The Sunday Mail
This week we publish the final instalment of Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Constantino Guveya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga’s, interview with The Sunday Mail Editor Mabasa Sasa and Reporter Tinashe Farawo. Last week’s instalment signed off with Gen Chiwenga urging politicians to go about their activities without violating the Constitution, a document that the ZDF is bound to protect and uphold. He continues…
Gen C. Chiwenga
If you recall, in January 2002 General Zvinavashe (Gen Chiwenga’s predecessor as ZDF Commander) spoke about the Presidency being a straitjacket.
Right back to the time of George Washington, long back when the Americans established their government, the presidency was a straitjacket. That is where it has been taken from.
Now, the military all over the world are involved in the running of their countries.
What we cannot do is to address political rallies or publicly chant political slogans; but in other countries like Uganda for example, they actually have about 10 members of their defence forces who sit in parliament and also in cabinet.
With the Israeli’s you have also seen this, and with the Russians it’s the same.
You go to the British and the Americans, the military advises cabinet and that advice is not for public consumption.
Coming to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, we have the National Security Council.
What is the National Security Council, which is chaired by the President?
It discusses everything from military, economy, and politics. So there is nothing which is amiss about the military being involved in the running of the country.
Our Constitution is very clear and straight forward.
You can look at it Section 212, it has got no sub-sections. It is a clean statement and you can read it. It’s very clear and this Constitution has not been written by the ruling party, it is something which was done by all political parties in the country, all civic organisations and stakeholders in the country, including churches.
Everybody contributed and not only that; it went to a referendum and people said this is what they wanted.
When we look at the functions of the Police which is, Section 219 of the Constitution, you can see how long it is. When it comes to prisons it’s so clear and specific on what they are supposed to do.
So sometimes people need to read and understand the supreme law of the land.
We’ve got the roles as outlined in the Constitution and buttressed by the Defence Act: that’s exactly what we do.
Noms de guerre
The top leaders were elected by the people to lead the struggle and they made a supreme sacrifice to go out there to lead the combatants. There was no need for them to change their names because they were already known.
It would be naïve for President Mugabe, for example, to change his name. Who didn’t know that this is President Mugabe or Vice-President Joshua Nkomo or Vice-President Simon Muzenda or Ziyapapa Moyo, or even our commanders Josiah Magama Tongogara? They were known.
Why fighters had to be given noms de guerre or to change their names was for two specific reasons: for the individual’s personal protection and for the protection of their families.
They had to be protected. Can you imagine if I had used my real name, Costantino, and then I get captured and killed, then they would take me to the village, my home, and make a lot of propaganda? That would derail the struggle.
Who would then want their sons and daughters to go to war when they see bodies being paraded in their villages?
So it was protection of the family and the individual. When an individual was captured or killed, he was only known by his nom de guerre. Very few would be known.
But leaders never used noms de guerre. Did Lenin have a nom de guerre? Did Fidel Castro have a nom de guerre? Did Chairman Mao have nom de guerre? Did Samora Machel have a nom de guerre? Did Sam Nujoma have a nom de guerre? Did Nelson Mandela have a nom de guerre?
I don’t know why people become so myopic.
These leaders interacted with those people who were giving us aid, be it political, military or material.
We had for instance Dr Sydney Sekeramayi, Hebert Hushehwekunze — they never changed their names.
Others wanted to use their own names but we said that was dangerous in a scenario that they are captured or killed.
For instance, I changed names twice officially but during the war I had so many names.
When I changed sectors or provinces I would use another name so that the enemy could not follow up on where I was operating.
When I joined the struggle I was Samuel Munyoro; that was my first name. Second, I was given Dominic Chinenge. What they (his superiors at the time) did not know was that Dominic was my real name and I did not tell them that.
So all those who talk about noms de guerre have no idea of how a guerrilla war is waged. They have no idea on how an armed struggle is waged.
I was given the name Samuel Munyoro by our chief representative in Botswana, the late Cde Dick Chikara Musoko.
We were just given the names. We didn’t choose.
I remember that one in Mgagao was called Vhutumurambwa. I used to ask him, “What is Vhutumurambwa? (laughing).”
When we got to Mgagao I was now Dominic Chinenge. The names came from the commissariat, under the chief instructor. The chief instructor was Gordon Murambwa, the commissar was Dzinashe Machingura and the head of security was Abel Sibanda.
They would have a list of names and you would stand in line and be given a name. I was lucky that I was given Dominic Chinenge; my great grandfather in was called Chinengebere.
I almost said Dominic was my real name. But you couldn’t say that.
When I was in the front, I used names like Mheremhere.
When the people were tortured by the Rhodesians they would spill the beans. When you ask them after they were released, they would say, “Ahhh, mukoma, I never said anything.”
But after independence when looked at the records left by the Rhodesians, we said: “These people were telling lies.”
But of course it was understandable. The torture was just too much. We knew that and that is why we used other names.
If for, instance, I was using my real name and I was ambushed, like when we had a 3km ambush and closed the Mutare-Birchenough Bridge Road for almost a month, it would have been a disaster.
When we had that ambush near Hot Springs and they knew it was done by Constatino Chiwenga, my family would have been in trouble.
It was a 3km ambush and that was the first time we used anti-paratroopers so they thought we had missiles. It was 1978.
Battle of Mapai
It was after that, that we caused havoc at the Battle of Mapai (September 1979). The Rhodesians called it Operation Uric.
Cde Tongo had written that I must get to Mozambique before the President and team went to Lancaster, but the letter got to me late. I was in Gutu and I got it in Shurugwi.
As we were going, the South African National Defence Forces had deployed in the Gezani area right up to the Mberengwa area.
So it took us time to break that and then there were three minefields.
By the time we got to Mapai, people had already left for Lancaster.
I was with Colonel Ishewepasi Matemachani, the one running Zimoco. One morning I was jogging with Matemachani, I think it was the third day after I had come from the front, when we saw about half a squadron; they should have been six Hawker Hunters quite high following the railway line.
Frelimo and the Russians were there, and the jets targeted the radar system, logistics, the command, the hospital: they were all taken out one time. They were quite accurate.
While we were still asking ourselves what the next target was, the first wave came to bomb us on the 5th of September 1979.
They bombed Mapai and up to Chokwe. Actually they got to a point where they overran Chokwe and were even selling bread there.
The first Rhodesian aircraft shot down in that battle was hit at the bridge on Limpopo after Mabharani. With Frelimo we put up a good fight. I can say that was the biggest fight I had ever seen.
People fought to the point that those who were on the anti-aircraft guns had blood oozing from their ears because of the pressure.
The logistics centre had been destroyed but we had underground food stores.
For five days, from fifth to the tenth of September, the Rhodesians kept coming. It was at that battle that for the first time we saw the Russian BM-21, the multiple rocket launcher, being fired. We had never seen that weapon firing and it was quite devastating.
They deployed a helicopter which was taken down by a rocket launcher. It was a changeover for pilots and that plane was full of pilots.
That is the battle that took Peter Walls to Lancaster House because he lost his best pilots there. After the helicopter was dropped, I was pictured there stepping on the private parts of a white man. (Laughing)
Which reminds me of Marange.
Marange is quite interesting because Smith had gone to visit Mutsago camp, escorted by helicopters and armoured cars.
We only knew Smith had gone to Mutsago the following day when they were doing their propaganda. They were saying “you said Marange is a no-go area but Smith was there”.
We said never again would this happen. So there was that battle.
First came introduction of the Puma vehicle and we didn’t know it. We were used to the Bedfords.
We went after a Puma and the vehicle stopped. The only thing we did was puncture the tyres but we thought we had massacred these people with the shots we had fired and we started shouting.
They were waiting for the helicopters to get near and then they opened fire. The hell-fire which came out of there was unbelievable and this where I lost my cap, which got hooked by thorns.
My hat is the only thing I lost during the war. I never lost my riffle or magazine.
Anyway, everyone had gone and they said Cde Dominic is no more; he has been killed in action. They crossed the Odzi River and the message was sent to Mozambique that I had been killed.
In fact, had moved some distance and I saw a man ploughing his fields. I asked him to pretend to be planting seeds while I ploughed with his cattle. I hid my rifle in a drainage ditch.
The white men came looking for me but all they saw was one man ploughing with cattle and another one dropping seeds.
Their helicopter hovered for a while and then flew on. When the helicopter had gone far I took my rifle, and thanked the old man.
They found my cap, and a white man called Bvudzijena would wear it and say: “This is Dominic’s cap. We will find him and kill him since he disappeared mysteriously.”
We killed Bvudzijena at the 18-mile peg in Gandayi.
Around 1am, we were moving towards the base there and we decided to wait outside because we didn’t know who was occupying it. We went into the base around six in the morning and we were very tired.
We didn’t know who was first to come in. But we heard a white man pleading with our Mbuya Nehanda, saying: “Mbuya Nehanda, tinoziva chose kuti takapamba nyika yenyu. Kana riridoro ramunoda tinokupai, kana iri mari tinokupai.”
He was taking snuff.
We were not very far away so I took an aim at him and shot him. That whole section, we wiped it out, and we took the uniforms and radio and sent them to Maputo.
It was quite interesting that the whites even tried to follow our traditional rituals.
That is when we saw that our people are sometimes not very honest (because it means Zimbabweans were teaching them our ways so that they defeat us).
It is like what is happening with these social media guys and Tajamuka.
That’s exactly what some of these so-called masvikiro were doing, working with the Rhodesians. They were telling them what to do and how to counter our activities.
Take a Rhodesian map of any operational zone and you will see they are marked “sabhuku”, “chief”, “n’ganga”, “mhondoro” and “svikiro”.
They wanted to know every n’anga and svikiro in the villages. The maps were called the RIC meaning Rhodesian Intelligence Call.
People who fought in the front are well-known and they never talk about it.
We have so many great fighters, living and dead, and the majority of those are no longer with us. Those who are alive never move around claiming “I did this” and “I did that”.
Empty vessels make the most noise. If you were a great fighter let other people talk about you. That’s the way of all good fighters and leaders.
There are so many fighters who did a lot.
Equally, as I said earlier, there are people who saw the borders as they crossed into Zambia or Mozambique to the camps, and only saw the border again on the way back at Independence.
They either did not get the chance to go to training, because the training was also by how many numbers we could take into the training camps, or after training, how many we could arm.
That is why we had refugee camps.
There were also tasks that had to be done by those at the rear. Some worked as logisticians, others were more important as instructors to train the fighters who were going to the front, others were educators like in the commissariat department because our policy was you would not hold a rifle until you understood why we were fighting.
There were some people who could not be trained because they did not understand why we were fighting.
I will give you a good example: one old man, he is late, I think his name was Rogers.
He worked for quite some time and saved enough money to buy a scotch cart. Chikochikari ichi chatengwa, it was the time Centenary was opened as a farming area, and he passed through a farm that had a clear sign saying “hapana nzira, hapabvuminzwe kupfura”.
So the white farmer ceased the cart. Rogers came to the struggle.
Even before I was a commissar, the people who came before me like Dzinashe Machingura, tried to make him aware of the reason for fighting but they failed.
Well, I also tried. I failed. I would say “we are going to liberate the country”, and he would say: “Iyo nyika yacho yakasungirirwa papi? Ndakauya kuno kuzotora pfuti kunotora chikochikari changu. Izvo zvenyu zvekuti murikuda kunosunungura nyika ndezvenyu izvo.”
We could not give a weapon to that kind of a person. After Independence, he was working at State House and he passed on some few years back.
The only time I thought he understood was during the Geneva Conference. He raised a hand when we briefed the people on what the politicians were doing, and I said: “Yes Cde Rogers?”
And he said: “Ok, mati Smiff arikuda sixfire, ko majoriti ju akati chi nayo?” (Laughing). Rogers’ pronunciation wasn’t so good. But he was saying, “Smith arikuda ceasefire but what is he saying about our majority rule?”
Anyway, there were many roles to play during the war.
There were people who would do the minor works of cleaning in the camps and a lot of things were going on. So not everyone who crossed the border was a fighter, but they did something to liberate the country.
Currently — whether economically or politically — we are in the phase of building from the severe difficulties we have gone through over the years due to the illegal economic sanctions.
Yes, politically there were difficulties. This is why the country for the first time had to go into an inclusive Government with the opposition, and I don’t think I have to go into details on that one.
We also had hyperinflation, and no country can parallel Zimbabwe, except Germany during the Weimar Republic and they did not get to where Zimbabwe was in 2008.
We started, as you are aware, with thousands, into millions, billions, trillions, quintillions and into sextillions. And we had an inflation rate that was around 500 billion percent. But now we are now hovering around three percent inflation.
There is light at the end of the tunnel in terms of our economy. We are now striving to make sure that our infrastructure is built up, our industry and our manufacturing sector are fully operational.
We are now on track when it comes to mining and the only problem we are facing currently is the depressed prices of metal prices; but the price gold is coming up and we are quite happy with that.
This is not going to be for long, it is just a passing phase.
Agriculture, if it was not for the El-Nino induced drought, we could have been somewhere by now.
Agriculture had been destroyed after the Land Reform Programme as a lot of machinery got destroyed, some was broken down and some exported to neighbouring countries.
There was no maintenance of the existing equipment, and consequently the infrastructure got destroyed and this is what the responsible ministry is trying to answer.
Command agriculture is for everyone; every able-bodied person in Zimbabwe is going to be involved in the command agriculture.
What we mean by command agriculture is that Government will determine which crops to farm — within the context of food and cash crops — and those who have land will be told what to do with it for the good of the country.
For example, if one has 100 hectares Government determines hectares to be grown under contract, and the rest the farmer will choose what to farm.
We want to see land being fully utilised and where possible, Government will assist in making sure that seed, all the inputs, the tillage will be available. It is not for free — it will be done on a cost-recovery basis.
If one has to borrow, facilities will be opened to borrow, and the marketing of the produce will have to be arranged and this is what Government is doing.
We are saying never again will we go to buy food outside the country. Never again will our country go hungry.
We have the capability to produce enough for our people and to have reserves, and also have extra to sell to other countries and return our bread basket status.
The tourism industry is also starting to build up.
So in terms of the economy we can see light. Zim-Asset was distilled into just one page, which is the 10-Point Plan which Government is now following.
Politically, we are now out of the inclusive Government.
Some people don’t realise that what the country went through takes time to recover from but we are lucky that we have managed to bounce back within a very short time.
We are on the right track and we are moving forward as we would expect, despite a few teething problems which are a passing phase.