Chronicles from the second Chimurenga
Cde Joseph Musambasi, born in 1942, whose Chimurenga name was Cde David Tendai (popularly known as Cde Davie) is an easy going comrade who doesn’t make it an issue that he was closely related to Cde Josiah Tongogara. “Tongo was my muzukuru. Mai vake vanotevedzana nababa vangu,” he casually says.
He went to school in Rhodesia up to Standard Six and in 1963, he went to Zambia where he was staying with Cde Tongo who was working at Chainama Golf Club in Lusaka.
In this interview with our Sunday Mail team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike, Cde Davie talks about the early days of Zanu in Lusaka, the clashes with Zapu and how he later went for military training.
His story gives a new perspective on the famous Chinhoyi battle as he reveals the other groups of comrades who were also deployed into Rhodesia in 1966.
He also talks about his horrifying ordeal leading to his capture in 1966 by the Rhodesian soldiers who debated whether to finish him off or carry him to the station for interrogation. Read on . . .
SM: Looking at events from Zambia in 1964, what would you say where some of the differences between Zanu and Zapu?
Cde Davie: The breakaway of Zanu from Zapu created animosity. The leadership yeZanu had problems with the way Zapu was conducting itself. The leaders of Zanu were saying if we had continued in Zapu hataimbotora nyika. Zapu wanted to continue talking with the Rhodesians but Zanu was saying tozotaura tamborovana… What then led to the divisions between Shona and Ndebele was that Zapu came up with propaganda that Zanu had broken away because it was a party for Shona people. And indeed, about three quarters in Zanu were Shona people, but that wasn’t the reason for the breakaway. It was a matter of differences in policies and approaches to the war.
I need to tell you comrade kuti after the formation of Zanu, takavengana comrade and tikarwisana nevanhu veZapu. It was bad. Panga pasina kana rugare. I never thought that one day Zanu and Zapu could sit on the same table.
What made the situation worse was that the breakaway of Zanu did not go down well with the Zambian government. As a result, UNIP supported Zapu during those days.
SM: When and where did you go for military training?
Cde Davie: In 1966, after Tongo had gone to Tanzania and later to China, that’s when I went for military training. Cde Mazhandu was given the responsibility to recruit people and transport them to Tanzania. After the Declaration of UDI by Ian Smith, many people in Zambia were angered by this move. Cde Herbert Chitepo came from Tanzania and held a meeting in Lusaka saying now that UDI has been declared, what do we do? He said we now need to start the war against Ian Smith. That’s when he told us of a training camp in Intumbi Reeves.
I volunteered to go for training and in January 1966, I went for military training at Intumbi Reeves. I was taken to the training camp by Noel Mukono, and Felix Santana who was driving the car. There were very few recruits when we went on this trip.
By this time, William Ndangana was now training, comrades like my good friend Chubb Savanhu at Chunya camp which was a few kilometres away from Intumbi Reeves where we went. Those seven comrades who died at Chinhoyi had been trained at Chunya.
At Intumbi Reeves one of our trainers was Bernard Mutumwa who had received his military training in China. Cde Ndangana later came to train us at Intumbi Reeves.
SM: The famous Chinhoyi Seven group, you seem to know a bit about them. Tell us, where they the first and only group?
Cde Davie: Yes, that was the first group. It was the first group kuridza pfuti. There were some groups avakapinda nawo. These seven comrades were Chubb Savanhu, Simon C. Nyandoro, Godwin Manyerenyere, Christopher Chatambudza, Arthur Maramba, Godfrey Dube and David Guzuzu.
Of these seven, Savanhu was my good friend while David Guzuzu I knew him because he once came to stay with Tongo at Chainama. David Guzuzu and William Ndangana were in hiding at Tongo’s house after they killed a white man in Malssetta, in Rhodesia. The Rhodesians were hunting for these comrades after the arrests of their colleagues Cde Dhlamini and Cde Mlambo. This group had been sent on this mission by Cde Noel Mukono.
SM: Let’s go back to the famous Seven comrades. You gave the impression that there were other groups. Did these groups cross into Rhodesia at the same time?
Cde Davie: After this group, came another group led by Cde Edmos Nyandoro which had Cde Gumbochuma, Shenjere and others I can’t remember their names.
SM: Tell us briefly about your training?
Cde Davie: Our training was from January up to August. We started with political orientation which took most of our time because the instructors were saying you can’t go to the people and you can’t carry the gun usina chawakatakura mumusoro. We were taught how to mobilise people, mass mobilisation and teach them gwara remusangano. We were taught that we were fish and for us to survive we had to get into the water which meant the masses. After this we were taught guerrilla tactics because we could not match the enemy in terms of numbers and ammunition. As people who were to provide the foundation, the pioneers of the Second Chimurenga, the training was rigorous.
At training one of the groups was led by Cde Sithole, the other was led by Cde Nhema and our group was called Chindunduma led by Cde Dzingai Museve. Each group had seven people but our group was later joined by another comrade called Bernard Takawira. He joined us a day before we left the training camp.
SM: After training, how were these groups deployed?
Cde Davie: I spoke earlier about those seven comrades, followed by Cde Nyandoro’s group which if I am not mistaken, killed a whiteman somewhere around Banket. This group by Nyandoro also got lots of publicity. All this was in 1966.
When our groups finished training, Sithole’s group was first to be deployed followed by the one led by Nhema. When these comrades crossed into Rhodesia, all these groups were rounded up and arrested. I still don’t know how the Rhodesians got the information. One of the biggest problems was that during that time we were using one crossing point, near Chirundu and it looks like the Rhodesians had set up a net to round us up. These comrades were arrested somewhere around the Zambezi Escarpment because the terrain is just bad. It was difficult to get water and food and the distance was just too long.
I remember Nhema’s group we heard that vakangobatwa with no resistance because they were just too weak. They had run out of water and food after going up and down those mountains. These two groups vakapinda musaga. By this time, our group had not yet been deployed and we didn’t know what had happened. We didn’t even know that these groups had been deployed. This was kept as a secret.
SM: Some people say during these early days, it looks like Zanu was rushing the deployment just to make a statement to the OAU so that it could get assistance. What is your comment?
Cde Davie: You see, Smith was not going to be removed nekuridza pito. Zanu had sat down and agreed that we were going to fight Smith. It’s true that OAU was pressurizing Zanu together with the Zambian government. They were saying Zanu should unite with Zapu. So for Zanu to show kuti aiwazve, nesuwo tiripo, we had to do something. During our training, OAU was not giving us anything. I remember on Sundays during training taiswera nenzara, taitsanya tichiti tiri kufunga kuZimbabwe.
Its true that OAU was not going to give us support if we had not done anything to show our seriousness.
SM: But comrade, the seven comrades perished and these other two groups walked into the Rhodesian net. Do you really think Zanu had done its homework before the deployment?
Cde Davie: When we were in training, the leaders were telling us that they are doing reconnaissance. We later discovered that the reconnaissance was not enough. When the seven comrades perished, our strategy was supposed to change. I think the other problem was that our trainers didn’t have experience by this time.
SM: Now let’s talk about your deployment from the training camp,
Cde Davie: From Intumbi Reeves we went to Mumbwa in Zambia as the leaders prepared for our deployment. Our group comprised Cdes Dzingai Museve who was the commander, Samanga, the commissar who was from Rusape, Tasisiyo Takawira who was the deputy commander, William Jokonya, Andrew Muzorori, Daudhanda, Bernard Takawira and me David Tendai. Like I told you we were seven but a day before leaving the training camp we were joined by Bernard Takawira.
In Mumbwe we were staying at some homestead kwainzi kwaChihota. As we were waiting for deployment, most of the times we would talk about going to fight and sometimes we would sing liberation songs to uplift our spirits.
Our leaders like comrade Chitepo would come and address us. We were still putting on our tattered clothes from training but the leaders bought us knew clothes in Zambia.
Cde Chitepo said ‘macomrades, tava kuenda kuZimbabwe. When we finish our reconnaissance, we will come and take you.’ He said tichamborongedza zvombo and hazvisati zvakwana. Vakatisimbisa chaizvo.
SM: Did he tell you that we are sending you but the other comrades were arrested?
Cde Davie: No, he didn’t tell us. I think they just made a decision not to tell us.I think we stayed in Lusaka for two to three weeks.
SM: Tell us how you were taken from Mumbwa to cross into Rhodesia.
Cde Davie: We were not even expecting it when the day came. You see taimborova hedu doro nembanje while waiting in Mumbwa. (Laughs) Despite this, we were very, very cautious to avoid being sold out.
We were relaxing when Cde Mukono just arrived in the night saying get ready tava kuenda. Cde Dhauramanzi was driving and Bernard Mutuma was also there. We were driven to some place near, a few kilometres from Chirundu.
There was also Cde Chitepo, Stanley Parirehwa and another person I can’t remember who it was.
At this place, that’s where we were given our ammunition. We sat down as the leaders gave us instructions. There was a Rhodesian boat that was patrolling the Zambezi river and so we had to wait for the right time.
Cde Chitepo gave us the last words. He said: ‘macomrades, that time has come. Zvataitaura kuti tichaenda kumusha kunorwisa, zvino pano tava kuyambuka. Mofamba zvakanaka.’ He prayed for us and after that he said ‘mufambe henyu zvakanaka.’
SM: Besides the prayer, did you do any traditional ritual?
Cde Davie: To be honest, I grew up as a Christian. Zvemudzimu I got to understand it ndatova kuhondo. So the Zanu leaders used to go to Mumbwa to consult vadzimu but this was done by very few people.
So we crossed Zambezi using zvimwadiya and took cover munzimbe dzaHarper who was a white farmer. He even became a minister in Smith’s government. We spent the whole day in this sugar-cane field tichitodya nzimbe dzacho.
We had to spend the whole day hiding because kwakazoyedza tichiri imomo. We could not make any moves because a few kilometres away, there was a Rhodesian camp and that boat was still patrolling along Zambezi. We could see the boat patrolling a few meters from where we were hiding.
I was carrying my AK 47and a pistol. This was because I was responsible for reconnaissance so I had to have a pistol, just in case. I had also received together with Andrew some short training in first aid.
SM: So when did you leave this sugar-cane field?
Cde Davie: I think it was around 7pm.
SM: By the way, where exactly were you supposed to go and what were you supposed to do?
Cde Davie: Our group reChindunduma was supposed to go to Chinhoyi and operate from around Karoi. We were the second group that was given the task to get to Chinhoyi after those seven comrades. This is why some people said group raDzingai Museve was the second Chinhoyi group. We had lots of ammunition and I think this was one of the reasons why we had problems. Zvinhu zvairema izvozvo and I think the Rhodesians knew this.
Once we got to Chinhoyi we were supposed to hit many targets to show the Rhodesians that vakomana vauya. It was supposed to be typical guerrilla warfare — hit and run.
After leaving the sugar-cane field we walked till the evening of the next day. I think we walked for two to three days.
I remember one evening, when we were resting we didn’t have water to drink. Some comrades could not even walk because of dehydration. The commander said Cde Davie go back to Zambezi to get some water. I responded saying ko ini wacho ndini ndichiri kugona kufamba here? I could not believe what Cde Meseve was saying. We were more than 10 kilometres away from Zambezi. He said Cde Muzorori was supposed to accompany me. After a while, I said to Cde Muzorori, let’s go comrade.
We walked just a few metres tikawana pakanga patsika nzou pachibuda mvura. You see nzou ikatsika panyoro inoita gomba rinobuda mvura. So takangochera mvura ipapo and returned to the other comrades. We didn’t care whether the water was clean or not.
As we were walking, we were making sure that we were close to the road. We would see Rhodesian soldiers and the police patrolling on the road. We would take cover as they drove by. This also delayed us a lot because the soldiers and police kept going up and down. We walked until we were close to the Zambezi Escapement and decided to rest on the other side of the road.
SM: This must have been quite some journey?
Cde Davie: Like I said the terrain was very bad. We went up and down mountains. As we were resting, once again we discovered that we had run out of water. The commander once again asked me to go fetch some water. On our map we could see there were some small dams nearby but we knew that the Rhodesian soldiers would be camping at these dams waiting for us.
Cde Museve repeated that I should go fetch some water. I didn’t know where to go but then he was my commander.
I have to tell you that zvimwe zvinhu zvemuhondo you may never understand them. I tell you kuti varidzi venyika ndivo vaitungamira hondo.
Can you imagine takangofamba pabani and we found chitubu chemvura not very far from where the other comrades were resting.
Now nekusaziva we just jumped to fetch the water. We didn’t thank vadzimu vedu. We just filled our containers with water and returned to our position. After drinking the water, we then took a long rest.
As were preparing to resume our journey, we went back to fetch some more water and believe me, we failed to locate the place we had got the water. Like I said this place wasn’t far but we spent almost an hour looking for it to no avail. Takashaya chitubu ichi zvachose. We proceeded with our walk.
On the fourth day still on the Zambezi Escapement around 4pm we walked into an ambush.
SM: You were not expecting this?
Cde Davie: Not even. We were taken by surprise, but after taking our positions were fired back. Takaridzirana ipapo kwete zvekutamba. Our commander Cde Meseve akarohwa pachest akasara ipapo. He actually said ‘aahhh Davie ndarohwa.’ Commissar akarohwa akasara ipapa futi. Ini ndakazorohwa pamuromo bara rikarova rurimi rikabuda the other side.
My fellow comrades pulled me away as they were retreating. They carried me because I was losing a lot of blood. After some distance, they bandaged my mouth but that didn’t help much. Rurimi rwaiita ropa rekuti tsaaa. It was bad.
SM: What happened to the Rhodesian soldiers?
Cde Davie: I am sure they also retreated after seeing that they had killed some of our comrades. We later saw a helicopter which came to collect dead bodies both from our side and their side.
As the bleeding continued, some comrades suggested that I should go back to Zambia but I refused. I told the comrades kuti ini handichakwanisi. I said macomrads chiendai. Ndatofa ini. Take everything that I have, pfuti and everything and you go. Ini ndatofa hangu. Mufambe henyu zvakanaka. These comrades took everything bade me farewell and left.
SM: You had given up and you were waiting for death?
Cde Davie: Yes. I had lost too much blood and didn’t have any energy. They left me during the night and that whole night I crawled from one position to the other. The following morning I crawled to a nearby tree. I could no longer stand up. Whenever I tried to stand up I would fall. Muromo wese wakanga wavhara neropa rakaoma nhunzi dzazara pamuromo. Ndakabva ndabatwa nehope under this tree.
While sleeping I dreamt of a place with green grass. In the middle of this grassland was a well of water. I think this was because I was just too thirsty. I could hear some helicopters from a distance.
Around 3pm, I opened my eyes slightly and saw Rhodesian soldiers walking towards me. Our eyes met, and I could hear them saying ‘yes, yes tariwana gandanga.’ I couldn’t move an inch. Some of the soldiers said lets finish him off we can’t carry such a hopeless person. Some of the soldiers cocked their guns pointing at me. I saw this and thought this was it. I fainted.
When I opened my eyes after a little while, I discovered that I had been surrounded.
The soldiers were still debating whether to kill me or not. Some of the black soldiers are the ones who were saying I should be killed. Ndipo pakaita debate satan namwari and mwari prevailed. Power yaJehova yakashanda.
Their commander, a whiteman then gave orders that I shouldn’t be killed. He said the law did not allow them to kill me. He said I should be carried to the station so that I could give them more information.
To be continued next week
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