The Sunday Mail
He was still training in Mozambique when the war in Rhodesia ended in December 1979. That period saw a majority of freedom fighters return from foreign camps to Rhodesia to prepare for a new Zimbabwe. Those who operated in the country moved to Assembly Points. But Cde Alfred Mushaninga (AM) is one of the fighters who remained holed up in Mozambique for more than a year after independence. The former liberation fighter narrates to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati (LM) what was going on.
LM: You earlier said it was a personal decision to join others fighting in the war. Can we say your fear of engaging Renamo bandits made you have second thoughts about crossing into Mozambique?
AM: Kutya kwaivepo. The realities of the war were a scary encounter. This was a matter of life and death. Like any human being, death is not a subject taken lightly.
I had not been properly trained.
It was a rare situation of getting a gun and brief orientation on how to operate it.
I should say I was glad that the Renamo rebels did not opt to fight.
They ran away and the Frelimo soldiers managed to regain control of Chibawawa Camp with ease. They were the ones in charge of that camp and that was still in 1977.
I continued with my health training and offering nurse aid services at the camp.
For nearly two years, I was at that camp.
There was no proper military training. We would just get light military drills.
LM: How did it feel to spend two years without military training?
AM: I did not think much about it since I was offering an important service at the camp clinic.
During that time, there were disease outbreaks in the camps, including ours.
The disease outbreaks were a result of overcrowding, poor food and bad living conditions.
Comrade, vanhu vaifa mumacamps saka zvekuti nguva yakareba ndisina training yakakwana handaizviona nekuti I was always busy.
Besides, no one knew kuti hondo ichapera riinhi.
Vazhinji vedu taingofunga kuti tichiriko kusango. Seni, ndakatozoramba ndiriko kusango for nearly two years after ceasefire.
I will tell you about that chapter later.
To answer your question, I did not feel like my training had delayed because of the dire health situation at the camp.
LM: Did you then, at any point, get military training?
AM: While at Chibawawa Camp in 1979, I was selected to be part of a group that was to go for training in Libya.
However, hameno politics dzakaitika. Ndakazonzi handichaenda.
I was then chosen to join a group destined for Inamhinga, Samakweza Camp in Mozambique for military training.
Our trainers included Cde Hondo Mushati and Farai Vatema.
Those were the most senior at the camp.
The training included political orientation, how to handle guns and our group included Cde Mustapha and Cde Phillip. We were close.
During training, we received the sad news on the death of Cde Josiah Tongogara.
It was just at the same time as the announcement of the ceasefire.
We had earlier interacted with Cde Tongo during training and he was a big figure during the war.
His death brought mixed feelings at the camp. There were rumours that some senior nationalists in Zanu PF had killed Cde Tongo.
Asi vanhu vainetseka kubuda pachena vachinongedza mazita nekuti there was no tangible evidence. Even up to now, I think the cause of his death remains unsolved.
Pakamboita kunyunyuta kuti Cde Tongo havaitarisirwa kuita mufiro wakadaro and we stopped training tichiti taida kunyatsoziva kuti ndiyani akanga auraya mukuru uyu.
As I said, speculation was rife that it was an inside job that bordered on power ambitions. Kunyunyuta kwedu taiti tinorwa sei hondo yacho kana takupandukirana.
LM: It appeared you were still in training at the signing of the ceasefire Agreement at the Lancaster House Conference. What became of you when people were leaving camps for Assembly Points in Rhodesia?
AM: That is the part I said earlier I will tell you later comrade. Isu takaramba tichiita training.
The leaders at our camp, Inamhinga, did not release us.
I am not sure if there was another camp that remained operational in Mozambique at ceasefire.
But we were made to believe that it was only us who had remained as a reserve force.
There was fear that Ian Smith might renege on his promise for majority elections among other agreements signed in London.
As such, we held fort at the camp. This was a secret arrangement because it violated the Lancaster House Agreement.
Not many people knew that we were in Mozambique until June 1981.
Isu hatina kupinda muma Assembly Points.
LM: You were in Mozambique for more than a year after independence. Were you not aware the country was free?
AM: We knew we had attained independence, but our leaders at the camp were not sure if it was real.
They highly suspected that Smith could have set a trap to get all comrades out of hiding.
At first, we believed our commanders.
Later, we started questioning why we were training in the wake of more reports that blacks in Zimbabwe were now in Government.
Hapana aisada kudzoka kumusha kuti azvionere mamiriro akanga aita nyika.
LM: You say questions emerged on your continued stay in Mozambique. Were there no attempts within your group to confront the commanders over your continued stay in Mozambique?
AM: I cannot say because there was never a case I knew of comrades planning to confront the leaders. However, in our small groups or as colleagues such discussions were taking place.
One thing you need to understand comrade is that there was discipline during the war.
We were trained to obey our commanders.
In fact, asking to go home was tantamount to rebelling or selling-out.
Being labelled a sell-out was something that we all avoided during the war.
Kwairohwa munhu kana kuurayiwa nemhaka yekunzi sell-out.
Saka zvekuda kubvunza kuti sei taramba tiri muMozambique was a non-starter.
Besides, we felt special to be a reserve force.
Taiti kana zvaipa muZimbabwe, tisu tichamhanya kunogadzirisa.
It was an honour to be part of that group.
Our daily routine was just like in any other military camp.
We would wake up early for morning exercises, do select programmes such as class lessons on the war or physical war tactics and partake in various constructions at the camp.
We were about 2 500 and the Mozambicans were taking care of our welfare.
I think there was an arrangement between the new Government in Zimbabwe and their Mozambican counterparts to ensure we were taken care of.
LM: How did you finally come to Zimbabwe?
AM: We returned to Zimbabwe in June 1981 aboard a train from Mozambique. We disembarked in Mutare and were taken to a military camp.
I stayed there for about a week and our personal details were documented.
In groups, the comrades were released to go to their respective homes.
Some got transport, while others got money to catch buses to their homes.
I should mention that at the camp we were given huge sums of money.
I am forgetting the exact figure, but it was a lot.
Takapiwa mari comrade zvekuti pandakasvika kumusha kuno kuShurugwi ndaiva ndakadziruma.
In August 1981, I was called to Harare and joined a group that was camped in Zengeza, Chitungwiza.
Former liberation fighters were integrated into various Government departments such as police, army, prison services and other ministries.
I had received medical training and was selected for an examination at Harare Hospital.
I passed the test and was deployed to Sidakeni Clinic in Zhombe in October that same year as a medical assistant.
In January 1982, I started nurse training. I am a qualified nurse and currently based at Shurugwi Hospital.