I fought the war with my cooking stick

LAST week, Gogo Taripiwa Shawu narrated how in the early 1970s she was given the responsibilities to look after homwe yaMbuya Nehanda in Tsokoto. She narrated how some Zanla comrades came to Tsokoto and took Mbuya Nehanda to Chifombo in Zambia.

In this interview with our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni, Gogo Shawu narrates how Mbuya Nehanda passed away at Chifombo and her long journey to Mozambique.

Read on . . .

MH: Gogo, as someone who had stayed with Mbuya Nehanda for a long time, how did you feel when she passed on at Chifombo?

Gogo Shawu: It really pained me but there was nothing I could do about it. Kana munhu afa anochemwa ovigwa but some people vanoramba vachizvipurira pasi, vamwe vachiti dai munhu uyu ararama. Mvura kana yadeuka hapana anogona kuidyorera mumugomo.

Mushure mekunge vati ini ndava kuparura munosara vanangu muchirwira nyika asi tichange tichibata basa pamwe chete, ndakapinda mumba ndikabika sadza. I tried to wake her up saying Ambuya, muchembere mukai tidye sadza.

She didn’t wake up. Ndakabva ndasiya sadza riya ndobva ndaisa matanda mumoto kuti mumba mudziye. Ndakabva ndapinda mugumbeze ratairara tese. Hudiki, handisi kuziva kuti vazorora.

The whole night Mbuya kana kumbonditi chindipawo chibakwa chefodya ndipute kana kuti chimbokuchidzira moto. She didn’t say anything the whole night. The next morning, I woke up wondering kuti Mbuya ava varipo here?

Ndakabva ndabuda ndikati Sekuru Chidyamauyu, Ambuya sadza riya randakabika nezuro havana kudya. Sekuru vakati uri kuti chiiko iwe? Ndikati havana kudya sadza. Sekuru Chidyamauyu and Sekuru Chiodzamamera went inside the hut and spent quite some time.

When they came out of the hut, yakanga yangova mweya chete. Kudzvova zvekusvikirwa. Vakabva vandibata ruoko, vakati ahh, muchembere azorora sezvo akawoneka kare. Kana zvazofamba zvakanaka kana Mbuya vabata pamwe, vachakutora.

After this, we later buried Mbuya after getting permission from the Zambian chief in the area. I think about a month or so later, ndipo patakazosungwa tichiendeswa kuMboroma.

MH: How was Mbuya Nehanda buried?

Gogo Shawu: Pakavakwa imba yemapango. Vakaiswa patsanga ndobva vaiswa pamusoro petumatanda twainge twakawaridzwa. The Zanu leaders said they were burying her temporarily at Chifombo but they would come back after independence to take her remains and bury her in Zimbabwe.

I really don’t know how she was later buried after independence. Sekuru Chidyamauyu was supposed to look for me but he didn’t. The instruction was that kana mapfupa avo avakuvigwa after independence, I was supposed to be there.

MH: For all the years that you stayed with Mbuya Nehanda, what would you say you learnt from her?

Gogo Shawu: What I remember most is that zvavaitaura ndizvo zvaiitika. Vairapa vanhu vachipora pamwe chete nezviratidzo. Ndiko kushanda kwemweya and I knew kuti Mbuya vanoyera.

MH: Tell us how you left Chifombo going to Mboroma?

Gogo Shawu: These were the days when the Zambian were rounding up Zanu leaders saying they wanted to know who killed Chitepo. So we were rounded up at Chifombo and were taken to Mboroma. The Zambian regiments were looking after us. During this time, Sithole was still the Zanu leader and he would sometimes come to Mboroma. Later things changed. I don’t want to say much about the politics because I was not heavily involved. Later we were flown to Chingodzi in Mozambique. What I know is that while at Mboroma, some of our comrades were poisoned. I remember that the first person to realise that the food had been poised was Cde Ndoda. He quickly blew his whistle shouting kuti macomrades vasati vadya please musadye chikafu ichi. Suddenly many comrades started vomiting. Some comrades were later taken to hospital but I had not yet eaten the food so I was not affected. I don’t think anyone died.

After this incident, as Zanu we moved away from this base and walked some kilometres away because we feared more clashes with Zapu cadres. The Zambian regiments tried to stop us from walking out of Chifombo base but we marched on.

MH: While at Mboroma, as someone who had stayed with Mbuya Nehanda, how were you treated?

Gogo Shawu: The comrades and everyone treated me with respect. Ndaingonzi Ambuya nemunhu wese. Most people didn’t know my name because they knew me as Ambuya. Kubvira kumashefu kusvika kunacomrade vese vaindikoshesa zvikuru. Hapana chandaitenderwa kuita. Kungave kuchera mvura yekuguzinya, kungave kuti vanhu vari kuenda kuhuswa, kana kuhuni, mashefu airamba kuti ndiite kana chinhu. I remember some camp commander, it must be Cde Matiwonesa she would come waking up other female comrades, but kungosvika pandiri aibva andisiya. She would say ‘Ambuya sarai zvenyu murare. Hatibvumirwi kukutumai. Hamubvumirwi kuita basa.’ Ndakanga ndisingaite chinhu ini. This was my life until the end of the liberation struggle.

MH: Tell us of the story where Sekuru Chidyamauyu tried to go and take Mbuya Nehanda’s remains from Zambia to Mozambique?

Gogo Shawu: The idea was to take Mbuya Nehanda’s remains to Mozambique. So Sekuru Chidyamauyu was sent on that mission. However, Sekuru Chidyamauyu failed kuyambuka Zambezi River naMbuya. I think Sekuru Chidyamauyu vakanga vasina kunyatsokumbira kuti tava kuyambuka naMbuya. So when the boat got to the middle of the river, it started going in rounds kuita chamupupuri. Some Frelimo comrades then said “imi akuru imi, muzimu wanu mukuru amuna kutaura imwi. Tiri kumufa muno.” So they failed to cross Zambezi naMbuya and they left her remains on the Zambian side.

MH: From Chingodzi, where did you go?

Gogo Shawu: From Chingodzi we were taken to Mabvudzi, then Chimoio. At Chimoio I was staying at Pasichigare kwaigara masvikiro. So I was staying with Sekuru Chiodzamamera, Sekuru Chidyamauyu and Sekuru Chipfeni together with their wives. While at Chimoio Sekuru Chidyamauyu would tell the comrades kuti kuchaitika zvakati zvikati.

MH: When Chimoio was attacked, where were you?

Gogo Shawu: I was at Chimoio. I gave birth to my first child, Edmore at Chimoio. That was in 1977. During that attack, ndakatiza naye achiri kasvava. I managed to hide mumwena and I spent the whole day ndirimo. I think ndakachengetwa nemweya. I only left that hiding place around 6pm when it was getting dark. When I started walking, I bumped into some comrades and they almost shot at me. One of the comrades is still alive and is in Mt Darwin. He said takanzwa kufamba kwemunhu one, takabva takoka pfuti. They then shouted kuti ndiani, ndikati ndini Mbuya. Zvikanzi, sorry, sorry Mbuya. One of the comrades was assigned to take me where other people had gathered.

MH: Before this attack, was there any warning from Sekuru Chidyamauyu?

Gogo Shawu: Yes, he had spoken about it. He warned saying mangwana vanhu chenjerai kuri kuuya hondo? Mangwana acho tichibva taiwona hondo zveshuwa.

MH: Gogo you are now telling us about your first born at Chimoio. Where you allowed to fall in love and have kids during the war?

Gogo Shawu: Sekuru Chidyamauyu called Cde Tongogara, Cde Fox Gava and other Zanla leaders and said mwana uyu akura. By this time I was now mhandara. Mweya wakaona kuti mwana wandakasiirwa naMbuya uyu anogona kuchiviwa nemacomrades. Sekuru Chidyamauyu then said handidi kuzopara mhosva. Zvanga zvadii tatsvaga comrade wechikuru anogona kugara nemwana uyu kuitira kuti kana Mbuya vabata pamwe, tinonomutora nemurume wake toti Mbuya mwana uye wamakatisiira uyu. So ndakatsvagirwa murume ndikaita mwana mumwechete. Ndiye mwana wandakauya naye kubva kuhondo.

MH: So who was chosen as your husband?

Gogo Shawu: His name was Cde Dickson Tafirenyika. He later died after independence in Mt Darwin, kwaDotito. He died in 1991.

MH: How did you feel that someone had to choose a husband for you?

Gogo Shawu: You see, I was afraid kuti zvisina kutongwa nemweya hazviiti kuti nditsvage murume ndega. I was waiting for Sekuru Chidyamauyu to give me direction since Mbuya handed me over to him. Of course, ndakatomboramba kuti umm, murume wacho ndewe chikuru. But it was explained to me that he was the suitable man aikwanisa kuzosvika panaMbuya achiwonekwa. Akanga ari mudhara akanga asiya mukadzi wake kuno kumusha. Zvinhu zvacho zvaitungamirwa nemweya so there was nothing I could do.

From Chimoio we were taken to Pungwe, then to Doroi. I was at Doroi until the end of the liberation struggle. We came back all of us – that’s Sekuru Chidyamauyu, Sekuru Chiodzamamera and Sekuru Chipfeni and their wives. All of them later died after independence.

MH: How did you come from Mozambique to Zimbabwe?

Gogo Shawu: We came through Mutare. We were taken to Chishawasha Assembly Point. When we got to Chishawasha, murume wangu akanga akapfurwa gumbo. We had left him in Maputo. All injured comrades were later flown to Southerton in Harare. I later joined him at Southerton where I stayed for almost a month.

While at Southerton, vaMugabe vakazobvisa machira, chimera and mombe dzekuwuraya. We were taken to Dande kunobika doro kutenda muchembere kuti tahwina nyika. All of us – Sekuru Chidyamauyu, Chiodzamamera and Chipfeni we went to Dande together with some comrades. We went and did the rituals and came back to Chishawasha.

MH: Tell us briefly about the ritual in Dande? What exactly did you do?

Gogo Shawu: VaMugabe said he was thanking Mbuya Nehanda. I think this was in 1981. The comrades were saying tinotenda Mbuya makatipa simba rekurwa hondo. Pakabva pabikwa doro and vanhu vakapembera. During the evening, Sekuru Chidyamauyu told the comrades who were present that tiri kufanira kuwedzera husavi so macomrades mangwana kana mamuka mukafamba pasango apo muchaona nyathi mbiri. True to his words, the comrades woke up the next day and found two buffalos roaming close by. They killed these buffalos and added the meat to the relish.

MH: Gogo you need to explain this a bit more.

Gogo Shawu: Sekuru Chidyamauyu explained that ndini ndaona kuti muriwo mushoma saka ndakupai nyama. Mhuka idzi dzinoita zvekutinhwa nemudzimu.

MH: You are saying this ritual to thank Mbuya Nehanda was done but there are some who say this was never done or if it was done, it was not done properly. What is your comment?

Gogo Shawu: I really wouldn’t know what exactly was supposed to be done. What I know is that kwakabikwa doro as I am telling you. Zvekuti zvakatambirwa here I also don’t know because izvi zvaiva zvemudzimu ini ndaiva munhu wenyama.

MH: After this ritual what happened?

Gogo Shawu: Later I met my family. My mother was overwhelmed with joy to see me nekamuzukuru kavo. She thought I had died during the liberation struggle. Amai vangu vakanga vachangobva kugara mumaKeep and so vanga vachiri kugara mumiti yemusawu. They had not yet built their own houses.

After some days, I went back to Harare and we were later told that most of the disabled comrades were staying in Ruwa. There was a camp for disabled people in Ruwa and my husband was now disabled after being shot in the leg. I think we stayed in Ruwa for about two years.

MH: You said throughout the liberation struggle all the comrades respected you as they called you Mbuya. How was the treatment after independence?

Gogo Shawu: Ahh, they had completely forgotten about me. Some comrades who knew me from the liberation struggle still gave me respect. Just like here where I am staying, no one really knows about me and my life.

MH: Why do you think you were forgotten?

Gogo Shawu: Umm, I really don’t know.

MH: Doesn’t that trouble you?

Gogo Shawu: It pains me a lot. You know after independence hapana kana akazokwanisa kundimiririrawo. It pained me a lot but I said as long as I am still alive. From Ruwa we went to Dande where we built our homestead. After being troubled by Matsanga from Mozambique we later relocated to Dotito in Mt Darwin. I think this was around 1987. I later had three more children…

You see, when most people came back from the liberation struggle, because they had gone for training and because vakabata pfuti, they were given better treatment. They forgot about me.

You know during those days when former freedom fighters were getting ma50 000, I went to the Mt Darwin offices and explained the role that I played. One of the officers said “eehh, eehh, eehhh, makutipengera pano! Hatisi kuita zvaMbuya Nehanda, ibvai pano! Ibvai hatisi kuda kukuwonai. Musadzoke futi!” I went to the back of the office and I cried. Ndakachema misodzi kuti hey, ko nyika ino ndakatadzawo chii nhai? So I went back home ndikagara zvangu. I said handisi chinhu pamberi pevanhu. Vanhu vaindida vari padambudziko but now that hondo yapera, ndosairirwa kumasese.

MH: Do you think Zimbabweans still value or respect Mbuya Nehanda?

Gogo Shawu: No, not at all. This used to trouble me a lot with the role that Mbuya Nehanda played during the liberation struggle but I ended up saying, let me just sit and watch.

Sometimes I tell my children my story but there is nothing much I can do. I think the children vanongoti mai havana kudzidza saka hapana zvavanokwanisa. On many occasions ndinorota ndichipihwa purazi. I think ndizvo zviri pamoyo pangu. Kurota zvekutambudzika pamweya. Ndatoshamisika kuti imi mandizivawo. Vamwe havachandiziva.

MH: What would you want to say to the country’s leadership?

Gogo Shawu: Inga ndakabata mugoti wenyika wani. Muchembere ndaivabikira, vodya. Vodeedza vana vavo macomrades vovapa mazano ehondo. Ndowachira chembere yangu, yadya yaguta. Ndovapa fodya. That was my role. I didn’t go for military training, but ndiro basa randakabata. Macomrades ese ayiwuya kumusha vaitosimuka nezano rambuya.

MH: Gogo as you are talking, your last born child is shedding tears. Tell us Gogo what is it that is troubling her?

Gogo Shawu: (turning to her daughter) Ko uri kuchemei? (long pause) These children grew up in lots of difficulties. Havana kumboenda kuchikoro. Ko mari yacho ndaiiwanepi? Vanorarama nekushandira vanhu. Vachisakura nekucheka huswa.

Indeed, we went through very difficult times. I can’t even explain but I always say aiwa vanangu ngatigare. Ko tinga ite sei? Ndiwo hupenyu hwedu. I always say to myself, ko mumwe musi hapanawo anogona kungoti mbuya vaya varipi? Kundivakira imbawo inowonekera. Kutambanudzawo mweya wechembere.

I am sure Mbuya Nehanda kwavari vachiona what I am going through she is not happy. Vanongoti ko iyo mhuri yangu iri kufungawo seiko pamwana uyu? Ko vangadii? Gara zvako mwanangu. Vakomana ava havachambokuziva. Ko ini ndingaitewo sei semunhu wemweya? Vapedza Mbuya.

28,347 total views, no views today

  • shiku

    Nyika yakakangamwa kwayakabva. Zvayava kuziva tichaona zvaichaita.

  • Nyandoro

    Wataura chokwadi as usual Cde Truth. MH…Please take this issue with the relevant authorities. Painful to say the least. She deserves her rightful place a liberation war heroine. Im watching this space Mr MH.

  • J.B.

    Very, very sad indeed! The funny bit is, we go out of our way to impress RACIST Rhodesians to come back and implement plantation slavery when ‘VANA VEVHU’ are living in desperation and struggling up and down this land.
    What a shame indeed!