The Sunday Mail
SEKURU Gabriel Murambiwa, born 20 March 1934 is one of those Zapu youths who gave the Smith regime sleepless nights during the early 1960s. As the secretary for transport and welfare under Chindunduma Branch in Highfield, Sekuru Murambiwa was given the task of transporting recruits to Nyanga so that they could cross into Mozambique to join the liberation struggle.
In this interview with our Deputy Editor, Sekuru Murambiwa narrates how he was sent from Zambia by Cdes James Chikerema and George Nyandoro to deliver letters to Cde Joshua Nkomo who was detained at Gonakudzingwa. He narrates why he never crossed the floor to join ZANU from ZAPU. Read on. . .
wMH: So when did you start getting involved in politics?
Sekuru Murambiwa: I got involved in politics around early 1960s. At that time I was working at the Ministry of Water Development as a driver. During the day I would go to work but soon after work, I would go to join other Zapu youths for meetings to talk about politics.
Around this time, ZANU was not yet there. We were all under ZAPU under the leadership of Joshua Nkomo. Some of our leaders in Salisbury included George Nyandoro, James Chikerema and Paul Mushonga. Their offices were, I think, at Number One Orr Street in Salisbury.
When ZAPU was banned, Nkomo and other leaders escaped and went to Zambia. As youths we remained behind continuing underground sabotage operations and politicising the people. Later Nkomo came back into the country and he got arrested as soon as he got to the airport. He was then taken to Gonakudzingwa. I then decided to go and join the liberation struggle and so I went to Zambia, Lusaka. In Zambia I was welcomed by George Nyandoro and James Chikerema. I told them that I had come to join the liberation struggle and I wanted to go for training but Nyandoro and Chikerema said they had a special task for me. They told me that they wanted me to deliver letters to Joshua Nkomo who was at Gonakudzingwa. As you may know, Nkomo was the leader of ZAPU at that time with Chikerema as his deputy. And so Chikerema and Nyandoro wrote the letters and gave me go and deliver them.
MH: This was clearly a risky task considering that the Rhodesians were on high alert. How did you come into Rhodesia with the letters?
Sekuru Murambiwa: I had decided to join the liberation struggle on my own and so when I was given this task, I just said this is part of fighting the struggle. You see ndaiva munhu akazvirerukira, ndichiita kunge munhu akapusa and so I was most suitable to carry out such a task. You know I would get to Chirundu Border Post with Rhodesian police all over the place but tsamba idzodzo ndainge ndakaisa muhomwe. When I got to the border, the police searched my belongings they didn’t search me and so I came into Rhodesia.
MH: As the police was searching your belongings didn’t you become anxious?
Sekuru Murambiwa: Not even. Ndakangoramba ndakaita kunge munhu akapusa and they quickly dismissed me. I had a job to do and so I had to act to ensure that I complete the task. After being searched, I got into a bus to Salisbury. From Salisbury I would then connect to Gonakudzingwa using the train that used to go to Mozambique. I would then go and deliver the letters to Nkomo.
MH: So at Gonakudzingwa, how would you deliver the letters?
Sekuru Murambiwa: By the time I got to Gonakudzingwa, I think Nkomo’s prison conditions had been relaxed. I would tell the prison guards that I have come to see the president and they would usher me to his cell. When I met Nkomo, I introduced myself and told him that I had been sent with a letter from Chikerema and Nyandoro from Zambia. Nkomo was really happy to read the letter. He asked me what the situation was like outside and how the party was doing. He asked me just too many things in a short space of time. I could see he was eager to get as much information as possible.
MH: Did he talk to you about what was written in the letter?
Sekuru Murambiwa: No. He just read the letter nodding his head. It was clear Chikerema and Nyandoro had written important things to him and he thought I wasn’t supposed to know about the contents of the letter. Even Chikerema and Nyandoro didn’t even tell me what was in the letter. After reading the letter Nkomo just said to me tell them ndazvinzwa. He didn’t write back. The next day I came back to Salisbury and went back to Lusaka.
MH: You were now acting as mujiba, what about your job as a driver?
Sekuru Murambiwa: When I decided to join the liberation struggle, I had stopped going to work. I got to Lusaka and after a few days, I was back again going to Gonakudzingwa to deliver another letter to Nkomo. I went and delivered the letter. When I came back to Lusaka, Chikerema and Nyandoro then told me that Ian Smith had increased security at all borders and it was now dangerous for me to continue delivering the letters to Nkomo. By this time Smith had declared UDI.
Chikerema and Nyandoro then told me to come back to Salisbury. They said they would get in touch with me for more assignments. I came back to Salisbury and got a job as a driver at Salisbury United. Getting a job during those days wasn’t a problem because there were very few drivers by that time.
MH: When you were doing all this, were you married already?
Sekuru Murambiwa: Yes, I was married already. I was married to Josephine Dambaza. She was James Chikerema’s sister.
MH: We are told that James Chikerema was some hot head. When he got to know that you were in love with his sister, how did he react?
Sekuru Murambiwa: No, not at all. He understood. Also my wife stood her ground and defended me. Akanga asingadi kuti ndishorwe. Aibva apopota, “siyanai nemurume wangu, ndini ndakamuda.” And so James Chikerema understood. Even as they were sending me to go with letters to deliver to Nkomo, he already knew kuti ndiri mukuwasha. Nkomo, JZ Moyo and Nyandoro once came to my house to have lunch. Chikerema called his sister kuti tirikuno kubasa saka tibikireiwo. My wife cooked for them and they came to eat. That was my first time to come that close to Nkomo. So when I came back and got a job at Salisbury United, at first ndaishandira local then I was promoted to Malawi and Zambia. When they promoted me to drive buses to Malawi and Zambia, I said chance given. I would carry comrades who were going to Zambia to join the liberation struggle. Although I didn’t have much time to talk to the comrades, I could see these were comrades going to join the liberation struggle. Most of them vaiburukira pasango husiku and disappear into the night.
The Rhodesians had intensified efforts to hunt down the freedom fighters and there were roadblocks all over the place. But I would give them assurance that I wasn’t carrying “magandanga” as they used to call them. While doing this, I discovered that there was really need to transport more recruits so that they could join the liberation struggle. I started using my car to transport some comrades during my spare time. I later left the job as a driver at Salisbury United and rejoined the Ministry of Water Development. This job gave me enough time during the weekends to carry some comrades to Nyanga so that they could cross into Mozambique.
MH: How would you carry them to Nyanga?
Sekuru Murambiwa: I would carry about five recruits at a time. On the way I would pretend as if these were people I had picked at different points along the way.
MH: Where you doing this on your own or it was coordinated by ZAPU?
Sekuru Murambiwa: When I started I was doing it on my own. Mazuva iwayo zvinhu zvacho zvaikutuma wega. I was still under ZAPU in the party’s youth wing. And so later I was made secretary for transport and welfare under Chindunduma Youth Branch of ZAPU in Highfield. The party started coordinating the recruitment. The Selous Scouts were trying to infiltrate us and so our leaders started vetting the recruits and I would just transport them to the border. Our leader in Chindunduma was Mudzudzo.
MH: You told us that you were later arrested? What happened?
Sekuru Murambiwa: Yes, I was later arrested. I was sold out by some lady who was my next door neighbour. This lady was a widow and so she had been making moves on me and I was resisting. She then said she wanted to fix me. She went and reported to police that I was transporting recruits to join the liberation struggle.
MH: So how were you arrested?
Sekuru Murambiwa: The Rhodesian police sort of trapped me because they arrested me while I was on my way to Nyanga with about five recruits. The tracked me and stopped me. They asked me where I was going and as usual I told them that I was going to Nyanga for personal reasons. They then asked me who the five people were and I told them that I had picked them along the way. I thought this was just one of those usual roadblocks but the police suddenly told me that I was under arrest.
The five recruits insisted that they were going to Nyanga and not to Mozambique.
And so police released them and they took me back to Salisbury. You know when we came back to Salisbury, the police took my car and it was never returned to me again. Mota yakandirwadza zvisingaite iyoyo.
I was taken to Harare Prison and I was there for two days. I was then taken to Harare Central. This is where serious torture started. Ndakarohwa zvisingaite (long pause). Ummm, ndakarohwa zvisingaite.
MH: As they were beating you, what were they saying to you?
Sekuru Murambiwa: They would say “bvuma mhosva yako zvipere.” Mwanangu, I don’t really want to talk much about what they did to me. Vairova chero nesimbi, chero chavada, ahh futika mwanangu! Hazvitaurike.
MH: As they were beating you like that, didn’t you think of succumbing to their pressure?
Sekuru Murambiwa: Not even. You see, all this I was doing I had made a choice on my own. Hapana akandituma. Ndaiva ndazvida nemoyo wangu wese. Unotengesa kana wanzi nemunhu ita ichi, kwete wasarudza wega. Unotengesa ani? They were saying to me Chikerema and Nyandoro had bought me the car to transport the recruits and I was saying no. This wasn’t true. You know at some point they arrested my wife and they tried to force her to say Chikerema and Nyandoro are the ones who had bought that car for the purpose of transporting macomrades? My wife stood her ground and they late released her.
As they were torturing and beating me, I thought they were going to kill me. Then one day, one of the senior white officials in the Ministry of Water Development, Mr Guest, came to Harare Central. He used to like me a lot when I was a driver at the Ministry. He came looking for me and told the prison authorities that there was no way I could be accused of supporting the freedom fighters. He genuinely believed that I couldn’t do such a thing. Akapopota murungu iyeye kusvika vandisunungura. But this was after about six months of excruciating torture. I went home and the next day, I had to report for work at the Ministry of Water Development.
MH: Did you continue your involvement in politics?
Sekuru Murambiwa: Yes, I never stopped. Up to this day, I remain involved in politics. I continued attending ZAPU meetings and continued with sabotage acts during the night.
MH: Were you paid to do all this?
Sekuru Murambiwa: No. We were not getting a cent from the party. Hapana aibhadharwa nguva yacho iyoyo.
MH: How would you compare the youths from those days and the youths of today?
Sekuru Murambiwa: You can’t even compare them. The youths from our days and youths of today vakasiyana moyo wacho. Youths during our days vaizvipira pasina kana mari, but youths of today kungotenga hwahwa or fodya votoita zvisina kana maturo. Of course variko even today vakasimbawo but generally haa it’s all about something for something. They forget kuti wapihwa mari nhasi, mangwana yapera wodii?
MH: Why didn’t you think of joining ZANU when others were crossing the floor from ZAPU?
Sekuru Murambiwa: You see, Mugabe aiti haadi vanhu vasina kufunda kuparty yake. He wanted teachers, nurses and so on.
I was just a driver so I said ndoenda kunoitei kuparty yevanozviti vakadzidza? In addition, I believed in what Chikerema and Nyandoro were doing as politicians.