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Aide shares memory of Joshua Nkomo

14 Aug 2018 at 06:35hrs | Views
One of the founding fathers of Zimbabwe's liberation struggle and late Vice President Dr Joshua Nkomo, a larger than life character is still alive in the hearts of many, for he was and still is an icon of the country's liberation struggle.

Thupeyo Muleya (TM) spoke to one of Dr Nkomo's former bodyguards of, Albert Nguluvhe who shared his memory of the liberation icon.

Nguluvhe, a career intelligence officer now retired and was on July 30 voted on a Zanu-PF ticket to represent Beitbridge East National Assembly constituency.

Nguluvhe commonly known as Miles by his war time colleagues recently retired from the Government after serving in different portfolios including the Director of National Security in the President's Department.

He was one of the young freedom fighters working under the National Security Organisation (NSO) who provided security for Father Zimbabwe during the country's armed struggle while in exile in Zambia.

Below are excerpts of the interview where Nguluvhe provides an insight into the life of the late Father Zimbabwe. Read on….

TM: How did you meet the late Father Zimbabwe?

Nguluvhe: I met Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo in Zambia after joining the armed struggle and it was after I had gone through my security training beginning in 1977 and finishing in 1978. I was then attached to work with the old man, though I was not the head of the team. In a protection team you have one who is very close but was part of the inner circle of the protection team. I used to accompany him everywhere he went.

TM: How was your working relationship with Nkomo?

Nguluvhe: We worked very well with him. He was a principled man who had a short temper but would not hold grudges. He would correct you there and there if you were out of order. At times he would poke us with his induku. He would buy clothes and food for us, everywhere we went. In addition, we were staying at his house since we had no money. We ate whatever the leaders had.

TM: Umdala Wethu escaped numerous assassinations. How did he survive attempts on his life during the armed struggle?

Nguluvhe: My first experience to see that we were in real war, was at Freedom Camp in Zambia. We were lucky to survive that bombing where more than 200 of our comrades died. On the very day, Nkomo was set to inspect a parade at that camp. We were saved by the fact that we couldn't locate the car keys of a Land Cruiser we intended to use. One driver named Mashayamombe was sent to Zimbabwe House to collect the keys but he delayed coming back. This infuriated the old man who was already in his uniform. As we waited, we saw a plane flying over the Lusaka International Airport which we later learnt belonged to the commander of the Zambian air force, who had put his country's air force on hold.

A few minutes later we heard loud explosions at the camp and sirens of ambulances carrying the wounded after 45 minutes. At that moment Nkomo handpicked me and a few guys to go and investigate the bombings. It was disheartening to see so many bodies strewn all over with some badly burnt from bombs attack. As we went through the inspection, the jets came back and we dived for cover and remained in that position on the ground pretending to be dead. We managed to quickly leave the place after the jets left and apprised Umdala.

TM: You indicated he just picked you and a few guys to go to Freedom Camp. How would he allocate you roles?

Nguluvhe: We would go together visiting camps and in cases where they were problems at these camps, he would just pick anyone and delegate tasks. Working with him exposed me to the entire leadership of Zapu and Zipra. I was one of the friendliest people among his aides and if you mention the name Miles to all those who were in Zapu they are quick to remember me.

TM: On 14 April 1979, the Rhodesian's made another attempt on Nkomo at his Lusaka residence. How did he escape?

Nguluvhe: I was one of the people who survived that attack. Recently, I met one old man in Tshikwalakwala area of Beitbridge of Mozambican origin called Chikokwana, the man who saved my life on that early morning attack. He is a traditional healer now. He informed me about the imminent attack at around 2 AM.  Around 3AM the Rhodesians launched the attack and we lost four aides and other comrades, but we killed many of theirs too. The assailants had studied our motorcade routine. Fortunately when the house was attacked, Nkomo had left for another safe house with a Cuban aide.

Had he been there they were definitely going to kill him. I know a lot has been said about his great escape, but to be honest he couldn't have survived that attack. The Rhodesians were heavily armed. They first hit one Magwaza who was manning the gate before gaining entrance. We returned fire but we were overwhelmed as they were coming from all directions. We managed to survive after jumping into the next yard.

TM: What happened after the attack?

Nguluvhe:  Nkomo had left with one Cuban named Manyani who had been seconded to our team by the late Fidel Castro. I met the guy six years ago when I went to Cuba. He was a very helpful man in terms of security issues. After the attack on Zimbabwe House we became more cautious securitywise. I learnt a lot from him (Nkomo) who was very alive to issues of security. His movements and drivers changed from time to time and were not predictable.

TM: As the country drifted towards independence, Nkomo was one of the leaders at the Lancaster House Conference, did you travel with him?

Nguluvhe: Nkomo managed to get us British passports and I went there as part of the advance team to make his security arrangements. I went to Europe posing as a student. When we were about to finish the Lancaster House Conference I was sent with five others to Zimbabwe to make security arrangements for him.

TM: What became of your relationship with the  post- independence?

Nguluvhe: For one to join the President's Department you needed to first train as a police officer. I left the police force as an auxiliary section officer. I was chosen because of my training and experience to train comrades from Zanla and Zipra during the integration period. That's when I left him but we kept contact when he was the Minister of Home Affairs. I know his entire family and we are still in touch. I met my wife while staying at Nkomo's house in Pelandaba. I used to see her coming to the house next door to visit. I am still in contact with Dr Nkomo's relatives. I recall sometime around 1980 he would attach us to the security of his wife the late, Mama MaFuyana.

TM: How did  Umdala Wethu's death affect you as a person?

Nguluvhe: His death affected me because I treated him like my father, I had started working with him at a tender age. He was a very tolerant man who was against gossip. He didn't take things at face value. He listened to everyone and was a principled man who was very interested in service delivery. He was not tribalistic, Zapu had people from all over Zimbabwe. In short he was a nationalist.

TM: You have now joined mainstream politics full time, how will the old man feel about your success if he was around?

Nguluvhe: I wish he was there to see that he groomed me as a youngster and a security man and now as a politician I would follow his principles. I knew I was going to win the Beitbridge East constituency and this victory is  dedicated to the old man.

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