The Sunday Mail
LAST week, Cde Noel Museredza whose Chimurenga name was Cde Ignatius Dzvotsvotsvo spoke about how he joined the liberation struggle in 1972 and how Rhodesian forces burnt three comrades after cornering them in a hut.
In this interview with our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike, Cde Dzvotsvotsvo continues his fascinating narration talking about how they killed about 20 white Rhodesian forces, the massacre at Chimoio and how they buried thousands of comrades in mass graves. It’s a horrific tale that lingers in the mind forever. Read on . . .
SM: Comrade Dzvotsvotsvo, lets continue with your gripping story. Can you start by telling us what were the roles of Pungwes during the liberation struggle?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Pungwes were used to mobilise people, talking about kunaka kwehondo kushata kwevarungu. Making people understand why we were fighting the liberation struggle. The other idea was to politicise the people. These were not pungwe ekungojaivha. Remember macomrades taigara muvanhu. We would hold the pungwes in the evening because as comrades we only moved during the night.
SM: During these pungwes as comrades you sang quite a number of songs. Tell us briefly about these songs.
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: There were so many songs. You know sometimes kana zvemasongs zvanetsa during pungwe, taitamba marecords, rhumba chaiyo, kutamba kanindo. Ini ndairova jive kwete zvekutamba. Ask those who knew me. One of the songs I used to enjoy was “Urombo tofire nyika.” (singing) “Hurombo tofirenyika! Hurombo todya mabhunu!” Sometimes we would change a church song woisa mazwi ehondo. As for dancing to kanindo, remember takanga tisingasiyane nemaradio because we always wanted to hear news. We had to listen to Rhodesian propaganda to know what the enemy was thinking. Later we had our own stations that broadcast from Maputo.
You know sometimes right in the middle of the forest, we would say vakomana ngatimbofara. Tairidza radio totamba stereki. Kutamba tichinakirwa. Pfuti iri kumusana uchitamba. This was important to reduce stress and also for unity. You know during our time, the early years, tairara in the same blanket with a female comrade pasina kana chaiitika. We were comrades. Mumwe wangu haana nebasa rese. Even clothes sometimes taipfeka dzevakadzi. Sometimes waichinja hembe comrade wechikadzi aripo. There was nothing unusual about it.
SM: But some female comrades got pregnant?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Yes, zvinowanikwa even pachikoro chaipo zvinoitika. But that doesn’t mean all school children are like that. Kune vamwe vanongoita basa rekuda kubata mazamu evasikana pachikoro, hubenzi hwavo but kazhinji taitorara with our female comrades in the same blanket and nothing happened.
SM: We all hear that some comrades abused vana chimbwido?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Very true but taiti tikakubata we would sometimes take you back to the rear for you to be disciplined. That’s why we used to say kune nzira dzemasoja dzekuzvibata nadzo. Eight Points of Attention that we used to sing in that song Kune Nzira Dzemasoja. Dzorerai zvamunenge matora kupovho; mukabata muvengi hamuwurayi; musaite cheupombwe and so on. We had rules and regulations. The spirit mediums would always tell us to adhere to the rules and regulations. Vana sekuru would always tell us that muvhimi haayende nemukadzi kuno vhima. So these female comrades were part of us but look hapana panoshaika ndururani.
SM: How important were the spirit mediums during the liberation struggle?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: We had Sekuru Chipfeni and others whose main duty was to warn us kuti kuri kuuya shiri dzevarungu, meaning ndege. They would warn us and indeed zvavaitaura would happen.
SM: Is this really, really true?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Yes, zvaiitika. This was our way during the liberation struggle.
SM: What are these things we constantly hear from comrades called poshtos?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Poshto is Portuguese. When we got to a place, taisagara sembeva. Taigara like in twos at one place with the commander right at the centre of these poshtos. These positions pataigara in pairs ndipo pataiti poshto.
SM: What was the difference between section commander and detachment commander?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: During our time, a section had 12 comrades. This was a number big enough kufamba without being identified by the enemy. Detachment was when we brought a number of sections together with the aim of going to attack a certain camp or area. A detachment was for a special occasion yamunenge maronga.
SM: When we spoke earlier you said, during the war, as comrades you killed sell-outs. Did you kill any sell-out yourself?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Personally I didn’t kill any sell-out, but yes sell-outs were killed. I need to tell you that we didn’t just kill these sell-outs. Sometimes we would take the sell-outs to Mozambique and teach them politics. There are quite a number of comrades today who were sell-outs but hazvichaiti kuti nditaure mazita avo. These sellouts became comrades just like me that’s why it’s now difficult for me to name some of these former sell-outs because they became part of us. Some of these sell-outs vakanga vasinganetse kudzidzisa. That’s why we always said asingazivi ngaadzidziswe.
SM: Let’s get back to the war front. Can you briefly tell us of a battle that you as comrades really planned and you went on to execute?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: There were many such battles but I vividly remember when we attacked murungu ainzi Stavros. It was a farm so there were some people from DDF who were repairing roads. There were many whites camped at this site as the roads were being repaired. We attacked them during the night. We first burnt about six DDF graders and bulldozers. Then we turned to the Rhodesian forces. Apa takavawanikidza. I am talking about around 40 whites. Kuvarova kwete zvekutamba. We took them by surprise so they were confused. I can tell you we killed many whites during this battle. Hapana wedu akasara kana kukuvara. The next morning, ndege dzikati dzauya. But we were already gone.
SM: Take us through how you started this battle?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: We had mortar bombs and bazookas so we launched these first and they hit the graders and the bulldozers. After this, we started firing into their camp. Some tried to escape but our fire-power was too heavy for them. It’s unfortunate we could not wait until the next day to see how many we killed because we knew ndege dziri kuuya first thing in the morning.
We were later told nepovho that during this battle we killed about 20 whites.
SM: These were human beings you had killed. Didn’t you sometimes regret taking human life?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: No, not at all. Remember iyewo anga achinditsvaga. If they got to us first, they would have killed us. Tiri vanhu vaitsvagana so there was no reason to regret. We started this battle around 8pm and we spent I think about an hour tichivarova. The next morning helicopters came but we had already retreated and went into hiding. But from our hiding positions we could see kuti nhasi hapana mufaro. We had retreated to another farm takahwanda mumapaddock emombe.
SM: During the war what did you believe in – spirit mediums or Christianity?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Spirit mediums because sometimes taitorotswa about the war. Taipira mudzimu before doing anything.
SM: So after this battle take us through your journey.
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: Then came détente yaMuzorewa in 1975. Détente was a time yakanzi ceasefire naMuzorewa. During this time, waiti ukaenda kuMozambique, Frelimo comrades would say to you go back to Rhodesia Muzorewa is saying the war is over. Most of the comrades were sent to the rear during this time vaibatwa neFrelimo and they would not come back. This created confusion but we followed instructions from our headquarters in Maputo. This happened from 1975 up to 1976.
We were in Shamva during this time but we later decided kuti ngatiteyerei kuMozambique timbononzwa what’s really happening. We were about 15 comrades. I was now the sectoral security. So we went via Mukumbura Border. I remember as we walked Cde Garikai vakatsika chimbambaira vachibva vaputikirwa. Fortunately he didn’t die. Then Cde Lovemore was the next victim. Now we had two injured comrades. We went kupovho and got two bicycles tikaisa macomrades edu tikaenda.
When we got to Mozambique, we were arrested. The injured comrades were taken by plane to Beira. We were later taken to a camp called Battaliyawo in Tete. That is when we got to know the real situation. The liberation struggle actually stopped during this time.
SM: Tell us more about this ceasefire yekwaMuzorewa. What had happened?
Cde Dzvotsvotsvo: We heard that there were tuma talks twakaitirwa kuZambia mutrain what what. Tuma talks itwotwo gave birth to détente. Hondo ikatombomira. Later I was taken to Chimoio where I met Cde Bethune.
(Next week, Cde Dzvotsvotsvo will speak about the Chimoio massacre and how they buried thousands of comrades including school children in mass graves).