The Sunday Mail
In this week’s instalment of Chronicles, we recount Cde Daniel Makaripe’s (DM) narrative of the liberation strugge. Cde Makaripe is one of the students who ran away from St Francis of Assisi Secondary School in Enkeldoorn (now Chivhu) to join the liberation struggle. The school is known for a number of students who sneaked out of the then Rhodesia to seek military training in order to fight the white colonial minority regime . Our Reporter, Norman Muchemwa (NM), had a conversation with Cde Makaripe, who was known by his colleagues as Cde Kid Joe Mawrong-wrong.
NM: Can you briefly tell us about your early life?
DM: My name is Daniel Makaripe. I was born on October 2 1957 in Buhera, Manicaland Province. I was the second in a family of eight, being five boys and three girls. I attended Nechavava Primary School in Buhera from Grade One to Seven between 1968 and 1974.
I then went to St Francis of Assisi Secondary School in Enkeldoorn (Chivhu) for Form One and Two. During that time, some of us went to school at an old age because of a number of challenges including failure to find a place at a nearby school or raising the required fees.
As such, by the time I was doing Form Two, then known as Rhodesia Junior Certificate (RJC), I was a mature person, 18 years old to be specific. I left to join the liberation struggle around July 1976, the year I was supposed to write my RJC.
I joined the liberation struggle in Mozambique and my liberation war name was Cde Kid Joe Mawrong-wrong.
NM: There is documented evidence, during that same time, of Rhodesia government’s “open brutality”, against elements identified as supporting the liberation, in a bid to dissuade those thinking of joining the comrades. Under such a situation, why did you risk your life crossing into Mozambique?
DM: The situation at our school was tense. The authorities supported the Rhodesian government. There were continuous clashes between the school leadership and students.
Our treatment was bad. The food was also bad, yet we had viable poultry projects as well as a thriving garden at the school, which were tended by the students. Every time we complained, the school authorities would call reinforcements from Enkeldoorn Police Station.
In retaliation, we would go to kill school pigs and chickens at night. This went on for some time. During the two years I was at St Francis of Assisi, running battles with the police were common.
This was around the time the liberation struggle had intensified and there were some comrades operating in the area and stretching into Mhondoro. During one of the holidays, I had met some comrades while at our rural home in Buhera.
As such, I knew about the war. Buhera had a lot of political activities and there were many comrades that had established bases in the area.
As a result of the clashes at school, takafurirana nevakomana kuti handei kuhondo.Nyaya yevanhu vaitiza zvikoro kuenda kuhondo yakanga yatekeshera.
It had become common that the comrades would come and target some of us in schools for recruitment. Due to the harsh situation at school, we devised a plan to join the struggle in Mozambique.
We left one evening in July 1976 on a journey to Mozambique. I was in the company of Collin Chakabva, John Chinheka, Peter Mutasa and William Mukumbudzi.
William Mukumbuzi, I believe he is now at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
During the liberation struggle, he further went for military training in China and was part of the group that bombed the fuel tanks in Southerton, Harare.
NM: During the time you decided to leave school, had you made any contact with the comrades to brief them on your decision to join the struggle?
DM: The decision to join the struggle was not influenced by anyone. It was out of the situation we were facing at school. That forced us to take the decision to leave and join the struggle. We were not the first group to leave Assisi nor were we the last.
A lot of schoolchildren had left this institution to join the liberation struggle. Zvakanga zvava zvinhu zvaizivikanwa kuti vana varikutiza zvikoro kuenda kuhondo.
This explains the heavy-handedness on us by Enkeldoorn police. They were always monitoring us because they knew the school had become a breeding ground for recruits.
NM: Take us through your journey from St Francis of Assisi to Mozambique?
DM: We walked the whole night with the aim of reaching my home area in Buhera while it was still dark. My mission was to pick up one or two clothing items as well as food, but this plan failed because we failed to make it before sunrise.
As such, we abandoned going home.
The journey was difficult because we were trying to evade detection by the Rhodesian police. We were quite sure that by morning, information of our escape from school would have filtered through and there would be a search.
We had discarded school uniforms and worn civilian clothing in a bid to evade detection. Since I had encountered the comrades before, I was more like a leader of the group as I knew the terrain of Buhera well.
Our aim in Buhera was also to meet comrades whom I had encountered before, so that they could assist us. We left Buhera and headed towards Zimunya-Marange. Taingofamba uye rwendo rwedu haruna kunetsa panyaya dzechikafu nekuti taive nemari. We used to get what we called pocket money from our parents when we went to school.
In Zimunya, we were intercepted by a group of comrades led by Cde Tito. He had five other comrades, whose names I can’t remember.
We told them that we had run away from school and we intended to join the struggle.
As a standard procedure, the comrades did their security vetting to establish whether our mission was genuine or not. We stayed with these comrades for about three days before they gave us the greenlight to proceed with our journey.
They accompanied us until we reached Burma Valley where we spent the night at some homestead. The comrades then returned as they were already on an assignment inside Rhodesia.
They directed us to a place kwainzi kwaSamakande, near the border with Mozambique, where we were going to meet someone ainzi Joe. We arrived at this place in the afternoon and managed to locate this man. He was suspicious at first, but he understood our mission.
Throughout this journey, we were moving in pairs of two to avoid raising any suspicion. Joe helped us find shelter at some homestead where we were given food and a place to sleep since it was getting dark.
At around 4am, Joe came and woke us up, instructing us that it was time to move on.
He helped us cross into Mozambique in the early hours. During those days, the Rhodesian soldiers had a tendency of laying landmines along the border area.
But Joe demonstrated that he knew how to navigate the minefield. He had instructed us to follow his footsteps.
I should mention that, unlike others, our crossing into Mozambique was not that difficult. We never encountered any confrontation with the Rhodesians or resistance from the comrades.
I think the comrades were warm to us because the numbers of people crossing for training had increased and they were used to it. As for Joe, his mission ended after guiding us into Mozambique.
He gave us directions and informed us that we were going to meet macamarada (Frelimo soldiers) and should follow their instructions.
NM: He just left you like that in a foreign territory. What happened next?
DM: Yes, he just left us like that, but he had given us assurance that in no time we would meet macamarada. That is why he gave us directions. We were confident we were on the right track. True to Joe’s assurance, we walked for less than 500 metres before being intercepted by three armed soldiers.
We later learnt that they were Frelimo soldiers. It was now around six in the morning.
These soldiers had their base around the border area. They took the five of us to their base and interrogated us on our mission, until they were satisfied.
After the interrogation we were given some food and later during the day, another group of five boys joined us. I still remember Cde Pedzi from that group.
We spent the night at this base until the early hours of the following day when we were told that it was time to move on. Our shoes were worn out. My legs hurt, but I had to soldier on.
Two Frelimo soldiers accompanied us until we reached another base painzi paDhafu, which was more like a transit camp for the comrades.
We only spent a day at this camp where I met someone from my home area ainzi Peter James Mugumbati aiva atiza kubva paBiriwiri Secondary School much earlier.
This comrade was carrying a bazooka and they were on their way to the front.
We were taken from this base to Doroi, which was one of the biggest Zanla camps in Mozambique.
This place yainzi it’s a refugee camp, but in actual fact it was a camp for the Zanla freedom fighters.
Zvekuti refugee camp zvaiitirwa kuti vanhu vawane chikafu from ana United Nations.
To be continued next week