The Sunday Mail
Cde Peter Chipo John Muchimwe (PCJM) vividly remembers a war battle that changed his life. Today he walks with an aid after a bullet pierced through his right thigh. The former liberation war fighter recounts to our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati (LM) how he survived the war.
LM: You arrived at Chimoio in a delivery truck. Did you not face problems joining others at the camp?
PCJM: When we reached the main Zanu headquarters at Chimoio, the vehicle proceeded to Takawira Base Two. The base was near the main camp and had just opened to train recruits.
Cdes Tarwirei and Bazooka welcomed me at Takawira Base Two. I did not face any difficulties joining others because I had explained myself clearly.
Besides, mota yandakauya nayo yakanga iri cleared.
The Frelimo soldiers who were delivering the supplies to the camp also explained how I had joined them. Cde Chocha, or Augustine Chihuri, came to Takawira Base Two a few days after I arrived. He became one of the senior people in charge. There were also other seniors such as Cde Mbumburu and Cde Martin Ndlovu (Kwainona).
These comrades trained our group in 1977. I lived with Cde Kwainona during training.
My training involved basic military skills and war survival tactics. I also trained on how to use assault rifles, light machine guns and bazookas. The initial training lasted three months.
I was selected into Group 144, which was for commandos and went through further training. One day, during training, just before 7am, I heard a sound like that of a heavy machine.
Most comrades stopped what they were doing. We all looked in the distance from where the sound was coming from and growing louder.
In no time, two fighter jets flew above us.
As they passed, bombs started falling.
There was commotion as comrades ran for cover. In the confusion, fighter helicopters reached the camp spraying bullets and hovered past.
The Rhodesians had calculated the attack well. When the helicopters passed, the fighter jets returned and dropped more bombs.
Within a few minutes, the helicopters also returned firing at the comrades who had survived the bomb attacks. The attack continued for hours in that sequence.
LM: How did you escape the attack?
PCJM: When the helicopter gunships returned the second time, I had already escaped. I had escaped with Cde Kwainona and Cde Mbumburu.
Mabudiro edu aiva akawoma. I had been trained in military skills and I quickly figured out that taking cover or hiding was not the best thing to do. The Rhodesians were employing carpet bombing tactics.
They were trying to cover the whole target area in bombs. We managed to escape through a field that was used for riffle training.
We ran towards a river where there was more tree cover and shrubs. When we got to the river, zvakanga zvichisatarisiki nekuti macomrades akanga afa.
Some had been bombed whilst taking their morning bath. We crossed the river and walked for about eight kilometres out of the battle radius.
Semunhu aiva nevakuru, they led the way and I discovered there was an armoury there. It was called Tamba Wakachenjera. We armed ourselves, but did not return to the battlefield.
LM: Your fellow comrades were under attack and you had armed yourself. Why did you not return to fight?
PCJM: We were not sure what we could run into. There was a general feeling that the Rhodesians had also deployed a ground force.
As such, it was risky to return and fight.
Other comrades who had escaped the war zone joined us. That night, we strategised our next move and it was agreed we return to Takawira Base Two early in the morning.
In the morning, the planes returned and there was sporadic firing of guns, but the shots were not intensive as the previous day.
It was decided that we remain at Takawira. On the third day, I was assigned to the war front with other comrades. Others returned to Chimoio to check on the situation.
LM: How did you enter Rhodesia?
PCJM: We went to a base near the Mozambique-Rhodesia border where we met Cde Tonderai Zimondi, who was in charge.
I was selected into a group that was destined for Munhumutapa Sector around the Bocha area. I then pleaded with Cde Zimondi to be deployed elsewhere because Bocha was my home area.
I knew my presence there would get my parents into trouble with the whites.
That is how I ended in Musikavanhu Sector.
Takapinda nekuRusitu, Muchenezi Base, where Cde McDhadhi was base commander. From there, we went to Mutemba B Detachment where I operated between 1977 and September 1979.
In September 1977, I was shot in the hip during combat. That was my last battle. I returned to the rear in Mozambique since I had been seriously injured.
LM: It was a life-changing battle that saw you walk with an aid for the rest of your life. Can you tell us more about that battle?
PCJM: Ndaishandisa pfuti dzinonzi RPG7 or RPG2. Aiva mabazooka ese. Ndakanga ndisingabvumi kuti tinonyaradzwa nevarungu mu combat.
Taiti tikapinda combat, I would take my time to study where enemy fire is most concentrated. Ndaiti ndikatumira one kana two ma bazooka paibva panyarara kuti zii.
In the battle where I was injured, the enemy had trapped us in a valley. We were returning from Gazaland School in Chipinge near Tanganda Halt.
We had slept at the school.
After crossing a road that goes to Tanganda, we were walking in a single file.
We were about 15 comrades. As we started to climb a mountain, we heard gun fire.
Immediately, our group members took cover. It appeared as if all the shots were directed at me.
Maybe the enemy had noticed that I was carrying a RPG7 and they knew how effective it was. Before I could take cover, a bullet hit my right thigh and went through.
I managed to take cover and crawled behind a rock.
Ndakaridza bazooka towards where the shots were coming from.
Pakanyarara kwekanguva kadiki.
Ndakanzwa pfuti dzatanga kurira futi kumberi kwedu. Ndakada kuridza kechipiri asi pfuti yangu yakajema.
Ndakabvisa booz ndokurikanda pasi ndikaisa rimwe. Ndakatumira ndikanzwa kuti zii. Ndakaziva kuti ndapedza basa.
Within a few minutes, guns began firing from another direction. When I tried to fire a third one, I felt weak. I knew I had to defend myself to survive.
I could see the Rhodesian soldiers just about 20 meters from where I was.
It was almost impossible to fire a bazooka targeting that range. But I fired and there was silence.
I then hid behind a huge rock.
My trousers and right canvas shoe where soaked in blood. The battle was intense because the Rhodesian soldiers had reinforcements since they were based in the Nyunga Keep.
Cde Tafirenyika, who was our detachment commander, came to where I was lying. He took my RPG7 and gave me his AK47.
I used the AK47 as a walking aid as we tried to get out of danger. But the Rhodesian wanted us dead.
Wainzwa gun fire and would see a bullet hit against a rock near us.
Cde Tafirenyika akabva aona kuti tose taiva mu firing line and we were staring death.
Akandidzorera RPG7 yangu before taking his AK47 and left me there. Somehow, I managed to crawl into a cave.
LM: Sorry Comrade, are you insinuating that Cde Tafirenyika left you to die?
PCJM: Taiva muhondo comrade. There are decisions that we made, which you cannot understand because we are no longer in a war situation.
Dzimwe nguva zvaiva nani kusiya one comrade and save the group. I managed to crawl to safety and hid.
I then used a cloth that I had to bandage the wound. The firing had died down.
Pakazouya ma helicopter maviri and landed. I saw bodies being loaded and thought they were my colleagues.
Zvakandibata zvikuru asi ndakazoziva kuti vaive maRhodesian soldiers akanga afa.
LM: How did you figure out they were not your fellow comrades who had died?
PCJM: Like I said, I crawled into a cave.
I slept there for five nights without help.
I had two litres of orange drink and marijuana. That is what I survived on. Marijuana smoking was rife among the comrades, but our leaders discouraged it.
Asi ivo vaidziputa.
While in the cave, at one time, I thought of killing myself. But I was rescued by an elderly man who passed through the cave looking for his cattle.
It happened that I knew the old man. We called him Akim. He is the one who told me that the Rhodesian soldiers had perished in our battle.
I asked him to go to Bango Base and inform the comrades that I was alive.
That is how the comrades came back for me. It was Cde Spaka-spaka and others who took me to Bango Base. I was treated and sent to Mozambique.
LM: Where in Mozambique were you taken and what later became of you?
PCJM: I returned to Doroi and then Maputo where there was a farm that was run by Zanu. Because of the injury, I was then taken to a place called Mashava, there in Mozambique.
Mai Sally Mugabe used to visit to check on the injured comrades there.
At Mashava, we received reports of a plan to bomb the camp and we were moved to Nampula. From Nampula we came back to Rhodesia aboard a plane in December 1979 at ceasefire. I had gone to war on foot, but returned aboard a plane.
We went to Mt Hampden, then Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre. In 1981 I was seconded by ZANU-PF for training at Insilsdale Training Centre in Beatrice. I trained in agriculture and motor mechanics.
In 1982 I began motor mechanics in Harare.
Later, I relocated to Shurugwi where I am into farming.