‘I was coming out of a toilet when l noticed Smith’s warplane flying very low, the battle had begun’

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Rhodesian warplanes. Cessna Lynx - Spotter Attack Aircraft

The story of Cde Alex Makotore, aka Cde Bruce Taparara.

ONE morning on January 5 1979 at around 7 am, I was coming out of a toilet when l noticed a Dakota plane flying very low. We were operating in Maungwe.

I shouted to Cde Rubern Mutape to take a look! The next thing, l heard helicopter gunship fire sounding from Sharara. We were based at New Gada, opposite Chitenderano.

The battle had begun.

There were new recruits coming into our area to re-inforce us. Cde Jeremiah Kusuta, his deputy Cde Mukono, Cde Samora and others had gone to meet them the night before.

The new sectorial commander who had replaced Cde Simbi, a Cde Douglas Chauyachauya, had refused to base in the houses, preferring the nearby hills.

We retreated to nearby hills into Rumesly commercial area, opposite the whole Nyamombe Area and watched the horror for the next 24 hours.

The battle started at 7 am and ended at 10 am the following day. There was a heavy exchange of gunfire. Bombs, rocket launchers and later Harrier jets were summoned in the afternoon.

Boys dzakarova mupembe vakomana (the guerillas fought hard).

We just watched in horror the whole day. We were not part of that battle since we were out of radius.

In guerilla warfare, it is wise not to compromise yourselves unnecessarily, especially when on the defensive like at Sharara.

One of the survivors was Cde Samora Francis Gonese who got to us at mid-morning. The other two survivors were my friend Cde Soviet Rainos Ruvimbo (Captain Sono) and a certain Comrade Sigauke.

Cde Soviet came out with no scratch while Cde Sigauke was badly injured all over the body, results of napalm ‘porridge.’

I carried him on a bicycle to Zviyambe across the Mucheke River the following day January 6 1979. A chopper spotted us as I rode along the Gato Mountain. l turned down stream after crossing Mucheke River.

It was a lucky move because the enemy thought we had proceeded into the Gato Mountain. I was accompanied by one very brave mujibha known as Cde Bols, named after Bols Brandy, a popular brandy with comrades those days.

Cde Bols returned to Radio 5 the same day with his bicycle. I camped with Cdes Sigauke and Soviet at Muzorewa Farm for some days. John Muzorewa, brother to Bishop Abel Muzorewa, was our very good loyal supporter during the war and he used to bring us a lot of stuff from town.

Our provincial level commander Cde Gibson Gumbo, who was making his rounds in the area, came and took away Cde Sigauke, the badly injured comrade. The battle at Cde Sharara had cost us dearly.

Cdes Jeremiah, Mukono, Douglas, the new sectorial commander, and many recruits had perished there. A lot of girls (vana chimbwido) were killed delivering breakfast that morning.

In all my experiences in the bush, that was my saddest moment. A mass grave was erected at the site later.

Every January 5 is now Hero’s Day at Sharara.

Well after this incident, one morning l was informed that l was to accompany cde Shakemore’s section to Mozambique to collect material.

No one liked such journeys. Going through other people’s zones where you are not aware of the enemy situation was risky.

But this was an order — it was never a question of liking.

There was something on the news those days – the Lancaster House Conference. We were never advised by our commanders about such developments.

They feared we would be complacent in our operations and let loose the grip of war on the enemy. Previous conferences had slowed the momentum of the war which was to the enemy’s advantage.

I was very disturbed by the mission to Mozambique which I considered not very important since the war was coming to an end. Since June 1978, I had not returned to ‘Mosken’.

We went through Buhera, avoiding the then volatile Radio 5. It was another repeat of the Tsetsera Mountain experience, something l resented very much.

The main reason we avoided Radio 5 on our route to Mozambique was the situation which had remained hostile after the Sharara Battle.

Three weeks later there was another attack at Chitenderano, where one of our sections led by Cde Soul Tsikai was involved in a fierce gun battle with helicopters.

The second in command of that section, Cde Churu ‘Papa Mzonzi’ Mupedzanhamo, one of the Mgagao veterans survived.

— The Patriot


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