The Sunday Mail
LAST week Comrade Florence Mudzengerere whose Chimurenga name was Cde Pronica Chinyandura Mabhunu narrated how at the age of 13 she voluntarily joined the liberation struggle in August 1973. She went on to narrate how during difficult times they were forced to drink their urine and slept side-by-side with snakes.
Cde Pronica continues her story narrating to our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike how she was assigned to train female freedom fighters at Chifombo and her roles in the commissariat department. She narrates how she was deployed to the war front in Gaza and Guru where they got into a battle and managed to capture six Rhodesian soldiers.
For the first time, we bring you the story of a female freedom fighter, a commander right at the war front, giving the Smith regime sleepless nights. Read on . . .
SM: Let’s continue your story Cde Pronica. You had spoken about the death of Chairman Chitepo and how some Zanu leaders were arrested in Zambia. Tell us, how did the arrest of the Zanu leaders affect the liberation struggle?
Cde Pronica: For about four to five months, there was confusion. The comrades at the war front were running out of ammunition because there were no supplies from the rear.
SM: You said when you went at Nachingweya Camp in Tanzania, you were told that you were being trained to be trainers. Did you finally train some comrades after your training?
Cde Pronica: Yes, I did. At Chifombo Base. I trained many recruits at Chifombo. The recruits were coming in large batches, but like I told you I was later deployed to the commissariat department. My main duty was to teach the recruits political orientation — the party ideology, discipline and general politics. After political orientation, that’s when they would go for military training.
SM: What exactly where you teaching these recruits?
Cde Pronica: We taught them politics linked to Marxism and Leninism. We got most of the teachings from Mao Tse Tung and how the Chinese fought their wars. We also had our booklets that were compiled by members of Dare Rechimurenga, including Cde Tongo and others. First and foremost, we would teach the recruits kuti chinombonzi hudzvanyiriri chii? When we say we are oppressed what exactly do we mean? We then moved to modules such as what does it mean to be a Zimbabwean? We spoke kuti chinombonzi nyika chii? Its land and its riches. We would then say in Zimbabwe, tinombori nei, hupfumi in Zimbabwe chii? Then we would say, saka izvozvi ndivanani vanaho hupfumi hwacho? Sei mablacks asina hupfumi hwacho? Todzika nayo telling the recruits kuti nyika takatotorerwa because hupfumi hwacho hatina varungu varikungotora vachiendesa kuBritain. All the fertile land was in the hands of whites while blacks were pushed kumaruzevha. We also explained to them kuti ruzevha rwacho rwakambouya sei. We would have these lectures pasi pemuti. First we would ask the recruits the three check-ups to establish why each one of them had joined the liberation struggle. After the three check-ups, the recruits would be given their Chimurenga names. We would then take them through political orientation? Before going for military training, we would evaluate those to see the level of understanding of each and every recruit. We would give them tests to see how much they would have absorbed.
SM: What was the use of political orientation? Why was it the first stage before one went for military training?
Cde Pronica: It would make one understand and be conscious of the task at hand. It would prepare one to sacrifice and be prepared for the hardships in waging the war. Political orientation would prepare the comrades to be brave enough to kill those supporting the colonial system. It would make the recruits understand that this was a just cause and people were going to die. We would tell the recruits that tisu mapfupa akanzi naMbuya Nehanda mapfupa angu achamuka.
SM: What role did spirit mediums play during the liberation struggle?
Cde Pronica: The environment that was there during this time, you could breathe kuti sango rino rine varidzi varo. We had a place near Chifombo where the person who had the spirit yaMbuya Nehanda used to stay. Remember before the comrades started the sustained Second Chimurenga, they didn’t just start the war. They went and took this person aisvikirwa nemudzimu waMbuya Nehanda. The Zanla leaders went vakasuma kumasvikiro kuti tauya sevana venyu. I wasn’t there but we were told that these Zanla leader vakatakura Mbuya Nehanda ava and brought her to some place near Chifombo where she used to stay. So the comrades who fought the war during the early days, vakatopihwa mhiko of what to do and not to do during the struggle. So before the comrades took the ammunition to the front, they would go to this place where Mbuya Nehanda was and say “vana vava kuenda nezvombo. Tivhurireiwo nzira.” Or the leaders would go there to thank Mbuya Nehanda saying “vana vakadzoka. Tinotenda nekuvatungamira.” Waiti ukaenda pazvimbo iyoyi hana ichirova, unobvapo hana yagadzikana.
SM: After training the recruits, where did you go?
Cde Pronica: Like I told you, hondo yakazenge yakura. I was deployed to one of our bases, kwainzi kwaJozee. I also trained some recruits here. We opened other bases, Tembwe 1 and Tembwe 2.
After opening Tembwe 3 I was assigned from Tete to Manica where I was given an area to operate from. We were five female comrades and our male counterparts. There was myself, Cde Lucy, Cde Chipo, Cde Shylene and Cde Angie Tichatonga who is still alive. Cde Angie was my assistant. Takapinda kunonzi kuGuru Sector. Takapinda nekuVilla Katandika went to Gairezi and then arrived in Nyanga around the Nyamaropa area. We also operated around Nyatate and Nyanhongo areas. Kwana Chief Katerere.
These are the areas we operated around. These were semi-liberated zones. After operating at the war front for a while, I was later asked to go back to the rear. I was given about 50 female comrades who had come from Nachingweya. This was the second group after our group to receive training at Nachingweya. I was given the task to go and open the Gaza war front in 1977. We started by carrying ammunition from Mapai going to Nuanetsi via Limpopo.
SM: You spoke about your deployment in Manica. Where you the first group of female freedom fighters to be deployed at the war front?
Cde Pronica: No, we were not the first. We were only the first female comrades to operate around the Guru Sector. Other female comrades were operating in other sectors. One of the reasons why I think we were deployed around the Guru sector which was semi-liberated was because as female comrades, I think our leaders thought we could not manage to go to areas where the war was intense. Remember by this time, some of the female comrades were now going for their monthly periods and as you know some women struggle during this time. So female comrades were not sent to those areas where the war was intense. In areas where the war was intense, one of our duties was to make sure we supply materiel to our male counterparts.
The other reason why we couldn’t be deployed in areas where the war was intense was because the Rhodesian forces once they knew that there was a group of female comrades, they would pour in reinforcements with the aim of capturing one of the female comrades. They really wanted to capture and not kill female comrades. So we would be deployed in small groups.
SM: So when you got to these semi-liberated zones, where you involved in any battle?
Cde Pronica: Yes.
SM: Explain to us, how it felt to fire the gun for the first time?
Cde Pronica: I can’t even tell the excitement. You know when you finally achieve something you are happy. I vividly remember one of the battles in Nyanga around the Kute area.
SM: Tell us how this battle really started?
Cde Pronica: Hondo yepaKute yakatanga manheru, I think around 8pm. There was a camp for Rhodesian soldiers at Kute. Rhodesian soldiers were resting and some of them were preparing to go to have their supper.
Povho had informed us about the routine of these Rhodesian soldiers. We knew kuti macommander avo anorara papi and kuti general soldiers anorara papi.
We also knew how they guarded the place during the night. We planned the attack for hours. We decided that we wanted to capture some of the Rhodesian soldiers. The plan then was to first capture those guarding the camp. After capturing the guards, that’s when we would start firing. We did this and managed to capture six black Rhodesian soldiers. We took them to the rear in Mozambique. I think these soldiers were later trained to become freedom fighters.
SM: Trained to be freedom fighters? How and why?
Cde Pronica: One of our rules was tisanetse vasungwa vatinenga tabata. Tinofanirwa kuvadzidzisa kuti zvamuri kuita zvakashata uye zvakashata chii. We told them you are fighting an unjust war. We would educate them kuti isu tiri kurwira chinhu chedu. We would then ask them kuti ko imi muri kurwirei? What are you fighting for? So taizovadzidzisa. Muri vanhu vatema sesu muri kushandiswa nevarungu. Maita rombo rakanaka kuti manzvengwa nemabara mukabatwa muri zvamuri. Either you continue fighting the unjust war of which we will kill you or monzwisisa. You are killing your relatives for nothing.
Next week Cde Pronica narrates how exactly the attack leading to the capture of the six Rhodesian soldiers was conducted and how as a commander in charge of the commissariat department at Mavhonde she took her sub-machine gun during the Man-to-Man Battle and gunned down quite a number of Rhodesian soldiers. She chillingly says; “So when I see the blood, ndiri kuona chitsidzo chacomrade wangu. The blood says “Cde ndafa, but pamberi nehondo. Ndimi masara. Pamberi nehondo!” Make sure you get The Sunday Mail next week to hear why Cde Pronica was uttering these touching words.