The Sunday Mail
We conclude chronicling Cde George Shumba’s war experiences. This week, the liberation fighter, who was known as Cde Farai Tafirenyika, narrates to our Deputy News, Editor Levi Mukarati, how he was arrested in Mozambique in 1977.
Q: You claim former Mozambique President, Samora Machel, was behind your arrest. How were you arrested?
A: When the Zanu delegation returned from the Geneva Conference, which had failed to yield anything, Samora Machel was not happy. He accused the Zipa commanders of not seriously considering plans to help end the war in Rhodesia.
Machel then called for a meeting at a naval base in Beira.When we got there, the atmosphere was tense. There were people who included Mugabe, Muzenda, Ushewokunze, Mandizvidza and Tongogara, who had all came from Geneva.
I was with Zimondi and I remember him saying: “handisikunzwisisa zvirikuitika pano. Sei tatorerwa pfuti dzedu?”
His statement was after, we had all been disarmed by Frelimo soldiers, when we arrived for the meeting. I remember Mugabe arrived at the meeting being driven in a black Presidential Dodge by a Mozambican chauffeur, who had been assigned to him by Machel.
On the first day, we arrived for the meeting and we all went to sleep. Ainge akatorara zvake and I think that could have been the reasons why his Mozambican chauffeur, as we chatted with him, jokingly said; “Your leader is old.”
He was comparing him to Machel.
The following day, the meeting began after having waited for Mugabe for about two hours. When the meeting started in the amphitheatre, Cde Tongo stood up, held Mugabe’s hand and with a thundering voice chanted a slogan: “Pamberi na comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe!”
Only a few people, the Zanu leaders, responded and the majority of us, the Zipa guys, remained quiet. Tongo repeated the slogan and got the same response.
Akabva aona kuti hazvisikubatsira ndobva agara pasi. Pakatanga kakuzevezera pane maleaders who were at the top table. As this was happening, Cde Dzino rose from his seat and asked, “Ko nhai iwe Mugabe, wakapfeka shirt ye camouflage waka trainer kupi?”
That came as a shock to most of us. You could see Mugabe’s face was filled with anger, and he replied, “who are you to dare ask me that question?”
At that point, Joseph Chimurenga also stood up and said: “Iwe, Dzino, nechinhu chako urikuda kumboitasei nehondo?”
There was some commotion.
Chimurenga was a darling of Cde Tongo and they both came from Shurugwi.
The meeting then went on, but there was no clear agenda and discussions centred on how we were supposed to proceed with the war, recruitment of trainees, welfare of our people in camps and at the front, as well as other war-related issues. We were more like airing our grievances. Zvaingova zvekungotaura and vana Tongo said we would reconvene the following day at another venue.
A bus was already parked outside and we were told it was our transport to where we were going to sleep ahead of the meeting. We were driven into Beira town and straight to the basement of Grand Hotel, where we were dropped off.
That is when we all realised things had turned nasty. The basement walls were blood-stained. I later learnt it was a holding facility for Frelimo prisoners, who were going to Cabo Delgado, a prison that was on an island.
Frelimo was also notorious for torturing or killing rogue elements.
We were with Dauramanzi, who had also came from jail in Zambia. I am singling him out because he was the first person to realise that we had been arrested. He immediately got sick.
I remember him saying, “Ndopinda jeri futi here macomrades?”
We were given food, a few blankets and slept there for about a week. Dzino and Parker Chipoyera voluntarily joined us. They were saying they could not abandon us after the leaders had given them freedom.
Q: Were you aware you had been arrested, how many were you and who were the other comrades?
A: Zvakanga zvavapachena kuti tasungwa. How do you explain being kept in a basement with a locked gate? How do you explain being under guard?
We were about 24 and these included Happison Muchechetere, Sithokozile (Muchechetere’s wife), Dzinashe Machingura, Parker Chipoyera, Pfepferere, Dzamatsama, Tichaona Mabhunu, Kits, Jones Jichidza, Sam Geza, David Thodhlana, Wilfred Marimo and his young brother Willard, as well as Castus Mudzingwa and others.
Meanwhile, kuma camps slogan yakanga yapfumbira ndeyekuti pasi neVashandi, in reference to us. Ana Teurai Ropa Mujuru ndivo vakange zvino vaku leader our denouncement together with her husband Rex.
We were not the only Zipa command elements who had been arrested.
Vamwe vaive vabatwa varikune mamwe majeri. After a few days we were taken, by plane, to Nampula, where we stayed for three days. Then, we were transported to Cabo Delgado, where we were held from 1977 to 1980.
Q: While you were at Cabo Delgado, what was going on there and what went through your mind?
A: Machel had arrested us to pave way for Mugabe to lead. Ndopatinoti mari yakashata nekuti Machel had been given a £15 million soft loan by the British to develop his country on condition he controls our politics, which included setting Mugabe on the leadership path.
At Cabo Delgado – that is when I saw how our war was similar to that of Frelimo.
There were young Frelimo cadres who were coming from training in Russia and vadhara vainge vasina kuenda ku training felt threatened by these young cadres. These elderly leaders would fabricate all sorts of mischievous allegations against the new guys, including labelling them sell-outs.
This was meant to arrest them and at times execute them in a bid to protect their positions. We were living with such Frelimo soldiers in jail.
It was a nightmare because we feared being executed nekuti hapana aiva nebasa nesu. Chero dai taifira kuMozambique, hapana wekumusha aiziva kuti tiripapi.
I think what saved us from being killed are expatriate doctors, whom we were later given access to. They were at a provincial hospital and we would raise complaints about our living conditions.
As such, they had raised alarm in their countries such as Italy, Cuba and Romania. A fellow doctor was detained in Mozambique. This was Cde Mudzingwa, who was also with us. He was a doctor who had studied in Russia (and) had practised for over 12 years.
During visits to the hospital, the foreign doctors would be surprised about the arrest of a fellow doctor. The doctors, upon return to their countries, would write letters to other countries, including Britain, on our condition.
That is how many people got to know that we were in captivity.
Q: Did you spend all the years at that same facility?
A: In 1978, we were taken to Balama, where we were joined by another group that included Chigohwe, Gwauya, Muparuri or Dr Taderera, Gurira, Hamadziripi and Rugare Gumbo, who had also been arrested for this Zipa thing. Then in 1979, that is when Cde Gava (Vitalis Zvinavashe) came to talk to us. This was the time during preparations for the Lancaster House Conference.
He did not come direct to where we were, but arrived in Pemba, where Sam Geza, Pfepferere and Dzino went to represent us. They failed to agree because Zvinavashe had been given orders to take us to Chimoio, but Geza and team refused because there was no guarantee we would be safe.
After the meeting with Zvinavashe, Frelimo took us to Beira, where we were received by Armando Guebuza. The condition that had been set by the British, during the negotiations, was that we had to be released.
Q: But, you accuse the British of having orchestrated your arrests after giving Samora Machel some money?
A: That is the nature of politics. Our arrests were to pave way for a person they trusted, Mugabe. That is why you see the soft stance by Mugabe – during the first 20 years after independence – to the British.
But like I said earlier, politics is very cruel. Our release became one of the discussion points at the Lancaster House Conference. That is how we were freed. Most of us were to then join Zapu, with a few comrades such as Sam Geza, Felix Chemandiwe or Zacharia Moyo, Augustine Chihuri and Mukudzi Mudzi remaining in Zanu.
Ndopaunoona kuti ma politicians are a mixture of rare breeds. We were taken by a British Hercules plane to Rhodesia just before elections in 1980. From Salisbury Airport, we were driven, under Rhodesian guard, to Chikurubi Maximum Prison – ko taiva vasungwa. We were then moved to Romeo Assembly Point.
From there, I was integrated into the Zimbabwe National Army and was based at army headquarters (medical). That was in August 1980. In January 1981, I was commissioned an officer and rose through the ranks until my retirement in 1994, when I became Major.
My rise was difficult because of my war record. A senior person that I cannot mention by name told me straight to my face that I would not get promoted.
That situation did not affect me only. There are many people today, who feel they deserve promotions, but cannot progress because of these past internal contradictions.
Q: Having gone through such an experience, how do you feel now?
A: There are war scars that might appear, from outside, to have healed, but inside they are still fresh. That is why you hear war fighters speak with one voice on this country and how they expect it to be led. We had a doctrine and commitment to the war and those two elements cannot be separated from us.