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'Pungwes were not Zipra culture'

23 Aug 2020 at 11:10hrs | Views
He made sure the long-standing rivalry between Zipra and Zanla cadres would not derail the objective of the guerrilla war. Daylight Mabanga (DM)'s strategy was for his platoon to move from Mashonaland Central to Mashonaland West.

That ensured the fighters would not clash. The former liberation war fighter tells our Deputy News Editor Levi Mukarati (LM) how Zipra's conduct with civilians differed from their Zanla colleagues.


LM: During 1977 there was Zanla coming into the country from Mozambique through areas such as Mukumbura. We hear reports of deadly clashes between Zanla and Zipra combatants in such areas. What was really going on?
DM: When I got to Zambia towards the end of 1975, there had been earlier incidences such as the Nhari-Badza rebellion and the killing of Chitepo. This resulted in a delay or stoppage in prosecuting the war because a number of nationalist leaders had been arrested in Zambia over the death of Chitepo.

As such, Zanu took to a new base in Mozambique and Tanzania, while Zapu remained in Zambia. After about a year, the comrades began infiltrating Rhodesia to confront the white government. Since there was no central command for Zipra and Zanla fighters, it meant that combatants met in the field. Like I said earlier, we were getting into Rhodesia through the border area with Zambia between Chirundu and Kazangarare.

There were Zanla fighters coming in through Mukumbura and Kazangarare areas. We had to make sure we did not clash when executing our missions.

As Zipra, we then decided to move westwards to Sipolilo (Guruve), Karoi, Magunje areas since we had noticed that our colleagues were also coming in. I remember this because my section was much closer to Mukumbura.

LM: Still on my question comrade. There were fatal clashes between Zipra and Zanla around that time. What was going on?

DM: Yes, clashes erupted, but that was before the time I operated in the area. We should be clear on the background of these clashes. The death of Chitepo had temporarily stopped the war.

But recruits continued to train.

At the same time, others completed training and were ready to be deployed to the war front. After about a year following the death of Chitepo in 1975, fighters were deployed from Tanzania under Zipa (Zimbabwe People's Army). Zipa had its own politics that I cannot dwell much on because I was not part of it.

But for history purposes, I later learnt that the politics in Zipa were just a carry-over from the split of Zapu around 1963, leading to the formation of Zanu.

Obviously, the leaders in these two outfits had their different strategies or approaches to the war. As such, having Zanla and Zipra fighters under one unit meant accommodating two groups with different strategies towards a common objective.

But Zipa crumbled and I came to the front under Zipra. When we came in, I had to make sure we push more into Mashonaland West and leave Mashonaland Central as the operating area for our colleagues.

The deadly clashes were there among groups that had gone to the war front ahead of me. These sections warned us to be careful because there were tensions with our Zanla colleagues.

The clashes became a lesson for us not to fight our colleagues because we had a common enemy.

LM: You say you had different strategies and approaches to the war. What did these entail?
DM: As Zipra we would not allow any night meetings or pungwes. That was not our culture.

Hakuna munhu aimutswa kumba kwake kuti arare achiimba husiku kana kuti adzidziswe zvehondo husiku. As a commissar, I knew that was endangering the civilians.

It is from these pungwes where we got cases of women and girls being raped or agreeing to be intimate with the fighters without a choice. That problem ndeye masoja akawanda. We have such cases being reported against even United Nations peacekeepers.

The best way to avoid them is to stay away from civilians as much as possible.

LM: Sorry to interrupt comrade. How then did you engage the civilians and get them to  support your mission with either food, clothing or information?
DM: Isu pataibva kucamp, tainge tave nemunhu watapiwa as our contact at the front.

Iyeye ndiye anenge aita all the groundwork by engaging the villagers and having put in place all logistics. Each platoon had that link person.

For example, ini semunhu aiva commissar ndini ndaizoenda kunoona ma civilians after ndaona the link person.

Either taienda tose na link person or I would first see the link person before he goes back to the villagers and tell them kuti kuchauya munhu akadai kuzokuonai.

That is the way we got food or other support from the villagers. In Sipolilo, we had 99 percent buy-in from the people.

Vanhu ikoko vaitida and we were well-protected.

It was very rare to be attacked without information.

Any movement yemasoja in the Keeps taiudzwa.

That is why many of our attacks in that area were successful because we targeted enemy vehicles with landmines after getting solid information of their movements.

We rarely engaged in combat because we knew it was dangerous in the area we operated.

Because once we started direct gunfire exchange, it meant that the Rhodesians would communicate with Kariba and in no time ndege dzaisvika as well as reinforcements from Sinoia (now Chinhoyi).

As such, our tactic was mainly to plant landmines and leave the area. That is what we were doing until the announcement of ceasefire in December 1979.

The politicians made the announcement. But on our part, we could not take directives from the politicians, but from our commanders.

We knew there were talks in Britain, but we wanted our commanders, Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku, to give us instructions.

LM: Why had you taken such a position when it was clear that the party Zapu, led by politicians, was supreme to the military organ Zanla, under commanders?
DM: In the military, when we went to the front we had a command structure.

Politicians would say whatever they want, but for that information to get to us, it had to be relayed through the military commanders.

We heard that there was an agreement for ceasefire, but we waited for Dabengwa and Masuku to give us a directive to put down our weapons.

That directive included where we were supposed to gather and the vehicles that would transport us to our next location.

Isu taive ku Northern Front, we went to Mushumbi Pools, which was Papa One Assembly Point, immediately after the Zambezi Escarpment.

LM: There was a battalion that came to Papa One at ceasefire which is said to have caused a problem in jamming signals, including as far as Kariba Airport. Who were these comrades?
DM: Isu tichisvika hapana kuita mazuva matatu kuchiuya battalion yaive ne heavy military equipment.

Remember, I earlier talked of the downing of the Viscount plane. Ndipo pandakawana more information because this was part of the group that had planned the attack.

These Zipra guys were coming in from Chirundu and with them was very heavy war equipment. Vakakonzeresa confusion because part of the equipment jammed the Rhodesia Makuti Base signal. The effects reached Kariba.

As that battalion moved, it was in constant communication nana Dabengwa and Masuku without being detected.

The battalion was led by Joseph Sibuko or Mbedzi.

At Papa One there was the demobilisation of fighters and all those who did not want to be integrated into a regular army were given $600 and went back home.

Those that remained were now under Papa Two and were integrated into an army made up of Zipra, Zanla and Rhodesian Forces.

I became battalion commissar for Papa One before going to Papa Two to join the army.

Just after joining the army, I was asked by Zapu to assist in preparing for the elections.

So I went to the party full time.

But I had made it clear that once Zimbabwe was liberated, I would not go back to the army or party, but return to my calling as a minister of the Word of God.

That is what happened and today I serve the Lord.

LM: You returned to the Church, but politics seemed to haunt you. At one time, just after independence, there was a declaration of a State of Emergency as a result of disturbances in the country in which you were one of the people directly implicated. Were you really out of politics?

DM: That is a case I have been cleared of. At Independence in 1980, I returned to serve the Lord and I am still doing that up to this day. I have since forgotten and forgiven those who thought I pursued politics. The Bible teaches us to forgive and forget.

Source - sundaymail
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