Joining the war had become ‘fashionable’

21 Jun, 2020 - 00:06 0 Views
Joining the war had become ‘fashionable’

The Sunday Mail

His parents were poor peasant farmers in Mafararikwa Village, Manicaland Province. He blames the whites in Rhodesia for that predicament that saw him fail to get educated beyond Grade 6. Like any other “boy” during the 1970s, Peter Chido John Muchimwe (PCJM) found himself confronted by war stories. He says it had become a “fashion” for his generation to join the comrades and fight the racist colonial government in Rhodesia. Cde Muchimwe narrates to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati (LM) his childhood life and how he ended up being grilled at Doroi Camp in Mozambique.


LM: You were one of the fighters in the liberation of Zimbabwe. Who exactly are you?

PCJM: My name is Peter Chido John Muchimwe. I was born on 26 August 1959 in Manicaland, Chief Marange area in Mafararikwa Village. I went to Mafararikwa Primary School up to Grade 6.

Magariro ataiita akanga asina kunyatsonaka. In the 1970s, I used to hear stories about comrades fighting a war against the whites in Rhodesia. There were no active comrades in our area, but the whites would visit and churn out all sorts of messages to dissuade people from joining the war. White soldiers would gather villagers before subjecting us to demonstrations of how they killed comrades.

The demonstrations were on effigies dressed in military green trousers, matching shirts and canvas shoes. Vaiti dzakafanana nedzaipfekwa nemagandanga.

There was a threat of arrest and torture against any villager contemplating aiding “terrorist” activities of the comrades.

While these demonstrations were going on, I particularly did not understand these white people because they were saying the comrades were terrorists. How could comrades be terrorists for trying to free the country? How did these people suddenly become animals, when some of them were coming from our midst?

I was a bit mature to understand why the comrades were fighting the whites.

Also, joining the armed struggle chakanga chave chinhu chisingashamisi. Taingomuka tichinzwa kuti vana vekwanhingi vakatiza zuro kuenda kuMozambique. In fact, it had become fashionable among young boys and girls to join the war.

Sesu hedu takanga tisisaende kuchikoro uye vabereki vedu vasisakwanise kubhadhara chikoro, hapana chataigarira.

Ndidzo dzaingova nyaya kumusha kuti todii tiende kune vamwe. Then in February 1977, I went to war.

LM: Sorry comrade, but before you went to war what were you doing since leaving school and what did you mean when you said your living conditions were not good?

PCJM: I was at home most of the time helping my parents with various chores such as farming and herding cattle.

Ndakamborwara kwemakore maviri chaiwo zvekuti ndaingova pamba. Ndogumira ipapo. Kana ndichiti magariro edu akanga asina kunyatsonaka, I mean we were very poor.

My parents used to blame our situation on the whites. They were not happy with the unequal opportunities that prevailed between the whites and blacks.

They were not happy with the restrictions to keep large livestock and the taxes they were paying for the few livestock we had at the homestead. To be frank, taitambura zvikuru comrade. We used to watch bioscopes. The videos would project blacks as inferior beings to the whites. Many of us read the messages that way. As such, those are some of the reasons why I decided to join others in the war.

LM: You then left to join the war in 1977. Generally, you say it was a result of the bad living conditions you grew up under, but is there a specific trigger that made you take that decision?

PCJM: Before I left the country, I visited my uncles in the same area. When I got to their area, I discovered that white Rhodesian soldiers had earlier been there. They had badly beaten up some people accusing them of supporting the comrades.  The atmosphere was tense. I could feel anger and hatred against the whites.

I thought to myself that we had no active comrades in our area and people were being victimised by the whites. I asked myself what would become of us if the comrades penetrate our area. At night, I discussed my thoughts with my uncles — Themba and Moses. That night we resolved we were leaving for the war. That is where the final decision to go to Mozambique for military training was reached. I was to go for training with my two uncles.

LM: Did you leave that same night without telling your parents?

PCJM: We agreed I would go back home the following morning. I then returned after two days. I had packed a few clothes.

My parents did not know of my plans.

Zvaiva zvinhu zvisingatauriki nekuti vashoma vabereki vaida kuti vana vavo vaende kuhondo. Vazhinji vaitya. It meant trouble for that family because the whites would harass them to account for the missing children.

Most people who went to war ran away.

I was among those who ran away from home. As planned, I joined Temba and Moses.

We were not sure of the exact place we were going. What we knew was that Mozambique was in the eastern direction of our village.

LM: Can you give finer details of your journey?

PCJM: I slept at my uncles’ place. At around 4am we woke up and sneaked out of the room we were sleeping in and began our journey. We walked until we crossed Odzi River. The water was high during that period. It was in February and we were still in the rainy season. Ana sekuru vaiziva mazambuko nekuti vaigara kudhuze neko.

Patakayambuka mvura yaisvika muchest level. It was about 1,5 metres deep.

After crossing the river, we walked through the mountains. At around 8am, we came across human remains in one of the mountains. I was frightened because I could tell the remains did not belong to one person. There were about three skulls within that area. That is when I began to think about what awaited us ahead. I strongly felt that even my uncles were having similar thoughts, but no one spoke first. We walked until we reached a certain village. There were no people in sight and it looked deserted.

As we were wondering where the people were, an elderly woman came out of a hut and began asking us questions. We told her we were trying to find our way into Mozambique. She asked about our mission to Mozambique and we told her. That is when she told us that we were already in Mozambique.

To be continued next week


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