The Sunday Mail
LIBERATION war fighter Cde George Shumba, whose Chimurenga name was Farai Tafirenyika continues to narrate events during the Detente period. This week he chronicles to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati how the death of Cde Herbert Chitepo brought misery amongst many recruits in Zanu and the crafting of the Mgagao declaration that removed Zanu leader Ndabaningi Sithole.
Question: You narrate harrowing experiences at Chifombo. But what did that culminate in?
Answer: In March 1975, I went to Zambia, paMagazini camp. It was just four kilometres from Chifombo. At that time Cde Chitepo had just been killed.
When Chitepo died, everyone was really affected; we were disturbed because Chitepo was a big figure to us.
When we were doing politics in Zanu, his name was more prominent than other leaders.
The bomb that killed Cde Chitepo was planted by people, amongst us, who included Joseph Chimurenga.
Question: Joseph Chimurenga? You sound conclusive in the face of documented details that it was the work of the Ian Smith regime, with characters like Hugh Hind and Taffy Brice doing the actual ‘job’. Are you not dragging more names into the Chitepo assassination puzzle, which has its own fair of contradicting narrations?
Answer: I know it was Joseph Chimurenga. How could the whites get to Chitepo without assistance from within? Chitepo aisava munhu wekutamba naye zvekuti anoda anongosvika pedyo.
Joseph Chimurenga was the one who was responsible for setting the bomb that killed Chitepo. That one was an internal job.
The person who was responsible for hiding some of the pieces of wire and bomb materials, left after setting of the explosive device, is also someone I know. The last time, I checked, he was living in Wedza, Mashonaland East province.
His name is (name withheld), find him, he has a say in what happened or how Chitepo was assassinated. He told me everything. The death of Cde Chitepo, for some of us who were at Chifombo, is known to have been part of the eliminations that were going on during the Nhari-Badza rebellion.
Like I said earlier, Chitepo was seen ne vamwe vakuru ve High Command vanenge Tongo naRobson Manyika semunhu ainzwisisa kuti nyaya yana Nhari inoda kuwongororwa.
Chitepo akanga awona kutadza kwaitwa nevakuru mukusairira vakomana ku front vasina zvokurwisa zvakakwana while military leaders were living in a comfort zone at the rear. He was another victim of the Tongo, Chigowe and Manyika eliminations. They are the ones who decided who would live and not.
I remember, at one time when we went to Petauke, Cde Ndoda’s sister, Catherine was implicated in siding with the Nhari rebels. It took Ndoda to use his influence, as one of the henchmen, to save his sister.
Ndoda actually told me that her sister was highly suspected, akati; “hanzvadzi yangu haingauraiwe ini ndiripo.”
Question: Sorry Cde Tafirenyika, it seems like you are mentioning a lot of events. We do not want to get mixed up. You mention you left Chifombo in March and went to Lusaka, why were you going there and with whom?
Answer: I was part of a group that went to Lusaka together with Tongo, Manyika and Chigowe who were facilitating that we go for training in Tanzania.
In Lusaka, that is when I saw Tongo’s wife. We didn’t sleep in Lusaka, but were taken to a farm which Zanu had been given by the Zambian Government. It was just outside Lusaka.
After about three days, Ndabaningi Sithole came to the farm. He was alone and was given a warm welcome by Tongo. The welcome was despite the scandals Tongo had led at Chifombo.
Sithole was seeking recognition because Mugabe, after the death of Chitepo, had assumed control of Zanu with the backing of the fighters.
This was a few weeks before the arrest of Cde Tongo and other leaders suspected of killing Chitepo.
Tongo was arrested in April, after we had left for training in Tanzania.
We were so many people at the farm and transport was organised by Manyika together with the Zambian government to carry us to Tanzania.
Over nine trucks came to ferry us. Before we left, we sang with passion and emotion; “Toyambuka Zambezi”.
We arrived in Tunduma, Tanzania and stayed there for two days.
After that we proceeded to Mbeya.
When we got to Mbeya we were a group of 401 recruits. We slept at Tanzania Defence Forces Barracks.
From there, we moved to Ilinga then Mgagao before the trucks returned to Lusaka.
The commander was Cde Dzinashe Machingura and Nyikadzinashe was security. There was also Cde Sipho and Dominic Chiwenga who were assistant instructors to Cde Chipoyera Manyadzi or Cde Paka.
Even Badza’s young brother, Kaguvi, was also there as assistant instructor.
Some Chinese instructors were leading the training. We were there from April 1975 and the training was supposed to be complete in six months.
But because of the Détente, we ended up spending one year six months in Tanzania.
Our group also had the likes of Happison Muchechetere and Ezai Chimonyo.
Question: What did your training involve?
Answer: We were trained to handle guns. We were also grouped into different classes with some doing medicine, artillery and engineering, but this specialisation was only done after doing basic training.
I was then moved to politics. The leader of that group was Dzinashe Machingura.
During those days, ndaienda kwainzi kuVazee, borrowed from Kiswahili, Mzee, which means respected elders.
I was working with Freddy Matanga, who later became a Zimbabwe National Army brigadier in Kwekwe.
Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Chikerema came to Mgagao and there was a military drill to demonstrate what we had learnt.
There was grenade salute that almost killed Sithole because one of the grenades failed to detonate whilst still in the air and it exploded near Sithole, as it fell.
Chikerema, I remember, took a keen interest in knowing how we used the Bazooka.
Vaingonzwa madhara aye vasingazive kuti zvombo zvinoshanda sei. All they could do was to fire pistols, which small white boys could do with good precision than most of them.
But just after that visit ana Ndabaningi Sithole, Muzorewa and Chikerema vakazonzi hatichavadi.
Question: Are we now talking of the Mgagao Declaration, how was it executed?
Answer: The meeting was called by camp commander Dzino Machingura nana Taitezvi in November 1975. Munhu wese came together and we had one secretary taking down the points.
Everyone contributed. While some were quiet, the fact that they were part means they were in agreement with what is going on.
Taitezvi or Nyarambi is the one who wrote the actual document. The last I heard of him, he was at ZBC Bulawayo.
After the document to fire Sithole was done, it was then given to Grey Mapondera or Everisto Mwatse who, after independence, once worked at ZBC, but died later of diabetes.
He went with the document, together with Cde Chinodakufa, to Sithole who was booked in a hotel in Tanzania.
Julius Nyerere supported our position because he had realised Sithole was being lenient with Ian Smith.
Question: What were the reasons that had made you to suddenly say you no longer wanted Sithole to lead you?
Answer: During the time of Detente, Sithole failed to rescue Zanla forces, especially those who were in Zambia. He had also failed to recognise the elected Zanu leadership imprisoned in Zambia.
Again when the Nhari-Badza rebellion occurred, there were problems in most camps and Sithole was called as the leader to come and quell the situation but failed because his daughter, Tsitsi, who was in the United States was not feeling well and opted to go and see her.
As such, some Zanla forces died and there was anger that Sithole was choosing the luxuries of an airplane and comforting his daughter in some nice hospital when vakomana varikurara vakatsamira mabwe musango.
With the fallout, as well as other scheming tactics by power hungry elements like Mugabe, Sithole was expelled from Zanu and all Zanu fighters and recruits in bases and camps refused to recognise him.
But I should mention that during the crafting of the Mgagao declaration, that is when we made a mistake and even Mwatse questioned the logic of having a clause that directly names Mugabe as leader, but Dzino threatened him with field punishment.
For that clause to stay, Mugabe had sent Muzenda who was in Lusaka to scheme on his behalf. Muzenda had been left as the Zanu representative in the New ANC.
Also Muzenda had the support of the senior military commanders because, pakasungwa ma military commanders, like Cde Tongo, he was the one looking after their families’ welfare in Lusaka.
So when we moved from Mgagao, we then went to Mozambique by sea. I was one of the commanders of that ship yainzi Mapinduzi.
We arrived in Beira and went to Tembue where I was political instructor. I did not stay long and was deployed to the front and operated in Tete province with Cde Bombadier being our commander and Chinodakufa was political commissar.
Continued next week