CHRONICLES From the 2nd Chimurenga
IN this third and final instalment, Joel Mutandi, war name Cde Joze, in conversation with Garikai Mazara, speaks of his near-death experience well after ceasefire, hospitalisation and finally going to Goromonzi assembly point, where Morrison Nyathi, infamous for selling out Nyadzonia, was brought to face justice. Read on…
Q: Ceasefire . . . ?
A: Yes, ceasefire was announced and there was a lot of suspicion, we were not too sure if the Rhodesians meant what they said. We were not sure what the whites were really thinking, so it was decided that some comrades stay behind, that in the event that those who had gone to assembly points were attacked, there should be a reserve army. Buses were sent in, to take comrades to the various assembly points.
Q: How was information relayed, from say Lancaster House, where the ceasefire had been agreed, to the front?
A: We had an efficient and effective communication system, fast and reliable. From Lancaster, the information would be relayed to our commanders in Mozambique, who would drive to the front to meet with the commanders there. In a day, all the communication would be relayed right down to the last man at the front, even up to here in Mhondoro. Remember the war had grown to cover almost the entire country, that is how efficient our communication was.
Q: And how reliable was the information? How would you know the information you were getting was authentic?
A: They would group commanders and discuss any arising situation. Otherwise, it was because of effective communication that we survived because if it were poor, we wouldn’t have survived the war.
Q: And the buses arrived?
A: The buses came. The procedure was like, you would get half-a-loaf of bread and a tin of beef, in exchange for your weapon, to the monitoring forces. We were witnessing this from a distance with Cde Wanted Musango (Mike Hanyani), Mike Mlambo and others — we concluded this was similar to what had happened to our ancestors, who had been given sugar in exchange for land. When it became misty, we disappeared with our weapons, back to where we used to operate from.
We placed our weapons in a safe place and joined the community. No battles were taking place because this was now ceasefire, so we hid our weapons.
Q: How were you surviving now?
A: With the povo, we stayed with them, actually we would go with them to the fields and do all the household chores as if we were their children. Staying with them every day. Then disaster struck on February 13, 1980. We were to learn later on that it was the headman’s son who had just arrived from Harare, then Salisbury, that he was the one who sold us out. He went to Mutasa and said there were plenty of comrades who had not gone to assembly points.
A young boy came running and told us —Mike Hanyani and Philip Mapenda and myself, that whites were coming. When we were about to go out and investigate, that is before we even got to the gate, a white soldier was standing by it, machine gun ready to fire.
We looked at each other and decided to run into a nearby maize field. We thought it was better to run away than be captured by the white man. He opened fire, razing the maize field to the ground. Even before getting to 100 metres, I saw my gumboots were full of blood and I looked at my stomach and saw my intestines hanging out. I stuck with my earlier decision, that I wouldn’t want to be captured by a white soldier and kept on running towards a nearby stream, where I hid among some reeds.
This happened in the morning and I stayed there until in the afternoon, when a young boy who was herding cattle stumbled on me. When I told him who I was, he went to the shopping centre and told one Chandiwana, a shop owner who supported the struggle. He came with villagers and they were surprised that I had survived because others had been captured and others died in that raid. They debated among themselves what to do with me and I asked them to get my gun if they had a problem with my condition and I would finish myself off. After being given some fresh milk, because I had lost a lot of blood, I was taken in by Mudhara Chimwaza, who said he was well versed in traditional medicine and would get me cured in no time.
For the third and different time, I was to be put into a granary — fed and treated in there. When they realised that we were not winning with treating the wound, it was suggested that I be taken to Mutare. A car was arranged, supplied by Nyamanhindi, a hotel owner, who strongly supported the struggle. I was taken to a private doctor in Sakubva.
He tried for some days to treat the wound and he then advised that it had reached a stage of decomposition and needed surgery. I was to be admitted at Mutare General Hospital, under the guise that I was a refugee in Mozambique who had come under crossfire. The white soldier-doctor who attended to me was very professional and operated on me. Then out of the blue, three members of the Special Branch came, there were two white and one black. They started interrogating me, saying they had all the information and I just needed to co-operate. I told them I was in pain and didn’t know what they were talking about.
They left me handcuffed and put under guard. Then one day a Unimog truck came and I was taken away. No-one told me where I was going and I just assumed my time was up, that they were going to finish me off. To my surprise, I arrived at another hospital and was handcuffed again, both hands and legs. The difference now was this ward was all under guard.
Then Mike Hanyani, the one I was with when we were shot at by the white soldier, wrote a letter and passed it to a nurse he had befriended. He had seen me being checked in. The letters we wrote to each other through that nurse, I got to know that I had been admitted at Rusape General Hospital and that the ward was full of injured comrades. It was more of a prison for us the injured and captured comrades.
Chirambo, I still remember his name, was our guard from the Rhodesian forces and he never had kind words for us. He was always like, why are they keeping these people, they should just shoot them. If I were to meet him today, I would really like to know if he meant those words.
Anyway, election day came and we were actually given an opportunity to vote. Waiting for the results was tension-filled, what if we lost? The day of the results, I was due for another operation and the results were announced when I was in theatre.
When I came back to the ward and woke up, I found the ward deserted. To me, it meant one thing, my comrades had been taken away for execution, probably as Chirambo always wanted. But when the nurse came to check on how I was progressing after the operation, she had some good news — we had won! All the guards, including Chirambo, had run away, leaving us free. And those comrades who could walk went away to celebrate the good news. A heavy load came off my chest.
After some time, Mike Hanyani came back with loads of goodies for me. He said the euphoria out there was palpable and drinks and beer were flowing.
Q: And there you were, not able to walk?
A: I was now on crutches. I stayed for three weeks in hospital. Then we had an aunt who stayed in Rusape, I sent a message to her. She came and asked for my discharge because in hospital I felt like I was still at war. Still with Mike by my side, we stayed for two days at my aunt’s place and decided we should go back to our zone, where we operated from and get our guns. So we went to Mutare, to the party office, where we narrated our story.
The party office booked us a room at Wise Owl Hotel, which was a Europeans-only hotel. And the goodwill that time was overwhelming, we were the darling of the citizens. We looked for transport and got it in no time, and we were back in our operating zone, to collect our guns. These became our pillows. Then one day, we went to the hotel’s bar to loosen up — remember this was supposed to be a Europeans-only hotel, like a whites-only place. We were minding our own business but the whites were provocative and one of them walked to Hanyani’s beer and dipped his finger in it, to check the temperature.
We just thought we had had enough of the bullying and we went to our room to get our guns. We came back and fired through the roof and the whites scurried all over the place, some even through the windows.
When the party booked us at Wise Owl Hotel, we were staying with Cde Rupiza, who was the party liaison officer. He was not very amused by what we did and he cautioned us but little did we know that he had other plans. The following morning a car came to take us to Goromonzi Assembly Point, where we found Cde Ndoda as the camp commander.
Q: Are you still on your crutches, or you are now walking freely?
A: Yes, I am still on my crutches, moving around with them. Then one day came the news that Morrison Nyathi had arrived at the camp. It was a big buzz and everyone went to see him, everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of him. I went, saw him and cried. The emotions of Nyadzonia came flooding back, remember we were some of the first guys to arrive at the camp after that attack and seeing him brought all those memories back.
Q: Would you know where and how Nyathi was captured?
A: He was captured at Mbare Musika. It was said he was walking around the terminus and one comrade recognised him. Remember there was a lot of camaraderie flying around that time, and when the comrade asked for public help in apprehending him, he is said to have gotten it. Nyathi was bundled into a car and brought to Goromonzi. The following day, the day he arrived, Support Unit guys arrived and asked for him but the comrades refused. I am sure Nyathi met his final fate at Goromonzi.
Q: Was there any form of interrogation? What really happened to him? Where is he buried?
A: As to what really happened to him I am not sure, but I am convinced he met his fate there, at Goromonzi. As for interrogations, was there any need for such? Remember this is the guy who came to Nyadzonia and announced that we were now enemies, he announced it to everyone and in public. Where he is buried I am not sure but just like the comrade who identified him at Mbare, maybe someone out there knows where he might be been buried.
Then hunger began stalking Goromonzi and Hanyani suggested that we move out, to his sister’s place in Harare?
Q: You were allowed to move in and out of assembly points?
A: Yes, we could go out and come back. So we moved to Tete Joyce Hanyani’s place in Harare. Then one day, as I was limping around Machipisa, that is in Highfield, I came across my niece, our mothers are sisters. She was so happy to see me and told me that my sister, the first born in our family, was staying in Mabvuku.
I went to see her and she told me that our parents had left Rusape because of the war and were now resident in Bulawayo. I went to Bulawayo, met them and there were cries of joy all over. They were happy to have their son back, at least alive, as some parents did not have the chance to welcome back their children. Then my father took over my medical bills as I had not fully recovered. Here and there he would express his bitterness, that he had to pay for my wounds of war.
Then an announcement came, that all those injured should report at Harare Central Hospital, where a repatriation camp had been set up. So I spent the rest of 1980 and part of 1981 recovering. Which meant I missed the opportunity to join the national army on integration. But hope was not lost, I did a number of applications and as much as I got positive responses from the likes of National Railways of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe, I settled for the Ministry of Health, where I became a trainee medical laboratory technician. I started off at Mpilo, then moved to Parirenyatwa and then Harare Central Hospital.
Then the City of Harare offered a better package and I joined them as a lab technician. Over the years I did some courses in water treatment and am now the water superintendent, based at Morton Jaffray Water Works.
In our next instalment, as the month of December draws near, when the country celebrates Unity Day, we talk to a white man who served in the Rhodesian air force — how was it serving and saving Rhodesia and then living in Zimbabwe. Though Unity Day was signed in 1987, 1980 was the first time the nation came together as warring Rhodesian and Patriotic Front forces put their differences aside to form a new army — the Zimbabwe National Army. Make sure not to miss it.
— Sunday Mail