have fun. So they would go and have fun drinking kangala yaidhaka zvekuti huya uwone. We couldn’t do this because we didn’t have money. So we knew this and ndizvo zvaimutsa musindo izvozvo. On our side, Chikerema would also chip in. He would also give us some money behind their back.
As you know, chese chinoitika in secret, chinotobuda chete. So zvibhakera zvotsva. So in January 1964, the six of us, the Shona comrades, we were taken to Dar es Salam. We were bought some clothes and a suitcase. We were not told where we were going.
Later these six Ndebele comrades followed and they were also bought some clothes and a suitcase. We were later told to get prepared, but still we were not told where we were going.
We were taken to the airport and Jeremiah Chamba was assigned as our leader. He was given our passports with the instruction never to give anyone of us their passport. We were each given 10 pounds. First to depart were us the six Shona comrades.
We flew to Kenya and disembarked from the plane. The following day we were taken to the airport and we flew to Ethiopia. Again we disembarked. This was really an exciting journey. The next morning, we got into the plane and flew to Sudan. We stayed in Sudan for two days. The third day we went to the airport and flew to Egypt. Still no one would tell us where we were going.
SM: Why were they not telling you your destination?
Cde Mudzingwa: They were saying its top secret. They didn’t want us to tell anyone. In Egypt we were welcomed by two comrades, one of them was Andrew Chikuse. We were in Egypt for one week. We were given another 10 pounds each. Taifara kwete mbichana. We did everything that you can imagine.
After a week, we were taken back to the airport. We flew to what was known then as USSR to some small town where we spent about two hours waiting for a connecting flight. Later we flew to Moscow. Still it was the six of us.
We were driven about 25 kilometers south of Moscow.
We spent about two weeks with no one coming to say anything to us, but we were treated very well. We were then taken to the city centre in Moscow to choose two suits each, shirts and shoes.
Those six Ndebele comrades later joined us. It was Tshinga Dube, Albert Ncele, Mandlela’s young brother, Sam Mpofu, Jeremiah Sibanda and another comrade I can’t remember his name.
So now we were 12. Nxele then said he had been instructed to be our leader by Chikerema. We said no problem. The following Monday, we were given army uniform. I mean Russian army uniform.
First we were taught how to conduct ourselves. We were told kuti kana Russian officer achiuya you were supposed to shout that ‘I am comrade so and so, I am prepared for any task!’ Then stand at attention.
SM: Who was teaching you this now?
Cde Mudzingwa: The Russians. They would use their language and another Russian officer would translate for us in English. The next task was the theory aspect. Knowing all the weapons we were supposed to use during the war. We would dismantle the weapons and assemble them within a short time.
We were told that this was an officers course, and so we were taught almost everything including how to shoot from a plane. We would be flown in helicopters and from there asked to shoot targets on the ground.
The next stage was learning how to use heavy weapons. This was still an introduction to our course. After this we were divided into groups of four.
We were told that we were now going to specialise in communication, explosives and the other four were chosen to train as instructors.
I was put in the group that specialised in explosives. We were taught how to make home made explosives. We did that and went kurange to test our explosives.
There was a time when all the 12 of us would meet when learning about weapons. We would go to the shooting range together. We would go for parade together in the morning. We would report about our tasks together.
We were under training for nine months.
SM: Did those clashes continue in Moscow?
Cde Mudzingwa: The fights continued. Tairovana zvisiri zvekutamba. Of course we would fight in the absence of the Russians. You know ndakura now and kana ndakarara I sometimes ask myself kuti ko izvi why were we doing this? Its like we enjoyed kurovana, but sometimes tairovana because these Ndebele comrades vaititarisira pasi.
It was difficult to imagine that we were from the same country. Again in Moscow boys were boys. We enjoyed ourselves during our spare time.
SM: When did you leave Moscow?
Cde Mudzingwa: In October 1964, we were flown to the Far East, a place called Tashkent. We were there for three weeks. In November we flew back to Moscow. The courses continued again, but these were final touch ups.
We were then told that we had qualified as officers and so on our return we were supposed to teach other comrades our areas of speciality.
We were then taken to the airport and only Tshinga Dube remained behind. He negotiated that he wanted to go to university.
Now while on the plane from Moscow, uuummm, vanhu vakati hatisati tamboona zvakadai. Takarovana mundege zvisingaite.
SM: You mean you took tribalism right into the skies?
Cde Mudzingwa: Yeah. Instead of landing in Egypt, the plane had to land in Marseille, in France.
SM: What had triggered the fight in the plane?
Cde Mudzingwa: While on the plane, the air-hostess brought some wine and put the bottle before one of the Ndebele comrades called Manyatela. Timothy Duri then grabbed the bottle with Manyatela in hot pursuit.
Taingoti zvikadai, the fight would quickly spread among all the comrades. Waingoti any Ndebele comrade ari padhuze, mototanga kurovana. Mundenge makarovanwa zvibhakera vanhu vachitiza to one side. Remember this was a commercial flight.
The situation was worse now because we had been trained karate and so on saka zvimwe zvacho it was now one, two testing to show kuti tava mhuka.
When we landed, we were taken into some prison at the airport by the army. Yeah, we were really, really beaten up for three to four hours. Later we were taken back to the plane and we flew to Egypt in peace. We then flew to Kenya then Dar es Salam. We were then taken to Zambia by road. In Zambia, we were taken to Zimbabwe House again. There was JZ Moyo, Silundika, Edward Ndlovu, the now VP Report Mphoko, Dumiso Dabengwa, Arkim Ndlovu and a few others.
The Ndebeles were staying in one wing while the Shonas stayed in their wing. The fights continued.
From the Shona side we now had Robson Manyika, Ambrose Mutinhiri and a few others. When we arrived, they had formed their High Command.
There were only two Shonas in that High Comand – Mutinhiri and Robson Manyika.
I can say struggle yeZapu yakatanga kukundikana because of tribalism from these early stages. Chikerema was supposed to be our leader but JZ Moyo refused to accept that because Chikerema was Shona. Silundika also refused to accept Chikerema on the same grounds.
Now in Zambia, we were supposed to train other comrades. We now had some camps in Zambia, one for intelligence officers and the other for proper military training.
SM: So did you train the other comrades?
Cde Mudzingwa: I was called one day, around January 1965 together with another comrade and we were told that we were going to be deployed into Rhodesia. I was a bit surprised, but I said its OK. The leadership then said they would take me and this comrade to Zambezi River and some fisherman would facilitate that we cross into Rhodesia. Indeed, this was done and we crossed into Rhodesia with this comrade. I can’t remember his name because this was my first time to meet him.
I was instructed to go and operate in Midlands recruiting and training some comrades there. After crossing into Rhodesia we walked the whole night in the Zambezi Valley.
As we were walking the next morning, we saw some lions, I think there were three or four. The lions were advancing towards us. I quickly ran and climbed up a tree. This other comrade, I think because of his age and exhaustion, he could not run. The lions caught up with him and they tore him to pieces. (Tears rolling down his cheeks) I was watching it all from the tree. I removed my belt ndichibva ndazvisunga pamwechete nemuti so that I would not fall. It was around 6am, mumwe wangu akadyiwa kupera kusara musoro chete. Chakazondiponesa is that a group of buffaloes came and these lions started following these buffaloes trying to separate one of them. I came down the tree and ran like a madman going to the main road coming from Chirundu. After about two hours, Salisbury United that was coming from Lusaka came and on seeing me the driver stopped. I think he had been told about us so when I got into the bus, he asked kuti ko mumwe arikupi? I didn’t tell him what had really happened. I just said hameno kwaasara.
He then said the Rhodesian Special branch was mounting several roadblocks and so he asked his conductor to give me his uniform. I dressed like a conductor ndichibva ndapihwa that machine chema tickets and I hanged it by my neck. We drove past a few roadblocks and we got to Chinhoyi where I disembarked because the driver said he could not take the risk to continue with the journey with me.
SM: So did you have some money or something?
Cde Mudzingwa: I think I had 10 pounds so I went to a nearby beer hall and took a few beers. The next morning I was in another bus heading to Gweru where I had been told there would be a contact person waiting for me. My contact was supposed to be at some Roman Catholic school. He was actually the headmaster at the school. I had been told that this contact person would show me where they were hiding some weapons that I was supposed to use.
When I got to Gweru I went to this headmaster and I identified myself, telling this headmaster that I had been trained in Russia. He listened to my story until I finished.
SM: What was the name of this headmaster?
Cde Mudzingwa: I can’t remember his name, but he was Ndebele. I was surprised because he looked surprised by what I was saying. He asked me what I was talking about. He said he could not understand what I was talking about. I insisted that he should remember because I had been given specific instructions to see him and I knew I had not made any mistake.
He said he knew nothing about what I was talking about. He then said just wait here. He took his bicycle and at first I didn’t know he was rushing to alert the police.
After a few minutes I sensed danger and rushed to a nearby maize field. Something was definitely wrong.
From Mukoba in Gweru, I started walking towards town still in the maize fields. I knew that once I got into town, it would be difficult for them to identify me. Somewhere near town, I saw army lorries full of soldiers going in the opposite direction. They were going to that school in Mkoba. I knew I was in trouble. I walked from Gweru to Kwekwe on foot. Ndaifambira musango chete. In Kwekwe, I knew it was a matter of time before they could also start looking for me. Smith had one of the best intelligence operatives that were trained by Scotland Yard. I proceeded to Kadoma still on foot.
SM: Now, comrade, wait a minute here. Let’s go back to Gweru for a while. You had been told that you were to meet a contact in Gweru, why was this contact saying he wasn’t aware of what you were talking about?
Cde Mudzingwa: The truth is that this contact didn’t know anything. As a trained person, I immediately knew what had happened. This talk about meeting a contact, was all a lie. Vaida kuti ndibve kuZambia. Kana ndasvika muno, zvaizoitika they didn’t care.
SM: Why? And are you suggesting that these people sent you for slaughter or to be arrested?
Cde Mudzingwa: That is right. I was a trained man. Ndakatumwa without even a grenade. I didn’t have anything even a gun. It was enda unonozviona ikoko.
SM: You mean they would send you for training, just to do this to you?
Cde Mudzingwa: Yes. Their advantage was that a trained person akabatwa, it would be all over the news. Newspapers in Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania would carry the story.
Through this, Zapu would get recognition from the Organisation of African Union. They would be called and be given money because the impression was that we were now fighting the Smith regime. This is what they wanted.
I was very angry, but there was no one to be angry at. I was now in this situation and I was supposed to come up with a plan to survive and escape.
I couldn’t go back to Mabvuku because during this time, many people didn’t know politics so waingosvika ikoko hama ichibva yamhanya kumapurisa.
SM: Did this happen to you only or to many other comrades?
Cde Mudzingwa: It happened to many of my comrades. We were sent the two of us but we later gathered that a group of 12 other comrades was also sent into Rhodesia the same way. Vese vainhongwa kunge ishwa by the Special branch. All of them were arrested.
One of our comrades, who had trained in intelligence, Joseph Nyandoro, I think he now has a farm in Beatrice, he looked for me akandiwana. He sent me to some whiteman, called Lawrence in Salisbury who was sympathetic to our cause. He was a representative of the International Labour Organisation. I stayed with him for a while. He later told me that the Special branch was now monitoring him. He referred me to another whiteman who was supposed to drive me in the boot of his car to Botswana.
SM: So there were whites who were in support of the liberation struggle?
Cde Mudzingwa: Yes, there were there. It wasn’t like all whites were our enemies. No. This whiteman Lawrence went out of his way to assist me.
SM: You are saying Special branch arrested all the 12 comrades. How did they identify these comrades?
Cde Mudzingwa: Right in Lusaka, there were some sellouts who were being used by the Special branch. Am talking of sellouts within the leadership of the party. They wanted this so that they could rush to the OAU and say, see we are fighting. They would say lots of propaganda to make it appear as if hondo iri kutsva. Zapu had people who were well-trained and the talk was that nyika iri kuuya manje manje and so after that we would be put into the army. I think by this time some of our leaders were already allocating themselves positions in the imagined new army in independent Zimbabwe.
You see, Zapu from this time zvinhu hazvina kuzombomira zvakanaka. That led to another split where vana Shamuyarira went their way, ana Chikerema nekuku and vana Siwela nekuku.
Next week, Cde Mudzingwa will tell us how he was captured by the Rhodesian Special Branch, how he broke down after serious torture and he will narrate the story how he found love straight from the prison. This story will leave some thinking that maybe this comrade sold out the struggle in the name of love. He will narrate how he ended up joining Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s party and how he was fired after a few months. Get your copy of The Sunday Mail next week for the full story.
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