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War heroes who died in vain

by Dr Masimba Mavaza
10 August 2019 | 2486 Views
Former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe (L) and Dr Masimba Mavaza (R)
The war was raging on. Every person in the village had had an encounter with the freedom fighters. We all knew the drill. The arrival of the freedom fighters in a village was so secret but an open one. It was hush hush and no one would say it openly. It brings both fear and joy. Joy that we will have those singing nights, those nights were great wonderful and gives this sense of belonging. Pungwes were nights of singing and taking lessons of war and patriotic lessons. There would have been no war without pungwe. Pungwes had their own down sides, it was the time when the Freedom fighters will met instant justice and discipline on the errand povo.

They were called traitors. Traitors would be brought before the people's court. They will be summarily tried if found guilty they will be dispatched to meet their maker. More often the death will be painful. Some would take the whole night being tortured and the youth vana mujibha will be told to take them to the catfish. Kumaramba. There they will be either forgiven or killed.

For as long as I live, I will never forget April 17, 1978— the day the Freedom fighters stormed into our village. I was playing pada with my sister when the youth came to tell the people that there will be pungwe at the headman's compound. The Headman was my father's senior brother. At first, the people in the village cheered their arrival but soon stopped when the menacing Mujibha's demanded chicken and beef for vana mukoma. Our parents new the drill, so chicken were slaughtered and it was my father's duty to donate a bull. It was not always a willing donation but it would be a clear difference between life and death.

In no time we were at the headman's compound. All villagers were sat in the centre and the armed men were encircling the anxious villagers.

One combatant may be the commander of the group started to address the villagers. He started by saying do you know us. The answer was rehearsed it would be no. We don't know you. Then he would introduce his group starting by explaining the purpose of the war. And that they are the children and every other person who is married was their parent. Vabereki tiri vana venyu.

Makatituma kuti tiende ku Moza. Parents you asked us to go to Mozambique to train to fight so that we can free our country. The talk would be so charged so emotional. You would actually feel that you are part of the war. Now the commander asked the question again. Do you know us? At that moment my fathers brother stood up and said. Yes I know you. I met you at the Chikodzonga village last week. The commander was not amused. My uncle was very outspoken. He had served years as a political detainee at Hwahwa detention centre. He had shared cells with Cdes Takawira, Maurice Nyagumbo and many others. Only that on his release he joined Abel Muzorewa and he was very senior in the UANC a party led by Bishop Muzorewa. The freedom fighters were not amused. They had let him go in the first encounter but this time he had crossed the kine. You never met them even if you have.

The commander told my uncle off and ordered him to sit in the centre. He was about to receive his lessons never to know what he knows.

The commander put his gun down the gun had two stands in front. We were told it was called an LMG. It had a pot like thing in the centre. The gullible villagers were told that the gun can identify a witch if it wishes.

In the meantime some Mujibhas were asked to bring some learning aides for my uncle he was supposed to be taught a lesson in the full view of the village. We realised quickly that the learning aides were sticks obviously to beat him up. They asked him to lie down prostrate.

Before he was taught the so called lesson the silence was interrupted by a sound of distant gunshots. What followed was stampede. There was no waiting or taking instructions. People took to their heels in the darkness. Uncle was saved by a gunsound. Saved by the gun.

We ran and went very far. That night I slept ten villages away. The following day we were told all was clear and the gun sound was an accidental discharge in a village away from ours. Being a night we did not want to wait to find out what happened.

So on receiving the all clear sign we trouped back to our village. Night came fast and were to have a night without a pungwe. But that was the night which turned our lives upside down.

Uncle Peniah who had survived a lesson saved by a gun was taken by the Mujibhas and frog marched to where the comrades were. They walked for half the night before temporarily settling in an occupied village. Moving from house to house trying to find the commander. Uncle was tortured and beaten then the commander told the mujibhas to take him to another house and keep him there until day break. On their way to the house uncle escaped. They failed to capture him but the search for him was intensified.

The Mujibhas were actually Uncle's brother's children. My cousins. They decided to go to Uncle's house to lay an ambush on him. As fate would have Peniah decided to slip back to his house so that he can take his family to safety. That was a mistake which was to be his last. As he arrived at his home. Stead the Mujibhas pounded on him. He fought bravely and as he was fighting he called out the names of his attackers. He was outnumbered and overpowered like a lamb he was led to his slaughter.

The following morning uncle was found in a shallow grave with a pick head lodged in his head. He exhibited cruel signs of torture. He died at the hands of his own children. His own blood. The commander had not authorised his killing. Peniah died a hero. He died believing that he was fighting for our freedom. His family was forcibly separated and never saw their father ever again.

To save her children's lives, Peniah's wife Ma Dube took her kids to Bulawayo. As a person one could not begin to imagine any mother's anguish at having to send her children away, not knowing if she would ever see them again, or if they would be hurt, starved, tortured or killed. But she knew that all of them would not survive if they stayed together, so she made the heart-wrenching choice to separate them.

Many people died simply because someone was settling a village score. Someone was jealous of the other and many more were murdered in the name of comrades.

Comrades were blamed for cruel murderous deeds of jealous villagers who used the war as the scapegoat. Those are some heroes who indeed watered our freedom with their blood.

War heroes died in vain Freedom fighters

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Source: Dr Masimba Mavaza


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