The Sunday Mail
WE conclude the chronicles of the political life of Cde Lecture, Norman Makotsi. This week the liberation struggle fighter shares with our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati some of the battles he was involved in.
Q: Can you narrate some of the famous battles that you undertook against Ian Smith’s soldiers?
A: Oh, the battles were many. There was a battle at Mucheki. Ipapo takaratidza hugamba chaiwo. Yakaitika pedyo nepamaraini panaMupeti. We had based paGarura.At night, we would gather at one point and eat before retiring to sleep in our poshtos. We would wake up around 4am and, in pairs, scout the surrounding areas and other bases. At that time, our section had seven fighters.
As such, one pair went to the Garura base near Mutungagore mountain. Saka zvayiitika ndezvekuti kana masecha and if everything is ok maigona kubhesa ipapo. Isu taenda kwedu takanzwa pfuti kurira; and the sounds were coming from Mucheki base. We knew it was a confrontation with the Rhodesian soldiers. Nyambisirwa kurira kwepfuti, one of ours, Tiz Tafirenyika had been shot.
He was with Take Dhozh who, at that time, was firing whilst retreating. But he had seen where the enemy was firing from.We ran towards that base and our section members got there at almost the same time. Take Dhozh informed us that Tiz had been hit. We launched our battle formation and began advancing. When we got to a distance of about 100 meters, I saw one of the enemy soldiers hiding behind a rock. I knew they were waiting for us to get closer to Tiz so that they start firing. Tiz had been hit on the shoulder and the bullet exited from other side, near the waist. He had taken cover.
We couldn’t leave him there. Take Dozh had told us where the enemy was hiding.
As such, when one of the Rhodesian soldiers tried to get a shot at us, Take Dozh shouted ‘uyo’ as he fired in that directions and manage to hit the target. We had already taken positions and started firing. One of our colleagues, who had a bazooka, then fired in the enemy direction with an impact. Taona izvi ndakashewedzera; “Advance! Advance! Advance!”, as we moved towards the enemy whilst firing.
When we got to our injured colleague, I ordered Take Dozh and China Groove to carry him and we began retreating.
We moved out of danger and after about one kilometre, we stopped to attend to Cde Tiz.
We had Cup Yehondo who was carrying our first aid kit. He bandaged the wounds to try and stop the bleeding, before injecting Cde Tiz to ease the pain. We then made a stretcher out of strong sticks and tree bucks before carrying Cde Tiz to a secure place in the bush.
From there, we went to a nearby village, Mupeti and approached vaMupeti who was a war collaborator. We asked if he could herd his cattle, just before midday, towards the place we had left Cde Tiz and try look after him.
We then crossed Muchiki River and went to Chiduku. Around 2pm vaMupeti sent a small boy to inform us that Cde Tiz was no more. We then gave back a word that we would cross the river at night to bury our colleague. This was after requesting they prepare a grave.
We were very brave on that day. Despite the loss we managed to get our colleague and afford him a decent burial. It was not easy to conduct burials. In most cases, vamwe wedu taingowasiya musango. So to get Cde Tiz and protect his body from white regime’s humiliation was the best honour we could give him.
The white Rhodesians had a tendency to parade all killed comrades in a degrading manner meant to scare or intimidate the villagers against supporting us.
Q: What other battles were you involved in that you feel were outstanding?
A: There was a battle to attack at Chiwetu camp and we won that, again in 1978. Our attack was the second after a failed attempt by a different group. They were over powered by the Rhodesian soldiers and many were killed. The time we went there, we knew our boys had been countered so we called other sections to make a big group.
We managed to launch a surprise attack and there was little return of fire. I am sure we killed many Rhodesian soldiers, but as was in the war, such information never got out as the whites wanted to make it appear as if they were on top of the situation.
We retreated and in the morning we saw helicopters land at the camp at around 8am, before flying off after about an hour. Ipapo ndopatakaziwa kuti tadambura vanhu apa.Takanga tapinda mufront kuzorowa nemuwengi and we were doing just that. We had been politicised to do just that.
Q: You talk of being politicised. Many freedom fighters make such statements, can you elaborate what you mean by that?
A: The politicisation was more of being told that we are in this fight against the whites to free ourselves and get independence. No matter what the situation might appear like; or having our fighters being killed, it was inevitable that this country is going to get freedom.
We were told that such freedom depended on our collective efforts to continue fighting the white colonisers and apply more pressure through sabotaging their infrastructure in the country.
It was political indoctrination to give us the bravery and motivation to feel that I belong to the struggle, I am not fighting for myself, but I am fighting for the freedom of my country and even if it means death, let it be so.
That is why there was also literature on people like Mao from China, to inculcate that sense of the need to fight colonialism and capitalists. Socialism was the driving doctrine.
We were told there are bourgeoises, petty bourgeoise, peasants and so on; and we needed to fight such systems to bring equality in the distribution of wealth.
So, when you would reflect the situation, it was clear paiwa newamwe waisveta wamwe ropa. Ende tichiwuya ndizvo zvataiwataurira wabereki mumisha kuti tinoda rusununguko. Kana masongs edu aiwa akarerekera ikoku. Even today wabereki know that is what we were fighting for. But the sad reality is that you meet these villagers, who know that I am a liberation fighter; and they ask; “nhai Cde Lecture, mawapapi manje.” Unonyara because there is nothing to show or prove what we were telling them during the war. That is a subject for another day, but politicisation made us hard-nuts to crack. That is why today we all take a stance to defend this country, a position many people cannot understand.
Away from being politicised, I also remember there was a time we planned an ambush in Chiduku. We had one comrade, Dzakadambuka, who had gone to the area for reconnaissance. While there, he saw a vehicle transporting Rhodesian soldiers which was moving slowly as it had rained and the road was muddy. Before long, the vehicle got stuck in the mud. So the Rhodesian soldiers behaved casually and disembarked from the vehicle without their guns to try and push the car. Dzakadambuka took advantage and launched an attack. When we heard the shots we advanced towards the area and found Dzakadambuka already coming to us saying; “there is no arm-bush to talk of, I have already dealt with them.” That was Dzakadambuka for us.
Q: It was a serious risk for Dzakadambuka, but you speak of the incident as a joke, what such other incidences did you encounter, that you laugh at today?
A: At that same time, it was raining and we would base in the houses and I was with Cup Yehondo. There was a mujibha who drove a Ford Cortina and one mid-afternoon we asked him to take us to Chiware School to see teacher Nerwande. We asked Nerwande for something to wear as we wanted to go out for drinks at Gunda. He gave us his suits before we took our guns and placed them under the vehicle seats. I had a revolver and two grenades on me as we left for the drinks. PaGunda paiwa nemumwe mudhara ainzi Nyatsine ndiye waitengesa mubhawa rekanzuru ipapo. Takatenga mhamba and we started drinking. Before finishing the first pint, a small vehicle — a mine detector — passed through the bar and we knew the place was not safe for us. We decided to leave for Tsanzaguru for more drinks. After a couple of beers a Vauxhall Velox pulled over. It had one occupant, a black Rhodesian soldier in a full uniform. He also came into the bar and ordered a beer. As he began to drink the beer, I stood up and went to him. We began a conversation.
In no time, I asked to hire him to Chiware School where I told him I was a teacher.
He agreed and said he was heading in that direction after finishing another beer.
I then told my colleagues of a plan to capture the soldier and that, when I leave with him, they should follow at a distant. At around 3pm, the soldier said it was time for us to leave. When we got to Chiware School, there were teachers sitting outside. They were just coming from a holiday with schools opening the following day. When the teachers saw me with the soldier, they all looked puzzled because they knew me. I then called Nerwande to his house and told him that I was about to capture the soldier. As I was talking to the teacher, the Ford Cortina that had Cup Yehondo and the mujibha pulled into the school yard. Cup Yehondo akangobuda mumota akatendeka musoja pfuti ready to fire. I then ordered Cup Yehondo not to fire and when the soldier realised he had been tricked he tried to flee towards Muvhimwa villages.
The teachers were still to come to terms with what was happening. I then called on them to join us and chase after the soldier. We eventually caught him near Muvhimwa villages.
He was unfortunate because when he got out of the car, he had left his rifle inside so there was no time to reach for it before he took to his heels. After capturing him we took over the vehicle together with Cde Peter Mahlatini, who had joined us, and drove it to Muvhimwa School.
We had a base in Muvhimwa. There was a group that was coming from Wedza going to Mozambique kunotora mabara and they were passing through the area. After two days, the section from Wedza arrived and we handed them the soldier to take him to Mozambique.
The soldier was black and it was painful to kill one of your own blood. In most cases these people assisted us with information about their operations and plans. They would be given political orientation to support our cause, but never released to the front.
Q: And what became of the vehicle?
A: We ordered vadhara kuti bvisai mavhiri muise pazvikochikari. Tikati, vapfanha, cherai gomba mufutsire motokari.
Even today, if you were to go to Muvhimwa School and ask kuti mota yakachererwa nanamukoma Lecture iripapi, they will show you the spot. But we also had times when we lost our comrades. I remember in March 1979 when we were going to Mozambique to get supplies. We were in Nyazura at Nyamapembere and unbeknown to us, a group of white soldiers patrolling the area had observed our movements. We had an elderly man Kamudhanduru who was a war collaborator showing us the way. At Nyamapembere, the whites had laid an ambush on us that night. It was a surprise attach on us and we lost a number of members from our section.
Only myself and Cde Fungai managed to escape. Four other comrades including Zvikaramba Toedza Zvimwe were captured.
The likes of Cde Tomango, Mike Mukono, Batanayi Vatema, Consider Hondo and the war collaborator Kamudhanduru died during the battle. We managed to escape and came here in Makoni. We looked for a chimbwido in the area to tell the comrades operating there that we got into combat and we don’t know what happened to others.
But I had been injured and had a bomb shrapnel was lodged in my foot. So it was arranged I go and get medical assistance in a cave at Zonga here in Makoni. I stayed there for two weeks.
Q: At ceasefire, where were you and what did you do after independence?
A: At cease fire, at the end of 1979, I went to Dzapasi Assembly Point our commander was Tonderayi Nyika. We were then taken to Chitungwiza where some were being taken for integration into the army.
I was taken to Bulawayo, Llewellyn Barracks (now Lookout Masuku Barracks) and later deployed in Silobela 4.7 Infantry Battalion as a soldier. In 1982 I left the army and met Nicolas Mudzengere who introduced me to trade unionism. We had the likes of Mutasa, Musekiwa and Morgan Tsvangirai.
We would move around companies seeking to make employers provide good working environment for their employees. But in 1985 I left trade unionism and got a job at National Railways of Zimbabwe in Mutare until 2013 when I retired at a time I was chief security officer.