'The path had to be set for Mugabe'

'The path had to be set for Mugabe'
Published: 25 August 2019 (132 Views)
Last week, Farai Tafirenyika claimed there were Zipra cadres eliminated by Zanla combatants at the front during the ZIPA era.

Levi Mukarati continues to seek answers on events surrounding the liberation war during that period as Tafirenyika narrates his war experiences.

*****

Question: You claim there was an order to Zanla fighters to eliminate their Zipra counterparts on the 'front'. Tafirenyika, let us not try to re-write history here, but help us fill the missing details of events during the liberation struggle. Who had issued such an order and why?

Answer: I am providing the missing information that many comrades dare not speak about. For many years, we have tried to sweep war secrets under the carpet. We have tried to recount the war story along one narrative to give an impression that all was rosy.

Every war also has its shortcomings, not from the enemies, but amongst the people who fight it. The period marking the end of 1974 to 1977 was characterised by a lot of upheavals. We find the Badza-Nhari rebellion, the elimination of some of the rebels; the inside job to assassinate Chitepo, the formation of ZIPA, scheming by Mugabe to remove Ndabaningi Sithole that culminated in the Mgagao Declaration, the arrest of Zanu leaders and jailing of the ZIPA command structure.

I was there throughout this period and all these events have their own fair share of controversies or secrets. The elimination of Zipra cadres in ZIPA is one such secret of the war. I was not just an ordinary fighter. I was to become a member of the provincial command – a provincial political commissar to be specific. I was there at Chifombo when rebels were killed. I was at Mgagao when the declaration was made. I was there during the ZIPA era and later arrested amongst the ZIPA command element.

I used to get briefings and also strategise the war. Look at where we were coming from. People were tortured and even killed for coming to the war without any person accompanying them.

Kwainzi watumwa nani or wasvika sei pa camp?

To answer you on the eliminations. Zipra's war tactic was to attack and retreat while Zanla attacked, claim an area and set base. We were seeing ourselves as more powerful and Zipra fighters as cowards who retreat.

The other issue was that most of these military leaders in Zanla, like Robson Manyika, were ex-Zapu or ex-Zipra who had left because of power ambitions. Let us be guided that Zanu was an off-shoot of Zapu after power problems and to expect kuti vanhu ivavo vadyidzane just like that is a fallacy. There were and still are deep rooted power struggles in our politics. Again, most of these comrades left Zipra vari ma juniors to assume top posts in Zanla or Zanu and had an axe to grind with those from where they had came from.

Kwainzi tapinda mufront, tanga wadambura weZipra before the enemy. It was not widespread, but it happened, that is why Zipra leaders in ZIPA ended up withdrawing their comrades from the front. It was and still is a tribal issue. That part of history has not been adequately mentioned. People like Manyika were behind these dark acts. That is why we still have this mentality of ex-Zipra and ex-Zanla and not liberation fighters.

Question: Before we go on, let us digress a bit. You continue to single out Cdes Manyika and Tongogara while making all sorts of allegations against them. You previously spoke of Tongo's shenanigans and now you drag Manyika's name in the mud. What is your personal experience with Manyika and what was his character like?

Answer: Robson Manyika was chief of staff in Zipra. We feared him because when he crossed to Zanla, a story emanated of how he had dealt with a group of Zipra comrades who wanted to desert the war. It was said Manyika took them to Livingstone akati kumusha makuona, pointing at Rhodesia across the border.

Hanzi akabva avati zvino hamuchasvika ikoko before killing them. As such, when he came to Zanla, Tongo had his own fair share of notoriety of eliminating and crushing any dissent. With Manyika, the two became a team.

They caused the publication of a story in Zambia stating that Zipra chief of staff had defected to Zanla and it had a huge impact. Manyika became camps commandant. He was head of all camps just like chief of staff. He further managed to maintain his ruthlessness tag especially during parades when people were dealt with for indiscipline.

He would say to Tongogara; "Chief, chindipai nguva yangu ndimbiota basa", and we all knew kuti pakurohwa munhu manje. Manyika aitsenga magirazi. I don't know how he did it, but he used to crush glass with his teeth. He did it before my eyes. Like I said before, there was so much fear instilled in the comrades.

I remember another guy, the last time he was working at Parliament. I will not mention him by name. While we were at Mgagao, every time the military leaders called out sell-outs, he was quick to rush forward and narrate his story.

He would say he had worked at Lion Matches in Salisbury and was a sell-out until he repented. But I later discovered he had seen his brother, who was from Zapu and had sought to join Zanu at our farm in Zambia, being executed by Manyika.

The brother was accused of being a spy. We had a period when people who came to the war alone were suspected to be sell-outs and were seriously tortured or killed. As such, this guy, despite not being a sell-out, had been traumatised by the killing of his brother to an extent he would make a false confession to have been 'a sell-out', for fear of being killed.

Question: Let us get back on track. What did the eliminations, you claim, culminated into?

Answer: I am not claiming or alleging. They took place. What happened was ZIPA was created around November 1975 out of efforts by Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Samora Machel of Mozambique to unify the two forces. The fighters were trained at two camps in Tanzania – Morogoro and Mgagao – to fight Ian Smith's government.

But because of the feuds between Zipra and Zanla cadres in ZIPA, by July 1976, this set up was beginning to collapse.

This was because of issues I mentioned of eliminations of Zipra cadres that were emerging. Around August or September that same year, there were efforts for the nationalists to go to Geneva to try and come up with a settlement with Ian Smith over a new constitution and find a ways to end the war.

But players such as Dzinashe Machingura were opposed to this. The position by the Zipa leaders made them unpopular with Samora Machel who had started to warm up to Mugabe.

Question: Do you imply that Machel did not like Mugabe?

Answer: At first, yes Samora did not like Mugabe. In April 1975, Mugabe and Tekere crossed into Mozambique.

This was just after Chitepo had been assassinated on 18 March. It was also four months after Mugabe had been released from prison in Rhodesia. Mugabe got into Mozambique at a time fighters were denouncing Ndabaningi Sithole for having failed to adequately deal with the Nhari-Badza rebellion as well the concerns of the fighters at the front.

Frelimo discovered Mugabe was at a camp, Junta, where ZIPA commanders were based. There, commander Rex Nhongo had introduced Mugabe as the Zanu leader. Machel was not pleased and moved in to take Mugabe and Tekere to Quelimane so that he would not interfere with the comrades.

It was a partial house arrest. But Dzino would lead gangs to sneak Mugabe out and introduce him to the fighters in the training camps. It was only in 1976 that Machel allowed Mugabe to leave Quelimane so that he participates at the Geneva Conference between October and December 1976. The Frelimo government had changed its position on Mugabe's leadership because, some Zanla fighters continued to maintain that Mugabe was their leader.

Also, ZIPA was against going to Geneva or any talks with Ian Smith. This was contrary to what Machel wanted.

Question: You earlier mentioned that there was a position by Cdes Dzino and Geza to ask the leaders, who had been released from jail to attend the Geneva Conference, to re-join the party. Can you explain further what exactly was happening?

Answer: The preparations for Geneva Conference saw Josiah Tongogara, who had been arrested in Zambia after the Chitepo assassination, being released from prison. He was to take part at the negotiations. His release had been preceded by that of other leaders. But at that same time, Dzinashe Machingura and Sam Geza, while in Mozambique, had released a document stating that all leaders vakanga vakasungwa during the formation of ZIPA must apply kuti vadzoke mumusangano.

Vana Dzino were saying isu tiri ZIPA aya maleaders ndeve Zanu, if they want to be ZIPA then they should apply. But the leaders could not have none of that.

They also devised counter measures and that is when the issue of vashandi came up. There was a slogan that was coined to denounce vashandi, yaiti: "pamberi nehondo, pasi nevashandi".

Question: How did the vashandi slogan emanate?

Answer: It was taken from the Communist Manifesto; "Workers of the world unite". I remember at one time Happison Muchechetere, achibva zvake kufront kuGaza province achimhoresa macomrades achishevedzera kuti; "vashandizveeee!"

It had become popular in ZIPA, but ana Tongogara would have none of it and that is why they denounced vashandi who had angled to take over leadership and direct the war. So when the Geneva meeting failed, after some of the Zipa leaders like Dzino and Mark Dube had attended reluctantly, Samora Machel was not pleased with that outcome.

He took a position to crush ZIPA leaders. We were to later gain knowledge that Samora had been hoodwinked by the British and was given some money, a soft loan, to boost development in his country.

This was on condition he pushes for Mugabe to lead.

The British or these so-called super powers play a major role in influencing who leads, especially in developing countries. They wanted a person or people they could trust to further their capitalist interests in Zimbabwe.

They had trusted Nkomo before, but Nkomo had failed to get the support from the nationalists on his 'soft' approach to dealing with colonialism.

But Mugabe had emerged and was turning to be a favourite of the British.

Thus, all stumbling blocs had to be removed from Mugabe's path and it was arranged by Samora Machel that we the ZIPA command element be arrested.

Continued next week

- zimpapers

Tags: Mugabe, Path, Made,
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