The Sunday Mail
Our Senior Reporter TENDAI CHARA (TC) continues his discussion with Cde ALBERT NGULUVHE (AN), who takes us through the intelligence training he received in Bulgaria and his subsequent deployment in Zambia, where he worked closely with the late DR JOSHUA NKOMO.
********************* TC: Cde, last week we ended our discussion with you telling us how you travelled to Bulgaria via Angola and Greece. Kindly take us through the intelligence training and your deployment to Zambia.
AN : Thank you! Like I said last week, we were taken by bus from Thessaloniki, Greece, to Varana in Bulgaria. When we arrived in Varana, we were met by a woman who was doing the translations for us. We were immediately ordered to go and bath. It was very cold. It was not easy for us to adjust to the cold weather. After bathing, we were given some funny-looking pants and our clothes were taken away from us. The clothes were probably burnt because we never got them back.
TC: What was the name of the camp?
AN : I don’t know the name. These Bulgarians were a bit secretive. All I know is that we were in Varana. Our instructors used to fly to Varana from Sophia, the Bulgarian capital city. One or two of the instructors came from Russia. At this camp, we also had groups from Angola who were trained to become police officers. They were putting on uniforms and their section was like a police academy.
We were, however, not allowed to mix. Our group was taught intelligence and security. We were in Varana for six months.
TC: How were the living conditions in Bulgaria? Were you treated well?
AN : The conditions were very good. Basically, we were taught the art of security. We did a lot of things — photography and other training. I was taught to take and develop pictures. We were taught how to fight during urban warfare. We were also taught about political ideology, focusing on the Russian October Revolution and the operation of partisans. Partisans means guerrillas in their language.
We were occasionally taken to government shops where we were given suits, shirts. We wore the clothes when we were not in camp. In camp, it was strictly combat gear. We would go to parade and during meals, we were given first preference.
We, however, had bad experiences with some racist Bulgarians. The racists were calling us baboons and monkeys. We reported them and they were then punished. For some of them, it was the first time to see black people. One thing I enjoyed was that we were taught how to drive. We could drive for, say, 200 kilometres. The 15 of us all got our driving licences in Bulgaria. After lessons, they would take away our exercise books. We were not allowed to take the books to our rooms.
Like I said, it was basically armed combat, intelligence, security, political science, military tactics and photography.
TC: What were you being trained for?
AN : We didn’t know what we were being trained for. After our training, we flew back to Angola and then to Zambia. I discovered that we were the first group to specialise in security. In other words, the leadership, whether it was ZAPU or ZANU, was being protected by military personnel who didn’t know civilian or VIP protection. When we went to Bulgaria, it was under the guise of us going to study political science. Most of the ZIPRA High Command like Ambrose Mutinhiri did not even know that we went for security training as opposed to political science.
The Rhodesian army somehow picked the information that we had been trained in intelligence. It was announced on the Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation that a group of 15 specialist terrorists had landed in Zambia from Bulgaria. We were then deployed to various places. I was deployed to Zimbabwe House in Lusaka. That was in 1978. That was the year that Nikita Mangena died.
I was then working with the leadership, protecting the leadership at Zimbabwe House. Zimbabwe House was the ZAPU headquarters. So Dr Joshua Nkomo would come, the late George Silundika would come, all the ZAPU leaders would come to Zimbabwe House. I was working with the National Security Organisation (NSO).
The NSO was just like our Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
We were now mostly putting on civilian clothing. We were dealing with security suspects. We were interviewing those that were suspected to be sell-outs. I was working closely with Sam Madondo — he is late.
One day we were interviewing a person whom we suspected was a Selous Scout. Whilst I was outside, the next thing that I heard was an explosion and Sam came running to me and said that man had a grenade and wanted to kill him.
Whilst we were at Zimbabwe House, that is when some comrades from Nampundu Camp drove to Zimbabwe House. There was a fall-out within the leadership. The leaders were quarrelling and Joseph Msika was there. Some of the ZAPU leaders were being held hostage by these cadres. We were given orders to disarm them. It was like a rebellion and we managed to disarm them.
When Nikita Mangena died, I was at Zimbabwe House.
Earlier, Cde Nikita had been ambushed and shot at while travelling to Freedom Camp. The guy who shot him was arrested. I don’t remember the names of the people who were involved in the shooting. They were detained in cells and I was guarding them. The cadres who were involved in the Nikita shooting tried to persuade us to let them escape. They were saying that Nikita had been shot because he wanted to overthrow Dr Joshua Nkomo.
I don’t know what then happened to these guys because I never saw them again. I then started working with Nikita. The situation was a bit tense as camps were being bombed by Rhodesian planes. Due to the security training that I had, I was then selected to protect Dr Joshua Nkomo at his residence. His residence was in Nyerere Road. We went there and I met Dr Nkomo for the second time, now in his house.
TC: How can you describe Nikita Mangena?
AN : I was now working with Dr Nkomo. Nikita used to regularly visit Dr Nkomo at his house. Dr Nkomo was the commander-in-chief and Nikita was the army commander.
TC : Is it true that Nikita was trying to overthrow Dr Nkomo?
AN: This was said by some people. However, in my view, Nikita was just a professional man. He was just a soldier. He wanted to instil discipline within the army. It was not easy to look after guerrillas. Indiscipline was rife. He was strict and wanted to instil discipline. Some cadres were disgruntled.
By then, ZIPRA was changing from guerrilla warfare to conventional warfare. We had groups that were being trained by the Cubans and Russians in Angola. So now some of the guerrillas were saying Nikita is arming more conventional soldiers to overthrow Dr Nkomo.
A section of the guerrillas was saying Nikita was now giving them inferior weapons, with the superior weapons being given to the conventional war trainees. Some of the comrades at one time openly told Dr Nkomo that they no longer wanted Nikita. The relationship between the two was not very good at the time.
Nikita’s deputy was Lookout Masuku. He was also the political commissar. The chief of staff was Ambrose Mutinhiri and Jevan Maseko, whom we used to call Enoch Tshangane, was in charge of operations.
Elias Moyo was in charge of communications.
We had Albert Nxele, he was in charge of personnel, training. This was the ZIPRA High Command.
The relationship between Dr Nkomo and Nikita was good, but, you know, we had these others who felt otherwise. I remember we had this comrade named Godfrey. I didn’t know what grudge he had with Dr Nkomo. He also used to come and talk ill about Nikita. These are some of the things that we cannot talk about. Bad things happened during the war. Innocent people were killed.
Don’t miss our next edition as Cde Nguluvhe elaborates on some of the “bad things” that happened in military camps during the war.