How Dabengwa Made Me A Freedom Fighter: Confessions Of A Zipra Cadre
17 May 2020
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I must have been 15 years old herding cattle EMlageni near Siwubu along the Manzamnyama river in 1967. I remember the year very well. It was a very hot day and it was schools holiday. So, it was around late August and early September. An aeroplane did the unusual.

It started hovering over and around  instead of just passing as aeroplanes used to do. We wondered what it was doing. In fact, the only plane that I had gotten nearer to belonged to one white man a Mr. Wilson who owned a store ko Sikhobo village. So this one was not Wilson`s plane because we were in the bush very close to the Botswana boarder.

Then suddenly papers were dropped by the plane. I still remember that the language reminded me of a paper that was freely distributed to blacks called The African Times. I hated it somehow but this time there was a very clear message from the pamphlets: “Abafo bethu beZambia sebethumele abantu ukuzasilwisa… “Our enemies from Zambia have sent people to fight us……..”

The next morning we were collecting  water by the small dam and we saw a long convoy of lorries carrying predominantly big white heavily armed men. They angrily looked at us as  they were driving past us. I had never seen that before. I was frightened not knowing how to feel.

That afternoon there were sounds of guns and bombs. I saw some smoke coming up from a near distance. The gunshot sounds went on for some time. I met a friend later on who was nearer who told me that there had been some fighting with the freedom fighters.

One of them a South African member of the ANC had been killed and his body had been left lying in the open space. Something pierced my heart as I had been told that I had a South African background. The friend told me that a black Rhodesian soldier had visited them and told them many things even confirming that some whites had been killed.

I remember this one who also told us. He said his name was Ndebele from Lupane. He was even regretting that he had ever joined the Rhodesian African Rifles. He showed us some wounds sustained in the battle. I was happy that at least the freedom fighter had fought back.

It was later in the year that I heard a Zapu/Zipra song  “ Siyathumel`uDabengwa haa yee sithumel`uDabengwa ayetshel`uNkomo uDabengwa atshele uNkomo uNkomo atshele uSmith ukuthi  ilizwe sizalithatha………” After listening and also singing along to this song, I researched about this man from our parents and other villagers and I was told he was one of the men most feared by the Rhodesians in command of ZAPU military wing. I was also told he was a Russian. That only raised my resolve to join the Black Russian and be his foot soldier.

I waited for the opportunity to join the freedom fighters even if it meant death. I resolved to die fighting for my freedom. I never even imagined that others would get opportunities to be doctors or engineers. I wanted to fight as long as I was able to. For me fighting for our rights would restore our human dignity as every white person was superior.

Even their children were called “pikinini bass”.

I am glad that I told this to the man himself when he was leading  ZAPU after revival and pullout of the 1987 Unity Accord. From a herd boy to a freedom fighter, to a professional life after University Education I still felt the pain that I felt when Dabengwa`s comrade in the struggle a member of Umkhonto weSizwe fell in battle and his body left to waste in the bushes of Rhodesia.

I don’t want to mention the pains of our own struggle that saw me lose many friends. I later on saw the bravery of some of my local boys I was in primary school with. Unfortunately I cannot mention their names here, but I vividly remember 2, one from EBabeni MHSRIP and the other one from eTshampeni in the Tsholotsho area who heroically defended Camps in Zambia. 

When Dabengwa lead Zapu out of Mugabe`s ZanuPF my dreams of a genuinely free Zimbabwe were rekindled after the cowardly Gukurahundi genocide. I believed, and still believe that it is better to die having declared one`s opposition to tyranny. Like Dabengwa did, i felt it was also noble for me to denounce the state injustices,  state capture with all its evils such as torture and the physical elimination of all political opponents, abusing the state machinery to usurp all the economic resources for the benefit of so few.

This is why I joined Dabengwa again in this much  longer, tougher and isolated journey to the real freedom of our land.

As ZAPU members and other patriots count 12 months after Dabengwa`s departure may his dream shared by those who perished in pursuit of those dreams remain. May his vision get clearer as it reincarnates amongst thousands of the younger generation.

ZAPU Department of Information Publicity and Marketing.
Snippets from interview with a ZPRA cadre on the occasion of the first anniversary of President Dabengwa’s death.