It was normal to spend days without food: Guerrilla narratives of Zimbabwe’s liberation war

ZANLA guerrillas during Rhodesia bush war

“WE would sometimes go for two days without food and a perfect meal was simple isitshwala/sadza served with salted cooking oil,” said Retired Major Perseverance Mazinyane who was among a group of Zimbabweans who sacrificed their comfort to fight for Independence.

Cde Mazinyane said part of the hardships faced by liberators included a poor diet which saw them surviving on powdered milk.

From crossing flooded rivers, to sleeping in anthills and lion-infested bushes, they braved it all to liberate the country from all forms of injustice at the hands of the repressive colonial government.

Web design in Zimbabwe

Cde Mazinyane said although she personally suffered skin infections after consuming pork which she is still allergic to, the price was worth all the freedom that came with Independence attained on April 18, 1980.

Zimbabwe attained its Independence after a protracted liberation struggle. Independence brought many benefits to the indigenous people who were deprived of means of production by successive colonial governments.

Article continues below these jobs...

The venue for this year’s Children’s Party and Independence Day Celebrations on 17 and 18 April respectively will be Mt Darwin Centre in Mashonaland Central Province. The decentralisation of Independence celebrations is in line with the Second Republic’s devolution agenda, and the ethos of “Leaving No One and No Place Behind.”

Cde Mazinyane said it was normal to spend days without food as that was also part of military training to instil survival skills among the cadres.

She said in no time thousands of cadres had gathered at Mkushi Camp in Zambia, a Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) training camp that was exclusively for female cadres.

The camp was raided by the Rhodesian forces on October 19, 1978, killing hundreds of trainees and trained cadres leaving hundreds injured.

“All I know is isitshwala was the main part of our diet, and we would eat it daily as long as we had enough mealie-meal supplies. The challenge was with relish and we often had to melt Holsum cooking fat, add salt and eat our sadza in peace knowing that what we wanted eventually was bigger than a plate of nice home-cooked meals,” said Cde Mazinyane.

“We could go for days without food sometimes and it was normal as our training required that we have survival skills. In no time we had managed to master all the edible fruits, tree leaves, and plants within our reach for those tough days.”

Cde Mazinyane said sometimes they would eat umkhuna, a wild fruit and drink water.

She said the camp would sometimes receive donated fish and tinned pork from Russia to complement their diet.

“The fish was so salty and I remember this other time we got a donation of tinned pork and out of desperation I ate it knowing very well that I was allergic to pork. I got skin reaction that took months to clear, but I just had to eat what was there just to survive,” said Cde Mazinyane

She said within months, the cadres had adjusted and were all determined to continue in the camp no matter what.

Cde Mazinyane recalled a day they walked 10km with 50kg maize meal bags on their backs after a supply truck had developed a mechanical fault on its way to the camp.

Adding on her insights on diet in a book titled “Yithi Laba,” another survivor of the 19 October 1978 bombing of Mkushi Camp in Zambia, Cde Queen Maligwa said powdered milk was also part of their diet.

She said guerrillas would eat powdered milk on some days just to get enough strength to survive the continuous attacks by the Rhodesian army.

“Before the bombing, we had stayed for almost a week without mealie-meal. So we were surviving on wild fruits and powdered milk. On that morning I had gone to look for a wild fruit called umkhuna with some comrades,” said Cde Maligwa.

“When I returned to the camp I was told that I was needed at the camp headquarters. I quickly ran there and we were told that the Freedom Camp (FC) had just been bombed so we should be alert. Some of us were given firearms with myself issued a Semenov with 10 rounds.”

Cde Maligwa said she went back to her position and broke the news of the bombing of FC.

“We then went to the kitchen to get powdered milk, saqalisa ukukhuma uchago. I had told my colleagues that we could be bombed. Then a few minutes later I saw the aircraft flying towards us and I shouted to warn others,” she said.

“I started running towards the trees and as if the enemy had spotted me, they started firing at me. In a panic, I dropped my weapon and continued running.”

— Chronicle

Breaking News via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to our website and receive notifications of Breaking News by email.