Will these comrades ever come back home?

LAST week, we spoke to Tete Marian Muzarugwi and Chandi who wept uncontrollably narrating the difficulties they have been facing in trying to bring back home the remains of Cde Tinzwei Goronga. This week, our Deputy Editor Munyaradzi Huni speaks to Mukoma Huckson Conoria Kanyera who together with the Muzarugwi family has been trying to bring back the remains of his big brother Cde Concert Conoria Kanyera whose Chimurenga name was Cde Jani Musungwa back him. This was yet another draining interview as the 53 year-old man wept while narrating his frustrations and the problems bedevilling this family from Mt Darwin.

Cde Jani Musungwa died together with Cde Goronga, Cde Gogoni, Cde Osman and Cde Ndebvu Six when they were ambushed by Rhodesian forces in Tete province in 1979. These comrades were later buried in shallow graves near the scene where they were ambushed.
Mukoma Huckson, narrates Cde Jani’s story from the days in Karanda until the dark day he was informed kuti mukoma hakuchina. Read on …

MH: How did Cde Jani join the liberation struggle?
Mukoma Huckson: I still have some fond memories about my brother and how he joined the liberation struggle. Our home area, Karanda area was like a battlefield yehondo since the early 1970s. The first person from our family to join the liberation struggle was Cde Hazvinei Mazondo or Moses around 1971. When he went to join the war, he later came back and the whole village was asked to go and see macomrades. We went and saw them dancing to music that was being played from some little radio.

This happened for quite a while and my brother, Jani Musungwa got interested to join the war. Some of the comrades who used to frequent our area during that time include Cde Dick Joboringo, Cde Vhuu, Cde Everesto, Cde Chinodakufa and many others. So pakaita like a wave when the whole family vana vakati vavakuda kuenda kuhondo. I remember when my brother went, they were around 15 or so from our family on the same day.

I remember my father slaughtered mombe yavo yainzi Darwin when my brother told him that he wanted to join the liberation struggle. However, my brother didn’t tell me that he was going to join the war. He just said ndiperekedze tiende kunotsvaga mombe kubani. We went and after walking for a while, he removed his t-shirt nerekeni yekupfurisa shiri akandipa. He said chidzoka kumba tozoonana. I said aiwa haungaendi wega urikuda kuenda kupi?

He forced me to go back home and I went back home. His departure was kept a secret for quite sometime until I discovered on my own that he had gone to join the liberation struggle.

In total my family members who went to war were around 40, including 10 sisters.

MH: If 40 of your family members went to war, it looks like the whole village joined the liberation struggle?
Mukoma Huckson: Yeah, the village was left almost empty. I even hear stories from some of my relatives who were kuhondo kuti my brother, Jani at one point said uumm, tawandisa kuno. Tikafira kuhondo kuno kumusha kwacho kunosara ani? Unfortunately these relatives couldn’t come back home because the Rhodesian forces had already been alerted that they had gone to join the war.

It was after several pungwes that I discovered that indeed my brother had gone for military training. When he joined the war, we never had any form of communication. However some of the comrades he was working with like Cde Perence Shiri would speak about my brother. My father and uncles were arrested countless times because they were accused of sending their children to war.

However, in 1976 our village was burnt down by the Rhodesian forces and we were all ordered into Keeps. During this time, I lost two relatives who were shot dead by some comrades after kungotengesana. The comrades were accusing the villagers of failing to bury one of their comrades who had died during an attack by Rhodesian forces. The body of this comrade had been left in the open for about three days because we knew that some Rhodesian soldiers were monitoring movements around the body from a nearby mountain. Saka nenyaya dzekungovengana pamusha these two relatives vakatengwswa and they were shot dead.

MH: How were these two relatives shot? Take us through what exactly happened.
Mukoma Huckson: I was still young and taibva kurukova kunaRuya kunogeza. Our houses in the Keep were very close to the gate. So around 6pm while playing my banjo guitar I was called together with one of my relatives by some comrades. They ordered us not to go inside the Keep, but we had lots of fear because there was a 6pm curfew inside the Keep. We were ordered kuti tinogara mudanga remombe and monitor the Rhodesian guards who were manning the gate to the Keep. After they had locked the gate to the Keep and went away, we rushed to notify the comrades who were hiding nearby.

The comrades then asked us to follow these guards to make sure they were not coming back to the Keep. After seeing that the guards had gone to their base, we returned back and we went with the comrades to the Keep. Vakacheka fence and got inside. They then told us that they were going to burn the whole Keep and so our duty was to go around telling all the people in the Keep to gather pamba pasabhuku inside the Keep.

Around 7pm all the people were gathered. The comrades started interrogating the people and these two relatives were ordered to remain pamba pasabhuku as other people were ordered to take all their valuables from the makeshift houses.

The comrades told the villagers that after taking out all your valuables mukanzwa pfuti dzarira you should burn your houses motiza away from the Keep. These two relatives were shot and we only discovered this the next morning. One of the victims was called Leonard, he actually had a family and the other one was called Bainos. These were my close relatives and they were accused of being sellouts. However, it was later discovered that they were not sellouts. They had been sacrificed nenyaya yejeolous mumusha.

MH: That’s very sad. Now let’s turn to your brother. When did you know that your brother had passed away?
Mukoma Huckson: Well, a lot of things happened in between. I was now staying with my sister in Hatfield. Towards independence, I think in 1980, we went with some youths to Goromonzi Base Two with my other brother called Freddy. I meet quite a number of my relatives who had joined the liberation struggle. While at Goromonzi, that’s when I was introduced to my brother’s wife. The comrades didn’t say much about my brother and I asked where my brother was. They still didn’t say much but I was then introduced to people like Cde Ndoda and others.

One of the comrades then said to me maiguru vakuudza here kuti mukoma didn’t make it, vakashaika kuhondo? I was devastated. I couldn’t believe my ears but after a while some of my relatives explained to me what had really happened.

MH: As someone who was close to your brother how did you feel hearing that he passed away during the war?
Mukoma Huckson: Uuummm, what can I say? Zvakandibata zvisingaiti. I had seen lots of people dying during the war and so on. I knew that kuhondo kunofiwa but from the time my brother went to war, I thought he was still alive. I had high hopes of seeing my brother when we went to Goromonzi.
When I was introduced to his wife nemwana akasiyiwa ane three months, I actually thought my brother was somewhere he would come later. But this was never to be. My brother passed away in 1979 around August.

MH: What was the name of this son?
Mukoma Huckson: When I saw maiguru, she was very young. My sisters who had also joined the liberation struggle are the ones who introduced me to this maiguru. They told me that Cde Jani has actually introduced her to them.
I was told that my brother had said the little boy should be called “Blaster Mabhunu.” However, later the mother renamed him Jefrey.

MH: After hearing that your brother had died, as a family what did you do about it?
Mukoma Huckson: It was very difficult for me to go and break the news to my parents but I gathered the courage. I was the first person to inform them about his death and you can imagine. (Tears trickling down his cheeks) I told them kuti mukoma akashaika kuhondo uye akasiya mwana nemukadzi.
I remember when we arrived kumusha, when some parents were singing “mauya, mauya comrade,” my parents waited thinking they would also sing the same song for their son.

Just imagine as others were celebrating, I was breaking the news to my parents that mukoma hakuchina? They didn’t believe that because there was talk that some comrades had remained behind in Mozambique while some had been sent to school overseas.
Mai nababa vakachema. I will never forget seeing them crying. It was painful. After a while they then said they wanted to see the wife and son that my brother had left behind, but by the time I went to Goromonzi Base Two, maiguru had already left. I later discovered that mwana akanga aendeswa kumusha kwamaiguru kwaMutare and maiguru was not there. We later followed and negotiated with the parents kuti mwana auye kumusha.

I later when kuchikoro kuChindunduma where I interacted with many comrades who told me many stories about my brother. I met people like Cde Makasha who told me what happened to my brother and so on. He used to ask me kuti vabereki variko here kumusha because ndinoziva patakaviga Cde Jani and four other comrades.
After school I got a job at the Registrar’s office and while working there, I met Cde Mukudzei Mudzi who was the deputy registrar at that time. He used to be very senior during the war and on many occasions he would assign me to assist comrades who had children born during the liberation struggle.

One day Cde Mudzi asked me about my rural area and my family life and I told him. I then told him about my brother and I was surprised when he started talking a lot about Cde Jani. He knew him from the war very well.
Later I was introduced to VP Mnangagwa since he used to work with my brother in the security department. I was also introduced to people like vaZvinavashe and many others who spoke highly about my brother.

MH: Did you conduct any ritual after being told that your brother had died during the liberation struggle?
Mukoma Huckson: Yes, we did. Takaita zviya zvekusutsa guva. Ndakatsvaga dombo ndikanyoresa zita remukoma wangu mushure mekunge taviga musoro wembudzi. I remember on this day some comrades came and sang that song yavaiimba kana comrades ashaya, yekuti “Moyo wangu watsidza kufira Zimbabwe.” It was a touching moment but we were burying musoro wembudzi. Some comrades told me that as someone who was senior, Cde Jani was not supposed to be buried in this way. They said we were supposed to have invited senior government officials.

Later we took mwana and showed him this grave. He then asked us kuti ko, baba vangu vakazonotorwa here zvamuri kuti iri ndiro guva ravo. We told him what we had done and he said saka musoro wembudzi iwoyo ndiwo baba vangu here? After conducting this ritual, we started having many problems in the family.

MH: What do you mean?
Mukoma Huckson: One of my brother’s son around 1993, akatanga kusvikirwa nemudzimu waCde Jani. He would say this ritual you conducted hazvisiizvo because ndinoda kuti mabhonzo angu atorwe aende kumusha nekuti munoziva pandiri.
Cde Jani’s spirit would say go and talk to Cde Mnangagwa, Cde Mujuru, Cde Zvinavashe, Cde Tungamirai and others about my reburial.

He even told us that pandiri ndakavigwa pamwechete naCde Tinzwei Goronga because we died together.
This son after this spent about three months staying in the mountains, refusing to come home. We later took this son to the war veterans office where we were assisted by Cde Gumbeze, Cde Motsi, Cde Rutanhire and others under the Zimbabwe Fallen Heroes Trust. They interviewed him as he narrated what he wanted to be done. We thought we had solved the problem.
But the first person kusvikirwa nemudzimu waJani was one of my sister’s sons called Ephraim. He actually dropped out of school because of this problem.

Then the last born in our family, Mark, akatanga kuita the same problem just as he was about to write his O-Level examinations.
Personally, I started having problems and from nowhere I lost my job. Things were not well and it seems patakasutsa guva mhepo dzakabva dzasimuka.
While all this was happening, I reconnected with my brother’ son Jefrey and we became very close.
As things deteriorated in the family, I then went to Zanu-PF and started asking the comrades there where exactly Cde Jani and Cde Goronga were buried. They told me that they had died in Tete Province in Mozambique and they referred me to some comrades whom they said knew exactly where these comrades were buried.

However, I later discovered that during this time, for many comrades talking about fellow comrades who had died during the liberation struggle seemed like a taboo. Some of my close relatives knew what had happened to my brother but they would not speak about it.
As we were going around trying to sort this, we were told depressing news that Cde Jani was buried together with Cde Goronga and Cde Goronga had no relatives in Zimbabwe. And because of this, it was not possible to go and exhume his remains unless we found Cde Goronga’s relatives.
I lost hope in exhuming my brother’s remains because I was given the impression that their was no way I was going to find Cde Goronga’s relatives in Zimbabwe and even in Zambia.

MH: So how then did you meet Tete Marian Goronga?
Mukoma Huckson: It was the work of God. I need to tell you that I am very spiritual and I am an elder muchurch. I know what happens in the spiritual world. So one day Jefrey met one of his maigurus as people were talking about him saying mwana uyu ndewekwana Conoria kwaKanyera at his workplace.

This maiguru as it turned out, is the big sister to Mai Chandi who happened to be Cde Goronga’s wife. Chandi is Cde Goronga’s daughter with Cde Cathrine Mutandadzi.

This maiguru asked Jefrey where he was from and he told her. That’s how we discovered that Cde Goronga actually had a sister, Tete Marian. We later hooked up with tete and I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I was.
We later went to Zanu-PF with tete and they were shocked to see tete Marian.

From there we started working together with tete to process all the required papers and we got all the paperwork. The Zimbabwe Fallen Heroes Trust tried their level best to assist us to go and exhume the remains but somehow zvairamba kuita.

We were then asked to find some of the comrades who knew where these comrades were buried and by this time Cde Makasha had died. We were then told to go and see Cde Shaky, who was Cde Mujuru’s assistant. We went to see him and he confirmed that indeed he knew the place where these comrades were buried. He said after the comrades were killed in an ambush, they went to the scene with Cde Mujuru the next day. He said when they arrived at the scene, they saw the wreckage of the vehicle and the scattered bodies. He said while at the scene he saw tumbwanana twaifamba muroad and he showed Cde Mujuru who said these were not puppies but vaiva vana veshumba. Cde Mujuru then said let’s quickly leave this place because parikupfuura shumba inevana vayo and its dangerous. He said they got into the car and hurriedly left the scene.
(Mukoma Huckson went on to narrate the difficulties the two families have been facing in trying to exhume the remains of the two comrades and bring them home. This story was narrated in detail by Tete Marian last week).

MH: You have been running around but up to now you have not succeeded in bringing your relatives back home. How do you feel?
Mukoma Huckson: Kana vanhu ava vakaramba varimusango mhuri dzavo dzichichema, I don’t think its good for the country.

MH: You said you are a church elder at AFM. Do you believe in all this as a church?
Mukoma Huckson: Munhu wese ari paviri. Kune mweya and the body. What we are trying to do as families is actually biblical became if you remember the story of Joseph. He died in Egypt and during exodus, they carried his remains along with them for 40 years until they got back to Canaan where they buried the remains. Its actually more spiritual to bury the dead. It’s the Christian way of doing things.
We have become the same family with the Goronga’s and we believe Cde Jani and Cde Goronga are fighting together to be brought back home. They are yearning for one thing. What is affecting Chandi is what is affecting Jefrey. We are now one family.

MH: You told me that some members from your family are no longer on talking terms because of this issue. Tell me more about this.
Mukoma Huckson: Yes, that’s true. Some people in the family are accusing me of not doing enough to bring Cde Jani back home. I have put so much time and resources to bring my brother home but some relatives don’t seem to understand. I have tried to explain to them but they will not understand.
I also hope nyaya yedu haipereri pathis interview. The spirits of our relatives are restless musango. Mhuri dziri kutambura. This is real and we would want closure to this.

MH: What message would you want to give to other families that are in the same situation?
Mukoma Huckson: Cases can be different, but these families should not give up, especially those who know where their loved ones were buried. We won’t give up.

MH: What message would you want to give to your brother?
Mukoma Huckson: Kana mweya wenyu mukoma uchinzwa zvandiri kutaura in the spiritual world, iniwo semuranda wamwari ndakamira pachigaro chesimba, ndichitaura nemuzita raJesu Christu, ndinoti mweya wenyu mukoma must fight and open all the doors and remove all the obstacles that are hampering kuti asauye kumusha.
He must guide us so that we bring him to this free country that he fought and died for. I won’t rest mukoma till you come home.

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