Of cowardly acts, deceit by Rhodesian soldiers

19 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Of cowardly acts, deceit by Rhodesian soldiers

The Sunday Mail

IN one of our previous instalments, we interviewed Cde Misheck Mukwena (86) of Mariwo Village in Bocha, Marange, who recounted a tragic event that took place in 1979.

On that sad day, a Rhodesian soldier arrived at a homestead in Chikwariro Village in Manicaland and without being provoked, indiscriminately shot at villagers who were drinking beer during a traditional ceremony.

Six innocent people, among them two members of the same family, were shot dead in cold blood, while 17 other villagers suffered serious injuries.

One of the victims of the senseless shooting, who was shot in the hip, had one of his legs amputated.

In killing and maiming the innocent villagers, the Rhodesian army had breached the ceasefire agreement in which they had agreed to lay down arms and end hostilities.

With the majority of freedom fighters in Assembly Points, the cruel and sadistic Rhodesian soldiers, some of whom were alleged to have shot and killed innocent people for “fun”, descended on innocent people and committed heinous crimes.

Civilians and some unsuspecting freedom fighters who were caught off-guard were murdered.

Sadly, the majority of the atrocities, among them the Chikwariro massacre, went unnoticed, with culprits walking away scot-free.

This week, we take a temporary departure from our usual question-and-answer format as we highlight some of the shocking ceasefire violations that were committed by Rhodesian forces.

Background

There is need to consider the historical background of the ceasefire.

The Lancaster House Agreement, which was signed on December 21, 1979, declared a ceasefire, which essentially ended hostilities.

The agreement was signed in London between the liberation forces on one hand and the Rhodesian government on the other.

In terms of the ceasefire, ZANLA and ZIPRA fighters were to gather at designated Assembly Points under British supervision, following which elections were to be held to elect a new government.

From the beginning, the Rhodesian and British governments wanted a ceasefire agreement which gave them an unfair advantage over the revolutionary parties.

An article titled “Imperialists Offer Deadly ‘Ceasefire’ in Zimbabwe”, which was first published by the Revolutionary Worker on November 30, 1979, clearly indicated the two governments’ wish to have a ceasefire agreement that was tilted in their favour.

The article read in part: “In their proposal for a ceasefire, the British want the guerrilla forces to give up a substantial part of their liberated areas, come out into the open, assemble in areas designated by Britain and stop fighting immediately.

“At the same time, Rhodesia’s armed forces would remain intact without any restraints on their sphere of activity. Indeed, under the British plan, they would be the ones who would ‘monitor’ the ceasefire (with token representatives from the Patriotic Front on a joint ceasefire commission).”

According to the article, some of the ZANU and ZAPU leaders initially viewed the ceasefire agreement as a ploy to disarm guerrilla fighters.

Without any traces of remorse, Rhodesian soldiers, both black and white, have confessed to killing unsuspecting liberation war fighters as they made their way to Assembly Points.

Some of the liberation war fighters were killed when they were already at the Assembly Points.

The murderers would often boast about it, with some going to the extent of writing books profiling their cowardly acts.

Referring to the freedom fighters as “gooks”, the Rhodesian soldiers revelled in killing defenceless people.

Incidents in which liberation war fighters were killed by the Rhodesian army during the ceasefire period were many, with some of the former freedom fighters that we featured being among those that were fortunate enough to escape with their lives.

Cde Rinos Muronzi, whose Chimurenga name was Mabhunu Muchapera, was one of the ZANLA fighters who escaped death by a whisker after an attack by the Rhodesian army during the ceasefire.

“We were operating in Bocha, in Mafunde Village, when we were given instructions to lay down our weapons as a ceasefire deal had been agreed upon. Our commanders instructed us to gather at a certain hillock so that we could be taken to the Assembly Points,” Cde Muronzi narrated.

As the freedom fighters were excitedly chatting and discussing what possibly awaited them in independent Zimbabwe, the Rhodesian forces struck.

“We were taken by surprise. Since the war had ended, we were in a jovial mood as we were talking about the kind of life that we were expecting in the new Zimbabwe. A number of cadres lost their lives that day,” added Cde Muronzi.

Callous

One of the ceasefire violations, which came out via a confession by a Rhodesian soldier, was highlighted by The Patriot newspaper.

Part of the confession by the racist white Rhodesian soldier who took part in the shameful act read in part: “While going back to Mangula (Mhangura), Sergeant Mike Clayton (a Rhodesian soldier with a helicopter) was looking out of his helicopter and saw the enemy (freedom fighters) sitting in a kraal.

“Sergeant Clayton indicated to the pilot, who immediately went into orbit. The enemy (freedom fighters) bomb-shelled and Sergeant Clayton was dropped near the kraal. On being dropped, Sergeant Clayton (and some soldiers) swept through the kraal from West to East and killed some insurgents (freedom fighters).”

According to this report, more helicopters with machine guns chased and killed the freedom fighters who were completely off-guard because of the ceasefire.

The report further stated that 20-mm canons were used against the defenceless freedom fighters who had handed over their guns to their superiors.

A former ZANLA freedom fighter whom we featured on this column, Cde Benjamin Dyirakumunda, also talked about a fierce battle that his group fought against the Rhodesian army during the ceasefire period.

“We were operating in the Wedza area and when the ceasefire was announced, we were given instructions to the effect that our group was not supposed to go to the Assembly Points. The leadership did not trust the Rhodesians.

“One day, our base was attacked by the Rhodesians. Luckily for us, we had gathered intelligence on the impending attack and we repelled it,” Cde Dyirakumunda said.

Elsewhere, some of Cde Dyirakumunda’s fellow cadres were not so lucky as they were caught off-guard and were murdered in cold blood.

“The Rhodesian army commanders elected to disregard some of the ceasefire conditions and murdered defenceless freedom fighters. To me, this was an act of cowardice and deceit.”

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