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Joshua Nkomo was a strategist, says Tshinga Dube

by Staff reporter
08 Jul 2022 at 07:34hrs | Views
THE late Vice-President, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, was a shrewd military strategist who championed military training initiatives for several freedom fighters, which led to the country's independence in 1980, Zanu-PF Politburo member and former senior army officer, Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube, has said.

Popularly known as Father Zimbabwe, the fearless freedom fighter succumbed to prostate cancer on July 1, 1999 at the age of 82, and was buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare.

Dr Nkomo used trade unionism as a stepping stone for politics before joining other young radicals who opposed white settler domination in the then Southern Rhodesia.

In an interview yesterday as part of commemorating 23 years since the death of the veteran nationalist and liberation struggle stalwart, Rtd Col Dube described Dr Nkomo as a great military strategist.

Rtd Col Dube, who also served as one of the commanders of the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZPRA), said upon his release from Gonakudzingwa detention centre, Dr Nkomo joined them in Zambia and reconfigured ZPRA into a formidable military force.

"Most people didn't undertake Dr Nkomo's military strategy.

When he was released from Gonakudzingwa in 1975, he came to Zambia to join us and that is when he reconfigured ZPRA into a formidable military force after James Chikerema," he said.

"Dr Nkomo created his own legacy and what most people don't understand about him is that he didn't want any form of bloodshed, which is why he tried to negotiate with the Rhodesian government for a peaceful settlement."

Rtd Col Dube said while in the process of negotiating with the settler regime, he was also at the same time busy building a strong army, which at the time was called Special Affairs Department of Zapu.

"The first weapons were smuggled out of Egypt in 1962, actually by Dr Nkomo himself, and were smuggled into the country through Tanzania and Zambia.

The first handful of volunteers left the country for training in sabotage in Ghana at the same time," said Rtd Col Dube.

"The second group of volunteers were sent for training in China, Egypt, North Korea and Cuba in early 1963.

These early steps were undertaken by Zapu under the leadership of James Chikerema who had been authorised secretly by Dr Nkomo to establish the Special Affairs Department of Zapu."

Rtd Col Dube said the Special Affairs unit had authority to enable the leadership to use any method of struggle they deemed fit in the circumstances, including armed struggle.

By virtue of being a leader in the struggle, Dr Nkomo exhibited rare virtues of being a military strategist par excellence, said Rtd Col Dube.

"Dr Nkomo was a humble person yet a great military strategist.

This is why when he tried to negotiate with the settler regime, some people blamed him and labelled him a sellout," he said.

"In fact, it was not selling out and had the Rhodesian leaders listened to his voice of reason there would have been no bloodshed.

"We used to call him ‘General Josh' because he was the ZPRA Commander-in-Chief having championed a number of military trainings for freedom fighters in Russia, Zambia, Cuba and Angola among other countries."

The Smith regime negotiated in bad faith and they used Bishop Abel Muzorewa in their white minority plans to blunt black majority rule in the country.

Bishop Muzorewa enjoyed brief renown as prime minister of an unrecognised white-dominated government before history, war and diplomacy moved on without him.

Bishop Muzorewa initially attracted a following as a nationalist leader, thwarting British plans to strike a deal in the 1970s with former Prime Minister Ian Smith.

Rtd Col Dube said some of Dr Nkomo's notable warfare strategies include the famous "Turning Point", which entailed moving from guerrilla to mobile warfare.

In 1979, as the supreme commander, Dr Nkomo issued orders for "Turning Point" to ZPRA forces.

ZPRA had deployed forces in every corner of Rhodesia. All these forces were involved in guerrilla warfare.

"All along, our war was guerrilla warfare and therefore the Turning Point strategy meant that we were entering a phase of regular warfare," he recalled.

"Dr Nkomo had told us that if the Lancaster House talks fail, we were supposed to abandon the guerrilla warfare and use regular warfare to fight the Rhodesian soldiers," said Rtd Col Dube.

"We had cadres who had trained regular warfare in Zambia and were ready to surprise the Rhodesian forces by invading the country in tanks and armed with sophisticated artillery.

"Dr Nkomo was well versed with military operations and through his military strategies we brought down Rhodesian military planes as we launched comprehensive and co-ordinated conventional offensives on several fronts simultaneously."

Rtd Col Dube said the objective was to seize and hold strategic rear bases in order to mount a campaign for territory deeper into Rhodesia culminating in the capture of the capital and seizure of political power.

The concept of mobile warfare was pioneered by Chinese communist revolutionary, Mao Zedong, as a response to the ambivalence of having an army too large to hide, but not large enough to engage in the defense of territory.

"As Mao put it himself ‘it was a case of first the mountains, then the countryside and then the cities'.

The first was a period of gestation during which the outnumbered and outgunned guerrilla forces developed their rural bases from where the process of mass political mobilisation was begun," said Rtd Col Dube

"The second stage was reached when the logistical and intelligence networks established by the guerrillas began to challenge those of the enemy, after which a brief period of power symmetry would be reached.

"From this the guerrilla forces would be poised to move on to stage three, which would see the deployment of large-scale mobile warfare campaigns leading eventually to a final offensive."

Rtd Col Dube said it had now become essential for ZPRA to completely liberate those areas that the Rhodesian government had lost control of in a manner that would allow them to occupy and control territory in a conventional sense.

"The only way that this could be achieved was by the deployment of conventional forces with the capacity to hold territory in order to occupy and defend liberated areas.

This was intended to be the precursor of mobile warfare, itself the precursor to the final offensive," he said.

Consequently, a series of orders were prepared by Dr Nkomo as part of the public declaration of the Turning Point Strategy and issued to ZPRA requiring all forces within Rhodesia to openly engage and clear all enemy personnel for controlled areas, protect all citizens within liberated areas whatever their affiliation and to organise and defend the masses.

Rtd Col Dube said the Soviet Union was involved in the training and supply of ZPRA's conventional capacity.

He said the Turning Point was purely a Zapu plan orchestrated by Dr Nkomo.

The strategy focused on permanently securing the ground for ZPRA and denying it to the enemy.

To achieve this, ZPRA was to deploy in large units (regular battalions) and attack big targets (economic and military installations).

This was targeted at turning semi-liberated zones into fully-liberated zones that would be run by people's committees.

"It originated from Zapu and was approved by the party's Revolutionary Council.

When it came to its application, it was at that stage that we requested assistance.

The Turning Point showed me that Dr Nkomo was indeed a brilliant military strategist who planned ahead," said Rtd Col Dube.

"Our Soviet Union advisors came in and we unveiled the plan for them, and showed them how we intended to go about it.

All they could do was give their advice where they thought we might have difficulties."

The first armed attack was actually carried out by a small Zapu "Special Affairs" unit under the command of Moffat Hadebe on September 22, 1964.

This was an armed attack on the homestead of a magistrate who had issued and signed the detention orders against many of the nationalist leaders.

The unit was one of first trained units that had been deployed into the country by Zapu to carry out reconnaissance and preparations for armed struggle.

Rtd Col Dube said Dr Nkomo also came up with the idea of deploying cadres to train as pilots and some of the notable people who were identified to undergo that training included the current Commander of the Airforce of Zimbabwe, Air Marshal Elson Moyo, among others.

Rtd Col Dube, among others, was in the 1964 delegation, which went for training in the sophisticated scientific faculties of military training.

Upon arrival in Russia, he met the likes of Akim Ndlovu, Robson Manyika, Ambrose Mutinhiri, Goldman Gombakomba, Wilfred Malala, Dumiso Dabengwa, Phelekezela "Report" Mphoko and Ethan Dube.

"In Russia, I became a student of electronic warfare and it is in Russia where I was first introduced to the AK rifle. I specialised in military communications and it is through Dr Nkomo's efforts," said Rtd Col Dube.

Source - The Chronicle