The Sunday Mail
CDE JOEL Samuel Siyangapi Muzhamba, born June 6 1942, whose Chimurenga name was Cde Joseph Khumalo is a veteran freedom fighter who was part of the Group of 36 which was the first group under Zanu to go for military training in Ghana in 1964. He was part of the team in Lusaka that decided to “abduct recruits” as it became apparent that Zanu had fewer comrades than Zapu.
His family had moved to Zambia in 1959 in search of fertile farming land. While in Zambia, he met people like Cde Percy Ntini, Cde John Mataure, Cde Noel Mukono and Cde Mazhandu who were actively involved in politics. Cde Percy Ntini approached him to join Zanu and in no time, he was on his way to Ghana to recieve military training. By this time, Cde Josiah Tongogara had not yet joined Zanu as he was working at a golf club in Lusaka.
Without mincing his words, in this interview with our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike, Cde Khumalo narrates how issues to do with regionalism and tribalism derailed the struggle well before the war started in earnest. He talks about the sellouts in the Zanu leadership in Lusaka who sold information to the Smith regime, the friction that was caused by the formation of Zanu’s High Command and the trouble causers in the party.
Cde Khumalo narrates how Zanu was planning the war on a zero budget and why they were instructed to go and see spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda before starting the war.
Read on . . .
SM: Before going to Ghana in September 1964, can you briefly explain to us when you joined Zanu during these early stages of its formation, what did the party stand for?
Cde Khumalo: Remember, before Zanu was formed in 1963, there was Zapu and other political parties that were advocating for the rights of blacks in Rhodesia. However, despite these efforts, it was discovered that there was no real change on the ground with regards to the treatment of blacks by whites. During these days kwakamboita Chimurenga chekutema fodya yevarungu, chibage and even mombe dzevarungu. All these were efforts to free blacks in Rhodesia, but nothing really changed because of the whiteman’s superiority complex.
So after all this, in August 1963, Zanu was formed and it’s position was that we are done trying to talk to the colonial regime. We now want direct confrontation with the whites to free ourselves. Negotiations are not taking us anywhere. It’s time to take up arms and fight the regime.
At that time, the person who was president of Zanu was Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole. The deputy was Cde Leopold Takawira while Cde Chitepo was the chairman. President Mugabe at that time was the secretary general.
These leaders and others like Morton Malianga said let’s take up arms and fight the colonial regime. The motto was as Zanu, we are our own liberators.
The party then decided that there should be a body that leads in the direct confrontation with the colonial regime. That is when Dare ReChimurenga was formed to lead the armed struggle. This Dare ReChimurenga was being led by Noel Mukono. There were people like Mataure, Mazhandu, Hamadziripi, Percy Ntini and others I can’t remember their names.
That is when the party started recruiting people who were going for military training because most comrades who had gone for military training, had gone under Zapu.
That is how our group in Ghana became the first group to receive military training under Zanu. The Rhodesian regime knew that Zanu wanted direct confrontation and they knew the party was going to send some comrades for training, so the recruitment of members of our group from inside Rhodesia and us in Zambia was done very secretly. The Rhodesians sent some of its black policemen to join the Zambian police so as to detect what was going on.
Even as our group went for military training in Ghana, at this time there was no one who has thought of the idea of establishing training camps in Zambia and Tanzania. There was also need for political orientation so that before we started the war, we would politicise the masses so that they could support us. The people were supposed to understand that war meant death, tears, blood and sacrifice. This group in Ghana, about 36 of us, we were all volunteers.
SM: Tell us of the military training in Ghana. How was the training?
Cde Khumalo: The first training constituted drills. Left, right, left, right – about turn, right turn – marching. Then we were taught how to shoot and how to assemble a gun. We were doing all this, but we still didn’t have guns.
We wanted to be taught how to make explosives but Ghana didn’t have that expertise. That’s how instructors from China came. At first we were at a camp called Half Asini then we were taken to another camp called Oben Masi where there were instructors from China.
The Chinese first took us through political orientation lessons – how to start a war? A war with a well equipped army? The Chinese taught us how they started their guerrilla warfare. They said because of our few numbers we could not receive training in regular warfare which is fought by battalions, platoons and companies. We didn’t have all this. The 36 of us we were just a platoon.
So we were taught guerrilla warfare which could be fought by very few people in small groups. The aim of guerrilla warfare is to take the enemy by surprise and to paralyse the enemy operations.
The training went well and I am sure other comrades have already spoken about the spie who was planted by the Rhodesians in our group Simon Bhene. We finished training with him and on our way back, he disappeared in Kenya. He resurfaced in Rhodesia as he was now selling out other comrades who had been deployed to hit certain targets. With the help of Bhene, the Rhodesian Selous Scouts arrested many of our comrades.
What pains me is that some amongst our leaders knew that Bhene was a spie but they chose not to tell us.
SM: Why would they do such a thing?
Cde Khumalo: They say money is the root of all evils. Money is devil. Like I told you, these were the early years of Zanu and some of our leaders were in it for the money. They were being used by the Rhodesians. If you check, some of the leaders we started with fell by the wayside. Vamwe vakazopanduka kukasara people like Cde Chitepo, Cde Noel Mukono, Felix Rice Santana, Percy Ntini who were dedicated to fight for their country.
SM: Who are some of these leaders who later abandoned the struggle?
Cde Khumalo: Ummmm, that I won’t tell you. Some of them are still alive. People like Hamadziripi, Rugare Gumbo, Mdara Mandizvidza and others later left Zanu. What I can tell you is that there were sellouts within the party during these early stages. Some of us think that someone from within the party sold out Percy Ntini as he was accompanying some comrades to come to the front. He died in a car accident and it shows the Smith regime knew his whereabouts. How did they know? Some leaders in Dare ReChimurenga were selling information to the Smith regime.
Again, if you check most comrades who were deployed from 1964 up to 1966, most of them would be arrested by the Smith regime. Somehow information was leaking to the Smith regime and records show most of our comrades were arrested.
Our biggest problem was that during these formative stages we didn’t have people who were trained in intelligence and counter-intelligence. As a result, it was easy for the Rhodesians to infiltrate us.
The other thing was that during these early days, there were no proper checks, no background checks because takanga tinenyota to deliver. I am talking about 1964, 65, 66, 67 up to 1969. The party would just appoint people without checking because we thought tiri tese.
After our training, we went back to Lusaka in May 1965 and we were addressed by Cde Chitepo. Our leader was Cde Shadreck Chipanga, deputised by Cde John Makwasha. In Lusaka we were divided into groups. We were not staying at the same place for security reasons. As we were put into these groups, those who were in Dare ReChimurenga already had targets that each group was supposed to go and hit in Rhodesia.
At this time, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere had offered Zanu and camp to start training more freedom fighters. Our first training camps in Tanzania were in Intumbi with the first instructor being Cde Bernard Mutumwa with assistance from Felix Rice Santana and Cde William Ndangana.
I was also there in Intumbi but I was not full time in training because my main job was to identify recruits in Zambia and take them for training. As Zanu we had to quickly find the recruits because the OAU was saying Zanu has no fighters so it should its members should rejoin Zapu because it had more freedom fighters. We didn’t want that.
SM: Why were you against rejoining Zapu because clearly you were outnumbered?
Cde Khumalo: Yes, Zapu had the numbers but it was organising an army that would be set up in a free Zimbabwe that would have come through negotiations, not war. As Zanu we were saying our army would be formed by the freedom fighters who would have fought the Rhodesians.
To be very frank with you, during these days people like Hashim Mbita, the secretary general of the OAU’s Liberation Committee were against Zanu. We started working with Captain Mwambora in Intumbi and he was the one who understood what Zanu was trying to do. He helped us a lot together with Dr Kasiga who was a doctor for all liberation movements. President Nyerere also supported us. In 1969, we were removed from Intumbi and relocated to Kongwa where there was a strong Zapu presence. The main aim for this move was to make us rejoin Zapu. Some countries didn’t even support Zanu like Zambia. To be frank with you Zimbabwe is blessed to have President Mugabe as its leader. If a person like me had become the president in 1980, we wouldn’t be in good books with the Zambians because Kaunda didn’t like Zanu at all. The only official who supported Zanu in Zambia was Kapwepwe.
SM: We really want to track your journey. When you came back from Ghana, where exactly did you go?
Cde Khumalo: Like I said, Felix Rice Santana, Bernard Mutumwa and William Ndangana were sent to Intumbi while other comrades were given tasks by Noel Mukono to go and hit certain targets in Rhodesia. Percy Ntini was responsible for securing transport to smuggle comrades into Rhodesia. To do this, he would write letters under Ford Motors to make it appear as if freedom fighters who were being deployed, were employees of Ford Motors. I can’t say much about these deployments because Noel Mukono is the one who really knew the targets and those he sent there. Like I said I was assisting in the recruitment of other comrades in Zambia as someone who was familiar with many places in that country.
SM: How difficult was it to recruit comrades during these early years of Zanu?
Cde Khumalo: Most Zimbabweans who were in Zambia were people who had gone there mainly for farming. They were not into politics. So it was very difficult to recruit people from Zambia. These people were now saying Zambia is now our country. Up to this day, there are some Zimbabweans in Zambia who think Zambia is now their country.
It was an uphill task recruiting people from Zambia but we soldiered on. From 1965 up to 1969, per month we could get four or five recruits in Zambia. Because of these problems we opened a camp which we called Chimbi Chimbi which was in Kafue to give these recruits some training as we were waiting for the numbers to grow so that we could transport them to Intumbi. Realising these challenges, we sat down with Felix Rice Santana, Noel Mukono, William Ndangana and Cde Kanoyera asking ourselves how we could get more recruits. The OAU was giving us pressure because Zapu had more comrades. We then decided kuti vakomana pano pava kutodiwa chimwe chimurenga muno muZambia. That’s when we decided that anyone we can across talking Shona, we used to call them ‘vana herehere, nana xa, xa, xa’ we would see where these people were staying. We were later joined by Cde Tongo and Cde Mupunzarima and some Zanu youths like Gwauya as we started abducting people and forcing them to go for military training. We would drive these recruits to Mbeya.
The other problem was that Zapu was denouncing Zanu as rebels and to make matters worse, as Zanu we didn’t have resources. We were relying on well-wishers.
SM: You were now abducting people in a foreign country. Didn’t you have problems with the Zambian government?
Cde Khumalo: Indeed, there were problems. The Zambian government was saying Zanu has no supporters that’s why its resorting to abductions. Some of the official in the Zambian government, except for people like Kapwepwe and Harry Kumbula were against us openly. This compromised our security.
That’s why I said, if some of us had a choice, hataimbofa takawirirana naKaunda. He hated Zanu to the ground that’s why years later he ordered the arrest of our leaders.
Some of the comrades in the famous Group of 45 which came and made a huge impact in Rhodesia were actually abducted in Zambia. When this group started, they were about 160 recruits when they left Lusaka. When they got to Tunduma, the Zambian border with Tanzania, some of the recruits escaped from Kombayi’s car and came back to Lusaka. So from 160 only 45 went for training at Intumbi. This group of 45 convinced some leaders in Tanzania that Zanu was really serious about fighting the armed struggle.
SM: You said Zanu depended mainly on well-wishers in Zambia. Who were some of these well-wishers?
Cde Khumalo: People like the Mazhandu brothers, Kanongovere, Patrick Kombayi and others. These would use their resources to source food for Zanu comrades and most of them stayed with some of the comrades. But I need to say that the Mazhandu brothers are the ones who did a lot, especially the big brother.
SM: Listening to what you saying, one gets the impression that Zanu was operating on zero budget?
Cde Khumalo: That’s very true. No cent. Chakaita kuti Zanu ibudirire, people like John Mataure, Felix Rice Santana, Percy Ntini, Mupunzarima, William Ndangana and Noel Mukono worked a lot for the party. These people helped us a lot in Lusaka because they were well-known. I focussed mainly in Mumbwa.
There was also an Indian called Patel who helped us a lot in terms of cash. He donated lots of money to the party together with people like Kanongovere, Chuma and Moyo Zamuchiya. These people later organised themselves to form a district that was donating resources to Zanu. That’s how Zanu grew in Zambia because these comrades went around explaining to others what the party was all about and what we were doing.
SM: Don’t you think this operating on zero budget and relying on these well-wishers was one of the reasons why the Rhodesians found it easy to infiltrate Zanu?
Cde Khumalo: Yes, to an extent that’s true. But some of these businesspeople were very genuine. What I think is that it was in the party where the Rhodesians found easy targets to use against the liberation struggle.
Later, I was made the Zanu representative in Mbeya, receiving recruits from Zambia and Rhodesia. Sometimes I would be sent on missions in Lusaka and so on because we were very few so one person could be given many tasks.
The other big task was to try and secure ammunition so we had to run around. Because of this, that’s when some people went for military training to different places under different names.
We were still very few but we wanted to create the impression that our numbers were growing so any country that requested comrades to train, we would sometimes send the same people who would have come back from training under different names. If you check most comrades from these early days had different names. We were using this to get support and ammunition from these friendly socialist countries like Yugoslavia, Romania, Cuba, China and so on.
SM: When you were sending these comrades for training over and over again, didn’t this affect their morale?
Cde Khumalo: That’s why you see that during these years, the liberation struggle was put on hold. After the first training the comrades were itching to be deployed but we couldn’t do that because in the first instance we didn’t have enough ammunition, we had not politicised the masses and at the same time we wanted to create an impression to these countries and the OAU that our numbers were growing.
This got to a point where some of these countries started asking why our trained soldiers were not going to the war front.
However, it was also a tactical move to put the war on hold, especially after the 1966 Battle of Chinhoyi. This was because the black people in Rhodesia by this time could not believe that we could really fight a war with the Smith regime. They would compare the ammunition of the Rhodesian army and ours and to them it was unthinkable that we could win the war. I remember at one time, some povho in Mash Central saying ‘uuummmm, muri kuda henyu kurwisa varungu, but tupfuti twenyu utwu munosvikepi? By this time we were using those very basic guns called tuma pepesha that Felix Rice Santana had brought from Congo. Some people in Mash Central only started believing that we could fight the whites after Cde Pedzisa’s group hit Altena Farm and when some school children were taken from St Alberts in the province.
Zanu only got to make a real impact in Rhodesia when the group of 45 was deployed into the country around 1972 to 1974. By this time Zanla forces now had structures and the population, especially in Mash Central had been politicised. By this time, 1974 the struggle was still being directed by Dare ReChimurenga. Members of the High Command came after the group from China that compromised people like Cde Tongogara returned from training. That’s when the High Command was formed to led the war. Dare ReChimurenga and other members of the Central Committee led by Cde Chitepo in Zambia were then given the task to mobilize resources and run the party in Zambia.
SM: Reports say the formation of the High Command caused some friction in the party?
Cde Khumalo: The formation of this High Command caused a lot of squabbles. The issue of regionalism and tribalism reared its ugly head in Zanu. Cde Chitepo fought a lot against regionalism and tribalism but he could only do so much. Even Noel Mukono tried his best but some people who were there vechiKaranga, vechiZezuru were saying since the president of the party, Reverend Sithole and chairman, Cde Chitepo were from Manicaland, so Manyika could not take this and that post. Noel Mukono who was Chief of Defence ended up also being accused of regionalism and tribalism as he tried to sort things out. These things started from the early stages because people had no focus.
That’s why later Noel Mukono was dribbled and Cde Tongo took over as Chief of Defence. This move was orchestrated by people like Chigowe, Mutumbuka and so on. The idea was to later move Cde Tongo to become deputy president of the party since Cde Takawira had died. Joseph Chimurenga was supposed to then take over as Chief of Defence. This was the plot by the Super Karangas. So many wrong things happened at this time.
I remember after I came back from Nanking in China and I was appointed as political commissar by Cde Chitepo taking over from Cde Mataure who had been given another task in reconnaissance.
By this time, Cde Tongogara was still working together with Cde Noel Mukono as his deputy. Even Cde Enerst Kadungure, Cde Mapunzarima were now also in the party. The people who really caused tribalism and regionalism in Zanu were Cde Hamadziripi, Chigowe and Cde Mandizvidza. They were coming from the UK and they came with this talk saying “know your way?” At first we didn’t know what they were talking about. Later we got to know they were talking about “iwe unobva kupi, unoyera chii?” They started dividing people on regional and tribal lines. Cde Tongo was dragged into this unknowingly when he came back from training.
Cde Chitepo tried to address this issue warning us that this would destroy the party. On 28 February 1968, Cde Chitepo called most of the leadership of the party and spoke strongly against regionalism and tribalism. I will forever remember this day because that meeting was heated but Cde Chitepo maintained his cool as Cde Hamadziripi and his colleagues made all manner of accusations.
Things got to a point where we were having what were called ‘Super Zezurus and Super Karangas.’ These were Zezurus and Karangas who were in leadership positions in the party. I actually think one of the reasons why despite the role that I played since these early years of the struggle, I didn’t rise up the ladder of Zanu was because I am Tonga, but shuwa ndogeza rudzi rwangu here? I can’t.
SM: Let’s go back to 1966 and from there on, it looks like due to the need to impress the OAU, Zanu made quite a number of mistakes?
Cde Khumalo: Indeed, we were training people but during these years we never thought about the safety of the deployed comrades. That’s why from 1966 up to 1968, most comrades who were deployed were either arrested or were killed. We didn’t have expertise in security to protect our comrades.
SM: So why did Zanu keep on sending groups into Rhodesia when it was clear that they would either be arrested or killed?
Cde Khumalo: Mao Tse Tung said “where there is war there is sacrifice,” and he went further saying, “fight, fail, fight, fail until you succeed.” That’s why Zanu said chero zvikaoma sei, we will keep pushing because our aim is to free Zimbabwe. We knew that after some while, the people of Zimbabwe would wake up and support the struggle.
SM: Does it trouble you, do you sometimes think about it that you sent fellow comrades for slaughter during these early years?
Cde Khumalo: (long pause) Comrade zvamuri kutaura zvinorwadza. My young brother akafa achipiswa nemagetsi abatwa nevarungu in 1974. Of course I look back. Dai varungu vakabva nepfuti, as we wanted to march from bush to office, I don’t think we would be having any whites in this country. Up to this day I see visions of my fellow comrades. You don’t ask a real comrade such a question? That’s why when people look down upon war veterans, my heart bleeds. People now say “makanga matumwa nani”? (Pause) Ok, takaenda hedu tisina kutumwa and we brought you the country, ko chaipa chii? Motitukirei? (Pause) Zvinorwadza.
SM: Comrade Khumalo, we also understand that before the war started, you were instructed to go and see the spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda. Tell us about the role that the spirit mediums played before the liberation struggle started.
Cde Khumalo: We need to go back in time a bit. Around 1968, kwakaita masvikiro akatangira kuTanzania akatungamirwa nemumwe mudhara ainzi Mhofu. I don’t know where he is but I was once told he is now living in Midlands. Svikiro iri rekuTanzania rakataura rega pacharo kuIntumbi after pabikwa doro richiti ‘ndiri kuona kwamuri kuenda mberi uko mutungamiri wamuri kuti munaye, ndaona haasiye mutungamiri wenyu. Ndaona mutungamiri arikuuya mukati memusangano wenyu. Mutungamiri uyu paachabuda munyika menyu achabuda nekumabvazuva. Mutungamiri uyu achange aina mambo anendoro pamhanza. Ndiye achava mutungamiri wenyu weparty and ndiye achazova mutungamiri wehurumende.
Asi mutungamiri uyu ndaona akakura asiri mutungamiri we munyika menyu chete. Mutungamiri uya ndiri kuona ari mutungamiri wevese veganda dema nekuti arikuda kusunungura vese veganda dema. Handikuudzei zita asi muchamuona paanouya. Achauya nemumwe mutungamiri pamwe namambo wendoro chena.
We didn’t know what this spirit medium was saying and most people dismissed him.
In 1970, as we were carrying materiel (ammunition) taking it to Zambezi River in preparation for war, Cde Mayor Urimbo, Cde Joesph Chimurenga and Cde Mataure had gone into Rhodesia for reconnaissance. I was now under commissariat but as we were carrying the materiel I was changed and given the responsibility to look after the materiel deputising Mdara Homba. He later died in Marondera. There was no High Command by this time. There was only the general staff.
We were in charge of all the materiel that was used during the liberation struggle during these years. While we were carrying this materiel, another spirit medium came from a place that we used to call Kumabanana on the Mozambican side of the border.
This spirit medium said as you are preparing to go and fight your war, have you consulted vemweya in your country? We had not done that and we didn’t know anything about it. The spirit medium then told us that even in Mozambique before Frelimo started its war against the Portuguese, they consulted spirit mediums in that country.
The spirit medium then said kune muchembere anonzi Nehanda, you should consult her before you start your war.
SM: Did you believe what you were being told by these spirit mediums?
Cde Khumalo: We said aahh, munhu anopenga uyu. Nehanda died a long time ago, but the spirit medium insisted that we should consult this Mbuya Nehanda. The spirit medium then told us that before you go to meet Mbuya Nehanda, pachasvika mumwe mudzimu that will lead you kuna Mbuya Nehanda. We were really vexed because this was completely knew to us, especially me. I am a Seventh Day Adventist and all this didn’t make sense to me. Takatoti hameno vano believer zvemudzimu ndezvenyu izvo.
After a week, pakasvika munhu aisvikirwa neshavi rebveni ainzi Sekuru Chipfeni. He came akapfeka machira matema around Kakwidze area. This spirit medium said kune vana vari kupinda munyika umu saka ndati regai nditaure navo vasati vatanga zvavari kuda kuita. Joseph Chimurenga was the commander at that time. We sat down with this spirit medium and were told about homwe ya Nehanda Nyakasikana. We were told that before getting into Rhodesia to fight the war, we were supposed to go and consult this spirit medium but before going to consult Nehanda Nyakasikana, we were told to go and see Chief Chiweshe.
Next week, Cde Khumalo continues his narration where he will give graphic details of the meeting between the Zanu leadership and Mbuya Nehanda. At that meeting, some leaders were told why they would not see a free Zimbabwe. It’s scary stuff. Don’t miss your copy of The Sunday Mail.