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'Mugabe's questionable exit plan to Moza'

20 Oct 2019 at 23:41hrs | Views
Levi Mukarati, continues to explore Parker Chipoyera's political journey. This week, the liberation struggle fighter chronicles events during the détente period including former President Robert Mugabe's move to sneak into Mozambique despite having been a free man.


Question: The period in which Chitepo was killed, apart from the Nhari-Badza rebellion, was also characterised by a decrease in direct armed confrontation between the liberation fighters and Rhodesian government forces. This is the time of the coming together of the political parties under the African National Council led by Bishop Muzorewa. Can you tell us the politics surrounding this united grouping?

Answer: The period is referred to as the détente period.

In April 1974, there was a coup d'etat in Lisbon, Portugal.

This political development had an impact in Portuguese colony of Mozambique.

It marked the pull out of the colonisers.

It also marked increased flow of trainees from Rhodesia and intensification of the armed war.

The Prime Minister of South Africa, John Vorster, was forced to seek a solution to the political problems in Rhodesia. This was driven by the likely impact the war in Rhodesia would bring on regional trade and food security.

Rhodesia was South Africa's gateway to the north of the continent. Countries such as Zambia and Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) would also be affected.

These countries were promised security of trade and food if they could support an internal settlement in Rhodesia.

It was Zambia that played a major role to bring the internal settlement that involved Joshua Nkomo as Zapu President, Ndabaningi Sithole of Zanu, Abel Muzorewa ANC (African National Council) and James Chikerema (Frolizi).

But, I should mention that Sithole was just a stand-in for Zanu, he had already been denounced.

Question: Sorry to divert you a bit, can you explain Sithole's political position at that time?

Answer: In 1964, Ndabaningi Sithole was arrested together with the likes of Robert Mugabe, Leopold Takawira and Maurice Nyagumbo for political activities. He was sentenced by the Rhodesians to 10 years in jail.

While in jail, Sithole was accused of plotting to pay some people, outside, to assassinate Ian Smith. This new charge gave the Rhodesians another opportunity to continue holding the Zanu leader in jail.

But, in the wake of the manoeuvres from Vorster in South Africa, the Rhodesians took advantage of Sithole and made him play ball. This is the reason why Sithole, from prison, renounced the armed struggle.

He was seeking to buy his freedom in the wake of the new charge he was facing.

This led other nationalists in jail such as Mugabe, Tekere, Nyagumbo and Takawira to smuggle a letter to us, in the training camps, which said they had agreed that Sithole was no longer president of Zanu. This cleared the way for Mugabe to take over. But Mugabe was not, at that time popular because there was Chitepo.

Question: How then did Sithole end up on the ANC combined structure?

Answer: There was a challenge in that, the nationalists were communicating from jail and their message came at a time the Rhodesians were also pushing an amalgamation of the liberation war parties to start negotiations.

Despite not being trusted by other nationalists and even military leaders, Sithole was the one who was recognised by the Zambians, South Africans and Rhodesians to be leader of Zanu as they tried the push for the negotiations.

This forced the nationalists in jail to select Nyagumbo to accompany Sithole to Zambia to meet the other liberation party leaders for the signing of the unity document.

As this was happening, isu kuma training camps we had received communication that Sithole had been removed as president. Before the signing of the unity document in Zambia in December 1974, the Zanu delegation met its war strategists including Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Mukudzei Mudzi, Robson Manyika, Chigohwe and John Mataure.

These war strategists rejected the unity in totality, a position that was, in a hidden way, also shared by nationalists in jail and detention including Mugabe. But, the united party, ANC, was established with Muzorewa as the leader.

Its main function was to start united negotiations with Ian Smith's government.

It was agreed that there should be a constitutional conference leading to the transfer of political power to the nationalists.

The condition for the constitutional conference was that both the Smith's regime and liberation fighters declare a cease-fire. Zanu nationalists then brought in demands such as release of all political prisoners and suspension of death penalty.

Smith refused to give in to the demands and the nationalists declared to increase the heat of the armed war.

Question: As this was all happening, what was going on in the camps?

Answer: Our commanders had rejected the united ANC, but they developed a wait and see attitude. In the meantime, ma nationalists ainge akasungwa akazobuda mumajeri and detention centres during this détente period as part of the conditions for the internal negotiations.

Nguva iyoyo nyaya dzana Nhari and Badza ndopadzaiputika, tichibva ipapo Chitepo abva aurayiwa and some of our military leaders outside Rhodesia were sent to jail in Zambia on allegations of murdering Chitepo.

At that same time, ichi chinhu che ANC chaifamba mberi kuti vanhu ava vangawirirane sei.

Ukuwo Mugabe, who had been part of the removal of Sithole in Jail akanga abuda from detention around November 1974 and then decided to jump the border in the most questionable manner, to begin his bid to consolidate power using support from the fighters. He saw an opportunity to counter Sithole who was busy with the negotiations and detached from the fighters.

Question: What do you mean by 'the most questionable manner'?

Answer: The imperialist intelligence was already ahead of us. They knew that through detention, education and 'kind gesture' of release of the nationalists, vakanga vakwanisa kubika munhu wavo zvakakwana.

Munhu wavo zvino akanga akuchizouya kunze kwatiri kuMozambique neku East Africa achiti ndini president we Zimbabwe African Nationalist Union. Munhu uyu akanga akuzozvipira kuma Frontline States.

This person was Robert Mugabe.

At one time, Julius Nyerere asked Mugabe kuti wakazoita president rinhi nekuti we know Zanu president to be Ndabaningi Sithole. Mugabe's response was that Sithole had been removed while they were in jail.

The question came also after Samora Machel had asked Mugabe how a congress could be done in an enemy prison away from the general membership.

Machel at first did not like Mugabe and that explains why he held him in Quelimane, which was like South Africa's Robben Island.

Mugabe maintained that since vice-president Leopold Takawira had died in jail, Chairman Chitepo had also died and with the ouster of Sithole, it meant he was now the president. Remember, Frolizi, under Chikerema, had said president chaiye achauya.

Then, to answer why I said he left Rhodesia in the most questionable manner. Mugabe had been released from jail, meaning he was a free man.

He had a British passport which meant he could board a plane or cross the border legally, but he chose to sneak out of the country into Mozambique just after Chitepo had died on March 18 1975.

No one asks about this move.

Mugabe's later statement for choosing to sneak out was that his friend Maurice Nyagumbo had been arrested for recruiting people for training in Mozambique.

Instead of kunobata Mai Chitepo mawoko in Zambia, Mugabe chose to go to places like Villa de Katandika and Zhuuta to lobby for acceptance as President.

When he left Salisbury, he was given mari yechema by the nationalists at Mushandirapamwe Hotel in Highfield.

Did that reach Mai Chitepo? He was busy seeking recognition.

Mugabe and Tekere arrived in Mozambique during the first week of April and began their formal lobbying for the former to become Zanu President.

Question: Let us get back to the united ANC issue. As it was engaged in the negotiation issues, what were you up to?

Answer: After the death of Chitepo I went to Zambia in June and joined Machingura and David Tondhlana who had just been released from jail in Zambia.

They had been arrested in connection with Chitepo's death.

We were moving between Tanzania and Zambia as we waited to get instructions from our leaders as the ANC meetings were still in progress.

A military wing of the ANC Zimbabwe Liberation Council (ZLC) had been established but it was not yet operational. It had Ndabaningi Sithole as chairman, Jason Moyo Vice-Chairman, Chikerema Secretary.

The ZLC had a task committee and chairpersons of this committee were Noel Mukono (ex-Zanu) military affairs, Simpson Mutambanengwe (ex-Zanu) Diplomatic and International Labour Relations, George Nyandoro (ex-Frolizi) Finance and Property, Samanya (ex-Frolizi) Publicity, Information and Research, Stephan Parirewa (ex-Zanu) Welfare, Health, Education and Projects and Micheal Mawema party organisation.

But, Zapu rejected being part of the committee saying they had not been fully included in the task committee.

This was despite the fact that Zapu members Edward Ndlovu, George Silundika and Jane Ngwenya had been offered to sit in the ZLC.

While we were in Zambia, in September 1975, Muzorewa travelled on a tour to the United States and in his absence, Joshua Nkomo held some secret talks with the Rhodesians.

This did not go down well with Muzorewa who upon his return fired Nkomo from ANC.

But, Nkomo called for a congress and on September 28 1975 he was declared ANC-Zimbabwe leader.

Muzorewa had left to pursue talks in Zambia and declared he was still leading ANC-Muzorewa. Muzorewa, Chikerema and Sithole came to address us in Zambia.

Sithole did not mention that he had been fired by his colleagues while they were in jail. He was viewing the killing of Chitepo and Badza as elimination of the Manyika people.

I remember his last words while we were at the meeting were "goodbye the reactionaries" that is the day we said we had had enough, we should go back to Mgagao and take matters into our own hands.

At that point, we made a fatal historical error.

We declared that we no longer wanted to talk to any nationalists except the secretary-general of Zanu, Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

It was a mistake because we only mentioned Mugabe when there were other leaders such as, Nkala, Maurice Nyagumbo, the Malianga brother and others.

We should have put an exhaustive list of leaders whom we were prepared to deal with.

That document armed Mugabe to say ndini ndinevakomana vakandisarudza.

Continued next week

Source - sundaymail
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