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Alfred Nikita Mangena: Unique ZAPU Soldier

31 Oct 2016 at 07:08hrs | Views
Lookout "Mafela" Masuku Memorial Lecture Series
Delivered by ZAPU President Dr. Dumiso Dabengwa
Ibhetshu likaZulu, Fidelity Towers, Bulawayo, 28 October, 2016

Distinguished Guests
Colleagues and Friends
Ladies and Gentlemen
All protocols observed

This year on 5 April 2016, Ibhetshu likaZulu gave me the honour to deliver the inaugural Lookout "Mafela" Masuku memorial lecture. This year is the 20th anniversary of the untimely death of Lt. General Lookout "Mafela" Masuku who passed away in 1986. Today I am here to speak on another illustrious soldier of the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZPRA), Comrade Rogers Mangena who is more popularly known by his nom-de-guerre "Alfred Nikita".

Lookout "Mafela" and "Nikita" Mangena
I did not ask Ibhetshu LikaZulu why they chose to focus in succession on Mafela and Mangena. It is however significant that Mafela had a short taste of freedom and independence that he fought for in a period covering most of his adult life. He was arrested after only three years as a serving Deputy Commander of the National Army and detained without conviction along with four others including myself. He did not survive to come back to enjoy freedom, because he died before he was released. In the case of Nikita Mangena, he died in 1978, barely two years before independence of the country from Britain, and he thus never got to see the outcome of what he so bravely fought for.

In 1965 the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), chose a group of cadres for training in Algeria where a number of radical and nationalist movements were welcomed by the legendary leader of that country, President Ahmed Ben Bella. Nikita Mangena was one of those cadres, some of whom were involved two years later in the 1967 Wankie military operations of the Alliance of ZAPU and the ANC (African National Congress of South Africa). Therefore in talking about Nikita Mangena we are talking about one of the fighters involved in the early phases of the armed struggle, who later played a pivotal role in the evolution of that struggle as the ZAPU military wing developed and used a conventional capacity (ZPRA) against the Rhodesian army.
Lookout Masuku and Nikita Mangena trained a steady stream of our people in Morogoro in Tanzania, allowing us to deploy high-quality fighters. It is important here to point out that Lookout Masuku was in charge of political and ideological training, because part of his training was that of commissar. More than anyone else, he built up ZIPRA's famed record as a people-centered force that worked harmoniously with the public in our operational areas. It is no accident therefore that, from the outset, indiscriminate use of force against unarmed civilians was out of question in our ethos.

After the setting up of ZIPRA in 1971 Lookout Masuku moved from Tanzania and became a member of the High Command, as Deputy Commander under Nikita Mangena. In this capacity he covered all camps and prepared cadres politically before their deployment, assigning commissars to all units as they were deployed. When Nikita Mangena was sent Mozambique to help build the Zimbabwe People's Army (ZIPA) force combining ZIPRA and ZANLA (ZANU's military wing), Lookout Masuku was left in charge of our forces.

I will not dwell on the difficulties that accompanied efforts to build a united ZIPA force, but for today's talk what is relevant is that a more political approach to unification was begun after this. I (Dumiso Dabengwa), and Lookout Masuku and a ZANLA team led by Solomon Mujuru (a.k.a. Rex Nhongo) got the assignment to find out if our military wings were keen on political unity. This was a prelude to the formation of the Patriotic Front between ZAPU and ZANU, formed after the release from Zambian prison of Josiah Tongogara (plus others incarcerated after the assassination of Herbert Chitepo) and political leaders (Dr. Joshua Nkomo included)previously detained by the Ian Smith regime in Gonakudzingwa, Whawha, and other places. While the quest for unity was going on Nkomo introduced in our Revolutionary Council (of which I was Secretary) the "Turning Point" escalation of fighting and preparation for an onslaught on the racist regime's forces. Under this move we military gains would be followed by setting up administration of territory from which guerrilla operations would be launched towards towns and cities before they too would be taken over. These bridge-heads were taking shape in our operational areas in Hurungwe, Sipolilo (Chipuriro) and Guruve among other areas in Mashonaland West and the Midlands. This capacity to take on and push back the enemy which we proved when the Rhodesian forces attacked our bases was a major factor in the rush towards a political settlement that followed talks in Malta and Geneva and finally Lancaster House in London.

From war to dodgy peace
It should be noted that Comrade Jason Ziyapapa Moyo and Nikita Mangena had been killed by the time we went to Lancaster House. On the ZANU side of the Patriotic Front the patriotic ZANLA's Josiah Tongogara was killed between the end of the Lancaster House talks and our return to take over control of the country. Lookout Masuku and Solomon Mujuru were now respective Commanders of ZIPRA and ZANLA. In January 1980 I worked closely with General Peter Walls and Mujuru, deputized on my side by Lookout Masuku, to work out modalities for integration of the armies into the new Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).

Treacherous politics
 When we left Lancaster House the expectation was that the Patriotic Front of ZAPU and ZANU would take part in independence elections as a united movement. Until the last moment Dr. Joshua Nkomo did not make arrangements for a separate campaign because he believed in the Patriotic Front. The decision by ZANU-PF to go it alone was not only a surprise but a disappointment to Nkomo because he anticipated problems and unproductive competition between the war allies. Even as the election campaigns took place, it was evident that our efforts to create conditions for peace were politically undermined. ZANU kept a sizeable portion of its seasoned fighters outside the assembly points while ZAPU relied on the assurances of British administrators that where violence was used to intimidate voters and create no-go areas the election results would be annulled. No such annulment took place, with the result that even in areas previously dominated by ZIPRA the population was left at the mercy of ZANLA that terrorized voters and restricted ZAPU other campaign teams. This is a classic case of winning the war and losing the peace.

Since we are in Bulawayo today you are no doubt familiar with the clashes that took place between ZIPRA and ZANLA forces in Entumbane because of political tensions and a rush by politicians to prematurely show the fighters prior to their integration. This happened elsewhere in places like Connemara, but the underlying problems were more politically generated by failure to create unity.

I want to suggest that Dr. Joshua Nkomo's unwavering commitment to unity in the face of treachery and even personal humiliation is the main reason why this country did not go through civil war at attainment of independence. Politicians with different egos would have used the massive forces at his disposal to refuse being relegated to seats in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces when they could challenge results elsewhere in the country. We got to know even before results of the elections were announced that ZAPU was not going to be allowed to have more than thirty seats. Dr. Nkomo believed in British assurances whereas the Western countries were more worried by our links with South Africa's Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) and what they saw as Soviet advantage in geo-politics. In my view, this hangover from geopolitics has continued to affect ZAPU because independence of thought is wrongly seen as opposition to other people's interests. In spite of being the party whose supporters have received the most documented atrocities since independence, there is no support for our struggle to achieve true liberation as part of unfinished business of the struggle.

Lookout Masuku is buried in this city at Lady Stanley cemetery. His status as a hero is beyond question. Ironically, he took the salute here when the colonial flag was lowered in 1980 while Mujuru did that in Harare. He could not be given a place in Heroes Acre in Harare, while all sorts of people we have to look up in references are buried there. I salute the City of Bulawayo for giving us space to bury those whose massive contributions have been denied. In a way this development allows those victimized not to be buried like captives in hostile graves whose yardstick is political loyalty to ZANU rather than what they have done for this country.

May the memory of Lookout Masuku be an inspiration to young people and future generations, to appreciate that contributions to liberty live longer than us.

I thank you for your attention and for taking the time to come today.

Source - Dumiso Dabengwa
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