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Dabengwa opens up on the ZIPRA/MK Wankie battle

by Mandla Ndlovu
28 Mar 2019 at 12:21hrs | Views
Former Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZPRA) Intelligence Supremo Dumiso Dabengwa on Thursday retold the historic Wankie battle of 1967 where the ZPRA cadres combined with the UMkhonto we Sizwe soldiers waged a heroic battle against the Rhodesian forces.

The Wankie battle is one of the memorable events that is remembered in Sou5tyhn Africa and the cadres who perished during that period were given the highest honour.

Dumiso Dabengwa was addressing at the uMkhonto wesizwe Conference in Johannesburg alongside struggle veteran Moffat Hadebe.

Find below a snippet from his address:

Reconnaissance, Logistics, Operations and Training departments all went into overdrive to achieve their targeted date of August 1967. The choice of selecting a crossing point at the Zambezi River Gorge area, about ten kilometres from Victoria Falls entailed complications:

  1.    Climbing down the 90 metre distance by rope to the river.
  2.    Using three available canoes capable of carrying only two passengers.
  3.  Climbing up another 90 metre distance by rope onto the Rhodesian side.

This issue was debated at length but the Reconnaissance team would not be drawn to find another alternative. The operation strategy entailed that within one week after crossing, two ZPRA sections (6 to 8 men) would separate from the detachment with one to deploy permanently in the Wankie district and the other in Lupane district. These would remain springboards to provide support for future campaigns.

Similarly, when the detachment reached Southern Matabeleland another two ZPRA sections would support the MK cadres to cross the Limpopo and stay behind to redeploy in the Matopo and Gwanda South districts.

For the Wankie operations the Luthuli detachment was led by John Dube (Sotsha Ngwenya) deputised by Chris Hani also as the commissar.

In spite of some setbacks, the final combined meeting of the two parties and the military commanders approved August as the crossing date.

August 1, the setting down of the sun signalled the d-day for the Luthuli detachment. OR Tambo was there to raise the flag for the crossing to go ahead.

It took the whole night to cross about half the detachment of three platoons. At daybreak, everyone on both sides of the river had to take cover and rest until nightfall the following day.
On the following day, crossing resumed at night until early hours of the morning. Once the entire detachment had crossed, they were guided towards the main Victoria Falls to Wankie road by a few cadres selected from the reconnaissance team. As soon as they cleared from the Rhodesian side of the bank, two old men from Matetsi village, as arranged, drove a large flock of goats to cover the footprints of the detachment.

The two ZPRA sections were allowed to separate for deployment in Wankie and Lupane areas. Meanwhile the detachment proceeded and encamped in the Inyantuwe area on the 12th of August. The following day on the 13th, they had their first encounter with the Rhodesian forces, comprising a platoon made up of BSAP and RAR.

After Inyantuwe, they had a number of other major battles at Sinamathela, Tsholotsho and along the Natha and Tekwane river areas before they retreated into Botswana. The Botswana police arrested and had them imprisoned before deporting them back to Zambia.

For ZPRA the battle of Wankie was understandably the watershed in the history of Zimbabwe and South Africa's armed liberation struggles. The Luthuli detachment indomitable fighters proved the lie of invincibility of the Rhodesian and South African racist and apartheid regimes.

Chris Hani as commissar of the combined forces in the Luthuli detachment commented on the battle of Inyantuwe thus, "It was one of the battles they were engaged in that will probably go down in the history of MK military operations as one of the most heroic. Displaying outstanding heroism and sacrifice, they fought like lions and actually kept Smith's forces pinned down for the better part of the day".

The Rhodesian account of the same battle, "contact was made between the terrorists and a patrol led by senior officer Barry Tiffin at first light on the 13th August near Inyantuwe railway siding. The BSAP was pinned down and reinforcements were called for. After reinforcements had arrived and during the encounter, five ZPRA terrorists were killed and Tiffin was seriously injured. Two RAR were killed and three European and one African security force members were wounded".

Source - Byo24News