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The life of George Silundika

07 Aug 2016 at 10:37hrs | Views
In this photo is the ZAPU high command made up of: Isaac Nyathi, Willie Musarurwa, Jack Ngwenya, George Silundika, Dan Madzimbamuto, Cde Makonese, Cele, Dumiso Dabengwa, Jane Ngwenya, Joshua Nkomo, Skhwili Moyo, Vuma, Saul Ndlovu.
TOMORROW the country will commemorate the Heroes Day and all Zimbabweans across the political divide are expected to observe the sacrifices made for the liberation of the country from the yoke of oppression. The country's Independence was heavily reliant on the blood, tears and sweat of many gallant sons and daughters both dead and alive who braved the enemy bullets, the vagaries of harsh weather and the trials and tribulations associated with arrests, prosecution and even persecution.

As Mazzini, an Italian revolutionary rightly pointed out, the tree of liberty grows much stronger when watered with the blood of martyrs. Like any other war, the war of liberation claimed its fair share of victims but death in the war front and excesses by the white minority regime did little to deter those that had sacrificed their lives. In fact the torture and oppression powered the struggle until the country was free.

However, there are some names that people see on the streets whose contribution to the liberation struggle was immense but was never fully explored. One of those names is that of Tarcisius Malan George Silundika. It is the purpose of this article to explore his abridged exploits as one of the early nationalist cadres of the revolution from recollections of war veteran and journalist Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu who worked closely with Silundika during and after the war and his son Felix.

The two have compiled the story of Silundika in a book titled The Story of a Freedom Fighter.

Early life
Silundika was born Malan in March 1929 in the then Bulilimamangwe District of then Southern Rhodesia. He was the first born child of a relatively progressive salesman Jaji Tjilundika before the name was Ndebelenised from its original Kalanga version.

Silundika enrolled at Empandeni Mission which was the first missionary school in Southern Africa built by Catholic Missionaries.

He excelled in his studies and the missionaries, mesmerised by his brilliance offered to pay his tuition until he completed his primary school education. He was baptised and given the name Tarcisius and then later adopted the English version of his father's name Jaji to become George.

It was at Empandeni that he met and befriended James Robert Dambadza Chikerema and they proceeded together to Maria Hill High School in South Africa's Natal Province where they enrolled and successfully matriculated at the end of 1950 with first class passes.

Entry into politics and political involvement

Silundika later enrolled at Fort Hare in the Cape Town Province of South Africa while Chikerema proceeded to Cape Town University. It was at Fort Hare where Silundika cut his political teeth. He joined the militant African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) and campaigned against the racist apartheid minority government. He was detained and later ordered to leave South Africa together with Chikerema and he enrolled at Roma University in Lesotho to finish his studies but pressure mounted on the university to expel him but the authorities refused. Realising the threat posed to his life and safety he returned to the country and assumed a teaching post at Empandeni Mission School.

It was at Empandeni that he taught among other the late National Hero Sidney Donald Malunga and Professor Callistus Dingiswayo Ndlovu.

His coming home coincided with the time when Joshua Nkomo was busy breathing life into the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC) and after the banning of the SRANC in 1960 he went into full time liberation politics under the National Democratic Party (NDP) fronted by Nkomo and deputised by Chikerema.

He left Empandeni and moved to Harare then Salisbury where he bought a house in the politically pulsating New Canaan section in Highfield suburb which became a melting pot of African national politics.

He distinguished himself as a shrewd politician and his brilliance manifested in his political writings many of which were presented at continental and inter-continental political bodies and was sent to China to seek material and diplomatic support. He later became the point person in charge of scholarships in communist countries such as Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union and Hungary in addition to being party strategist.

It was when he was in charge of the scholarship programme that Cdes Sydney Sekeramayi, Smart Marembo, Enock B Malaba, John Mutasa, Albert Ndindah, Isaac Sibanda and others were among the first group to study in the socialist countries.

Silundika was part of the December 1960 constitutional conference delegation headed by Nkomo and comprising Advocate Herbert Chitepo, Advocate Enock Dumbutshena and Rev Ndabaningi Sithole who was the NDP national chairman. Realising the political heat that was generated by NDP, the Rhodesian regime outlawed it and detained its top leaders in various prisons throughout the country. Among them were Silundika who was detained at Salisbury Prison, Gweru (then Gwelo) and finally at Marondera Prison.

Their release witnessed the birth of Zapu in 1961 and Silundika was responsible for crafting the party's constitution with a couple of other national leaders. The Zapu launch occurred when agitation against the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland had reached critical stages.

Zapu, however, faced the same fate as its two predecessor parties SRANC and NDP when it was banned. Following its ban which the leaders defied, it was agreed that military action be set in motion and cadres were sent to train in guerrilla warfare in China and among the first cadres were Cdes Luke Mhlanga, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Felix Rice, Philemon Makonese, Clark Mpofu and many others.

In 1964 the first wave of recruits were sent to Zambia soon after it had gained its independence and in 1965 the Special Affairs Department as the military wing of Zapu was then known came under the supreme command of James Chikerema.

They had built an army that was commanded by Ackim Mathew Ndlovu as Chief of Staff Ambrose Mutinhiri in charge of training and Dumiso Dabengwa handling military intelligence.

Silundika remained in the thick of things mobilising people in Zambia to support the struggle where he became information and publicity secretary.

He launched the official Zapu propaganda organ the Zimbabwe Review in Lusaka in 1964 whose founding editor was Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu. In the early 1970s differences arose in the way Chikerema was commanding the Zapu army between himself and Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo who was his deputy. The difference eventually led to the split of Zapu with Cdes Chikerema and Nyandoro leading a predominantly Shona faction while Cdes JZ Moyo, Silundika, Edward Ndlovu and Jane Lungile Ngwenya remained in what continued to be Zapu.

Cdes Chikerema and Nyandoro went on to form the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (FROLIZI). A restructuring exercise followed in 1975 and Silundika was responsible for foreign affairs. He then deployed diplomatic personnel with both the skill and experience to negotiate for military training, equipment, scholarships and financial assistance. New offices were opened in Libya, Nigeria, East Germany, Poland, UK, Mozambique, Angola, Iraq, Mali, Botswana and USA. Ties with the USSR had been established as early as 1961.

He remained in the service of Zapu until the attainment of independence where in 1980 he was appointed Roads, Posts and Telecommunications Minister by the then Prime Minister now President Mugabe.

He however, served shortly in Government as in April 1981 he collapsed while in his office and later died at Andrew Fleming Hospital now Parirenyatwa where he was admitted. His demise was announced by the late Minister of Health Dr Herbert Ushewokunze. He was buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare. He was married to Martha Tyeza in 1958 and they were blessed with four children Paul, Sithembile, Nomthandazo and Felix.

Source - sundaynews
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