The Sunday Mail
THIS is a continuation of our discussion with Cde Nelson Ndarasika, whose Chimurenga name was Cde Godo Tambawega. In our previous discussion, Cde Ndarasika narrated how he, together with 39 other refugees, deserted the Nyadzonia refugee camp and walked to Chimoio, where they were subsequently arrested and detained at the Chimoio Military Camp by Mozambican authorities. After being briefed by Cde Rex Nhongo, the group was subsequently returned, against its wish, to Nyadzonia. Weeks after their forced repatriation, Nyadzonia refugee camp was brutally attacked.
This week, Cde Ndarasika narrates to our Senior Reporter Tendai Chara how he “miraculously” escaped from the jaws of death during the siege.
Q: Last week, we concluded our discussion with your return to Nyadzonia after that ill-fated excursion to Chimoio. If you can tell us about the build-up to the Nyadzonia massacre, how the savage attack was carried and how you escaped.
A: Like I said previously, spirit mediums had been warning the camp commanders that something bad was going to happen at Nyadzonia.
Unfortunately, nothing was done.
After our forced return, two groups were sent for training in Tanzania.
The recruits would first be taken to Beira and from there, they were taken to Tanzania by the Tanzanian ship, Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
After our return to Nyadzonia, we were put under different companies and for a while, everything seemed fine.
The build-up to the attack began on the 8th of August 1976, when we were celebrating the day Zanu was formed.
As you might be aware, Zanu was formed on the 8th of August 1963.
So we spent the day celebrating, playing soccer and other games.
Then a rumour started circulating in the camp that on August 9, the Mozambican soldiers, known as makamaradha, would come to our camp.
It was said the Mozambicans were coming to play soccer with us as part of the Zanu anniversary commemorations.
The Mozambicans’ visit was, however, not officially announced.
It was just a rumour circulating in the camp.
Then on the 9th, the whole camp went to parade; as was the norm, we were briefed about the day’s programmes.
Surprisingly, it was not announced that we were going to play soccer with the Mozambicans.
All hell broke loose at around 9.30 am when the briefing had just ended and we were marching back to our different companies.
As we were moving away from the briefing, we saw vehicles coming into the camp.
The vehicles were painted in the Mozambican army colours, so everybody thought that the expected kamaradhas had finally arrived.
Little did we know that Morrison Nyathi, with the cooperation of some camp commanders, had sold us out to the Rhodesian army.
Q: Did you personally interact with Morrison Nyathi? If you did, then what type of a person was he?
A: I saw him several times when he was attached to the security department.
We gathered that he was coming from the front and had disciplinary issues.
From what I know, he was a sectoral commander before he was removed from the front to Nyadzonia in order to be disciplined.
After being disciplined, he was sent back to the front.
Q: Can you give us a brief description of Morrison Nyathi?
A: Like I said, I did not interact that much with him.
All I can say is that he did not have any distinctive features.
He was slim and was not very tall.
I met him on a few occasions as we were being given our daily food rations.
He was a senior and should have been in his mid-20s.
During the war, most fighters were young and we had few fighters in the 35 to 40 age groups.
Q: You can continue… when the vehicles arrived, you thought the Mozambicans had arrived?
A: Yes! We did not know that it was Morrison Nyathi and his team of Selous Scouts.
Nyadzonia was attacked by the notorious Selous Scouts.
The Rhodesian army was now training its soldiers using the same tactics that were being used by the guerrillas.
The Selous Scouts were unleashed on communities where they masqueraded as guerrillas in order to cause confusion and havoc.
Q: Tell us about the massacres.
A: I was among a group that was marching under the command of our company commander, Cde Dan Killer.
When the vehicles arrived, we all rushed towards them because we thought that they were our Mozambican friends and we wanted to welcome them.
The vehicles, which, like I said, were painted in Mozambican army colours immediately went into battle formation.
Q: What do you mean the vehicles went into battle formation?
A: By battle formation, I mean the vehicles were being moved into positions of attack.
When they were entering the camp, they were part of a convoy.
However, when they were in the camp, they separated and kind of encircled the camp.
There were many musasa trees at the camp.
Excited about what I thought was a visit by our Mozambican friends, I ran straight towards the vehicle that was positioned in the middle of the circle that had been formed.
The armoured vehicle that I ran towards was the one that was occupied by Walwick, the Rhodesian senior soldier who was in charge of the Nyadzonia attack.
Because I was short, I was not in a position to open the vehicle’s door.
Instead, I tried to climb onto the vehicle with the intention of shaking the hands of the occupants whom I thought were our friends.
Then the first shots rang.
To me, it was like a dream. The fire was too heavy.
Since I was near the vehicles on which the anti-air missiles were mounted, I was not in the killing bag.
Normally, an anti-air gun is mainly used to hit airborne targets.
But anti-air missiles can be mounted for the purpose of hitting ground targets also.
If you want to hit the ground targets using an anti-air, all you need to do is remove the bi-pods.
All of the vehicles were mounted with anti-airs and were raining bullets at the confused targets.
They were not firing from the usual FN (Fabrique Nationale rifles), but the AK-47s.
When the first shots rang, my heart skipped a beat.
I did not know what was happening.
It was as if I was dreaming.
I saw a Cde whose chest had been ripped apart. I fell.
Then I think I temporarily lost my mind because even up to this day, I cannot recall how I moved from where I had fallen to go to the Nyadzonia River.
This was a distance of about 100 metres.
Strange things happened during the war. It was as if a whirlwind had carried me out of the killing zone.
When I finally came to my senses, I found myself in the raging Nyadzonia River, fighting for my life.
Luckily for me, I could swim.
Q: So what do you think happened? What whisked you away from the killing zone?
A: I really don’t know. Honestly. It was a miracle. I attribute this great escape to my ancestral spirits.
Maybe I was not destined to die at Nyadzonia.
I swam across the river and on the other side of the river, I was joined by hundreds of other refugees who had escaped.
It was a horrible situation. As I was running, a girl shouted at me to tell me that I was bleeding profusely.
I ignored her and kept running.
Then we heard a very loud bang.
Do not miss the next instalment where Cde Ndarasika will narrate how he was swept away by the raging Pungwe River, only to be saved by a brave female recruit. He will also recount the horrors of watching helplessly as refugees who could not swim were being swept away.