The Sunday Mail
In last week’s instalment, Cde Daniel Makaripe (DM) gave his narrative of the liberation struggle. Cde Makaripe is one of the students who abandoned their studies at St Francis of Assisi Secondary School in Enkeldoorn (now Chivhu) to join the liberation struggle. The school bred a number of students who sneaked out of the then Rhodesia for military training to fight the white colonial minority regime. Our Reporter, Norman Muchemwa (NM), concludes his conversation with Cde Makaripe, who was known by his colleagues as Cde Kid Joe Mawrong-wrong.
NM: Can you tell us about your experiences at Doroi. Who were the commanders and how did you finally receive military training?
DM: We went to Doroi because Nyadzonia had been attacked and most survivors were taken to this camp. We were told that there would be training at Doroi but nothing came.
The situation at this camp was terrible. We had the likes of Cde Felix Muchemwa, Cde Sydney Sekeramayi and Cde Chihambakwe amongst the leaders who were tasked to address the situation prevailing at Doroi.
Due to the overwhelming number of people, there was serious hunger and people suffered severe malnutrition and children suffered from kwashiorkor. Malaria, bilharzia and jigger flea – yainzi matekenya – zvakarova vanhu at this camp. Zvaiva serious.
The only food that was occasionally available was hard black beans, idzo dzairovesa vanhu nemudumbu zvisingaite. Also dried fish known as mabakayawe dzaiwanikwawo here and there, but not enough for the malnourished refugees. People were dying at Doroi, I tell you.
We left around October 1976 patakaendeswa kuChimoio for training. Due to lack of food at Doroi, takambopedza mazuva before training.
NM: Take us through your training at Chimoio. Who were your commanders and instructors?
DM: Chimoio was the largest Zanla camp in Mozambique and had various sections. While awaiting training, as someone with experience in bookkeeping, takambobatsira in administration department. We received military training in guerrilla tactics, different kinds of drills, cover and rolling, as well as training in different weapons of war and use of grenades.
The training started in November (1976) and ended in April 1977. After this training, we were selected to go to the artillery section, where I specialised in anti-air and air defence.
We had several commanders at Chimoio and anti-air was under Cde Idi Amin. There was Cde Martin Ndlovu, who later became aide-de-camp to the late former president, Cde Mugabe. We had Cde Steven Chocha, Cde Tavariswa, Cde Ropa, Cde Chindunduma and Cde Murehwa amongst other senior commanders and instructors.
NM: After your training, did you had the chance to be deployed at the front?
DM: I was never deployed at the war front. I was selected to be part of a team tasked to defend Chimoio camp due to my exploits during training. I was promoted to a platoon commander and worked with the likes of ana Cde Gweshe in my team. Since Chimoio was the major Zanla camp in Mozambique, it had been anticipated that one day the enemy would attack, and that was our task to guard and defend the camp.
We had various anti-air machines stationed around the camp and mountains nearby. We were tasked to defend Nehanda for girls, Chindunduma for children, then Chaminuka, which housed the late former president, VaMugabe. Paitova ne two anti-air barrel yainzi Zegedoshi.
We also had Parirenyatwa within our perimeter; this was the area we covered, but the overall camp was too big. We followed our routine from July until the time Chimoio was attacked on November 23 1977.
NM: You mentioned the Chimoio attack, as people tasked to defend the camp with anti-air defence systems, what was your experience and how did you survive?
DM: The attack at Chimoio came as a surprise to most of us. We had a better anti-air defence system but the attack came as a surprise to us, and they had serious firepower. What made the situation worse was the fact that the Rhodesians knew exactly where they were targeting. Most of our anti-air defence system was destroyed and that weakened our reaction. They had over 30 helicopters used to ferry their light infantry team to the ground, around 10 armed helicopters, around 10 Hunter fighter bombers, Vampire fighter bombers and Dakotas amongst other aircraft.
The situation was very serious, people died, Comrade, I can tell you this. We could not do anything. We managed to hit some helicopters but we completely lost this battle.
It lasted from morning until around 5:30pm. The area I was stationed was bombed and one of my comrades ainzi Amos lost his life there.
I was hit on my left leg (showing the injured leg), and the helicopter kept coming back to this area. I covered my body in blood and slumped on my gun as if I was dead, and this helped me to survive. What made the situation worse was the fact that they had deployed ground troops who were killing the survivors. We managed to leave the radius with the help of some comrades since I was injured and we headed towards Gondora. We knew this terrain as people who operated in this area.
On the third day, before we arrived in Gondora, that is when Frelimo ambulances started coming to carry the injured, and we were taken to Chimoio Hospital.
NM: With hindsight, how do you assess the attack on Chimoio?
DM: Personally, I feel we were overwhelmed by the firepower of the Rhodesians. I was not happy by the reaction of the Mozambican government. They never reacted during this attack but they had the capacity to intervene if they wanted to. I am also not happy with the reaction of our commanders, especially Cde Norman Bethune and Cde Rex Nhongo; it is more like they sold us out. Bethune was our overall commander at Chimoio and he was told of the impending attack by spirit mediums but he did nothing.
We hear Cde Nhongo was also told about this attack but he did nothing. They should have done enough to warn comrades of this impending attack and I am convinced that the damage could have been minimised. The way the Rhodesians attacked us shows that they had all the information about the camp and as commanders, they would have devised strategies to avert serious damage.
I am saying so because if we take, for example, what happened at Mavonde battle, the commanders heeded the call of spirit mediums and came up with different strategies and planted decoys at the camp.
Varungu vakarohwa zvakaipa during this war because the map they had was different from what was on the ground. Their paratroopers were being dropped on top of the comrades and they had a field day. This is what should have happened at Chimoio.
NM: What was the role of spirit mediums during the liberation struggle?
DM: Masvikiro were a critical component in the struggle, my brother. They played a critical role in directing the war even though some comrades did not take them seriously.
In cases of defying the spirit mediums, there were always consequences like we experienced at Chimoio. At this camp we actually had spirit mediums stationed there. We had well-known spirit mediums at Chimoio who told our commanders of the pending attack.
These were Sekuru Chipfeni, Chidyamauyu and Chiodzamamera (machinda aifamba nehomwe yaMbuya Nehanda) amongst others.
NM: After you were injured, what happened next?
DM: I was taken to Maputo Hospital, which was a military facility. I was injured so badly that they even contemplated amputating my leg. I spent some time at this hospital. We had a lot of injured comrades and civilians.
Even Cde Samora Machel visited us during the time Graca gave birth to one of their sons at this hospital. After my recovery, I could not perform my military duties due to the injury on my leg. At the time, there was an education department led by Cde Fay Chung and Cde Dzingai Mutumbuka in Maputo. That is where I did my Ordinary Levels and passed with flying colours.
NM: Where did you go after ceasefire and what role did you play after independence?
DM: After the war I went pa repatriation camp, which was at Harare Hospital, pachiri kunzi paGomo. We were later transferred to the newly established Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre. After demobilisation I did a diploma in business administration and since I could not join the military anymore, I was deployed to the Ministry of Health, where I rose to become executive officer (administration) until my retirement in 1996 at Chitungwiza Central Hospital.
During the land reform programme, I was war veterans’ secretary-general responsible for Beatrice and Chivhu, where I helped former freedom fighters to acquire land. I was a lands officer responsible for land distribution to all war veterans in the said area.
NM: Finally, as someone who participated in the struggle, do you feel you are duly recognised for the role you played?
DM: The most painful part in the fight against the Ian Smith regime was that my participation in the struggle was short-lived due to injury. After independence – as someone who can speak his mind – I am totally unhappy with the way we were treated after the war. Coming back home, most comrades who had senior positions during the war were stripped of their ranks kwakupinzwa mu army in the lower ranks, in an army that was being supervised by those we were fighting against.
That is where we were downgraded. Our war organogram was disbanded, we were not taken as people who had the organogram to rule the country, and I am not happy with such treatment. The reconciliation and integration madness affected a lot of comrades. We had our rehabilitation centre in Ruwa, but all that was taken away from us. Even when we go to receive our monthly pensions, some even sleep in the open because they have nowhere else to go. If we still had our rehabilitation centre, it was going to be easier for most comrades coming from outside Harare. It is so pathetic, we have nowhere to go as comrades who were injured in the war.
Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre was taken away from us by Cde Nhongo using his position and converted that place to his personal use.
If we had a system yekuti from bush to office like what happened in Mozambique, our administration was going to be better.
We have anti-revolutionaries vasina kubata pfuti and now they have hijacked both party and Government. These are making the lives of war veterans miserable because they do not understand where we came from.
Our system yegutsaruzhinji lost track a long time ago due to these same anti-revolutionaries. It is a sorry situation for us, my brother. The good thing about the current administration is that vanomboterera zvichemo; hopefully, they will do something kugadzirisa nyaya dzema comrades. I strongly appeal to our leadership to seriously consider the plight of people who fought for the liberation of this country. It was not an easy task for us to achieve the independence we enjoy today.
Lastly, the leadership should deal with corruption and anti-revolutionary elements who have flooded the party and Government if we are to entertain serious hopes of moving the country forward.