"Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular" - Aristotle, Poetics.
|Sub haina hurukuro|
My position on the war to liberate my country from racist white minority rule, is that we fought a just war. This was our World War 1 and our World War 2, and we gave a good account of ourselves! Below, I relate some of the group dynamics the untrained eye would not perceive, nor the untrained mind conceive:
by Kudakwashe Kanhutu
The plan had been hatched by a very far sighted person. As the struggle for liberation intensified, there was an urgent need for able bodied men to join the fight. This led to acceptance of hardened criminals and those who habitually traversed the borders of sanity, into the fighting ranks of ZANLA. The exigencies of recruiting for a war already underway did not allow the setting up of a Criminal Records Bureau, to painstakingly vet all cadres joining the struggle. However, one commander in the Dare reChimurenga (the War Council for ZANLA), had anticipated this problem with extra-ordinary foresight, and countered it with equal cunning.
For the uninitiated, I am taking you back to the colonial period in the Southern African country formerly called Rhodesia, specifically between 1972 and 1980. This is the time when the black nationalists’ demand for a release from the yoke of white minority oppression reached its apex. The main form of the demand was an armed struggle called Chimurenga II, which saw black people leave their country for training in neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia then return to talk to the white oppressor in terms which were unequivocal. The two main fighting groups were ZANLA, which was dominated by the Shona tribe, and ZIPRA which was smaller owing to it being composed of the minority Ndebele tribe. We were fighting a war of liberating the whole black population from the indignity of being disenfranchised in our own land by foreigners. The leader of the white minority was that rabid racist, Ian Smith.
I insist that the greatest compliment I ever received as a combatant in this war came from our sworn enemy, Ian Smith, in briefing his regular JOC meetings, he is said to have uttered that “Mabhunu’s fighting force shortens our projection for a thousand year rule”. I had adopted the nom de guerre Mabhunu Muchaendepi and the grudging respect of my enemy was not so much a source of pride, but confirmation that our methods were effective.
I must say I was initially averse to what I perceived as a waste of scarce resources when I was informed I would be part of a unit, charged with terminating comrades on the battlefield who were compromising the war by being cruel to the black population we were fighting to free. It was a terrible anti-climax, to hear that my engagement with the white enemy would only be coincidental. I found it hard to believe I had shared caves with pythons, walked barefoot across game parks in the middle of the night to reach Mozambique, tottering, on legs swollen to twice their size, to fight, not the enemy; but my own fellow combatants.
It felt like a betrayal of the spirit of Liberation, a betrayal of the nation of Zimbabwe, but any qualms I had were laid to complete rest once we began our training. Basic training was administered to all who arrived at Chimoio, this involved political education, weapons and physical training. Our commanders then assigned us to different fields we would man, based on their assessment and judgement of our abilities, an essential division of labour for any effective fighting force.
It was in training I came into contact for the first time with, the criminals - granted a minority - who were to be my comrades in liberating Zimbabwe. I remember the vacant look in the eyes of some of these cadres, the inordinate eagerness to get weapons and return to the theatre of war. If I were to say today that I knew instinctively that these people were sadistic, any decent magistrate would throw me in jail owing to the paradigm shift since, but in a time of war, this instinct was indispensable and invaluable an attribute.
Vindication for that instinct would come of course from a reading of the massacre of black civilians between Chipinge and Wedza which took place in such a short time after our pass out from Chimoio. We also knew when Rhodesian Army Selous Scouts, pretending to be liberation guerrillas, carried out the massacres to implicate ZANLA. Still, it evoked despondency to watch on the news while we were at advanced training in Libya, the hacked off legs, burnt corpses, pregnant women stabbed by bayonets lying lifeless in row after row, murdered by their supposed liberators.
Ian Smith’s government, of course, to win the battle of hearts and minds, allowed reporters from all over the world to have a field day when such massacres occurred. Extreme double standards because when the Rhodesian Army, frustrated by how cunning the genuine liberators were, also massacred civilians in the hundreds, reporters would be banned from these areas.
I would also venture that the reason Ian Smith began to doubt his government’s resolution for a thousand year white domination of the majority blacks was – has to be – the existence of a unit in ZANLA charged with protecting civilians from wayward liberators. Was this not a clear example of the advanced political acumen he was telling the world blacks inherently lack? Furthermore, the atrocities visited on civilians by Smith’s army went unpunished even when it was so obvious and undeniable.
The Kaguvi Unit, my unit in the armed struggle and a brain child of Comrade Tongogara, evolved to become an army within an army, fighting a war within a war. The Unit developed its own ethos which bordered on a preference of actually losing the war than to gain victory by terrorising civilians. This sentiment, however, was not unanimous across the board, even in Dare reChimurenga (the War Council) some individuals opposed Comrade Tongogara in preference for the scorched earth policy instead. It is a fact that some of these people who were doctrinally opposed to Comrade Tongogara actually instructed the other guerrillas to be ruthless against the black population. Tactically, this may achieve some results but, strategically it is a disaster in the making.
To be able to shed light on why my autopsy is being written in blood, let me posit that death has always knocked on my door insofar as my unit may have made eternal enemies in those we were up against in the armed struggle. The other major fault-lines of Chimurenga II were resolved at Lancaster House, but this in-group fault-line, of which I was a part of, became an orphan. The minority in our own midst that my unit fought against were never, to my knowledge, demobilised. I suspect they were responsible for Comrade Josiah Magama Tongogara's death. As we were at such doctrinal cross purposes with this minority during the armed struggle, I do not think that even achievement of independence changed that dynamic. It is only the untrained eye, with its tendency to view all organisations as monolithic, that would not perceive the gravity of such a situation.
The Kaguvi Unit then, numbering 85 at our peak was the unit charged with ensuring discipline on the battle field, but has so far lost nearly all its cadres. Over the years, whenever a member of the Kaguvi Unit has died, I always wonder if some scores are still being settled from the Second Chimurenga. Do not waste your pity on me however, better people than me from my unit already died on the battlefield to liberate Zimbabwe; Comrades Mandebvu, Elliot Hondo, Comrade Mabhunu Muchapera, Hokoyo, Zvaipa, Tafataona, Dragon, Tichafa…
|"Mapfupa angu achamuka" - The heroine of the First Chimurenga, Mbuya Nehanda's prediction that there would be a Second Chimurenga.|