The Sunday Mail
Our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati continues to engage Cde Parker Chipoyera on his political journey during the liberation struggle. This week the freedom fighter chronicles what he went through during training at Mgagao, where he was to become one of the instructors.
Question: Can you walk us through how the training exercise was structured?
Answer: We began with political orientation, which lasted 21 days.
Political orientation spelt out why we were fighting the whites.
The first port of call was that the instructors would put us into small groups for easy management. In our group, each person would be asked why he or she had chosen to come for the war training. It was a time to pour out our grievances against the situation back home.
During the 21 day period, the instructors would outline how the country was taken by the whites. Remember, we had some people who had not been to school and it was important to give them such background.
Political orientation was more of indoctrination. It was meant to broaden our understanding of the political situation in Rhodesia and ensure that we develop a mind set to confront the white-led injustices. These lessons would consolidate my knowledge from school.
We had so many books to read and we were now reading the works of Amilcar Cabral, Eduardo Mondlane, Nathan Shamuyarira and the Tri-continental Magazine. Our individual reasons for joining the war would then be consolidated to come up with national grievances.
It was during political orientation that I understood some of the problems back home, which we used to sing as children on livestock tax:
“Zvichinzi, mutero wedu, pondo mbiri
Mutero wembwa, pachumi.
Maiwee mutero yawedzerwa yemombe, nemashereni mashanu”
The instructors explained the taxation was meant to finance the white regime’s beef industry.
Even when our cattle went to the market, they were bought for low amounts such as $28 per head.
This is the money our parents would see as a relief and pay our school fees. But, the whites would take the cattle and pen feed before selling them at high prices.
At this point ndakanga ndobatanidza zviya zvaitaurwa ku History kuti Mbuya Nehanda vakati mapfupa angu achamuka.
This meant that we were now together to fight for a national cause that had a history.
I understood that our struggle was not peculiar to us alone, but, it was the same in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia or South Africa. Also, that there were countries such as People’s Republic of China helping us to establish a People’s Republic of Zimbabwe.
It was during the political orientation that we were told of the imperialist powers such as France, Germany, Britain, Belgium and United States.
It explained why, in Rhodesia, we had Amit helicopters assembled in France, guns from Belgium and Unimog vehicles from Daimler Germany and United States.
Question: What came after the political orientation?
Answer: After the 21 days of political orientation, you could feel that I am now politically ripe and fully aware of the national grievances.
The next stage was understanding the people’s war. We were told that when we return home, before we fire our gun shots, we were supposed to be at the same level with our parents by telling them the national grievances.
When we had their buy-in, then we would fire our guns and they would support by giving us food, carry our guns and help us when injured. The lesson from reading the books by Cde Mao of China, whilst I was at Chimbichimbi, were now broadened.
The training saw us being moulded into disciplined fighters.
We were told that we should not behave like rebels who just kill people and that we should not treat all whites as enemies as some supported us. After that, we were instructed on building a people’s army.
At this stage, we were told that our army was unlike that of the Rhodesians where the commander had absolute power. Our commanders were supposed to get power from the fighters they led and the people in whose areas they were to operate in.
That is when we brought in songs like:
“Kune nzira dzemasoja dzekuzvibata nadzo
Tererai mitemo yose nenzira dzakanaka
Bhadharai zvamunotenga nenzira dzakanaka
Mudzorere zvinhu zvose zvamunenge matora”
This song motivated us to be a disciplined force.
It also taught us that the gun was not to kill people just because of a simple misunderstanding amongst ourselves. We had commanders that we later withdrew from the front to the rear after they went back to their rural homes and tried to settle personal or family scores.
We would say the lower echelons must report to the higher echelons and the higher echelons must listen to the lower echelons.
We called this inner party democracy. There were no funny ideologies like what we see today when people talk of one centre of power. That is a strange ideology.
We were then trained in guerrilla warfare and its strategies and that is when we could hold guns and some would then later specialise.
Question: What were some of the guerrilla warfare strategies?
Answer: We were taught that we should not just conduct an ambush without proper planning. We would sit down and digest our moves.
For instance, as a sectorial commander with about 120 fighters, there should be a buy-in from everyone on the mission.
We would first take stock of the weapons that we had and their advantage over our target.
Our targets were mostly Rhodesian police and military camps.
We would then send people to do reconnaissance of our target.
When attacking, we would select the first person to strike an agreed target, then vemahonyera or artillery would come in.
After about five minutes, we would retreat. It was just not a retreat, but we would have mapped our gathering point.
From there, we would disperse into smaller units. That was the guerrilla warfare tactic, battle of quick decision.
After being taught about the people’s war or guerrilla warfare, we would then get information on operational areas in Rhodesia.
We had sectors such as Nehanda, Takawira or Chaminuka.
Then, there were provinces such as Tete, Manica, Gaza, Botswana-Zimbabwe and Zambia-Zimbabwe. That marked the end of training. I trained for six months up to December 1973.
Question: After training what became of you?
Answer: I was then selected detachment commander while Nyarambi, my friend, remained at Mgagao as commissar.
We were also in training with the late national hero Cde Agnew Kambeu or Amoth Chingombe.
From Mgagao I was to be sent to a transit camp, Kongwa, Dodoma, where I became political commissar. I worked with Cde Sipho Ncube who was camp commander, his real name is Kademaunga.
He was part of the crocodile group credited for killing a white man in Melsetter in 1964. There was also Cde Jimmy Mangwende, David Tondhlana and Cde Khumalo. At Kongwa, I met members of the Umkonto we Sizwe including the incumbent South African National Defence Force chief Solly Shoke.
I was to return to Mgagao in April 1974 where I became a training instructor. I was trained how to use the long range mortars and anti-aircrafts.
Numbers of people had increased at that time. That is why there was need for more instructors.
Question: Towards the end of 1974, there was the Nhari-Badza rebellion. What were its effects to you who were at Mgagao?
Answer: There are incidents that happened which are manifesting even today. If leaders stifle inner party democracy of the principle of higher and lower echelons, then we are bound to see some people being called rebels.
I did not know Nhari or Badza personally, except that I was close to Badza’s young brother, Edmund Kaguri. He was prominent in the crafting of the Mgagao document.
He had left University of Zimbabwe to join the war. He was at university with historian and journalist, Iden Witherell. Kaguri was shot and captured at Nyadzonya before dying of the injuries at 4 Brigade in Umtali, where he had been taken by Selous Scouts.
At Mgagao, Cde Kaguri came whilst I was already an instructor.
When Chiwenga, Perrance Shiri, Happison Muchechetere, George Shumba, Mwatse, Cde Makasha, Richard Chiwara, Felix Chemadiwe, Salvation Machingambi or Ndaba and others arrived, I was their instructor. Some of them later became instructors when I was head of instructors in 1974.
Back to the Badza-Nhari issue. Our perspective as some of the leaders is that these guys were angry.
They accused leaders at the rear of living a luxurious life and did not care about those dying in the battlefield or in the front.
They said we were failing to supply them with war materials as such they wanted the command structure to be dissolved. I later learnt that the problems emanated from what had happened in 1971.
In 1971, there was the formation of Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (Frolizi). The party drew membership from Zanu and Zapu.
It had people like Skilkom Siwela, Godfrey Savanhu, Nathan Shamuyarira, Parirewa, Ambrose Mutinhiri and George Nyandoro.
These people were saying their real president was in jail and would come to lead upon release. This leader was Robert Mugabe and the party was more of a tribal thing fronted by the Zezurus and Karangas.
When Frolizi fell apart in 1973, most of its members re-joined Zapu, but the tribal issue remained.
Noel Mukono who was a Manyika was then removed from commanding the Zanla forces at the 1973 Zanu congress. Cde Tongogara then took over.
That is when the thuggish behaviour that had set its roots in Zanu came to the open and today it still exists.
Question: What do you mean by thuggish behaviour?
Answer: I mean the tendency for people to think they are above the party. A situation where someone feels he or she has people.
The people do not belong to anyone. They belong to the party.
But, at that congress in 1973, Tongogara took the commanders who were at the front to support his bid to elbow Mukono on tribal grounds. He had support from Joseph Chimurenga, Josiah Tungamirai, Sheba Gava and Rex Nhongo. Tongogara introduced the “bereka mwana” or vote by viewing methods and discarded the secret ballot system.
As such, those who had managed to create ‘their own people’ and promised them rewards, were elected into positions. As such, Mukono was elbowed, but remained in Dare reChimurenga a bitter man.
That transition was not managed well, it gave more life to the tribal factions.
That is why when the Nhari Badza issue came up, Mukono was one of the people supporting it together with Simpson Mutambanengwe and others.
That was the background to this rebellion. At the time slogans such as “pasi nekupanduka, pasi nevanoda kupunza musangano nepakati,” had been created.
As a result, a reinforcement had to come from East Africa to deal with the ‘sell-outs’.
Continued next week