The Sunday Mail
We continue chronicling the political life of Cde Fani Chikomba whose liberation war name was Cde Sorry Zivanayi. This week, Cde Sorry tells our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati how he left Musana Tribal Trust Lands for Rushinga where he was later selected Platoon Commander and led a battle that razed an enemy camp to the ground.
Q: You got 30 lashes for trying to smoke marijuana. We understand that such physical punishment was common during the war and could leave some comrades badly bruised. But personally, how did you take this kind of punishment?
A: I should mention that disciplinary action, especially physical punishment, was normal during the war.
Yes, it was painful and, at times, you would feel it was not fair.
We were adults and being beaten in front of a crowd is something that one might see as degrading.
But now, I reflect on those moments and laugh them off.
I am sure it is not only me, others who were also in the war just laugh it off.
It was a form of instilling discipline.
Even today, worldwide, trainee soldiers are subjected to such treatment, but it is meant to toughen individuals and mould a certain breed of soldiers.
So, after our 30 lashes, we were then to leave Murewa accompanying the gang that was destined to blow up fuel tanks in Salisbury.
The gang also assisted us in some battles against the Selous Scouts who were terrorising villagers in Musana Tribal Trust Lands.
But since they had another mission ahead, we later handed them over to the comrades in the Chinamhora Detachment.
Q: There are many versions that have come up about these fighters who blew up the fuel tanks in Salisbury. You say you were the ones that assisted them, in part, as they went for their mission, where were they coming from and can you tell us more on their movement, especially the time you were with them?
A: There were eight fighters. They were comrades David Mushangwe aka “Lobo”, from Mabvuku, Damage Bombs, States America Mudzvanyiriri, Take Time, Member, Hwanda, Nhamo and Norest who was aged 17.
They were coming from Mozambique and were on a mission to Salisbury as you rightly said.
Our brief with them was that they had come from Uriri Military Base in Tete Province, Mozambique.
They had been given orders by the late General Solomon “Rex Nhongo” Mujuru, ZANLA Army Commander Josiah Tongogara, Cde Dominic Munyaradzi and current Vice-President of Zimbabwe, Cde Constantino Chiwenga.
Chimwe chinhu ndechekuti mission yacho yaida ‘boys dzetonaz’, dzaiziva Salisbury kuitira kuzokwanisa kutiza. Saka boys idzi were familiar with Salisbury, that is how they were selected.
But for them to navigate their way from the Mozambican border to Salisbury, they had to pass through a number of areas, inside Rhodesia, where we also had freedom fighters operating in.
They were assisted to move from one area to the other by fellow fighters.
As such, when they were about to get to Musana area, where we operated, we were to take them from one end in Murewa and hand them over to the comrades on the other end in Chinamhora.
For us, we only knew of their mission.
But I should note that there were many missions going on at that time, so it was just a matter of assisting each other since we had one common vision.
It is only now that one might want to dig deeper into a certain mission and understand how it was conducted.
I think I now have information on the team that blew up the fuel tanks because one of the fighters, Cde Lobo, now has a farm in Banket and it is near the area I also farm, so we share our war experiences and visit each other regularly.
The other comrades who were in that gang, Damage, Nhamo and States Mudzvanyiriri, are now late.
Q: Going back to your mission in Musana Tribal Trust Lands, did you manage to capture the fighters that had revolted?
A: We managed to capture two of them alive. It was not easy because we actually were involved in gunfire exchanges with them.
For those that we managed to capture, we organised that they be taken to Mozambique.
Others died in Musana after the confrontation. We had completed our mission, but we remained in Musana area waiting for orders from Mozambique on how to proceed.
While we were in Musana, our detachment commander, Tipeiwo Zvichatsva or Nzarambiri, became mentally ill.
I think what contributed to his mental illness was a battle on 17 October 1978 that took place near Damusi Mountain.
That war was intense and it is where Cde Danger Magorira died. About seven other comrades died there. It was a surprise attack.
I remember we had Cde Sabhota Nyamayevhu, he was coloured, he managed to sneak out of the battle into the villages, where he dressed like a woman and strapped a baby on his back before escaping.
Back to Cde Nzarambiri, as l said, I think that battle, especially the deaths, affected him because he would keep referring to them in his incoherent conversations.
When his situation got worse, I was selected with two other comrades to escort him to Mozambique.
But we were to hand him over to fighters who were in the semi liberated zone in Rushinga.
I want to mention that as soon as we left, there was another battle there in Musana, Mabreza area.
Comrades from my section including Shaft, Bernard and others were killed during that battle.
After leaving Musana with Cde Nzarambiri, we went through Shamva, Mazowe, Uzumba, Maramba, Pfungwe and then we crossed Mazowe River downstream to reach Chinobukira area in Rushinga.
There, we met a team of reinforcements that had returned from Ethiopia.
That area was a semi-liberated zone and white soldiers didn’t have access to it.
Most of our female fighters were in that area and they are the ones who would go to Mozambique and bring war materials that would be forwarded to the fighters on the front.
When we got to Rushinga, I was tasked to join the reinforcement from Ethiopia and go to Chesa.
The reinforcement team had fighters like Cde Bonga, Cde Chipo was detachment commander.
There were also comrades such as Mutambanepfuti, George Magreyi, Longchase, Brighton Chirongwe or Chemudondo.
In Chesa, our fighters had been driven out by the Pfumorevanhu soldiers, so we were supposed to move in and reclaim the area.
We were a huge force and I was selected platoon commander with three sections under me.
As I embarked on the mission to Chesa, I was armed with a mortar 90, mortar 92, mortar 60 and a light machine gun.
We were receiving orders from the secretarial commander Cde Gomo, Cde Boniface Hurungudo and provincial political commissar Cde Hardson Kundai.
I was the first platoon commander in Chesa and my platoon political commissar was Cde Communist Kambanje, Gibson Shumba was platoon security, Longchase Chimedzahundi was platoon logistics and he ended up commander of another platoon. He is now late.
When I was in Chesa, takaona kuti tinopedzana isu veganda dema tega nekuti madzakutsaku had received what I can term a rushed training.
Taiuraya madzakutsaku in numbers and we ended up takuti let’s just capture them tovaendesa kuMozambique as prisoners.
Zvairwadza kuuraya mumwe weganda rako. Saka takange toda kuvabata tovaratidza kurasika kwavo. Besides, we wanted to be free and that freedom would also benefit them as black people of this country despite the fact that they had taken the side of our colonisers.
In Chesa, we would get clothing supplies from the likes of James Makamba.
We used to wear jeans and clothes with labels such as Pilot and Superpro. The Makambas had a farm in Chesa.
We operated in areas like Danzva, Matitima, Nyakasikana, Dangaire and Javaira.
Then there was the bogus election in March 1978 for internal settlement.
We were at Mhute farm where we had camped when the white soldiers attacked us. My political commissar, Cde Kambanje, was shot in the back.
We managed to rescue him and went to Mungate where we found a headmaster ainzi Mutengwa aiva ne Peugot 404.
Head ndiye akatakura Communist Kambanje husiku kuenda naye kuNyahuwe, which was a semi-liberated zone.
I only later met Cde Kambanje after independence while working in the Ministry of Local Government.
While in Chesa, my platoon attacked Kangaire Camp and razed it to the ground.
That battle was even published in the war communique of the Zimbabwe News. I led that platoon.
We were to also successfully attack Nyanhoro camp in broad daylight.
It was in Chesa where I became close friends with Cde Hardson Kundai and the now Dr Robson Sadomba.
As we were in Chesa, there was an incident where I think I was unfairly treated by our leaders.
I had been given some clothing supplies and the rule was that these are supposed to be surrendered to the leaders, in this case sectorial political commissar Cde Kundai.
I did not surrender the clothes and distributed them amongst the fighters in my platoon.
For that, I was summoned to appear before our sectorial commander for Chaminuka, Cde Gomo.
Saka zvakanzi what I had done was gross indiscipline nekuti ndaifanira kutanga ndapa mashefu hembe dzacho votora zvavanoda, then give the remainder kuvakomana vaiva mu platoon mangu.
I was summoned to the leaders who were in Nyahuwe kwainzi kumagetsi in Rushinga.
I told them that we were the ones who had written letters to the povo asking for clothes and shoes upon realisation that some of the comrades in my team had torn clothes and worn out shoes.
But my position was brushed aside and I received 30 lashes on my backside.
I should mention that I was not happy and did not even move as I received the lashes.
Because I openly showed my displeasure in the punishment, Cde Gomo ordered I get five more lashes.
There was another platoon commander present, Cde Caution, he also had committed acts of indiscipline; so together with him, we were tasked to lead a group of girls to Ruya to collect war supplies.
But I was not stripped of my position as platoon commander.
I remember that time there was a drought and we survived on baobab fruits.
We went and collected the supplies before returning to Nyahuwe. There, it was decided that I was no longer returning to Chesa.
I was selected to join a mobile unit that was politicising the villagers in Nyahuwe.
*To be continued next week*