Comments on any presentation, debate and indeed on any other body of ideas put forward are one of the cornerstones of what makes us human. It is through such engagements that continuous learning and wisdom are guaranteed. Without such engagements, we lose our sense of belonging as human beings, since it is through communication that we are able to move forward as humanity. There is no question that comments and open debates constitute the foundation of human rights and freedoms, and the engines of sustainable human development and progress.
I have received a few comments to the open letter I penned to all former ZIPRA cadres, wherever they may be located presently. It is worth noting from the outset that none of those comments were from any identifiable former ZIPRA cadres. A bit of background to and context of my open letter should suffice here: After circulation of information about my recently published book, The Trials and Tribulations of a ZIPRA Soldier, I was made aware of vicious attacks on my person by some members of a ZIPRA based WhatsApp group, with some of them accusing me of never having fought in the liberation war, let alone being trained by ZIPRA; while others accused me of being a renegade. Yet there were some who questioned why I wrote a book without first getting permission from ZIPRA. Those and other comments gave me an opportunity to address what has been troubling me throughout my adult life – duplicity of some ZIPRA cadres and their complicity in the continued subjugation of our people. However, instead of addressing those individuals and their comments, I made an effort to pen an open letter to the generality of the ZIPRA cohort.
Among the many comments on my open letter, there is one from a person who identifies themselves as Kijane (obviously not their real name). Then there is another comment from a lady, currently in Germany, who wonders why my book was not written while Dumiso Dabengwa was still alive.
Other comments simply border on mischief by people who seem to be in denial of the existential threats to the people of Mthwakazi. Their comments are not any different from those of the comical characters I was referring to. Some of them seem to suggest that when faced with death, one has to just accept their fate, rather than do everything in one’s power to survive. If that is the case, why then did they leave their beloved Zimbabwe (yes, those characters are actually based in the diaspora) to look for greener pastures elsewhere. I would not be surprised if such comments are from agents of the colonial power in Harare.
One goes to the extent of calling me a renegade. He/she certainly does not know what the term renegade means and it is not my intention to define it for him/her.
As I argued in my open letter to ZIPRA cadres, not all of them were revolutionaries. Some of them were simply blue-eyed boys of the ZIPRA High Command who washed their commanders’ underwear without any complaints. They succumbed to that situation which was never at any given time part of ZIPRA’s mission to liberate the masses. No wonder some of the people who today constitute some of the so-called ZIPRA groups were rewarded with officer ranks when Mugabe was raping their mothers and sisters as well as killing their kith and kin. No wonder also, that these nasty comical characters (so-called war veterans) have been used to beat up people and commit several injustices including in Nyamandlovu and elsewhere against the masses, pursuant to the objectives of their master, the ZANU-PF regime.
We also need to understand what it is to be a war veteran. As a matter of fact, not all ZIPRA cadres are veterans of the war of liberation. Some of the people who today call themselves war veterans did not even undergo military training; whilst there are others that did undergo military training but never experienced any battle as they were never deployed to the front. Since the term war veterans has been used in this loose sense, it may therefore be alright to define war veterans to include the masses who not only experienced the wrath of colonial occupation, but also participated in information gathering and providing food security to the fighters. These masses suffered immensely with some of them being at the mercy of both the colonial occupation forces as well as ZIPRA fighters. It is not my intention to reproduce my book here in this piece. A lot is covered about the experiences of real ZIPRA soldiers in the book. So please read it, even if just out of curiosity.
Most importantly, my book is not meant for just ZIPRA, but for the entire world to discern and understand the nature of revolutionary movements and the penchant by some in those revolutionary movements to devour their own. The book, while written in the style of a memoir, is textbook material on the quest for survival against unruly characters who abuse their power to kill those fighters who do not agree with their rotten ideas. ZIPRA is a textbook example in which certain commanders wielded immense power and thoroughly abused it; and who, after sending several thousands of young men to die in battle, abandoned the whole objective for positions in the new Harare colonial administration. I have no doubt that the book shall one day serve as a reference textbook material and a major resource for students at universities and colleges undertaking research on liberation and revolutionary movements.
Those who cannot purchase my book, especially the economically disadvantaged ex-ZIPRA cadres at home, can pull their resources together and buy one copy which they can then rotate in reading it. I am actually working on buying (yes, buying) and donating two copies to some centrally accessible institution in Bulawayo where ex-ZIPRA cadres can read the book for free. But to those who can, please buy it, for it tells stories never told before about the best of the best armies of the time – ZIPRA. But, as I have already intimated, it also makes a significant contribution to knowledge regarding liberation and revolutionary movements elsewhere in the world.
I need to state categorically that unlike most ZIPRA cadres, and by extension some of those that commented on my letter, I knew Joshua Nkomo up close from when I was a child while he was still incarcerated together with my father, Makhathini Bhekisizwe Guduza (whom at one time Emmerson Mnangagwa falsely accused of being the chief recruiter of the so-called dissidents), in Gonakudzingwa. I did not just see him in pictures. I knew him personally and he knew me and my brothers by name. I never lifted my hand to wave at any airplane that was flying up in the skies thinking that it was carrying him and wishing that he brings me some sweets, like what most of my contemporaries did. But knowing the great Joshua Nkomo did not make me inclined to agreeing with him regarding the destination he was taking us as the young people. That is why even in Zambia I met with him up close, leading a delegation that was conveying the grievances of thousands of my ZIPRA comrades. Yet even then, I still respected him as a human being and leader of ZAPU, but not as somebody who had guts in liberating the masses. To those who might not be aware, I even chose him as the appropriate person to give a vote of thanks at the funeral of my late loving mother in 1997. He had mourned with and comforted my father in person every day from the time of my mother’s passing on until she was laid to rest.
I also gave the same courtesy and recognition to Dumiso Dabengwa, 7 years later in 2004, at the funeral of my late loving father. This was in spite of the fact that Dumiso Dabengwa headed the most notorious organization within ZIPRA, the National Security Organisation which had hunted me dead or alive. Many years later, I facilitated a meeting with Jacob Zuma at Luthuli House, to which I went with Dumiso Dabengwa. We differed politically and with his vision, yet there is so much we did together outside politics. He could for example rely on me, if he needed something to do with, say a door lock at his house, which I would buy and deliver from South Africa without fail.
But in answer to the question posed by the lady in Germany as to why I did not write my book during Dabengwa’s lifetime, I can only say as an adult I did not require his permission to write my book. Neither would he require similar permission from me. In any case, my book does not focus on Dabengwa per se; and in any event, I did not know when exactly he would be departing this place of sojourn for all of us – earth.
And to the other lady who did not read my letter properly, I never said I was the bravest, but one of the bravest ZIPRA soldiers. Ask anyone who fought in any battle alongside me and they will tell you just that. Ask those who saw me disarm Jevana Maseko (Tshangane, nom de guerre) the ZIPRA Chief of Military Operations’ body guards in Nampundu Camp and instilling so much fear in Tshangane’s head that he literally and liberally peed on himself. He had come to threaten us with death for defying silly camp rules. Yet I let him and his body guards leave the camp unharmed
I must also robustly address the honorable leader of comical characters who criticizes me for writing. Surely, does he, in this day in age, still not recognize that not only do the people of Mthwakazi find themselves still dominated, subjugated and humiliated to the core, but also the rest of Africa, simply because of the failure to document their way of life in all its aspects, be it in the fields of medicine, culture, socio-economic systems, arts and a multiplicity of other domains. Wake up and smell the coffee man!
Today we have all these so-called ZIPRA forums some of whose members now want to act as a ZANU-PF politburo. They don’t want their people to understand what went on in the various camps in Zambia when they were bombed with napalm by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian forces. They don’t want their people to know how their comrades died in the war. They don’t want their people; the relatives, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and grandparents to find closure about all their loved ones who died during the war. I personally lost my brother, and scores of relatives from the bombings of the ZAPU camps in Zambia, whose lack of security we always complained about but the ZIPRA High Command would not listen. Must I therefore ask permission from this ZIPRA comical politburo, to write about my own brother? Are these comical characters serious? They don’t want their people to know what these fake generals and comedian majors, captains and brigadiers were doing when these camps were bombed. Where were these characters, which one commentator has aptly described as the ZIPRA Takalani Sesames, when all this was happening? They don’t want their people to know what they were doing when they themselves were branded dissidents by Mnangagwa and the entire ZANU-PF-ZANLA complex, and their people killed and maimed without any defense by the Gukurahundi vampires.
Today, we have the so-called second vice president of Zimbabwe, Kembo Mohadi, who is ex-Zipra. His predecessor, Mphoko was also ex-Zipra. Mpoko’s predecessors, as second vice presidents, Joseph Msika, John Nkomo and indeed Joshua Nkomo, all died no longer ZAPU but ZANU-PF. No one can argue that they died ZAPU, because the record shows that they had all joined ZANU-PF. Today, the current defence forces commander, Valerio Sibanda is ZANU-PF to the core, yet he was trained by ZIPRA. Now do these comical characters want to convince the people otherwise, to say that brown is actually yellow? They all succumbed and collaborated with ZANU-PF and that will remain as their historical record. If this is not true, let them write their own stories. We can hardly wait to read their books.
For the avoidance of any doubt, let me state categorically that I have no qualms or objections to any ex-ZIPRA grouping that seeks to research and document the entire liberation record of ZAPU and ZIPRA, accurately and without fear or favour, so that all of us can learn from it. Such lessons would prevent any other movement, including Mthwakazi groupings, from playing dangerous games with people’s lives. There should be no repeat to what happened. Like any vaccine, it needs to be tested for its efficacies before being administered to human beings. We cannot afford to sleep walk into another tragedy that would annihilate thousands of lives in pursuit of the egos of certain characters. Lessons have to be learned so that those costly human tragedies that happened under ZAPU and ZIPRA are never repeated again in the lifetime of our people.
It is also critical to recognize that unlike other societies that are free, we Mthwakazians remain under chains. And if that makes me a renegade, so be it. I criticized Nkomo while he was alive. And likewise, I did criticize Dumiso Dabengwa, who was thrown bones to chew, or else, by Mugabe as his police minister after his release from Mugabe’s Chikurubi prison. Both men knew me very well. And they knew what I have always stood for and how resolute I can be when pursuing justice and freedom. So, my book is an inside story worthy of the note. Nkomo himself conceded that ZAPU had lost the plot, and that it was now up to the new generation to chart a new way forward.
To attempt to confuse people again into believing that ZAPU can be revived after 41 years of death is utter madness. Anyone who say they stand for our people’s liberation must produce and circulate their plans embodied in their constitution, as we in the MLF have done with the Draft Constitution for the Federal Republic of Mthwakazi, so that we can subject their plans to intense critical scrutiny. We have even produced a National Anthem for Mthwakazi, and as such, some of us are already living the Mthwakazi dream. The realization of the Mthwakazi Sovereign Fund (MSF) will thus serve as a powerful instrument for the people of Mthwakazi to EXIT Zimbabwe without fear or favour, and establish their own state, the Federal Republic of Mthwakazi (FREM). It is in terms of the foregoing, therefore, that it is not enough in this day in age to seek to confuse the masses by using symbols of Joshua Nkomo, when conditions necessitate a decisive shift and change from those tragic days in which all ZAPU cadres were given bones by Mugabe to chew, after having been savagely degraded and humiliated by the ZANU-PF hegemonic machinery of subjugation and domination. Even Nkomo who was once such a towering figure was compelled to capitulate through the pain of extinction. It is also outright treasonous to hijack the name of Mthwakazi to use it to acquire a parliamentary seat in Zimbabwe for personal aggrandizement.
Mthwakazi therefore requires conscious cadres who will oppose this madness by all means necessary, so that never, and never again, shall the masses remain under chains. What will be your legacy when you pass from this earth? My name, thankfully shall forever be remembered as a Mthwakazi activist whose burning goal was to liberate the people of Mthwakazi from Shona hegemony. What about yours? How will it be remembered? Decide! Life is too short.
I thank you.