The Sunday Mail
THIS is a thrilling narrative of our continuing discussion with Cde Nelson Ndarasika (NN), who, as a 15-year-old, abandoned school and crossed into Mozambique for military training. Cde Godo Tambawega, as Cde Ndarasika was known during the liberation struggle, last week narrated how he acted against protocol and laid-down procedures by disappearing into the crowd at Chimoio when he was supposed to return to a holding camp. Cde Ndarasika, who is now a full-time farmer, concluded last week’s account when he had volunteered to become a butler with the intention of being fast-tracked into training. In this week’s discussion, he narrated to our Senior Reporter TENDAI CHARA (TC) how he was finally selected to be among those that were trained. He tells us about some of the major battles that he took part in.
TC: Cde Ndarasika, we ended our discussion with you having become a butler to Cde Mucharanga, a senior guerilla fighter at the Chimoio military camp. Kindly tell us the journey that you walked as you received your military training and your subsequent deployment to the war zone.
NN: I started my military training and we were taught all the war tactics. One of our instructors was Cde Augustine Chihuri, his Chimurenga name was Cde Chocha. We also had Cde Riddle Roger and Cde Baraka, who was a medical instructor. At the war front, I went on to become a section medical officer. The training was very tough. We, however, also enjoyed it. In my case, I was happy that finally I was being trained. We started with basic training, in which we were taught how to use the small arms. When we talk about small arms, we mean such guns as AK47, pistols, rifles and the Mortar 60s. After being trained in small arms, we were then asked to choose the type of weapon we would want to specialise in. In my case, I specialised in the 7-, 12-millimetre anti-aircraft gun. It was a single barrel. These are Chinese made. These are the guns that were mounted on vehicles when the Rhodesian army pounded Nyadzonia.
After training, we were deployed to different sectors. We had such provinces as Manica and Gaza, among others. At first, I was selected to go to Tete province. My brother Patrick, who was the first-born in our family, was during that time at Chimoio.
He was coming from the front where he was operating in Gaza province. He came to Chimoio to seek treatment after he was injured in a fierce battle. I told him that finally I had been trained and was patiently awaiting deployment. He asked me where I was going to be deployed and I told him that I was going to Gaza.
He told me that there was serious fighting in Gaza, but I told him that I was prepared for the worst. I don’t know what happened with our commanders. Some changes were made by our commander, Cde Augustine Mhere, and I was deployed to Manica province.
I was later told that there was a section in Manica province that did not have a medical officer, and so I was deployed to Manica. Lorries took us to bases in the war front. I was deployed in the Musikavanhu sector. I was deployed to the war front on the first of March, 1977. We went to a place called Mutsvangwa in Chimanimani.
Our operation zone stretched from Ndima to Ngaone in Chipinge. This was the Mutema A detachment. From Ngaone to Birchenough Bridge, it was Mutema B detachment. We could, however, occasionally conduct joint operations with fighters from other detachments. We usually combined forces when we were on a mission to hit big targets.
TC: Tell us about your first battle and some of the battles that you still vividly remember.
NN: The first battle that I took part in was fought at a place called New Year’s Gift. It was a farm where tea was processed. We were on a sabotage mission.
When we arrived, we attacked the guards and destroyed the machinery that was at the farm. It was a successful mission. From there we went to a place that we called PaButcher. This was near Mawunganidze on the Birchenough-Chipinge highway. We called the place PaButcher because there is a sharp and steep curve that made it easy for us to attack Rhodesian convoys.
During those days, the white Rhodesian soldiers travelled in convoys. This place was a perfect spot to conduct ambushes. We easily overran the Rhodesians and very few of them survived the attack. The other battle was at Stakesroom Farm, near Ndima.
What happened was that we were at Highlands Farm and the white owner of the farm told his workers that he was aware of our presence and that he was not going to give the workers their daily food rations. During that time, farm workers were being given daily food rations. The white farmer knew that the workers were going to share with us the food so he decided to fix the workers who often gave us food.
TC: So farm workers supported the guerrilla fighters?
NN: Yes, the farm workers were very much supportive. The white farmers tried all they could to try to please the farm workers so that they could not support us but they failed.
We had given the farm workers political orientation. The farm workers understood why we were fighting the war. They also knew that they were being paid peanuts.
TC: Tell us about the attack on Stakesroom Farm.
NN: So when the white farmer did not give his workers the daily food rations, we decided to attack him and we planned an ambush. The white farmer’s name was Mike Glenn. We ambushed him as he was coming from a neighbouring farm with his wife.
The couple escaped. The farmer noticed us before we shot at him and he reversed his vehicle and sped away. We were infuriated. So the next day we went to the next farm.
The owner of the farm was simply known as Kenny. Again, the farm workers were not given food that day. We ate nothing in two days. We only drank opaque beer that we took from a local store. We gathered that Kenny was going to visit his daughter who resided at another farm some few kilometres from his. We were very angry with Kenny. We laid an ambush. We saw him drive past us.
We decided to attack him when he was on his way back from her daughter’s farm. We didn’t want to kill him. We wanted to capture him alive.
So as Kenny was driving slowly towards us, our section commander, Shingirai, dashed onto the road. Kenny stopped his vehicle. He had an FN riffle and could therefore not shoot from close range. His wife had a shotgun and when she tried to grab her gun, Shingirai shot her dead. We shot at the vehicle and we killed the couple. We took their guns, went to their house and looted food and beer. We then went and slept on the banks of Rusitu River. The following day, all hell broke loose.
Next week, we will conclude our discussion with Cde Ndarasika with a narration of the other battles that his detachment team fought and lost.