The Sunday Mail
We continue chronicling the political life of Cde Sorry Zivanayi. This week, the liberation fighter narrates to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati the journey he travelled from Mozambique, together with 49 other comrades, to capture a group of renegades in Musana area.
Question: After being selected in the group, were you subjected to special training since the mission would see you operate near Salisbury where Rhodesian security forces had intensified the fight against Guerrillas?
Answer: We were 50 for the task, but the leaders in Mozambique, ana Cde Mike Hip Level Karakadzai and Mvenge vaitya kuti tinogona kupanduka tavapedyo ne Salisbury tikabatana nemadzakutsaku.
As such, we went through an intensive two-week programme called special classes in politics.
We were oriented with in-depth lectures on why we were in the war, why we were special, the benefits that awaited black people if we win the war and how we would be regarded as heroes by the future generation for bringing independence.
After the course, I felt complete, motivated and destined to free my country.
Dai ari nhasi, ndingati ndaizviona kunge actor wemufirimu – Rambo. Kunzwa manyukunyuku kuti nyika iyi yakamirira ini kuti ndiyisunungure.
That is how serious the political doctrine was.
That is also why when we speak, those who did not go through the war furnace, think we are mad. We are not insane, we are a determined lot.
Anyway, after the course, we were briefed again that some comrades in Musana, Chikwaka area near Salisbury had revolted. They were led by James Mapurani Swerakuyenda Mukwasha we Zuva and they were working nemadzakutsaku (Auxiliary Forces).
We were tasked to go and capture them and wait for further instructions. With that mission at hand, the 50 of us, armed with our AK47’s and myself with an additional rocket launcher trooped back to Rhodesia.
Little did I know our mission would witness so many deaths and we would get to our destination with almost half the comrades having been killed.
Our team was armed with two mortar 60’s, two MMG’s (medium machine guns) and three Light Machine Guns, LMGs to add to the AK47’s that each one of us had. We were armed to the teeth and the weapons we carried showed the seriousness of our mission.
Our group had people like Cde Jezenga and Tanyengana Madzimbamuto. We were then transported to Nyamapanda Border and we sneaked back into the country before walking to Mutoko, Goronga area.
Since we were 50, we could not move as a unit for fear of attracting the attention of Rhodesian security forces.
As such, we would disperse into smaller groups and converge at set points. But the area’s that we were in, already had comrades operating there and they were the ones who were to assist us to get to our destination.
Our mission was also an advantage for the sections that were already on the ground because it meant we would reinforce them in the various battles against the Rhodesian soldiers.
After five or six days in an area, we would move on.
Reliving the Mukomeka battle
Question: So which areas did you operate in as you moved to Musana, any battles along the way?
Answer: We operated in areas such as Shinda, Mabamu, Nyerenyere, Kagande, Chimuzinda and Sonhera.
I remember at one time, February 1978, we joined a section that was operating in Kagande where I met Cde Simba Chiurayamhandu who had grown up in Highfield Harare. I also met Cdes Spazh Apazh and Chikaki in that section.
We then went to Mukomera base and little did we know that there was a high observation point of the white soldiers on a nearby mountain. They had seen us from that point. We were 15 in that group.
So when we got to the base, together with Cde Simba we secured our posto and started discussing city life and how we were going to enjoy in a free Zimbabwe.
After about 30 minutes in talk, Cde Simba decided to remove his ammunition belt for the light machine gun after indicating he wanted to relieve himself.
Taigara musango saka waingobva pane mumwe wofamba just 10 meters and use the bayonet of the AK47 to dig a small hole in the ground and relieve yourself. Mutoko area is rocky and as Cde Simba stood up to go and relieve himself, I don’t know what came to me, but I asked him to strap his ammunition belt.
He did not argue and as he finished digging the small hole, I heard the sound of a helicopter.
Ndakati, Simba, urikunzwa ndege here? Cde Simba, with ignorance, replied back that they were white soldiers going for border patrols. In less than a minute, the sound became loud and the next thing a helicopter was hovering above us.
Before I could figure out what to do next, the Rhodesian soldiers on the helicopter started firing at Simba from a machine gun. I could see bullets hitting the rocks and causing sparks near Cde Simba. I had my anti-tank, took aim and fired, but missed the helicopter.
I then opened fire from my AK47 and the white soldiers retreated a bit. But the helicopter was not the only one. There were seven others that had surrounded the area and other comrades were firing at them.
I think we were lucky because of the rains that day because a group of Rhodesian soldiers, who were coming to attack us from Koho Base, were delayed after their vehicles got stuck in the mud.
When the helicopters arrived, the ground force soldiers had not taken their positions. Together with Cde Simba, we took advantage of the retreating of the helicopter and began running down the mountain.
There was a depression leading to a river and some white soldiers had taken cover there.
As we ran into that direction, they opened fire at us, but missed. We had to change direction.
That is when we saw one of the comrades, who we had come with from Mozambique, trying to get a clean shot to fire at one of the choppers. He had not seen us, but Cde Simba moved towards him slowly and tapped his shoulder.
He told him that if he opened fire that would be the end of us because we would expose our position to other soldiers who were on the ground.
We then teamed up and started navigating our way out of the area. As we moved slowly, we saw four white soldiers also scouting the area and we found a place to hide.
Unexplained mysteries of the war
I knew we were cornered because the Rhodesian soldiers were many. I used to move around with snuff, so I took it out ndikatanga kudetemba ndichiti; “Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Chaminuka nemidzimu yenyika ino, vana vakakanganisa munotema nedemo here?
“Munotirangawoka neimwe nzira nekuti mangwana muchada kuzotituma. Hondo iyi hatisi isu takaitanga. Ndimi makatituma kuti tirwe hondo iyi. Kana pane chatakanganisa tiregerereiwo.”
As I finished, the rain intensified and after about five minutes the white soldiers began walking away.
We had hidden near a cave and the other comrade, we had teamed up with, suggested we get inside to shield from the rain and the white soldiers.
But Cde Simba objected saying the soldiers were likely to search the area and they would smoke us out.
We continued hiding under some trees that had been enveloped by creepers. In no time, one helicopter came and landed about 30 meters from where we were hiding.
We were now the ones hiding and we could see all moving objects. About five soldiers got out of the helicopter. I don’t know why they didn’t come towards us. But we were all ready to fire had they come in our direction.
They then walked towards the cave where our colleague had suggested we go and hide. I just said to myself, had we got into the cave, that was the last of us.
That battle began around 10 am, it was now around 4 pm and as the white soldiers came back from the cave, a dove rested on one of the branches of the tree we had taken cover from. The bird started singing. I remember we looked at each other with the same conviction that we will get out alive.
These were some of the mysterious things that happened in the war. Somehow, the dove gave each one of us the same assurance.
It is difficult to explain how such things used to happen. But they used to happen.
We only got out of hiding around 6 pm and my body was numb. As I walked, it seemed as if the grass was moving. I was hallucinating. It seemed as if the white soldiers were still around.
We had earlier set our gathering point at Chimuzinga area.
When we got to the gathering point we realised we had lost eight comrades at the Mukomeka battle.
The most senior to be killed was Cde Makunde who was our sectorial logistics leader.
Also, 15 youths were killed.
We then regrouped, as a team that was destined for Musami. We had casualties and the situation then was if you lose a comrade, don’t cry, but think of a way to revenge.
We were told by the villagers that there was a white district commissioner who passed through the area daily on his way to Nyanhoro area.
After about two weeks of tracking his movements, we ambushed and killed him.
With the revenge mission accomplished, we then crossed Nyadire River heading for Katiyo base.
After having established my posto, an old man came to the base.
He was dressed in red and I quickly asked him the reason for wearing bright clothes.
Before finishing the conversation, Rhodesian security forces arrived in a helicopter and a small plane.
Immediately, they started firing at us. That is when I was hit by a fragment on my nose and backside.
At first, I did not feel any pain. It was only after Cde Herald Chimurenga had told me that I had been injured that I started to feel pain.
I later managed to get the wounds treated. We then regrouped again as a unit that had a mission to go to Musana area.
After regrouping, we were on the move.
We passed through Chingwena, Chigumadzi, Mangwende then Madamombe areas.
We crossed Nyaguwe River and camped in Nzvete for the night.
That was now April 1978 and the war had thickened. We were close to the capital city Salisbury, as such, Rhodesian security forces had intensified operations in areas at the periphery of the city.
While at Nzvete, we had a surprise attack that night and that is where Cde Herald Chimurenga was killed.
Arrival into the mission area
We left the area and arrived in Chikwaka and in the morning we crossed Mubvinzi River. We spent the whole day sleeping in Mumhurwi Mountain.
We were now in the area where we were to conduct our mission. Unfortunately, we had lost 23 comrades to different battles since we crossed Nyamapanda.
At 6 pm, we climbed down the mountain towards Mapuranga area asking villagers if they had seen the comrades in the area.
We were told they had been spotted at the shops at Musiiwa.
We told the villagers including those in Ruwanika, Chaka and Frank areas that we were the real comrades and the ones they were used to had revolted.
We managed to convince them to work with us.
When we were operating within the Musiiwa Detachment, the area has no mountains so we were living with the villagers.
That is where we met Cdes Destroy, Jealousy, who is now in the army, Bernard, Max and Shaft who died in December 1978 during a battle at Mabrazer in Chikwaka.
We operated in areas that include Samvura, Gwetera, Damusi and Nyava.
We attacked a group of Auxiliary Forces in Nyava area close to sekuru Charakupa’s homestead.
Sekuru Charakupa was a well know spirit medium in the area. He used to look after injured and sick comrades in his field.
While we were in Musana, we received the gang that later attacked the fuel tanks in Salisbury who include Cdes Lobo, Mbumbazi and Taketime.
They came with a mission and our section is the one that went to receive them in Murewa, Mangwende area.
We then accompanied them through Musana before handing them over to the comrades in the Chinamhora Detachment.
You see, we would assist each other like that.
Remember we had also been assisted by other detachments and sections from Nyamapanda up to our mission point in Musana.
When we went to Mangwende area to receive the comrades, we were met by members of a section that was led by Cde Temba Mahoza.
When the comrades, destined for Salisbury arrived, I accommodated Cde Mbumbaz or Damage in my posto.
We used to smoke marijuana, but it was illegal.
We then sought some supplies and sent one of the mujibhas. We didn’t know that the same young man was also a runner for our leaders in the area.
The leaders suspected us as trying to get marijuana and when the mujibha came back he was confronted.
It was discovered that we had sent the mujibha to get us marijuana and for the offence, with Cde Damage, we were given 30 lashes each on the backside.
Continued next week.