The dangerous life of carrying war materials

24 Oct, 2021 - 00:10 0 Views
The dangerous life of  carrying war materials

The Sunday Mail

IN this instalment, we continue our discussion with Cde Jacqueline Mukanganyama Tutani (JT), who was among the brave girls and women who took an active part in the war of liberation. Last week, Cde Tutani, whose nom de guerre was Cde Lavendar Pirai, narrated the difficulties she experienced while trying to adjust to the rigours of war. In this edition, she narrates to our Senior Reporter Tendai Chara (TC) the extreme difficulties that she faced in the war zone.


TC : Last week, you spoke about the difficulties you faced as you tried to adjust to the war situation. If you can kindly continue with the narration by first explaining why you chose the Chimurenga name Lavender Pirai.

JT : Pirai means sacrifice. As for Lavender, I just liked the name. Lavender is a flower.

So I was imagining myself as a beautiful flower. Can’t you see I am beautiful? (laughs).

In a way, I was saying that I am a beautiful flower, which was ready to sacrifice itself for the attainment of freedom.

TC: From Chare, where did you go?

JT: Like I said, Chare was a new base which was later deserted. It was at this base that we learnt how to make makeshift bamboo beds.

During the war, we did not sleep on the floor but on makeshift communal beds.

After two months at this base, we were returned to Tembwe after the base was condemned for being unfit for human settlement.

Tembwe was a training camp and when we returned there I received further training as a medical officer.

After staying at Tembwe for a while, a group was assembled to deliver supplies to the war zone. This marked the beginning of a very difficult period. I can still vividly remember my first assignment. We were given orders to ferry material to Cahora Bassa.

TC: How far was it from Tembwe to Cahora Bassa?

JT: It was far, very far. There were 50 of us who were selected as couriers and we were divided into two groups. One group would go first while the other one would remain behind.

The next time the other group would go while the other one remained behind.

We called the war material that we were delivering tids.

TC: How did you travel from Tembwe to Cahora Bassa?

JT: We would be taken by lorries.

We were now fully trained and as we went out to deliver the war materials, we had our guns. The lorries would take us to some bases where we would be dropped off.

From the bases, we would then carry the war material to the war front.

TC : Tell us about your first operation.

JT: As a medical officer, I always carried with me a bag in which I kept my medical supplies. I was responsible for treating those who would have been injured during the long walk.

As a medical officer, it was also my duty to take care of those that were injured as we travelled.

Apart from the gun, we also had what we called a kit bag.

TC : What was the kit bag used for?

JT: The kit bag was our wardrobe.

We kept our blankets and the few clothes that we had in that bag. In fact, one’s personal belongings were all in that bag.

Apart from the medical and kit bags, I also carried heavy ammunition. We were mostly transporting bullets to the war front.

The package that I carried for long distances would weigh up to 50 kilogrammes. It was very heavy.

Apart from the ammunition, we also carried the food that we were to eat in the war zone.

When we got to the bases, we would then give the fighters the materials and food.

From 3pm, we travelled throughout the night. We had no time to sleep or rest.

When there was an urgent need for us to stop, we would communicate through passwords. Before we embarked on the journeys, we would first go on parade and it was at the parade that a password to be used on that particular assignment was decided upon.

During the operations, it was common for us to have swollen legs.

If I say we were walking, I would be lying. It was more of a jog. I cannot calculate the distances that we travelled, but they were very long distances.

During the journey, one had to keep up with the pace of the others or else, that you would be left behind. Luckily for us, we were very young and energetic. We had no time to complain.

Last week, I was shocked when a young man told me that he had high blood pressure.

During the war, the majority of the young cadres were as fit as a fiddle and often did manual work that most youths today will not dare attempt.

TC : What happened next?

JT: We undertook those operations for about five or six times before disaster struck.

It was my group’s turn to deliver war materials to the front. I had a strange dream in which my late mother advised me to lie that I was not feeling well so that I could not be part of that particular operation.

In the dream, my late mother warned me about an impending ambush and I decided not to go. I told my friend about the dream and we decided not to go.

We told our leaders that we were sick and we did not travel with the others.

The following day, some of the cadres who had travelled a day before came back and delivered to us the sad news.

The group had been ambushed and some of our fellow comrades had been captured while some were killed. I was devastated.

We later gathered that the Rhodesian army was now patrolling some of the places that we often delivered war materials to.

The Rhodesian army’s intention was to capture as many female combatants as they could.

TC: Why was the Rhodesian army particularly interested in female combatants?

JT: The Rhodesian army would use captured female combatants for propaganda purposes.

The captured combatants would be paraded in the war zones as a way of discouraging young girls from joining the war.

Women were easy targets.

Ten couriers, who were very close to me, lost their lives during the ambush.

Susan and Tawanda, my former classmates at Mutambara Mission, were among those who were murdered by the Rhodesian forces.

After the ambush, we now feared going for other operations. However, as juniors, there was nothing that we could do.

We had to go the front and supply our fellow comrades with ammunition.

It was later decided that Kasongo, the area in which the ambush took place, should not be used for the operations. A new route was devised. After more similar ambushes, the war leaders later decided to temporarily withdraw us from such dangerous assignments.

We were taken back to Tembwe.

However, after a brief stay at Tembwe, I was deployed to Gaza province where we had to contend, not only with the Rhodesian forces, but also with landmines and the marauding wild animals in the Gonarezhou National Park.

In our next instalment, Cde Pirai will narrate how she was tasked with accompanying an injured cadre to Chimoio before being deployed to Gaza province for a dangerous assignment.


Share This: