The Sunday Mail
We continue chronicling the political life of Cde Rhodas Karimakwenda (RK). This week, the liberation fighter, whose war name was Cde Anna Matambidziko, narrates to our Reporter Norman Muchemwa (NM) on some of the problems in the war camps.
N.M: Can you please elaborate on these people you are saying had rebelled. Are these the same people who were called vashandi?
R.K: Vashandi was a different group rakazouya pamberi asi raiva nekunyunyuta or had almost similar grievances and demands to this group rana Nhari, Badza Tandi and Fata. Ava vandirikutaura ndovatinoti veNhari Badza rebellion.
This group ranaBadza naTandi was arrested by a team that came from East Africa rainzi Gukurahundi. This team was led by Cde Elias Hondo who was a member of the High Command.
Ana Hondo ndivo vakazobuda vakunzi Vashandi.
The Gukurahundi group brought some sanity in the struggle because dai vasina kuuya, kupanduka kwainge kwakunyanya.
The struggle had begun to lose direction in that period of 1975 when senior commanders were in prison in Zambia accused of killing Cde Chitepo.
Panguva iyoyo hondo yakambomira paita vanhu vakanga vasimuka kuda kutungamira.
These same people had also seen an opportunity to take over leadership positions because they were not sure if the senior commanders were going to be released.
N.M: When all this was happening, had you completed military training?
R.K: No, I had not, but when the Gukurahundi group arrested ana Tandi, ndipo patakazotakurwa, we briefly stayed at Chitima before we were taken to another camp painzi paBatalliao. The place was swampy because it was near the Zambezi River.
The place did not have tall vegetative cover and the leadership knew it was a risk keeping untrained cadres there, because in the event of an attack, we were exposed.
We were then taken to Tembue One, and I was selected among those who were at a base remakamarada eFrelimo painzi paZuzey.
Cde Elias Hondo was one of the commanders at Tembue.
On the female leadership side, there was Cde Dadi. She is still in the Zimbabwe National Army.
We stayed for a few weeks before the resumption of training that had earlier been affected by the détente and the death of Cde Chitepo.
We faced some challenges there because the place was secluded and it was between a river and big mountains.
There was serious shortage of food at this base. We ate limited potions of food. Vamwe vakasara vabuda mbabvu nenzara. That’s how serious the food shortages were.
That is around the time Cde Joshua Nkomo came with other members of the High Command including Cde Noel Mukono in a helicopter.
N.M: We know Cde Nkomo was leading ZAPU and this was a ZANLA camp, what was happening here and when was this?
R.K: This was end of 1975. It was during the rainy season.
When Cde Nkomo visited, he went to see where the comrades were being trained and assessed the situation at the whole camp.
The training was very tough; recruits were being trained without proper clothing and adequate food.
I am not sure why he had to visit, but I think that’s when the Patriotic Front was being created for the Geneva Conference.
Cde Noel Mukono was booed and chased away by the comrades at this base; they were not happy with his leadership style.
After meeting the comrades, Cde Nkomo assured us that our training and living conditions would be addressed.
Regardless of the fact that he was from ZAPU, Cde Nkomo was a man of the people who wanted to see the independence of the country at whatever cost.
We stayed there for few days before we were moved back to Tembue Base One which was big. This is the base that was later attacked in 1977.
This base had combined training for both males and females.
We had Cde Gurupira and another Cde ainzi Mama Mpofu, Cde Justice, Cde Sarudzai Churucheminzwa and Cde Renny who were some of the instructors there.
I finally received my military training from January to June 1976.
N.M: What kind of training did you receive and what were the challenges?
R.K: I was trained in infantry amongst other different forms of training. We were trained in using hand grenades and self-defence.
Part of the training also encompassed assembling and disassembling guns. We had rifles and other type of guns during this part of our training.
As expected, the training was very tough. It lasted around six months and it was a very difficult period. There was hunger and sometimes our training kit was not adequate.
During our training, we were mixed as both boys and girls unlike the training at Zuzey that was only meant for boys.
There was no separation of roles between boys and girls at this training. But as people who knew what their mission was, we endured to the end.
After this training, I was selected to join the group that was to get further training as medics. Our task was to help the injured comrades.
N.M: Who are some of the comrades who trained you as medics and how long was the training?
R.K: There was Cde Sydney Sekeramayi. He was one of the leaders and he had assistants who included Cde Teurai Ropa Mujuru, Cde Jabulani and Cde Joe. I am forgetting the other comrades.
This training lasted up to September, 1976. We also trained in midwifery. It was more like Chimbi-Chimbi training.
The time we finished training, anaCde Tongo nana Cde Nhongo vainge vabuda mutirongo.
Cde Elias Hondo, Cde Parker Chipoyera, Cde Dzino Machingura, Cde Mapipi, Cde Johns Dzichidza, Cde Pfepferere and Cde Tendi devised a plan to ambush this group rana Cde Tongo.
The issue here was about leadership because ana Cde Hondo vainge vatora very senior positions in the High Command, so they thought by capturing ana Cde Nhongo, they would maintain their positions.
This was, however, a very difficult task because the majority of the comrades supported the leadership that was in prison as it had the potential to move the struggle forward.
Instead, this group rana Hondo ndiro rakazobatwa due to the strategies of the security group led by Cde Gurupira and Cde Bataimoyo. The security was very tight.
They thought the security and other comrades were on their side not knowing a plan had been initiated already to arrest this group. They were taken to Chimoio after this arrest and released just before independence.
Cde Makasha took over as the commander at Tembue with the help of Cde Shungu among others.
N.M: This group that was arrested was part of the Vashandi group, what was their politics?
R.K: The issues that were being raised by this group were just allegations from people who had their hidden agendas of trying to usurp power through the back door. During that time, people were confused of the politics of this group.
They were segregating teams that joined the liberation struggle during the early stages, preferring vanhu vavaiti vakafunda. It was by the grace of God that they survived because they could have been killed as punishment.
Some issues they raised were that comrades were suffering at the war front. I think the grievance was misguided.
Life at the front was far much better that life at the rear.
Those who were at the war front were establishing relations with the masses and they received food, clothes, medicine and other basics.
Some, especially those who were operating in areas such as Musana near Harare would even sleep in houses and live like cattle herders.
They could not afford to live in the bush because of frequent patrols by the Rhodesians. Ivava ndivo vanhu vaitodhakwa vamwe vacho kutoita vana.
Isu taitambura kuma camps and rear. So the issue yana Dzino and the other comrades yekuti kufront kwaitamburwa, to me, does not hold water.
We were in a war and there was bound to be suffering and those in the front suffered, but it was not like those at the rear were partying.
That is a known fact comrade; if you are privy to the saying, “comrades were the fish and the masses were the water” you will understand the situation better.
Those in the front were given a better life by the masses.
At the rear we could solely rely on donations from countries like Sweden, China among others.
There is no way munhu paangataure kuti tairegererwa as was being raised by this group, which was not making sense.
N.M: Let us focus more on yourself, after training what roles did you assume.
R.K: I was never deployed to the war front, after training I was moved to Base Two at Tembue that was responsible for male training only. My duty was to help injured comrades and others who were sick from various ailments.
At times, we could help with other duties like cooking, that is, when our department was not overwhelmed.
Some of the leaders there included Cde Edwin Munyaradzi. He is late. We also had Cdes Tapiwa Masanhi, Dennis Mazvimbakupa who was security together with Cde Gutsa. The late Cde Ndoda was kulogistics.
The health department at Base Two was led by Cde Steven who was a medical doctor by profession.
We had left Dr Sydney Sekeramayi at Base One, which was the main base.
While at Base Two, we received numerous battalions on their way to the warfront.
Continued next week.