Freedom Mutanda and Sifelani Tonje Post Correspondents
A lot of people sacrificed their time and possessions in pursuit of independence. Young men and women took guns to liberate Zimbabweans. Parents supported the cause through supplying food, clothes and medicines for the guerrillas. Other young men and women acted as collaborators and in their own way helped Zimbabwe get independence.
In the coming week, Zimbabweans celebrate the 38th anniversary of independence, a time to reflect on the journey we have travelled as a nation.
From Robert Mugabe as the inaugural leader of the nation to the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabweans cherish the independence which didn’t come on a platter. It is a time to celebrate the heroics of the people as they removed political oppression. However, the Presidential catch phrase, “Zimbabwe is open for business,” has added a new dimension to the idea of economic independence.
While the former President had a love-hate relationship with the West and decided to look East, President Mnangagwa has decided to allow any state to trade with Zimbabwe and this is a breath of fresh air. This new economic policy for the country might unlock the economic potential which had been stalled by endemic corruption over the years.
Political independence without economic development is not enough. Social development can only be visible when there are giant steps in an economic revolution. Health and education grew by leaps and bounds in the first decade of independence, it is hoped that the new dispensation will bolster social and political developments.
To the credit of the liberation movements, elections had been consistent. This year, harmonised elections will be held again. It is hoped that peace will prevail during the electoral process. If the politics are all right, the economy will be good as well.
Thus, we will continue to write about the unsung heroes and heroines who made it possible for Zimbabwe to be independent. Obviously, there are unsung heroes from 1980 to date who deserve to be written about.
This week, Freedom Mutanda and Sifelani Tonje went to Mudzi South deep in Mashonaland East where they met Jane Kamungeremu nee Mtokosi, a female collaborator, who faced the might of the settler regime and had the audacity to lead an onslaught against a duo of auxiliaries popularly known as guard forces who did the white man’s bidding notwithstanding that they were Africans.
The correspondents are MP and the female collaborator is JM.
MP: Who are you?
JM: I am Jane Kamungeremu and my maiden surname is Mtokosi. I was born at Makaha, Mudzi South, in 1960.
Our father was a staunch supporter of the guerrillas and when in 1975 he went to buy some clothes for the boys, someone sold him out. For fear of his life, he had to flee to Mozambique where he remained until the dawn of independence.
MP: When did you meet the comrades?
JM: In the summer season of 1972 /3, my mother and I heard a whistle as we weeded the fields. We saw an armed man accost us and told us he was one of the boys who had been sent to liberate Zimbabwe. We found ourselves surrounded by six more armed boys who looked menacing but they had a friendly demeanour. They asked for food and swore us to secrecy in their dealings with us. The comrades were clad in fatigues which blended well with the summer vegetation.
MP: Can you take us through an example of the callous nature of Rhodesian forces?
JM: A Nechombo boy had gone to fetch cattle from the local mountains. Soldiers called out at him; fear gripped him. He ran for dear life. Soldiers opened fire and he died instantly. He was just a boy and he lost his life in bizarre circumstances. From that day, all young children walked in groups for them not to be mistaken for guerrillas.
MP: You told us about an incident when in spite of your walking in a group, there was a near fatality from your side after the so called mistaken identity.
JM: Yes. That was in 1976 when we were coming from school. There we were, walking lackadaisically from school with my school mates, Simon, Divaris, Clara, Ernest, Nyahondo and Christina. Nyahondo excused himself as he answered to the call of nature.
He took an inordinately long time there and we had to call him. Suddenly, we heard the cocking of guns and a gruff voice say, ‘freeze! Mira! Hands up!’ At that moment Nyahondo came out of the bush and his jelly knees betrayed his terror. Moreover, he had soiled himself.
The soldiers thought “Nyahondo” was a nom de guerre for a comrade. Nevertheless, they saw a teenager come out of the bush. They told him to change his name.
MP: We understand, you went into the Protected Villages ostensibly established to protect Africans from terrorists. How did you continue to support the cause?
JM: Ummmm. (She chuckles.) The keeps were hell for us as some of us were tortured or killed as we continued to help the guerrillas regardless of the dire situation one will be exposed to once the settler soldiers and the Selous Scouts got wind of your shenanigans.
In 1976, they put us in keeps but by now, everyone in Makaha was convinced that supporting the comrades would lead us to independence and we could not allow our brothers and sisters to die because of hunger. I used to carry my baby sister on my back. I would insert biscuits and cigarettes between the baby and my back. At times, I would use plastic containers (zvigubhu) with mealie meal up to the ¾ level and then place sorghum or maize seeds in the remaining ¼ which would fool the guard forces who maintained a close vigil on our movements.
MP: Did you ever stay in the bases?
JM: My fellow collaborators and I decided to leave the keep for good in 1977. We went to stay with the comrades in the bases. We never stayed in one base and were constantly on the move. Our primary duties were to cook food and laundry for the comrades. Iiiii their clothes were lice infested and we had to iron the clothes for the lice not to cause discomfort to our brothers. Mujibhas would do the reconnaissance. Shijo base was bombed; Nyambombe was bombed again. We went to Inyanga and we never lit a fire during the day as that would be a give away unless we went to cook in a cave.
MP: Did the comrades ever made a pass at you? You were now in the lion’s den.
JM: Not exactly. The spirit mediums were very forthright about love affairs during the war. However, my late husband was a mujibha who I met during the war.
MP: We heard you fought some guard forces during the war. How did you do that?
JM: Oh that one. Guard forces would beat any transgressor to death and we hated them with passion. By now, we had stopped going to school. In September 1978, one of the guard forces fell ill and was sent to Makosa Clinic for treatment. It was a 10 kilometre journey from Mutondo.
I was walking with fellow collaborators, Bacilia, Kudogu and Sarah Kamungeremu. We saw the guard forces cycling to go and check on their colleague. I don’t know what came into me. I picked a stone and hurled it at the duo.
My fellow chimbwidos did the same and the auxiliaries fell down. We used tree branches to whip them and our beating went on for close to five minutes before the men took to their heels.
MP: Do you regret ever participating in the war as a collaborator?
JM: No, not at all. Every generation has a way of impacting the world. Ours was the generation which brought about independence. However, the present generation needs to up its game in terms of economic independence.
MP: Thank you for your time.
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