Surviving the Chimoio massacre

31 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Surviving the Chimoio massacre

The Sunday Mail

THIS is the third instalment of our discussion with CDE DANIEL SIGAUKE (DS), a former ZANLA combatant who, like many patriotic youths, left behind a comfortable life to join the liberation struggle.

In this edition, he continues to tell his riveting story to Senior Reporter TENDAI CHARA (TC).

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TC: Cde, we concluded our discussion last week with you narrating the role you played at refugee camps. Kindly take us through the rest of your journey.

DS : Thank you! Like I said previously, I was injured whilst in Tembwe and transferred to Changara, Chimoio, for treatment.

After treatment, I became a military instructor, specialising in the heavy machine gun.

I was trained by Cde Gora on how to use anti-air guns.

As a political commissar, I visited a number of nearby bases teaching new recruits political ideology.

When Chimoio was attacked by the Rhodesian forces, I was at a base called Matopos, which was adjacent to Takawira Base.

When Chimoio was attacked, we did not have guns.

During the attack, I was with Cde David Mutingwende.

Cde Mutingwende is still alive; I heard he is now a land developer.

What happened was that the camp was attacked in the morning, around 8am.

We were coming from the parade area.

A big plane arrived first and we thought it was the Chimoio governor’s plane.

The governor’s plane occasionally came to the camp.

When the plane was hovering above the camp, it began to flash hazard lights.

Within minutes, we heard noises and we next saw Rhodesian mirage jets approaching.

“After a while, we noticed a man and woman running towards us. As they were about to reach the thicket, shots rang and the woman was flung into the air before her lifeless body fell to the ground.

The man who was accompanying the lady briefly shot back before coming to the thicket.

I later on discovered that the man with the gun was Cde Chigove, who later on became the ZANU PF head of security after the war.”

 

The jets were flying very close to the ground, just above the tree-tops.

The jets started to simultaneously bomb all the nearby bases.

We tried to run out of the base but when we were about to do so, we noticed that Rhodesian paratroopers were being dropped.

We could not proceed since the enemy had sealed the base.

We retreated to the shooting range.

I was familiar with the shooting range since I spent most of my time there as an instructor, teaching the recruits how to use the gun.

I was with about eight boys we had been recruited from Goromonzi High School barely a week before the attack.

A helicopter appeared and opened fire on us.

Four of the students died there and then.

Their death pained us and I still see the vision of the desperate boys trying to run for dear life.

As we were running, we noticed that we had been encircled and there was no way we were going to run out of the killing bag.

We jumped into a dense thicket and waited for death.

Among the cadres that were with us was the late Sandra Chiweshe.

She was the daughter of this Chiweshe who used to run a grocery shop at Mbare Musika.

Sandra, who later on became a soldier in the Zimbabwe National Army, was a very brave girl.

As we waited in the thicket, some comrades who were coming from the base joined us.

The bombardment was heavy.

There was an anti-air machine gun stationed near the dam.

The operator of that machine viciously fought back but was in the end subdued.

We stayed in the thicket for a long time.

The situation at one time became calm and we thought the bombing had come to an end.

However, as we were discussing our way forward, the bombardment re-started and we had to shelve the plans we had agreed upon.

As we were hiding, a young girl who was holding a knife and a potato rushed into the thicket.

Chimoio had so many bases and the girl was coming from the base that we called HQ.

It was a long distance from HQ to Takawira Base.

The young girl somehow managed to run the whole distance as the Rhodesian army dropped bombs and were shooting from both the air and on the ground.

When she came to us, she was so confused and was not even aware she was holding the knife and potato.

She later told us that when the bombing started, she was in the kitchen peeling potatoes.

Panicked, she ran around clutching both the knife and potato.

Later on, Francis, a cadre that I knew very well, also came to the thicket.

Like the young girl, he was also coming from HQ.

Unlike the girl who was unscathed, Francis had been shot in both legs.

After a while, we noticed a man and woman running towards us.

As they were about to reach the thicket, shots rang and the woman was flung up into air before her lifeless body fell to the ground.

The man who was accompanying the lady briefly shot back before coming to the thicket.

I later on discovered that the man with the gun was Cde Chigove, who later on became the ZANU PF head of security after the war.

When he came to where we were, he was shaking like a reed.

He handed me the AK 47.

He was wearing a red shirt and the colour of the shirt would blow our cover.

We asked him to remove it.

A lancer was thrown and it fell a distance from the thicket.

Some of the people that I was with were hit by fragments.

I grabbed a small piece of grass, chewed it and pleaded with Mbuya Nehanda to save us.

Those that were with me also did the ritual.

TC : Is this what you had been taught to do under such circumstances?

DS : Not really.

You know, during the war, we strongly believed in spirit mediums.

It just came into my mind and I saw myself doing the ritual.

This ritual helped us a lot as we remained composed.

Those that were running around were mostly shot by the Rhodesians.

At one point, the Rhodesian soldiers were so confused to an extent of fighting among themselves.

I strongly believe that the confusion in the Rhodesian camp was caused by the spirit mediums.

Also, at one point, the Rhodesian soldiers came towards us and, surprisingly, they never bothered to look into the thicket that we were hiding in.

Had the Rhodesian soldiers peeped into the thicket, we were definitely going to die that morning.

The ancestors protected us during the war.

We spent the whole day hiding in the thicket.

We came out of the hiding place around 9pm.

During the day, we heard women crying at the bases.

I think these crying women had been captured by the enemy.

We later on discovered that the captured women, some of whom were pregnant, would be handcuffed and then dipped into drums of boiling water or thick porridge.

Some of the captured cadres died horribly.

We later on heard a child that was crying, and Sandra threw caution to the wind and came out of hiding and took the child.

We later on discovered the child’s mother had been shot point-blank by the Rhodesians.

When we came out of the thicket, we then walked for a long distance as we tried to move away, as quickly as we could, from the camp.

We then arrived at a Mozambican village where we gave the hungry and crying child traditional beer.

After drinking the beer, the child fell into a deep slumber.

Next week, Cde Sigauke will round up his account by telling us how survivors of the Chimoio massacre picked up the pieces and moved on.

 

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