The Sunday Mail
***Last week we had announced that Chronicles from the Second Chimurenga will be continued on January 10 2016 due to space constraints during the festive season but due to public demand, we have had to reverse the decision. Your favourite column is back. Enjoy it!
The narrative of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle usually starts when Zanu broke away from Zapu in 1963 with its new strategy which centred on “direct confrontation” with the colonial regime. From 1963, the story quickly zooms to the famous 1966 Chinhoyi Battle and its challenges that led to the war being put on hold. But something happened in the early 1960s as the struggle was being born.
Also, the narrative about the Crocodile Gang starts when Cde William Ndangana’s group killed a whiteman in Malssetta. Not much is known about where the Gang came from and how it was deployed into Rhodesia.
Our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike speaks to Cde Shadreck Musari Gatula, born 16 February 1940, who narrates the story of how the Crocodile Gang was born in Ndola, Zambia.
Cde Gatula is your typical “Boyz dzekuMbare.” A clear hot-head who even proudly admits it himself. He talks about his involvement in the Crew 6, a group of youths in the early 1960s that combined forces with Crew 4 and Crew 6 to terrorise the colonial regime led by Cde Enos Chikowore.
SM: Comrade, tell us briefly how you started getting involved in politics?
Cde Gatula: I was inspired and later worked with people like Mawema, Morton Malianga, Enos Nkala, Enos Chikowore, Patrick Mariwa, Robert Marere and many others who would lead us in coordinating sabotage activities against the colonial regime. I was taught how to make a petrol bomb by Alex Matewa during the days of the National Democratic Party.
During our time, there were three gangs that really gave the colonial regime a tough time. There was the Crew 4, Crew 5 and Crew 6. The number shows how many people were in each group.
SM: Tell us a bit more about these Crews.
Cde Gatula: You will forgive me, its been years so I wont remember all the names but Crew 4 was led by Richard Manjengwa, Makoni, Gatsi and I cant remember the fourth name. I was in Crew 5 which comprised myself Shadreck Gatula, Shadreck Chipanga, Tobias Zengeni, Frederick Nyandoro and Gideon Nyandoro. Crew 6 was led by Edson Shirihuru. All these Crews were led by Enos Nkala who assisted us with our requirements to carry out sabotage activities such as petrol bombing some government properties, burning harvested tobacco and cutting maize in the fields among many sabotage activities.
We terrorised a whiteman called Barkster who had a farm at what is now Glen Norah until he gave it up to the City Council. Taitema chibage chake nefodya kusvika aneta.
SM: So you were a youth in the National Democratic Party?
Cde Gatula: Yes. I later joined Zapu then later Zanu. Some of the youths I worked with were Happy Marere, Thomas Mangodza and Thomas Nyagura. Of course, there were others youths doing many other things, but we concentrated on the urban areas. Ini ndaidziya musoro. Dai pane anokwanisa kutaura aindipupurira. I was a hot-head. Zvibhakera ndaizviti zvimbishi and ndaizvigona. Tikangonetsana ndaiti ngatimedzei zvimbishi. Ndaigovera zvimbishi. Asi kana ndarohwawo musi wacho, ndairova pasi futi.
I was arrested several times due to the political activities and my comrades ended up calling me “mapipe” because I would sleep muma pipe while running away from the police.
SM: So when did you leave for Zambia?
Cde Gatula: I left Rhodesia on December 23 1963 with assistance from Cde Enos Chikowore. I went to Zambia with Tobias Zengeni. When we arrived in Lusaka, the families that assisted us a lot were the Chadokas and the Chakabvas. They looked after us very well. On the day we arrived we saw Felix Rice Santana asleep at the doorstep rekuoffice yeZanu saying he was hungry. He said he had escaped from a jail in Bindura. Later, Cde Stanley Parerewa came and gave Felix some food.
We stayed in Lusaka as the party was seeing how they could send us for military training. Some of the people who were at the Zanu offices were Cde Mutambanengwe, Cde Herbert Chitepo who would come once in a while from Tanzania and Cde Claudio Matenga who would come with assistance to the party.
Cde Matenga later offered that I, together with Cde Enerst Mapfumo and Cde Masango could go and stay with him due to some disturbances that had taken place in Lusaka.
SM: What disturbances?
Cde Gatula: At this time, there were two political parties Zanu and Zapu. When we arrived in Lusaka, Cde Tongogara was still working at some golf club. He would frequently visit the Zanu office and give us money for lunch. Sometimes he would come in the evening and take us out to have some fun.
But during these days, Cde Tongogara was still undecided whether to join Zanu or Zapu. He would also visit the Zapu offices. However, he later opted to join Zanu and subsequently went for military training.
Now at some point, our Zanu office along Livingstone Road in Lusaka was bombed and in retaliation we did what we did leading to police in Lusaka looking for me.
SM: Who had bombed the Zanu office and how did you retaliate?
Cde Gatula: The Zanu office had been bombed by some Zapu supporters and we retaliated by also bombing the Zapu offices. Some of the Zanu comrades like Clakson Mutema, Richard Manjengwa, Makoni, Gatsi and Cephas Matopodzi actually left their jobs in Lusaka to join Zanu and we were together when we bombed the Zapu offices. During this time, people joined Zanu voluntarily. People would not wait for anyone to invite them to the party.
SM: Why had the Zapu supporters bombed the Zanu office?
Cde Gatula: The honest truth is that the situation was bad between Zanu and Zapu during this time. You see at this time, Zanu had just been formed so we were the minority party. Zapu was the party that many people knew so it was popular. So as Zanu we had a very big task to explain to people what our party stood for and so on. It wasn’t easy and on the other hand Zapu didn’t take our coming in lightly. So people like Sam Manjengwa would lead us in the clashes with Zapu supporters. Taitemana nematombo and some people actually died.
We would go as far as Mumbwe where we had people like the Chifunyise family, who used to stay close to Shef Mnangagwa’s (VP Mnangagwa) parent’s house. We went on a massive mobilisation exercise.
The issue between Zanu and Zapu was on trying to gain ground in terms of support. The leaders of the two parties did not even intervene. During this time, Cde Joshua Nkomo (Former VP) was so popular that vanhu vaivasimudza vasingadi kuti vatsike pasi. The man was very, very popular. Do you know at one time, some Zapu supporters told Cde Nkomo’s driver not to put the engine on because they wanted to push his car from the airport to Highfield. Hanzi don’t start the car inozoita noise for our leader, we want to push it kusvika kuHighfield.
Cde Nkomo always told his supporters that “Freedom is just by the corner,” and this made him very popular. He would tell the supporters that I was in this and that country and we are receiving lots of support. So his supporters would be really excited. So when Zanu was formed, many people still supported Zapu.
SM: You are saying Zapu was the most popular party, so why did you decide to leave Zapu when Zanu was formed?
Cde Gatula: There were my fellow comrades like Shadreck Chipanga, Gideon Nyandoro, Tobias Zengeni who joined Zanu, so naturally I had to join Zanu. We went to Zanu as a group.
Also, I looked at the time when the slogan, “Freedom just by the corner,” had been used and yet that freedom was not coming. So I decided to join Zanu. As youths we would ask ourselves, “ko freedom yacho iri kungonzi by the corner, pacorner pacho ichabva rinhi?” We thought Zapu was now all about talk with no action.
Also, Zanu had a booklet where it was written that as we take over, we are going to redistribute the land. That motivated many people. And also ini semunhu wezvimbishi, I liked the Zanu stance that “we are going for direct confrontation with the colonial regime.”
SM: You were about to tell us about your stay with Claudio Matenga.
Cde Gatula: Yes, we were staying in Broken Hill area with Matenga. Other people who were staying in the same area were Patrick Kombayi, Mashiri and many others. While in Broken Hill, there were also Zapu supporters so the clashes continued and on many occasions I was the one given responsibility for security at the house during the evening. During the day, Masango and Mapfumo would provide security while I took a rest.
One day, when I was asleep around 10am, I woke up to see that Masango and Mapfumo were under attack from about 15 people from Zapu. I went out carrying chitsvimbo chandakarovesa vanhu kwete mbichana. Some ran away.
I then picked two machetes and threatened those who had remained behind. I saw a taxi and stopped the driver telling him to drive me away because these people wanted to kill me.
The driver started his car and just by the corner, we saw some Zapu supporters blocking the road. I got out holding the machetes ready to strike and all the people ran away. I threw the machetes away and ran like mad going to Patrick Kombayi’s house.
On arrival at Kombayi’s house I started narrating my story, but in no time, Zambian police arrived. We were in the sitting room and Kombayi said to me pinda mutoilet. Ndakapinda mutoilet zvikanzi don’t close the door. So ndakaenda kuseri kwedoor leaving it open a bit.
The police started talking to Kombayi who was saying the person you are looking for was never here. The police started searching the rooms and as they were about to get to the toilet, Kombayi’s wife walked into the toilet and closed the door for a while. She later flashed the toilet and got out. The police saw her and so they assumed there was no one in the toilet. They then left.
Kombayi then said to me, pano hauchagari you have to go to Ndola. It was now around 1am and he drove me to catch a bus from Lusaka to Ndola. I think I stayed in Ndola for about a week trying to familiarise myself with the people in the area. Tobias Zengeni later joined me in Ndola.
In Ndola, life was a bit difficult. Food was scarce because there were very few well wishers to provide food to the party.
SM: As you said before we started recording this interview, it was in Ndola that the group that later became known as Crocodile Gang was put together?
Cde Gatula: One day while in Ndola we went for a meeting where we were asked kuti vari kuda kuenda kumusha kunorwisa ndivanani. I was one of the people who volunteered. Many young boys also volunteered but only 11 of us were chosen.
We were then told that we were going to Lusaka and I said no, no police are looking for me in Lusaka. I was told kuti aiwa hamusi kunogara.
So I came from Ndola with 11 boys and we were joined in Lusaka by William Ndangana. I knew Ndangana as a carpenter and his big brother, Hyena Ndangana was into fish business. He also used to help the party a lot.
So we stayed in Lusaka for a while and later we were given money to cross into Rhodesia. This was now in 1964.
SM: Cross into Rhodesia? How and why because you had not received any military training?
Cde Gatula: There was Percy Ntini. He used to work at Ford Motors so he wrote a fake letter that I was a worker at Ford Motors and was going to Rhodesia on leave. The other 11 comrades didn’t have any letters because there was no reason for the authorities to suspect them of anything.
So it was me, Ndangana, Dlamini, Mlambo and others who I can’t remember their names because we didn’t have much time to know each other. I remember Dlamini and Mlambo because these two had lots of influence and were popular in Ndola.
When we got to Chirundu in a bus, the police detectives there knew me and they asked me where I was coming from. I told them I was now working in Zambia. I then produced my letter from Percy Ntini. So I was allowed in. These other comrades, just appeared like ordinary passengers.
When we got to Greencroft, I thought the police wanted to put me into a trap so I told Ndangana kuti ini ndichaburuka and get a taxi to follow the bus. I told them kuti kana masvika kutown ndisati ndasvika you wait for me because these 11 comrades vanga vasingazivi where to go.
SM: What was supposed to be your mission?
Cde Gatula: Our mission was sabotage. We were supposed to hit government properties to show the colonial regime that the boys are back in town.
As the bus got to what is now charge office, police was waiting and as people disembarked they were asking whether there was anyone called Gatula in the bus. I was in a taxi waiting a few metres away. It was now in the evening so the police didn’t see me.
The comrades disembarked and we later got a bus to Highfield. We went to Shamuyarira’s house. Shamuyarira then said police are monitoring his house so we went to Ndabaningi Sithole’s house. I left these 11 comrades there and ini ndikazonorara kumba kwemuzukuru wangu because I knew police were looking for me.
The following day I went back to Cde Shamuyarira’s house kwatakatsvagirwa mari yekufambisa.
SM: Where were you supposed to go?
Cde Gatula: Remember our mission was not kunogara pamba pamunhu. Takanga tava kufanirwa kupinda mumasango. We didn’t have specific targets to hit. The decisions were ours. So we were given money to go on these missions.
I remember we devised a plan to make whites panic. We would print flyers saying “General Chedu will be in town today.” We would drop the flyers all over town during the evening. White people would see the flyers and wonder when and how General Chedu would come and to do what. General Chedu was Cde Enos Chikowore. He was wanted by police so we used his name to instil fear into whites.
So the next day, knowing that whites had seen these flyers, we would go into a supermarket, maybe four of us. While in the supermarket taingoita kakuvhunduka so, and there would be pandemonium in the supermarket as whites fought to find their way out of the supermarket. Kuita stampede padoor. Some whites would actually get injured trying to run away thinking maybe General Chedu had arrived. Takapinza varungu fear kwete mbichana. They were paranoid.
SM: So after getting money from Cde Shamuyarira, what else did you do?
Cde Gatula: Cde Ndangana said ndava kutora six boys ndoenda nadzo kuChipinge. Iwewe, meaning inini, wotorawo six woenda nadzo kuGweru. In Gweru we were instructed to go to Cde Tekere’s house.
When we arrived in Gweru the other comrades slept at Tekere’s house but I was taken by Tekere to some house belonging to a coloured guy. We all knew that police were looking for me.
The next day, Cde Tekere came to take me and said “you see now Gatula, all those five boys were arrested.” We later went to the police station where the comrades were being kept and Tekere asked why they had been arrested.
The police then said we hear these comrades came from Salisbury with Cde Gatula. Where is he?
Cde Tekere said he didn’t know anything about Gatula. He then said these comrades had been hired by the party to act as guards at his house which was under constant attack from some Zapu supporters. He asked whether these comrades had committed any crime. The police had no good explanation and so the comrades were later released. These police officers in Gweru knew the name Gatula but they didn’t know how I looked like so they didn’t even bother asking me who I was. After the release of these comrades, we saw that time was fast running out. So we asked Cde Tekere to give us his car so that we could go survey our potential targets for sabotage. We went to the Gweru Power Station and we all agreed this was going to be our first target.
Later in the evening, we went back to the station. Takasungirira two bricks patambo yaiva newire. We then threw tambo yacho then it hooked tambo dzemagetsi two from the power station ichibva yadzibatanidza, moto wakatibuka ipapo wakaipa. Immediately after that, the whole of Gweru was plunged into darkness.
To avoid being detected, we drove the car from the power station into town with the lights off. I left these five comrades at Cde Tekere’s house and went to my hiding place kumba kwemucoloured uya.
The next day, those comrades were arrested again. Police had told Cde Tekere that they suspected the comrades were behind the sabotage at the power station. Tekere as you know was very arrogant. Again we went to the police and he asked whether the comrades had been seen anywhere near the power station. After serious exchanges, the comrades were released.
SM: How long where you in Gweru?
Cde Gatula: Soon after the release of these five comrades for the second time, Tekere immediately called Shamuyarira and we went back to Harare by train.
From Harare I quickly proceeded to Fort Victoria (Masvingo) on my way to Chipinge. Harare was too hot for me so I thought of leaving these five comrades and join Ndangana’s group.
In Masvingo I was given financial assistance by Mai Mundondo who told me that some comrades in Ndangana’s group had been arrested. Sensing danger, I then changed my mind and decided to go to Mozambique.
I then got into a bus in Masvingo and as we got to Birchenough Bridge there was a roadblock with lots of police and armed soldiers. I knew kuti pangu papera. The soldiers and police came saying munhu wese ngaaburuke from the bus. I watched as people disembarked wondering what to do.
I didn’t have an ID and I was looking suspiciously scruffy. I then said chauya chauya. I stood up walking to the door. The moment I got to the door, the police and soldiers quickly took positions around the bus. One of the soldiers said “ndiye Gatula wacho uyu.” There was nowhere to run. I was arrested and one of the officers phoned Harare saying “Gatula, Gatula under arrest the situation is calm! Gatula, Gatula under arrest the situation is calm! Taking him to Umtali central over!”
I was bundled into a vehicle and driven to Umtali police station with heavy escort and sirens. Upon arrival, many CID officers came out to see what kind of a terrorist that I was. Later I was put in a cell till the next morning.
I was later taken for questioning where I was told that I was part of Ndangana’s group which had killed a white person in Malssetta.
I said I didn’t know anything about that case and they asked me kuti do you know William Ndangana and I said ndomuziva stereki because I used to stay with him in Lusaka when he was a carpenter. They said hamuna kuuya mese naNdangana and I said no.
As they were questioning me, they brought Hyena Ndangana, the big brother to William Ndangana and he just sat near the door to the room where they were interrogating me. I quickly said “hesi mudhara Hyena,” to show them that I knew the Ndangana family. I am not sure when and how Hyena had came to Rhodesia from Lusaka.
The CID asked me where I knew Hyena from and I told them that I used to work for him in Lusaka in his fish business. The police officers later received a call that I should be transported to Harare. Still under heavy police escort I was driven to Harare
The interrogation continued in Harare. Ipapo ndipo pandakazorohwa zvekubhendesa chess yemusana.
What happened was that after the interrogation I was put in a dark cell. While in the cell kwakauya Detective Sergeant Ross. He knew me from my several arrests in Harare. So when he came into the cell, he switched on his torch and said “Gatula you are here again. Now you gonna tell me all the truth.”
I remained silent. He walked to me and clapped me heavily. I stood up leaning against the wall. He said “I am gonna make you right today.”
I replied him saying, “if you do it again, I will retaliate.” He said, “what?”
Next week Cde Gatula will speak about how the name Crocodile Gang came about. He will narrate the interesting story about how Zanu got its first guns from the Congo forest . “Kuita pfuti dzekunonga musango,” says Cde Gatula. Get your copy of The Sunday Mail next week!