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The Liberation War in Nkayi, Matebeleland: The Agenda by Rhodesian Army & State to starve 'terrorists', a personal experience!

29 Mar 2021 at 22:38hrs | Views
In today's Africa, we often ascribe the violation of African rights to only African governments and easily forget a long-standing history of wanton violation of African rights by gun-ho racialist genocidal slave drivers, colonialists and or imperialists of all shapes, sizes and guises that disfigured Africa during slave trade and after the Berlin Conference of 15th November 1884 to 26th February 1885 that legally partitioned Africa and legalized the colonization of Africa and as well as legalized the trade of her resources. Preceding this gross affront of human rights of Africans through colonization and the making of legal claims to Africa by various western powers, we are alive to the fact that Africa had long been a playground to worse forms of human rights violations. There was an Atlantic Slave trade that occurred approximately between 1526 and 1867, where over 12.5 million Africans were shipped from mother Africa and where over 10.7 million of those Africans found themselves being slaves of the Americas and building the Americas through African sweat and blood under extreme and harsh dehumanising slavery conditions.

While slave trade mass killed and mass displaced millions from Africa, colonialism mass murdered millions and internally displaced millions from their traditional lands as confiscation of land and destruction of various African Kingdoms took place, with racialist pomp and circumstance, during Africa's colonization period. Our Matebele Kingdom under His Royal Majesty King Lobhengula did not escape this colonialist atrocity and onslaught. It suffered hugely from this colonial atrocity and tyranny. The consequences of that colonial tyranny are still with us to this day.

There is no doubt that slavery and colonization were trailblazers of gross human rights violations in mother Africa and indeed in the world at large. They were the twin towers of evil of humanity executed based on the ideology of superiority of the white race and inferiority of the black race.  By and large this is an utterly incontrovertible fact, however this fact does not wish to bury or wish away intra and inter African Kingdoms human rights violations at the time. These were there but at lower levels in comparison to the slave trade and colonialism tsunamis. The fact of the matter is that slavery and colonization were carried out on a monumental and colossal scale in Africa and the devastating after effects of these remain with us today. There is nothing Lilliputian about the devastating effects of slavery and colonization in Africa. The opposite is true. Later, both slavery and colonization were to spawn revolutions in Africa and elsewhere that aimed at restoring the fundamental rights and dignity of Africans and others around the world. The Matebleland Kingdom did not escape the tyranny of human rights violations by the West after the Berlin Conference. It was a casualty of this tyranny. The Kingdom however managed to offer resistance against this tyranny and inspired generations and generations to come to stand up for their rights! Therefore, as the Matebele, we must be proud that we stand on the shoulders of giants of history against colonialism in Africa.

Every nation under the sun has its formidable heroes and heroines that determine, define and sculpture and inspire generations to defend themselves from external aggressors to defend their nations. The heroes and heroines tend to define and sculpture the spirit and level of resistance against external aggressors to these nations for them to survive any storms coming their way. The Matebele nation is no exception to this sculpturing. As Matebele patriots, we therefore owe our immense debt of gratitude to our formidable and indefatigable forbearers for sculpturing a spirit of resisting the violation of our sacred rights as a people and as a nation from external aggressors since the formation of the Kingdom of Matebeleland. These forbearers include Royal Majesties King Mzilikazi Khumalo, King Nkulumane Khumalo, King Lobhengula Khumalo, Prince Hlangabeza and Mambo of the Lozwi.

We also owe our immense debt of gratitude, as Matebele patriots, to several Matebele Generals that led our War Regiments against external aggressors of whatever type and stripe. These generals are in the mould of General Magwegwe Fuyana, General Mbiko kaMadlenya, General Dambisamahubo Mafu, General Mgandane Dlodlo, General Mkanyeli Masuku, General Somabulane  Dlodlo, General Maqundela Sigola, General Mlugulu Khumalo, Generals Mhabahaba and Mdliso Mkhwananzi, General Ntabeni Gwebu and Mbumbulu Gwebu, Generals Dlekezela Thebe and Mankanyana Thebe, General Mtshana Khumalo, General Mbambelele Hlabangana, General Mtotobi Mlilo, General Sohlolo Mathema, General Mfangilele Matshazi, General Nkantiwo Sibanda and many others not mentioned. These generals and those men they led in their regiments are crème de la crème of Matebeleland.

As Matebele patriots we are immensely indebted to our great and heroic crème de la creme Matebele men who formed and constituted Matebele War Regiments (amabutho) that included the following: Mbuyazwe, Zwangendaba, Imbizo, Indinana, Imbelesi, Inhlambane, Amabhukudwana, Inqama, Magoloza, Nyamayendlovu, Induba, Mcwazi, Amadlogodlogo, Dibinhlangu, Isizinda, Ihlanjwane, Inyathi, Umzinyathi, Izinkondo, Inzwanazi, Impangela, Godlwayo, Inyanda, Amabambo, Imhlahlandlela and many others not mentioned.

And most importantly as Matebele patriots, we also owe our immense debt of gratitude to our heroic women of the mould of Queen Mwaka Nxumalo kaKing Mzilikazi Khumalo, mother to King Nkulumane Khumalo and Prince Hlangabeza Khumalo, Queen Lozikheyi Dlodlo kaKing Lobhengula Khumalo, a woman of steel and Matebeleland's spiritual leader Mlimo who inspired, together with Queen Lozikheyi Dlodlo, the fierce Matebele Rebellion War against colonialism in March 1896 in a bid to restore our Kingdom and our rights as people.

It will be unthinkable for us to fail to recognize and owe our immense debt of gratitude to the Matebeleland Home Society Restoration Movement that was created in 1914 with the sole aim of Restoring an autonomous state of Matebeleland. They handled the relay button of generational mandates and generational duties well.

We also invariably must express our immense debt of gratitude to the late Dr Edwin Ndabezinhle Mkhwananzi for picking up the Restoration Agenda from the Matebeleland Home Society Restoration Movement of 1914 and resuscitating the same in mid to late 1990s under the flagship of the then Mthwakazi People's Congress (MPC). It is pleasing to note that, since then, the Restoration Agenda has been spawned in many organizations and groupings due to his works.

The late Dr Edwin Ndabezinhle Mkhwananzi is an undisputable modern father of the Restoration Agenda in Matebeleland. He was a very able and articulate leader but publicly shy and preferred that he spread the agenda in obscurity through his powerful writings until the Agenda reached what he called a "critical mass", as he would often confide and say to my person. Today the agenda is popular and is everywhere, to the extent that some who did not reinitiate it, make spurious claims of being the modern godfathers of this agenda. Credit must be given where it is due. Dr Mkhwananzi picked up the Restoration agenda from the Matebeleland Home Society of 1914, packaged it and sold it to many. He therefore deserves to occupy a lofty position in Matebeleland as a modern pioneer of Matebeleland Restoration Agenda. It is an incontrovertible fact that he executed this generational mandate and generational duty bequeathed to us by our forbearers very well and drove himself into the pantheon of all-time greats in Matebeleland. May his soul rest in peace and may our forbearers receive him with pride in their own world. What a formidable son of the Matebele! We lost a modern Matebele intellectual regiment of note, another crème de la crème par excellence of Matebeleland!

It is always the case that each generation has its own major generational mandate and generational duty to execute to fruition. It is also the case that each generation passes onto other generations challenges of generational mandates and generational duties to execute for the greater good of the nation. It is also the case that challenges faced by yesteryear generations face present day generations and will face future generations too. It becomes a continuum of generational mandates and generational duties that must be executed to roll back pushed imperialistic envelopes of occupation, oppression and domination.  Our Matebeleland nation is no exception to this relay of generational mandates and generational duties being passed from generations to generations.

One notices that King Mzilikazi Khumalo and his generation of amabutho regiments had a generational duty of forming a Matebeleland Kingdom. They excelled well in statecraft and nation building. There is no iota of doubt that King Mzilikazi Khumalo was imbued with a Machiavellian skill of nation building and did well on this front. He was a great King and a connoisseur of statecraft and nation building.

While King Mzilikazi Khumalo's generational mandate and generational duty was to build a nation, King Lobhengula's generational mandate and generational duty was to defend the nation from colonialists and any external aggressors to the nation. And it must be said that he did well and fought gallant wars in 1893 although being finally defeated. While King Lobhengula's generational mandate and generational duty was to defend our nation, the generational mandate and generational duty of Queen Lozikheyi Dlodlo, Matebele War Regiments that remained after the defeat of 1893 wars, spiritual leader of Matebeleland Mlimo and the Matebeleland Home Society was to restore our Kingdom from the ashes of colonial destruction.

One would notice that today, the generational mandates and generational duties of our forbearers of defending and restoring our nation have come full circle to face us. They are on our generational shoulders. It is now our generational mandate and generational duty to push the agenda for the restoration of Matebeleland for the sake of future generations. It will never be a short road but a long and winding road that will take generations and generations to achieve.

I deposit that it is the sculptured spirit of our nation by our heroes and heroines that successively defined the resistance streaks of our nation against external aggressors during all these historical epochs it went through that later were to shape my experiences and experiences of many others during the liberation war against settler colonialism in the 70s, which I wish to share in this narrative.

The 70s saw Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (Zipra), and indeed it was at best a Revolutionary army in every sense of the word, intensifying its campaign against the intransigent and obstinate Rhodesian settler state and its settler forces. It was not a war of guns and roses. From a Zipra and Zapu perspective, this war had a deep and authentic meaning of liberating a black race and ensuring it gained freedom and reclaimed what rightfully belonged to it. The raging debate in Matebeleland on the "misplaced" ideology of both Zipra and Zapu is left for another day, but the whole thrust and objective of both Zapu and Zipra was a noble idea to free Africans and restore their dignity as a people. This was their generational mandate and generational duty that they executed, by and large, very well. We must give credit where it is due! That some charlatans soiled and desecrated on this very noble idea of liberating Africans from the jaws of colonialism and reduced such a noble cause to be a mockery of all and sundry today, does not in any way diminish the fact it was a noble cause with good intentions.

The main thrust of this piece, having given a preamble to generational mandates and generational duties that fell on Zipra cdes and our parents' generation, passed onto them by our Royal Majesties Kings Mzilikazi, Lobhengula and Mambo, has been to give a personal historical experience account of the ruthlessness of the obstinate Rhodesian Regime in terms of human rights violations that ensured from the Berlin Conference and subsequent colonization of Africa and my homeland.

The obstinate Rhodesian regime was not holy in terms of human rights issues. It simply was not a holy cow on this front. In any case, how can a settler and colonialist regime be expected to be holy and Christ-like in their dealings with those they were oppressing, exploiting and dominating on racialist grounds. It is very difficult to fathom them being holy. While Rhodesians were expected to be unholy, little did we know as Africans that our liberation fight was to give way to unholy black colonialists and oppressors in most African states. Tragically, the black colonialists have surpassed their white colonialist forbearers in their conduct of the oppression of fellow black Africans, sadly using pieces of repressive legislation left by our erstwhile white colonial oppressors. It is an open secret that suppressed and submerged nations within African post-colonial states have a fight on their hands to gain their true freedom from suppressive African states. Africa needs to be properly de-colonized before it can consider integration and progress across all sectors of human development activity.

That as it is, we come back to my personal experiences of the liberation war in the 70s against the ruthless and obstinate state of Rhodesia under the late Ian Douglas Smith, who was its Prime Minister at the time. The year was 1978. This was in Nkayi area. Nkayi is a district found in Matebeleland North in Zimbabwe, about 100 km west of Qweqwe (bastardized as Kwekwe today) district and 168 km northeast of Bulawayo, the capital of Kings and Queens of Matebeleland. Its name is believed to originate from the Tonga people's language, "uyinkayi", meaning where are you travelling to. Some will be fascinated to know that there is a town in the Republic of Congo called Nkayi situated in Niari Valley. This town has the same name and same spelling as our own Nkayi. It will be interesting to find out about the meaning of that name in Congo. This Congolese town is known for its sugar production in that country.

To the South of Nkayi in Matebeleland North are several villages that constitute Nkayi Centre, Katasa, Mdlawuzweni, Mtshatshane, Dankampela, Zenka, Guwe, Zinyangeni and Dakamela to name but a few. Nkayi north has such areas as Nesigwe, Mtshabi, Gwelutshena, Nesigwe, Lutsha, Magazi, Mabayi, Sikhobokhobo, Mphakama and Mbuma to name but a few. Nkayi South is where I was born and bred after our family and relatives were moved from iNyathi district located 60 km northeast of Bulawayo because of the Land Apportionment Act 1930 of Rhodesia, where Africans were driven to poor sandy soils called reserves while the settler community grabbed the prime and fertile land for itself. The Land Apportionment Act 1930 determined where I was to be born and bred and any life experiences I went through thereof in the countryside up to this day.

Nkayi is also a district of significant historical epoch, where His Royal Majesty King Lobhengula Khumalo fought the Rhodesians across the Shangani River in 1893, when they were in hot pursuit of him as he moved north towards the Zambezi River and towards Zambia. The significant battle is known as the Phuphu War or the Shangani Patrol Battle, where Major Allan Wilson and his patrol crew fought Matebele Regiments on 3rd to 4th December 1893 along the banks of the Shangani River. When His Royal Majesty King Lobhenula Khumalo had crossed the Shangani River, it is reported that it was raining cats and dogs that very day. In pursuit of the King, Major Allan and his patrol also crossed Shangani river. After they had crossed the river, the river became full and they could not get reinforcements when the battle began. They were thus annihilated on those fateful two days by Matebele Regiments. This defeat of Major Allan Wilson and his patrol sent shockwaves in Britain and the west and became a huge story at the time.

The context of my personal birth and upbringing and experience of Rhodesia's ruthlessness is narrated within this great Nkayi district that has such a rich and elegant tapestry of Matebele history.

It was one lazy early morning sometime in October of 1978 when our village was suddenly invaded by Rhodesian army vehicles fully packed with Rhodesian soldiers. It was a scary sight and even scarier seeing soldiers who had war paint on their faces! The Rhodesian army was a well-resourced and formidable outfit and therefore certainly not an easy push over by liberation forces.

The Rhodesian vehicles that stormed our village included the popular Crocodile Armoured Personnel Carrier Vehicles locally known as amaPhuma and MAP75 Armoured Personnel Carriers. The Crocodile Armoured Personnel Carrier Vehicles and MAP75s were often accompanied by Leopard Landmine Resisting Security Vehicles known locally as Omquphula. The Spook Mine Protected Combat Vehicles and Rhino Anti-Landmine Vehicles were in show as well.

My beloved late cousin Bekezela Campbell Dube and myself often ran for cover and dear life into local forests whenever we saw these vehicles packed with soldiers with war paint faces driving past our villages. The Rhodesian helicopters that often flew at low level in our areas were scary and a menace too. Whenever they showed up in our local area, we ran for our dear lives to hide in some secret forest spots that we knew very well in the area. During his liberation war and time, we had become accustomed to the vroom sounds of Rhodesian army vehicles and if we heard them from a faraway distance, we hardly made the grass grow under our feet. We ran for our dear lives to hide from the soldiers!

By the time these Rhodesian vehicles arrived in front of my homestead, they had amassed a lot of people in the road that was passing through this village. They were going homestead to homestead, storming each homestead and rounding up everyone to join those that had already been rounded up. No one was left behind in any homestead except those who had managed to escape into the local forests.

This rounding up of villagers in our area took place early in the morning. It was roughly about 6 am in the morning that day. The belligerent Rhodesians soldiers were led by a notorious black Rhodesian army chap who was infamously known by the name of Mambazo in Nkayi.

Mambazo had become so unpopular and notorious with the black masses in the 70s for the wrong reasons of being an overzealous and deadly rogue Rhodesian black army soldier who was always at the forefront of persecuting blacks and supplying key information to the Rhodesians about families he knew had relatives who had left for Zambia to train as Zipra liberation forces. Mambazo came from Nkayi District and knew families in Nkayi district very well. He also co-ordinated other local Rhodesian black soldiers from the area to supply key information about those that had left their families to train as Zipra liberation forces. As such, the Rhodesia forces were well informed about our families and who and who had gone for training in Zambia. Mambazo was a special cog in all this and had proved very useful to the Rhodesians.

Mambazo was a true black sell-out soldier who would have sold his mother for a few pieces of silver and he enjoyed this notorious station he had gained himself within the Rhodesian army in Nkayi of persecuting blacks on behalf of his masters. He was heartless and a menace to say the least.

One of my maternal uncles, the radical Joshua Mlilo, had left for the liberation struggle to train in Zambia and eventually East Germany. Mambazo knew he had left for training in Zambia. My mother and my maternal grandmother and my family were therefore always subjected to his periodic persecution adventures in our area, demanding that he be informed where my uncle was. Young as I was, I always prayed that he and his Rhodesian army friends be ambushed by Zipra Liberation Forces and be given a good hiding for their systematic human rights violations against blacks. I do not know what eventually happened to Mambazo, but I am very certain that he and some of his colleagues in the Rhodesian army did meet their fate from Zipra forces. Mambazo and his coterie of colonialist army masters were a serious target for elimination by Zipra forces.

While my younger maternal uncle had left for the liberation war, my other political radical uncle, Mkhekhelezi Mlilo had remained internally to organize and breathe life into Zapu structures in Nkayi and to co-ordinate Zipra recruits for Zambia. He had excelled well in this adventure and triggered a concern from Rhodesian forces and authorities in Nkayi. He increasingly became a target of Rhodesian forces and authorities. Mambazo and his network of Rhodesian soldiers were after his head. Eventually in 1979 my uncle was asked by Zapu leadership to leave Nkayi and cross over to Zambia for his own safety. Initially he had refused to do so but eventually he was persuaded to leave. They organized for his smuggling out of Matebeleland using the coal trains to Zambia. The unfortunate part of this story was that my uncle was asthmatic (and asthma runs in the family) and they had smuggled him into one of the coal loaded carriages to Zambia. By the time the train arrived in Zambia, my uncle was dead due to chocking because of coal and lack of oxygen in that carriage. It was not a smart move to have put him in that carriage when he had asthma. It was a tragic decision that cost the life of our dear uncle. That is how we lost our elder maternal uncle, Mkhekhelezi Mlilo, in such sad and tragic circumstances. He came back to Matebeleland that same year of 1979 as a dead man and we buried him. It felt and still feels cruel to lose an uncle under such circumstances but he was a hero of the struggle and did his bit towards the liberation of the black race against white racialism, oppression and domination. He executed his generational mandate and generational duty very well at the time. As a family, we can only be proud of his contribution to the cause of the liberation of a black race in that country.

But dear reader, I take you back to that lazy early morning of my 1978 October experience of Rhodesia soldiers when they stormed our village and rounded us all up in our thousands. We were still asleep as a family when they arrived. We were suddenly woken up by kicking of doors and very loud yelling by Rhodesian soldiers in our homestead. I saw my mother being kicked out of the main house to come out and join the rest, a traumatic experience to see your mother being beaten by soldiers. Mambazo, the black Rhodesian soldier, was at the centre of it all. At the time my father was not at the homestead as he had been unwell and had been admitted to Nkayi District Hospital. So we had been left with our mother to look after us. My mother had to leave the main house without carrying anything and so did I and my siblings. However, one of the white soldiers, realising that my mother had not come out with anything, and knowing we were being taken from these villages to central Nkayi for weeks, asked my mother to go back and fetch blankets. He did not explain why. Later we were to know the reason for this as we spent several weeks in Nkayi District centre as hostages of the Rhodesian settler forces. However that particular soldier had been considerate. Amid evil, some good does pop up every now and then.

My mother had returned to the main house to fetch the blankets as ordered by another soldier only to find Mambazo in her bedroom searching wardrobes and chest of drawers with intense rage and fury. One can guess he was searching for money and any valuables the family had. When this vicious man saw my mother coming back, he beat the hell out of her, yelling and ordering her to go back and join the rest of the villagers. My mother's explanation to him that she had been ordered by his colleague to come and fetch blankets fell on deaf ears. She was beaten to the palp and had to come out of the main house to join the rest of other villagers on this dusty road leading to some local stores northeast of my homestead. These local stores were roughly a kilometre away from us. By this time the villagers were numbering roughly 200. As we moved towards the local stores more homesteads were being stormed and villagers being beaten to the palp and rounded up to join us. Therefore, as we progressed northeast, many villagers swelled our ranks in huge numbers. When we reached the local stores, we turned south and followed a road towards a village called Katasa, about 15 kilometres from the local stores. As we moved toward that village more homesteads along the road were being stormed and people beaten and rounded up to join the rest of us.

As we continued traveling on this dusty and sandy road, we would do so for several kilometres and then be asked to sit down and rest as there were elders who were struggling to keep up with the pace of walking we were made to do. Some of these elders were beaten up for walking at a slow pace. Young men from the age of 20 and above were forced to carry Rhodesian army rucksacks by these menacing soldiers. They gave these young men these rucksacks to carry as sandy soils made it a tough call for them to carry these and equally engage in storming homesteads and harassing people to join us. The rucksacks were very heavy army rucksacks and these untrained young as men understandably struggled to carry them for long distances. Any indication of a struggle to carry these Rhodesian army rucksacks invited severe beatings of these young men from the rowdy and menacing Rhodesian forces in the glare of everyone.

When we were a few kilometres from Katasa village and by this time numbering approximately 2000 of us, we were made to make a sharp turn northwards towards a village called Dakampela. This village must be roughly another 11 to 12 kilometres from Katasa village. This village had local business stores called Sikhonzile Business stores. As we made our way towards this small local business centre, more villagers were being rounded up, beaten and forced to join us. We were now a massive crowd. Children could well be easily lost if their parents did not keep a close eye on them. Our parents made sure we were close by them. People had formed groups of families within this massive crowd, sticking together and ensuring that everyone was safe and helped one another in this long and tiring walk, of which we never knew what the objective was and where we were headed to. As it became midday and onwards, it became very hot. I must say I saw many fainting on the way and being poured with cold water to come back to life.

Finally, we arrived at the Sikhonzile Business centre to be greeted by another massive crowd that was already there. There were several army vehicles, especially the Crocodile Armoured Personnel Vehicles, amaPhuma, the MAP75 Armoured Personnel Carriers and the Leopard Landmine Resisting Security Vehicles.

As we arrived at this local centre, there began the loading of us like sardines into these trucks and transportation to Nkayi Business District centre which was a local Rhodesian army base in Nkayi. The loading and transportation of all those people must have taken several days to finish but women and children were prioritized first. Beatings continued especially beatings of men. As trucks transported us to Nkayi, men were being made to run in front of these army trucks on the way to Nkayi. It was something else to watch. In later years, we were to be aware that the Zipra forces had been watching and following us from a distance in the forests during this fiasco but did not wish to engage the Rhodesians forces as many of us would have died in the battles that would have ensured. It is scary to think that we could have been in a terrible cross-fire of some sort at the time if the Zipra forces had decided to engage the Rhodesians. Thank God they opted not to.

Nkayi District centre had massive fenced grounds that surrounded its airfield or aerodrome. Whenever my father drove to Nkayi District centre to conduct educational business there, we used to drive past the massive field by the aerodrome. Little did I know that one day the massive field will be our destination and home for weeks in a strategy that had been meant to "starve" Zipra Liberation fighters in our areas by rounding up villagers and leaving several villages empty of villagers.

What happened in that field with tall grass and bushes full of snakes is a story I aim to tell as part of a book I am embarking on about my experiences under Rhodesia and my experiences under the black sectarian and genocidal Zimbabwean government of Robert Gabriel Mugabe and Zanu PF in the 80s.

NguThembani Dube okaSibhalwa, okaNdabambi okaTshotshoma, uTshotshoma kaLukhuni....uNtamboyendlondlo

Source - Thembani Dube
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