The Sunday Mail
COMRADE Gilbert Musekiwa Simon Majiri, whose Chimurenga name was Cde Chabudaishudhu Kufahakuurayi last week narrated to our team comprising Munyaradzi Huni and Tendai Manzvanzvike how on deployment in Rhodesia he was arrested by the notorious Selous Scouts under the Smith regime. He narrated how after serving 10 tortuous years in prison, he again joined the liberation struggle and was later assigned to the Chitepo Ideological College.
In this interview he narrates the horror he witnessed after the attack at Chimoio and his re-union with VP Mnangagwa in Mozambique. The two had met while serving their sentences at Khami Maximum Prison. Read on …
SM: Comrade, let’s continue your story of bravery and courage. You said after fighting at the war front you were then assigned to Chitepo Ideological College. What were your roles at this college?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: I was seconded to the Chitepo Ideological College were I had to teach other comrades about the history of Zanu. The principal at this college I think was called Muparuri. Some of the teachers included Mandebvu, George Rutanhire, Tichaona Freedom, who was a female teacher and others. While I taught the comrades the history of Zanu, when these other comrades taught their subjects I would revert to become a student because I wanted to learn more.
SM: Tell us what you would tell your students about the liberation struggle?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: I would tell them that hatina mamwe matorero atingaite nyika other than the barrel of the gun. Like I told you earlier on, the struggle was based on five points of liberation programme with the most important point being – mass mobilization so that we became hove dzinoshambira mumvura. I told the comrades to always respect the masses because we could not survive without them. We were going to the war front without any food so mass ndiyo yaitotichengeta. The Chinese had taught us not to say “God will give us power to fight for Zimbabwe.” They said we should say “the mass will give us power to fight for Zimbabwe.”
There was also this song “Taurai zvinetsika kuruzhinji rwevanhu,” which taught comrades how to relate with the masses. While at Chitepo Ideological College that’s when I was made Member of General Staff, in the production department. I was given my section at Mudzingadzi. Our overall commander at Chimoio was Cde Bethune. This camp had quite a number of sections. As the production commander some of my responsibilities included ensuring production at Mudzingadzi and ensuring that all our tools were accounted for. We had a very big garden where were produced quite a number of crops, including maize and vegetables. The overall commander at Mudzingadzi was Cde Guhwa. I was commander in charge of production while Cde Mambo was the base medical officer.
SM: Mudzingadzi was part of Chimoio base. Tell us what happened during the Chimoio attack from your perspective?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: The night before Chimoio attack, I had a dream. I was singing one of my favourite songs, “Torai vana muende navo kuZimbabwe, Mozambique handidi.” This was a song that had just been composed by some comrades but I liked it very much. It’s like one of the songs that people at burial societies used to sing “Torai vana muenda navo kumusha, Kambuzuma handidi.” This song had been turned into a Chimurenga song. So in this dream I kept on singing this song. I even tried to sing other songs by Jim Reeves, Black Mambazo but this song kept ringing in my mind. Later in this dream I saw zigomba zihombe which was about 30 metres deep. Mugomba umu makanga mune moto and when I looked around I saw that some of the avocado trees nearby were also burning. I later saw vasikana vakarara kuti katakata and I said is this cover and crawl yavari kuita or what? I woke up the next day feeling very tired. I told one of my comrades, Tapiwa kuti hope dzandarota hadzina kunyatsonaka.
I told Tapiwa to call all the comrades for the morning parade. The comrades gathered and when we arrived, they were dancing and singing. While there were dancing, one of the female comrades called Felistas, I don’t know what she saw. She just rushed to the change-house. Her commander, Killer Mabhunu called saying “iwe dzokera kunevamwe uko.” Felistas kept on running to the change-house. I knew something was wrong. I looked up the sky ndipo pandakaona kuti pano patoipa.
Ndege dzakanga dzazara mudenga kuita kunge nyuchi. I commandeered my battalion to rush kumabvazuva where there was Mudzingadzi river. There was a thick forest so I shouted to the comrades to always run under the cover of the trees. I told those wearing clothes with bright colours to remove them kuti tisaonekwe from the helicopters. When we got to Mudzingadzi River, we crossed and rushed to Makombe base. When we arrived at Makombe base, we were now quite some distance from where the attacks where taking place. I asked around if we were prepared to go for a rescue operation. From a distance, we could see that our comrades were under heavy attack. We could see jet fighters dropping bombs while helicopters hovered around the bases shooting those who would have survived from the bomb attacks. It was terrible and horrible but we could not do anything about it. We could not do anything to stop this merciless and ruthless bombardment.
SM: Comrade, when this attack took place, you say you managed with your battalion to rush to Makombe base. Was your base attacked or the attack took place at other bases around Chimoio?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: Mudzingadzi did not come under heavy attack. The Rhodesian jet fighters just dropped a few bombs but by that time, we had already left the base. One of the bombs destroyed the farm house at Mudzingadzi 2 but I think this bomb was targeting Takawira 2 base which was under Cde Steven Chocha (now Commissioner Augustine Chihuri). Just so you know, there was Mudzingadzi 1, 2 and 3. Mudzingadzi was about 3-4 km from Chimoio headquarters which was really came under attack. Mudzingadzi and Pasichigare bases are the ones that were furthest from the headquarters. We kept ammunition at Tambawakachenjera base. I think in total there were about 23 bases under Chimoio camp whose overall commander was Cde Bethune.
SM: Let’s go back a little to your dream. What do you think you were seeing in this dream?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: I think I was seeing the attack that took place the next day. Zigomba riya where I later saw vasikana vakati katakata was at Nehanda base and we later discovered kuti that was the most affected during the attack. Vanhu vakafa ipapo zvainzwisa tsitsi. Hauchemi futi.
All my comrades at Mudzingadzi were not affected at all, but when we later went to Chimoio after that attack, we discovered that the enemy had really butchered our comrades. Death was smelling all over the place. Up to this day, the horrific vision I saw keeps coming to my mind. From the attack, it was clear that muvengi knew exactly what the situation was like and muvengi knew where to attack and what time to attack.
SM: So after the attack, where did you go?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: We later went for a rescue operation. I think we were six comrades. Before going for this rescue operation, we first established whether it was now safe. We assisted some of the comrades who were injured nekuunganidza those who had died. There are no words to describe what we saw. Body parts were all over the place. Some comrades vakanga vaputika hura huri panze. You would walk woona musoro wemunhu, after a while woona gumbo, after a while woona maoko. Sometimes waingoona hura wemunhu body yacho you would not see it. I don’t want to say anything more (long pause).
SM: Still on Chimoio attack, we hear that there were some spirit mediums at one of the bases who warned that the camp was likely to be attacked. Were you aware this?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: I heard about this after the attack that some spirit mediums had warned the commanders that the camp was going to be attacked. I was told that the spirit mediums had said bvisai vana pano mazuva mashanu asati asvika, tiri kuona moto mutsvuku. So I am sure some of the commanders knew the base was likely to be attacked. We were at Mudzingadzi so I am not sure what they did after this warning. I am actually told that Cde Tongo was told nemudzimu kuti enda unotaurira vana vese vabude from that camp mazuva mashanu asati asvika. Tongogara was the chief of defence (COD).
SM: If the commanders had been warned, why didn’t they remove comrades from this camp?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: The COD was supposed to talk to the COP, chief of operations who was Rex Nhongo at that time. That was the protocol. I am not sure whether this was done.
SM: Take us through your journey after this attack.
Cde Chabudaishudhu: Later we went to Chimoio town where we met Cde Rex Nhongo and Cde Misihairambwi. On arrival they first gave us plain milk and later they gave us some tea and we think tea iyi yakanga inembanje to make us sleep. After drinking this tea, we slept. When we woke up, Rex and Misihairambwi were talking about Chimoio revenge and we could see some comrades getting into some trucks vachinzi we are deploying them to go and revenge in Rhodesia. I joined those who were boarding these trucks, but on seeing me, Cde Nhongo said, ahh Cde mumwe nemumwe ane mission yaakapuhwa. He stopped me from boarding the trucks but I really wanted to go to Rhodesia for revenge. I had seen what the Rhodesians had done at Chimoio and I really wanted revenge but Cde Nhongo vakaramba. He actually told me that Zanu wanted to appoint me as its representative in Syria. So I went back to Mudzingadzi to take a few of my clothes ready for this assignment. After a few weeks, I discovered I was not going anywhere. I was later taken to Doroi kuya kwandati kwaiva kwema refugees. From there I went to Pungwe 3. This is where I met Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa together with Cde Tongogara. On seeing me, Cde Mnangagwa shouted “can I believe my eyes, can I believe my eyes?” We had last seen each other at Khami Maximum Prison. I replied “why not, you have to believe your eyes.” We hugged each other. We then sat down narrating our journeys from the prison.
After a few months, I was posted to Maputo where I was put under the department of Manpower and Labour together with Ignatius Chigwedere. Some of my duties included identifying comrades who were supposed to go and further their education. Some comrades went to Cuba, Denmark, Romania, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and so on. We were then assigned, about eight of us, to follow up and see whether these comrades were receiving proper education. We were also assigned to go and source artillery. I went to Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia. I was supposed to also go to Pakistan, but the situation there at that time was very volatile and so I was told not to go there. There was a split among our comrades who were in Pakistan.
From this trip, I went back to Maputo and continued with my Manpower and Labour duties until 1980. On 15 January 1980, we flew into Zimbabwe. I remember taiva navaMuzenda, Mutumbuka, Patrick Kombayi and others. We had some problems at the airport because of our Chimurenga names and Cde Muzenda right at the airport vakatanga kuimba that song “Zanu yaramba zvemadhisinyongoro.” Mutumbuka started addressing the officials at the airport saying “it’s a matter of time we are marching from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.” After a while, we were allowed in. We went to some medical centre that was in Highlands. The next day, we went to Number 88 Manica Road where we continued our Manpower and Labour duties. There were many scholarships and we would select those comrades who deserved to go for the scholarships. We sent many people around the world.
While at Number 88 Manica, Cde Kangai called me to the Ministry of Labour because many people were disgruntled. They thought once the country got independence, vanenge vatova maboss. As a result, during these early years of independence, we witnessed quite a number of strikes. I told Cde Kangai kuti ‘I can’t come to the Ministry because a strong party makes a strong government. If I come there, that will only be to fill my tummy.’ I wanted to remain working for the party, but in December 1981, Cde Manyika came and took me to the Ministry of Labour. I was taken to Compensation House where I was told to fill forms to join the ministry. During this time, I had written a book entitled “Labour Court in a New Socialist.” I really don’t know what happened to this book. I worked as a labour officer for many years until I took early retirement. I got an A2 farm in Mvurwi and that is where I am today.
SM: When you look at Zimbabwe today, after all you went through, would you say this is the Zimbabwe you fought for?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: I am happy you have asked this question. I was failing to get this platform. It looks like these days ukanzi uri muwar vet watoita muvengi wevanhu, why? Some ask, wakaenda kuhondo ukazouya nei? Chauinacho hapana. Some people would tell us during the liberation struggle kuti imi musina kudzidza chiendai munoridza pfuti kana matora nyika yacho, isu takadzidza tichauya tokutorerai. This is what is happening now. I think there are some people in Zanu-PF today who were against the revolution who are now against war veterans.
Takutonyara kutaura kuti tiri mawar veterans. Some people ask, wakanga watumwa here kuenda kuhondo kwacho? I told you I voluntarily joined the liberation struggle and even after serving 10 years in prison I went back to join the struggle. No one forced me because I wanted to free my country. Today, vanhu vaguta vava kutisvora. Aiwa pakanaka.
Also, I hope Government will not one day declare this country as a Christian country because all the comrades who died during the war vakanga vasiri maChristu. We were protected during the war by our spirit mediums, that’s why taikanda bute pasi whenever we got to an area. This doesn’t mean I am against Christianity. I am actually in the Salvation Army.
SM: You joined the liberation struggle when you were still young. What advice would you want to give to today’s youths?
Cde Chabudaishudhu: I say to the youths, ndimi vagari venhaka. Saka kuti ugare hushe, hunge uchiziva kwawakabva nako. Today’s youths should study the country’s history so that they become informed leaders of tomorrow.