The Sunday Mail
We continue chronicling the political life of Cde Jane Lungile Ngwena. This week Cde Ngwenya narrates to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati events at the Lancaster House Conference and the welcome the liberation fighters received in Rhodesia after the London agreement.
Question: You were one of the last persons to see Ethan Dube, we also understand you were in the same office with Zapu Vice President Jason Ziyapapa Moyo the day he was bombed, can you narrate this incident?
Answer: The death of Jason Moyo, was seen and in some circles is seen as having been orchestrated from within us.
But like I said, our telephone conversations were hacked by the Rhodesians and that is where they devised a strategy to bomb and kill JZ.
I must be clear that there was a lot of suspicions that were going on amongst us.
I also cannot dispute that there were also a lot of plots going on amongst us.
We were waging a war, but in that war there were those who had power ambitions.
If people didn’t want power, then there was no way the likes of Mugabe, Zvobgo, Sithole and Tekere would view Joshua Nkomo as weak and plot to form Zanu.
Plots were there and even today they remain entrenched in Zanu PF.
Question: You speak of these plots with eloquence, can you share some of these clandestine activities that happened during the war?
Answer: Clandestine? You are right, we suspected each other of covert or underground operations?
You see, two years before JZ died, Herbert Chitepo was assassinated through a car bomb explosion.
His bodyguard Silas Shamiso also died in the incident. When Herbert died, I was in Morogoro Tanzania where our fighters were being trained.
I was with fighters like Ambrose Mutinhiri, from Zipra, who gave us a briefs on how they were progressing and we were satisfied with what they were doing.
So while I was there, JZ joined us with a message that Herbert Chitepo had been bombed and Zanu was suspecting us in Zapu, to be behind the act.
He also said the whole thing had attracted a lot of suspicions and there were some people in Zanu like Tekere and Mugabe who thought it was Josiah Tongogara who had eliminated Chitepo.
On the other hand, the freedom fighters in Zanu were thinking it was Mugabe who was behind the act.
The death of the nationalist was seen as another elimination by power hungry individuals.
Even when Samuel Tichafa Parirenyatwa died in 1962, Zapu members believed it was Nkomo who masterminded the act.
People said Nkomo feared Parirenyatwa, was angling to take leadership of the party.
Again Nkomo was to be suspected of killing his deputy Jason Moyo.
These suspicions or suspected clandestine activities were there during the liberation struggle.
But I should point out that the death of Chitepo got us in Zapu worried because even up to today, many believe it was an inside Zanu job.
That is why we spoke strongly against turning on each other in the face of the enemy. Zapu stood up and said we shouldn’t kill each other because like I said, we were strongly convinced, then, that Chitepo was assassinated by those in Zanu.
It is true that Zanu had problems, but we did not get involved in their issues and they also never came into our problems.
We got to a point where we hated each other, but we never fought against each other. The hatred between Zanu and Zapu was clear for anyone to see.
That is why we had a situation where we did not want Zanu soldiers coming to the Southern areas of Zimbabwe, that is, the other side of Midlands into Matabeleland.
I can say this without fear and even the Zanu guys know it was a no go area during the war.
We also wouldn’t “stray” into the Mashonaland regions.
This hatred was there and that is why Mugabe, after independence, spoke of unity. That is why today even Mnangagwa speaks of unity.
We know we should unite our people because certain differences are rooted in the past.
We are a people and we should get to a point where we bury our past differences for progress sake.
One interesting aspect about the liberation struggle was that at leadership levels, that is us the nationalists, is where the seeds of hatred were sowed.
We wanted too much power. There was a lot of selfishness and people made evil plots to get top posts.
It is us who created these “silent no go areas for Zanla or Zipra forces”.
But the fighters had one purpose, to take back the country and shared the same vision. That is why even when we had meetings with Tongogara, he spoke in support of the unity Zanla fighters were calling for whilst in camps.
The soldiers focused on turning the heat on Ian Smith. Indeed Smith felt the heat and realised negotiating with us was the only way out.
That is why we had the Lancaster House Conference and eventually independence.
Question: Before we get to independence, can you walk us through the deliberations at Lancaster House Conference since you were among the people there?
Answer: When we went to Lancaster, we were united. We had been united by the fighters.
Lancaster House Conference had its ups and downs as people threatened to walk away after failing to agree on certain issues.
That is why these talks ran for months. The talks were conducted between September 10 and December 15, 1979.
The actual signing of the agreement was on 21 December 1979.
I went there as a member of Zapu, but I did not attend the big meetings.
The delegates were over 65 and were made up of the Patriotic Front which brought together Zapu and Zanu leaders, then there was the Zimbabwe Rhodesia delegation made up of those people that had made an internal settlement in which Abel Muzorewa was prime minister.
Lastly was the British delegation led by Peter Carington. He was the conference chairperson.
We had intelligent people in those meeting. We had lawyers, advisors and advocates. So there were plenary sessions of the conference and we had over 45 of these.
These plenaries were tasked to come up recommendations on the key issues that were under discussion such as a Constitution, cease fire and arrangements or modalities for a post-independence period
The three delegations each had more than 20 people.
The Patriotic front apart from the two leaders included people like Dzingai Mutumbuka, Simbi Mubako, George Silundika, Ariston Chambati, John Nkomo and Ernest Kadungure.
Among those that had agreed to work with Ian Smith under the unrecognised Zimbabwe Rhodesia was the leader Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Chief Kayisa Ndiweni, Gordon Chavhunduka, Simpson Mutambanengwe and David Zamchiya
After the conference, as Zapu members we had a meeting where we agreed that we would return to Zimbabwe as one team, comprising Zanu and Zapu members.
But on the eve of coming back, we heard that Mugabe and some other Zanu members were not coming with us.
Mugabe stayed behind in London and I don’t know why they did that.
We had sent our members to our fighters to announce the cease fire and that they would be given further instructions on what to do.
But we were also careful about planning for our return because we suspected Smith might renege on what we agreed. When we got to the airport in Salisbury, the immigration officials refused to stamp my passport. Remember I had left the country with Smith’s hit-men on my trail.
My colleagues refused to leave the airport without me. As a result we spent about four hours at the airport as officials there consulted on what to do with me.
Our people knew we were coming back and they had assembled at the airport to welcome us.
With the delays, the people outside became impatient and began singing demanding to see us. Eventually the officials allowed us to pass.
Question: At the airport you say people were waiting to receive you back home, can you explain more about that reception at the airport?
Answer: What pleased us was that our people did not turn violent. They remained disciplined. When we got out, we were welcomed by a big crowd.
You could mistake them for a colony of ants.
They sang happily as they received us. People danced and some of the black police officers who were there ended up joining the dance party.
The airport was packed to the brim and I had always known there were a lot of people in Zimbabwe, but I had not imagined they would be that many on the day.
We spent about two hours at the airport as we greeted our people and tried to maneouver our way.
There were also a lot of journalists and camera people standing on vehicle rooftops to get good pictures of us.
We were received warmly and I had never imagined I would get such a welcome in my home country. We left Harare for Bulawayo and again it was the same welcome.
In Bulawayo we were received by bumper crowds. People walked on foot with us from the airport to the CBD.
When we got into town, I remember we went to the rooftop of one tall building and saw a river if not an ocean of people happy in the streets.
It was like Bulawayo did not have any cars as people filled up the CBD.
Continued next week