The Sunday Mail
We chronicle the political life of Cde Norman Makotsi, whose nom de guerre was Cde Lecture. The liberation war fighter narrates his early life to our Deputy News Editor, Levi Mukarati. He also gives insights on his uncle Cde Nesbert Makotsi, who is famous for being part of a group that killed the first white man in Rhodesia in 1964 to mark the liberation war.
Q: The mention of your name, Norman Makotsi, triggers a few questions – how are you linked to Nesbert Makotsi of the Crocodile Commando Group, which is famous for killing the first white person in Rhodesia. Can you tell us who you are in that matrix?
A: Nesbert Makotsi was my uncle. My father, John, was first born in his family and Nesbert came after him.
Uncle Nesbert is the one who introduced me to politics.
At one point, I lived with him in Bulawayo when he was on the run for partaking in the killing of the white man.
But you ask who I am and how I fit in Cde Nesbert’s life, so let me begin my story.
My name is Norman Makotsi. I was born on 6 June 1950 in Mutemererwa Kraal, Rusape, Makoni District in Manicaland Province.
My father’s name was John while my mother is called Netty. I am second born in a family of eight.
My parents were peasant farmers, so I grew up herding cattle as well as helping in subsistence farming activities at our rural home. Later, during the war, I was to be known as Cde Lecture.
In 1958, I enrolled at a nearby school – St Peters Tokoyo – in Mutungagore for Sub A. I was at that school until I completed Standard Six in 1966.
In 1967, I left the rural area to live with my mother’s brother, Misheck Kapumha, in Bulawayo.
I was seeking employment opportunities.
With the assistance of uncle Kapumha, I managed to get a job as a gardener at a house in one of the low density suburbs. My employer was white and his name was Mr Habercook.
It was my first employment and I was excited. My monthly salary was two pounds.
I worked for Mr Habercook for about six months before getting another job, again as a gardener.
My second job was at the residency of Mr and Mrs Bowden and Streaker, where my monthly salary was four pounds. That was in 1969.
In 1970, I left the job to join Morden Furnishers Bulawayo, as a time recording clerk.
Q: From gardener to time recording clerk, how was that possible since the new job required one to have specialised training?
A: When I got the job, my new employer organised my training at Dunlop. The training was for a few weeks before I went back to assume the duties at Morden Furnishers.
My duties were mainly clocking the times for all employees, that is, what time they got to work, left for lunch, returned and knock off for the day.
Back then, most people were paid based on their productive hours.
Ndiri pabasa ipapo ndakasangana nababamunini, my father’s young brother – Peter Makotsi – who was working for Rhodesia Railways and was based there in Bulawayo.
He had been transferred to work in Zambia and I was lucky, at the time I met him, because he wanted someone to stay at his house.
Shortly after moving into the house, my other uncle, Nesbert, came to stay with me.
Nesbert is one of the members of Crocodile Commando Group that had killed a white man, Petrus Johannes Andries Oberholzer in 1964, before some of the members went into hiding while the others were arrested.
Since the incident, Uncle Nesbert would move from one place to the other, conducting sabotage acts until he finally left for military training in Mozambique in 1972.
He was to become a mechanic at Chimoio. After independence, he was employed as a mechanic at CMED. He died in 2006 and is buried at Manicaland Provincial Heroes Acre.
Q: Can you provide elaborate details on what Nesbert Makotsi was up to while in Bulawayo?
A: At first I was not aware of his political activities. I had grown up knowing that he was an assistant mechanic specialising in earth moving machines, especially front-end loaders, dozers and catapillers.
He worked in Mt Darwin at a private company.
When we were staying in Bulawayo, that is when he began opening up on his political activities.
That is also when he told me that he had been part of a group that included Enock Muteveri Sithole, Duly Shadreck or One from China, James Dhlamini, Furanai Masunda and Victor Mlambo, which killed a white man in the Skyline Area in Melsetter, now Chimanimani.
Since we were living together, vaindiudza kana vakuenda for the secret meetings nevamwe vavo in Bulawayo.
Ndinozviziva nekuti babamunini Nesbert was open to me at that time nekuti taigara tose.
He was a person who had developed natural hate for the whites.
I think the killing incident toughened him because, to me, he looked brave and determined to end white rule.
It was his sheer conviction and determination that the whites in government should leave the country, vatema vazvitonge.
Because this was a man I was with daily, I also began developing an interest in politics.
I saw Uncle Nesbert make petrol bombs in the house. These, he told me, were to be used to sabotage some white owned companies in Bulawayo.
It was also the same time he taught me how to make a petrol bomb using sand, fertiliser, matchsticks and petrol.
At times, he would leave home and return after three to seven days.
During his absence, vainge vaine vamwe vakomana launching destructive acts against white owned businesses or infrastructure.
Since I knew Uncle Nesbert’s activities, I then began accompanying him to some of the secret meetings that were being organised for the youth in Bulawayo.
After about six months of staying together, he then left saying he wanted to see his family in Rusape.
He had a wife and five children and that was the last I heard of him until independence.
Cde Nesbert Makotsi had crossed to Mozambique in 1971. But before he left, we later learnt, he had taken a group of school children from Mt Darwin and crossed with them into Mozambique.
Taking the political route
Since Cde Nesbert Makotsi had introduced me to the Zapu youths in Mpopoma, Tshabalala, Mzilikazi and Sizinda, I became active in politics. I should say my political life started in Bulawayo
When he left, I was already chairman of Sizinda branch and our leader in Bulawayo, as a whole, was Cde Sidney Malunga.
We also had youths who included Nziramasanga, Agabus Mukarakate, Mashangwe, Nyagomo, Mupoperi and Bhebhe. This was 1971.
I should mention that I did not partake in any sabotage acts then.
I was more involved in meetings to discuss how people were recruited for military training outside the country.
Our meetings were secret because, at that time, the Rhodesian special branch was on the look for any political activities.
Taipanana ma passwords ataishandisa kana mumwe asvika pamba kuti avhurirwe door.
Chimwe ndechekuti ma meeting aiitwa nevanhu vasingapfuuri eight nekuti we didn’t want even the neighbours to know. Kwaiva nema sell-outs akawanda during that time.
Our meetings mainly discussed recruitment of youths for military training outside the country.
Nziramasanga was to leave the country for Botswana, where he received the youths we had recruited.
What would happen in the recruitment exercise is that, when we held the meetings, there were one or two youths who would have joined us for the first time.
If such individuals or even some among us felt they were ready for training, we would then facilitate their journey.
The recruits would first go to our contacts in Plumtree and get interviewed before being sent to Nziramasanga, who would also vet them and later send them to Zambia.
That same year, 1971, I was involved in a fracas with one of my white bosses at Morden Furnishers, Mr Voss, who was production manager.
As time recording clerk, there were periods when everyone would be doing their duties and I would not be busy.
One day, during the period of less work, I took a newspaper and began to read.
As I was reading, Mr Voss came to me demanding an explanation for my actions during work hours.
Before I could apologise, he began shouting at me.
He called me ‘a lazy kaffir’ and slapped me in the face.
That did not go down well with me and we started fighting.
We were restrained by other employees and I left the workplace to go home.
After about two days, some of my work colleagues came home pleading that I return to work.
They said Mr Voss had apologised, through them, and was not considering firing me.
But I had decided to quit the job and the next day I went to collect what was due to me, for the days I had worked that month.
I did not spend more than two months out of employment and towards the end of 1971, I got a job at Southern Sun Hotel, now Holiday Inn Bulawayo.
At the hotel, I was trained as a switchboard operator.
As I worked, I continued with my political activities – conducting recruitments and strategising sabotage acts against white owned businesses and government properties.
Then in 1972, there was an advertisement for several jobs at Hotel Redcliff in Kwekwe, which was being opened.
I applied as a switchboard operator and was invited for an interview in March 1972.
I passed the interview and started work the following month.
At the hotel, I met many people, including Douglas Mahiya, who was also a switchboard operator.
I also met Raymond Klaus, Peter Flavian and Bernard Chekenya.
But I got closer to Douglas Mahiya and began political activities in Redcliff before joining other youths in Kwekwe.
I was to become Zapu youth chairman for Kwekwe, Mahiya was deputy.
Our structures included Naison Muroyiwa, who was housing officer for Redcliff.
As housing officer, he had a telephone and that is the one we used to communicate with the youths in other areas.
We also had Peter Flavian and Chekenya, but many people did not want to be on the forefront.
It was me and Mahiya who were very active.
Then in 1973, after having addressed a political meeting at Amavheni Hall with Mahiya, the address was published in Moto, a weekly community newspaper.
I remember I was working on a Sunday with our receptionist, Cathy Roberts, who was reading the magazine.
She then read the article and began to engage me on my involvement in politics.
In no time, she was angry and began insulting me.
I remember her saying, “Norman, you are just funny and difficult to understand, just like your fellow Africans.
“Why is it that you do not appreciate that we rescued you from the jungle, gave you clothes, taught you how to eat decent food and even gave you jobs?”
Then she went on to say, “But you kaffirs.”
I stood up and slapped her in the face before she could go on.
Cathy sensed the danger, got up, ran into one of our managers’ offices and locked herself inside.
The manager was not in at the time.
She later emerged from the office apologising and we made peace.
Cathy then gave me an assurance that she would not tell anyone of the incident.
I also made the same promise, but I was to tell my friend, Mahiya.
After about two months, I took some off days and came here, to the rural areas in Rusape.
While here, I was later told that there had been a discussion amongst the white employees at Redcliff Hotel, during a lunch break, where one of the workers mentioned the word ‘kaffirs’ in reference to blacks.
Cathy was present and she cautioned the colleague against saying such words in front of me. Cathy added that she had said ‘kaffir’ to me and I retaliated by beating her.
She was just talking, but that was not good news to the other white colleagues who immediately agreed to take action against me.
To be continued next week