The Sunday Mail
WE continue narrating the political journey of Cde Lecture, Norman Makotsi. This week, the liberation struggle fighter chronicles to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati how he was received in Mozambique. He also talks about his selection for training in Tanzania and his subsequent deployment for direct confrontation with the enemy in Rhodesia, Makoni district.
Q: Your parting with Mai Muzonda as you embarked on the journey you were so determined to undertake sounds emotional. How were you received across the border in Mozambique?
A: Emotional it was. For the brief period I had been with Mai Muzonda, wakaratidza rudo rwamhayiyo. Ndakawatora saamai wangu wekubereka. Ndokusaka takaparadzana nenzira yekuti iwo wairatidza kurwadziwa kuti ndawakuenda.
Asi wairatidza kuti mune dzimwe pfungwa, she was a proud mother who seemed to say, “There goes my son to undertake a challenge many people would not dare”.
I then walked to the structure where the Frelimo soldiers were camped and from where they conducted border patrols.
Within a distance of 100 meters, I heard a distant voice that was clearly directed at me.
At first I couldn’t hear what the person was saying so I walked closer.
My fear was I would be shot at, so I raised both hands, as a sign that I was friendly and clear of any threat to them.
Then there were more loud voices as I approached and at that point I decided to stop. It was a distance of about 50 meters from where the voices were coming from.
The people were hiding and spoke Portuguese but I managed to make meaning of what they were saying. They, basically, were asking who I was and what I wanted.
In a broken Portuguese literal response I answered, “Eu sou Zimbabwe e procuro liberdade (Ndiri mwana weZimbabwe ndinotsvagawo rusununguko). Two soldiers came out of cover and waved for me to approach them.
I should say I was lucky on that day because a group of other fighters had left the camp the previous morning.
My welcome was not much of a hassle in terms of interrogation, as I was the first person they had dealt with since the departure of the other group.
At around 10am, a comrade, mwana wekumusha who could speak Shona, came to the camp.
Takakwazisana iye achizondibvunza kuti kwakadii kumusha. Akati, “Wauya kuhondo?” Ndikati hongu. He conducted a brief vetting exercise of where I came from, what I knew about the war, how I thought people were trained, what I wanted to do after the training as well as my experiences with the whites in Rhodesia. It was more interactive, but I later learnt that was part of the vetting exercise.
The following day, 5 August 1976, I was taken to Vila de Manica, where there was a holding facility of people waiting to go for training. When I got there, there were over 300 recruits.
Q: Do you know some of the people who were at that holding facility?
A: No, there were so many of us and besides, I was not there for long. I arrived on August 5 in the evening and I spent the following day trying to understand what was going on. Then after three days, on August 9 just after midday, takanzwa kuti dhiii, dhiii, dhiii.
The sounds were loud and strong, everyone was not sure what was going on.
There was panic in that holding facility, which was protected by Frelimo soldiers.
After about 30 minutes, information came through that Nyadzonia had been bombed.
The major blast had been the destruction of the only bridge – Pungwe – linking Nyadzonia and the nearest district of Chomoio. The Rhodesians wanted to block any relief to the victims.
My stomach cringed as I did not know what was to become of us.
I kept thinking we could also be bombed.
The question that came to my mind was how Rhodesians could bomb a camp in Mozambique?
It was even worse when the Frelimo soldiers, who were looking after us, decided that we had to leave the facility the following day.
I suspected they had sold us out.
That is when I was put in a group and transferred to Masengere.
We arrived there on 11 August 1977. At that time, people were coming from Nyadzonia. Ndopaunenge wakufunga kudzoka kumba. Nekuti unenge uchiona wamwe hawana makumbo, mawoko kana maziso. Wamwe wakazvimba zvekuti kana wawanga uinavo wanotadza kuziwa kuti uyu ndiani.
Unonyatsowona kuti hazvisi kunyatsoitaba, hondo haisi nyore. Saka macomrades iwawo waitakurwa kubva Nyadzonia kuwuya paMasengere.
From there, we then opened a camp at Doroi. I was there between September and October and the number of people had swelled.
It was even difficult to get food and life was difficult.
That is when Robert Mugabe, Ndabaningi Sithole, James Chikerema, Joshua Nkomo and Abel Muzorewa came to Doroi.
They were brought under the auspices of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity, now African Union).
I should mention that their coming to the camps was meant to help the OAU see who was popular in leading.
But the politics had been done already as we had been told that we should rally behind Robert Mugabe.
Before they came, a team that was led by Simon Muzenda, with the likes of Solomon Mujuru, had earlier paid us a visit.
Q: You imply that Robert Mugabe was not known and you were whipped into accepting him?
A: Kumahofisi maybe ndokwaaizikanwa, kuvakomana vaida kunorwa he was not popular. It took the likes of Muzenda, assisted by Tongo, to prime us into accepting Robert Mugabe. I say assisted because Muzenda wacho futi was not popular.
So, the dirty nature of our politics today is founded in the events of the past.
Politics dzedu dzagara dziri dzekuhwandirana. When ana Mugabe came, each one of them was made to do a slogan and the response from the comrades was used to show who was popular.
As such, Mugabe got loud cheers than the rest because we had been politicised already.
Every evening we would be politicised by people like Felix Taguta, Chitiyo, Dengwani, Chihombe Madhara and Mark Chimuka.
They are the ones who were responsible for telling us why we were fighting, why the enemy was bad and that we should support certain individuals, like Mugabe, to lead the country in the event that we get independence.
While at the camp, Doroi, we would receive light training such as running, a bit of war tactics like taking cover, rolling and crawling.
It wasn’t intensive and we used to laugh because we were doing mock battles using sticks or wooden guns.
Then in November I left Doroi. At that time, the OAU had called for the formation of a single force. They wanted 2 500 fighters from both Zanu and Zapu who would operate as the Zimbabwe People’s Army (ZIPA).
I was selected to be part of this contingent and in November we went to Beira and were airlifted to Tanzania for training.
ZIPRA was reluctant on this ZIPA initiative. As such, they did not provide enough comrades.
I am told ZIPRA seconded about 2 000 fighters and Zanla had to add 500 more such that in the end, Zanla had 3 500 people going for training.
In Tanzania, there were camps – Base One to Five. Each had about 1 000 trainees and there were 500 women who received medical training.
I was in Base Four with the likes of Cde Aggrey Kambeu and our commanders, included Tendai Taguta, Felix Chimurenga and Cde Bethune.
We were trained by Chinese and Tanzanian soldiers.
These are the ones that took us through the paces of war tactics, things such as setting landmines, how to disguise ourselves in the face of the enemy and handling guns.
I was to later specialise in the use of the 75mm recoilless rifle. I trained for one year, up to November 1977, and it was time to turn the training into reality by confronting the enemy.
Q: How did you come back to confront the enemy and which group were you in?
A: Before we travelled back from Tanzania, there was information that we had been sold out to the British and Americans by an Arab national, Albaya, who had stayed in Camp Five.
Our training had the blessings of the OAU, so some African countries had seconded their people to see what was going on. That is how Albaya came into the picture.
He had left a few weeks before we finished training and is highly suspected to have informed the enemy that we were ready for deployment. We were supposed to travel to Mozambique by ship but we had to change plans at the last minute after learning that the American and British marine soldiers had launched a joint operation to intercept us in the waters.
We were then ferried by a Dakota plane, provided by Nigeria, to Kilimani in Mozambique. From there, we were deployed and I went to Nasiyaya. When we got there, Cde Tongogara came and addressed us, briefing the fighters of the situation at home.
He told us of the final journey that we were about to embark on, which he was frank to say, was not going to be easy.
He told us Zimbabwe and its people were banking on our ability to continue piling the pressure on the settler Government to force the white authorities to let us rule ourselves.
At that time, we were moving from one camp to the other, creating space for those who were returning from training.
From Nasiyaya I moved to Mkuba. While there, Chimoio was attacked and we concluded that attack was meant to kill us as we had finished training in Tanzania.
They thought we were in such camps waiting for deployment into Rhodesia.
I was to be deployed with others to go to Chimoio and we had the TPDF (Tanzania People’s Defence Forces) in that deployment.
We were 260 ZIPA fighters and the TPDF were also about 260. Our mission was to mop-up the areas surrounding Chimoio.
We were with Tonderai Nyika or Paradzai Zimondi, Aggrey Chaminuka, Zhepe, but the overall commander was Cde Tongogara.
We went there and in that mop-up exercise, we did not find the enemy.
After that mission, the group was commanded to go to Mudzingadzi and wait further orders.
Takazonzi makuyambuka kuti mupinde mu Rhodesia munorova Mutare.
The targets were areas near Mutare Central Business District and that was in December 1977. We crossed and managed to set base behind the mountain that had television satellite equipment. We were not involved in any direct confrontation with the Rhodesian Forces.
Zvaiva zvekungokanda mizinga yaiva ne range ye about seven kilometres kutyisidzira chete kuti mabhunu asaite advance wachiuya kuMozambican side kwawanga wabva kurowa Chimoio.
After that mission, we were divided into groups that were to operate in the front.
Isu takanzi endai munopinda maMakoni coming into Gandanzara area.
By Christmas time in 1977, we were in Makoni as a section. Our section, at one time, had fighters like Sherekete, Charlie Brown, Zvitunha Pwititi, Franco Tavaziva, Chovha Dhuze, Weekend Togarepi, Joshua Kwenda, Cup yeHondo, China Groove, Take Dhozh, Zvikaramba Toedza Zvimwe, Dr Omolo, Mabunu Muchati Baba, Mabhunu Muchapera, Rasa Kandonde, Peri-Peri Shungu and Peri-Peri Tanganeropa.
We were to operate in the Chiduku Detachment. These fighters are the ones I had trained with in East Africa.
So we were operating here in Makoni in areas such as Zembe, Chiduku, Madibu, Tsanzaguru and Chiwetu.
To be continued next week