The Sunday Mail
Dr Simbi Mubako
Continued from last week
WHEN Simpson Mutambanengwe left London to join Zanu’s Dare reChimurenga in Zambia, David Zamchiya became president of Zimbabwe Students’ Union in Europe.
Students such as Sydney Sekeramayi came from Sweden while the likes of Frank Mbengo, Aaron Mutiti, Misheck Chinamasa and Mukudzei Mudzi came from the Soviet Union. When Zamchiya also left London to join Zanu, full-time politics, in Lusaka, I was elected president of the Zimbabwe Students’ Union in Europe.
Having moved from Dublin to the London School of Economics, I was able to devote more of my time in politicising members of the student union for the benefit of Zanu. We supported the Zanu representatives in London, from David Mutasa, Frank Ziyambi to Richard Hove.
We collected funds and clothing which we sent to Zambia in support of the war effort. We built friendships with British and Swedish students as well as other groups that were supporting the liberation of Zimbabwe.
When it was my turn to leave London, I took up a job as a lecturer at the University of Zambia.
Sekeramayi, who was still a student at Lund University, Sweden, became the president of the Zimbabwe Students’ Union in Europe.
When he finished his medical studies some five years later, Sekeramayi also joined the full-time service of Zanu in Mozambique.
The student union based in London was an important pillar for the growth of Zanu.
From its membership, nine persons joined Zanu’s war, namely Mudzi, Mutambanengwe, Zamchiya, Sekeramayi, Didymus Mutasa, Dzingai Mutumbuka, Ignatius Chingwedere and Sam Geza.
There were students’ unions in other parts of the world, but none showed as much political commitment as the Zimbabwe Students’ Union in Europe.
I have mentioned that from Roma in Lesotho, Eddison Zvobgo became a freedom fighter from the time of leaving university to the end.
From India, Richard Hove came straight to Lusaka and remained in the struggle until independence.
Similar stories can be told of Zapu students as well.
However, no group of students was as well organised and as committed to liberation as the Zimbabwe Students’ Union in Europe.
In the United States and Canada there were as many Zimbabweans as in Europe.
They were scattered all over North America with little opportunity to organise themselves effectively.
However, Kumbirai Kangai emerged as the designated Zanu representative in the United States whilst Rugare Gumbo was the party’s representative in Canada.
In 1973, both men left for Zambia and were elected to the Dare reChimurenga, the Zanu war council.
In addition, Dr Joseph Taderera and Davis Mugabe separately left their jobs in New York and joined the party service in Mozambique.
It has to be said though that these two were self–motivated. They did not come from an organised body of supporters in the United States.
The foregoing narrative shows that young people and workers in the Diaspora contributed immensely to the liberation struggle, several ending up joining the frontline.
This was basically the story of Zanu supporters with whom l related during many years in exile.
A similar story could be written about Zapu students who supported the liberation struggle.
I am aware of the careers of people like Callisto Ndlovu, who represented Zapu in the United States during his student days.
Phillimon Makonese and his group also studied in the Soviet Union and later came to work for the party in Zambia. Both are buried at the National Heroes Acre.
Zapu had supporters in the UK and other European countries who rendered valuable support to the armed struggle.
The story of the students’ contribution to the independence struggle would remain incomplete if it is not linked to the activities of students and intellectuals at the then only one University in Rhodesia itself.
From its foundation, the University of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was a predominantly white university.
The first six black students may have individually supported African nationalism in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, but they were simply too few to make an impact.
In fact, some of the foreign professors such as Geovanni Arrigi and Terence Ranger publicly supported African liberation more than their black students and they were deported for it.
Black students had not yet found the courage to raise their heads. After the Federation finally broke up, and when student numbers had increased, black students became more politically assertive at the Mount Pleasant campus.
They were roused by the rabid white supremacists of the Rhodesia Front regime which was pushing for the Unilateral Declaration of Independence with renewed vigour.
In 1964 the regime banned the pro- African Daily News as well as the two political parties, Zanu and the People’s Caretaker Party (Zapu).
University students led by Byron Hove and Judith Todd held protest demonstrations in front of Parliament.
They were arrested and convicted for contravening the notorious Law and Order Maintenance Act.
Byron Hove became the first black student to be elected president of the Students’ Representative Council.
After the proclamation of UDI, students protested in various ways which were suppressed by the regime or just by the university authorities.
Several students were expelled or simply forced to flee. Most were admitted in universities in the United Kingdom.
Thus, Stan Mudenge was admitted to York University and Christopher Ushewokunze ended up at the University of Edinburgh.
Both became Zimbabwe’s national heroes.
Student political agitation was not confined to the university in Harare.
Many protests and strikes against the Rhodesian regime took place sporadically in most secondary schools.
Wilfred Mhanda describes how he and other students at Goromonzi Secondary School organised an effective defiance campaign against the declaration of a republic by the Smith regime in March 1970.
The police raided the school, arrested some ringleaders but had to release them for lack of evidence.
However, the more revolutionary activities came from the university. It was inspired and funded by Zanu in Lusaka.
In 1971, the party planted an underground cell at the university headed by a student called Rodrick Musoko who had received elementary military training in Zambia.
The cell became politically dominant at the campus. It systematically spread its subversive activities to secondary schools and held public meetings at Stodart Hall, Mbare.
Science students stole chemicals from the University laboratories to make explosives. Mhanda describes the group’s activities as follows:
“Musoko trained us to make petrol bombs (commonly known as Molotov cocktails) out of chemicals, petrol and a piece of rubber.
“Those of us studying chemistry would bring supplies from the laboratories that we had stolen during practical lessons.
“We taught the students at the secondary schools about the use of such explosive devices.”
Students at St Mary’s and St Ignatius actually employed them in clashes with the police during demonstrations.
As the group activities expanded, Zanu provided it with a vehicle.
The students roped in lecturers like Dr Joseph Taderera and outsiders like Betserai Madzivire and Dennis Mangwana and mobilised high school headmasters.
The group staged a countrywide demonstration in which several high schools, Goromonzi, St Ignatius, St Mary’s, Empandeni, Thekwane, Fletcher High School – all participated.
The demonstration was a huge success, but it was a pyrrhic victory; it ended with the arrest and prosecution of most of the leaders many of whom had to jump bail and flee the country.
Zanu’s arms caches in the cities were captured. Dennis Mangwana was sentenced to 26 years in the prison and Betserai Madzivire to six years.
Dr Joseph Taderera fled the country and ended up in New York, USA.
It turned out that the police had all along had an informer, Felix Mwanza, embedded in the University of Zimbabwe cell.
A lot of the group’s plans were held in Mwanza’s house and Mwanza even received some military training in Zambia.
Thus, although the strike appeared a success, it spelt the demise of the university revolutionary cell.
Wilfred Mhanda, Dembure and Musoko managed to reach Lusaka where they joined Zanla forces.
When these events happened, I was in Lusaka at the University of Zambia.
Sometime in 1971, I was introduced to Felix Mwanza at the Zanu office at Liberation Centre in Lusaka.
One evening Henry Hamadziripi came to my university flat in Kabulonga, as he usually did, without notice.
He broached to me the subject of the project which he said the party had in Zimbabwe and in which he wanted me to participate.
I used to be sent to Malawi with material. Somebody from home would meet me in Malawi and take the material. Henry would not elaborate.
When I asked who from home I should be meeting he would not give a name. I felt I had no choice, but to decline the errand.
It was too vague and too risky. Later I learned that the man I was supposed to meet was none other than Felix Mwanza, the master spy.
My trust in Henry vanished and never recovered.
After the Geneva Conference of 1976, the tempo of the guerrilla war in Zimbabwe greatly quickened.
Thousands of young people from Zimbabwe flocked into Mozambique camps, as refugees and military recruits for Zanla forces.
Among these were radicalised students from schools and especially from the University of Rhodesia.
They left voluntarily and many of them made a significant contribution to Zanla’s final victory.
Some well-known names were Christopher Mutsvangwa ,who is now a Zanu-PF Politburo member and former Cabinet minister; and John Mayowe, who became ambassador and is buried at Heroes Acre.
The local university students finally made a major contribution to the liberation struggle.
Everybody knows that the war of liberation was supported by peasants, spirit mediums and traditional leaders.
Many people have also heard of the great supporting role played by mujibhas and chimbwidos.
Few had until now known of the role played by youths and students or workers in the diaspora as well as at our local schools and university, even before the revolution had become popular with the masses who were largely politicised by comrades carrying weapons.
The role of intellectuals, students and teachers and others was in fact fundamental to the kindling and sustaining of Zimbabwe’s Second Chimurenga.
Dr Simbi Mubako was speaking to our reporter Norman Muchemwa