PRESIDENT Mnangagwa yesterday visited the border zone on the Victoria Falls Bridge where he relived memories of the day he was set free from prison by the Rhodesian authorities and deported through Victoria Falls to Zambia in 1972.
Renowned for its majestic falls, the new city holds a special place for President Mnangagwa who was condemned to death after bombing a locomotive at Fort Victoria town railway station, now Masvingo.
Without giving the exact date, the President said he vividly remembers how as a young 30-year-old man, the Rhodesian police dragged him to the bridge while he was in leg irons and handcuffs and stopped at the no man’s land where they uncuffed him and deported him to Zambia.
He said he was released from Khami Prison in 1972 after serving his sentence and was deported to Zambia because records then showed that he was supposed to be in the neighbouring country.
After unveiling a remembrance plaque erected by the city council at the Victoria Falls City Council offices’ gate in honour of his contribution towards the liberation of the country, President Mnangagwa visited the Victoria Falls Bridge to see the spot where he was set free in 1972.
He stood on the no man’s land and pointed to the yellow lane where he was made to stand before being told to walk away after being uncuffed.
“It must be 48 years now since the time when I was released and brought here. I was released from prison in 1972 after spending 10 years in detention at Khami Prison. Records showed that I was in Zambia so had to be deported. I was taken to Grey Prison in Bulawayo for some time before being taken to Hwange Prison for some time again. I was then brought here to Victoria Falls and we were three blacks and one white man. I was in leg irons and hand cuffs and when we arrived at the yellow lane at the no man’s land on the bridge, they told me to turnaround and face back in Rhodesia.
“This is the no man’s land and when you are here no one can do anything. The Rhodesian police told me to turn around and then they un-cuffed me. They said you can now walk and go. Zambian police were standing on the other side to receive me. Besides the Zambians, there was Peter Baya who was in the Zanu High Command and had been sent by General Tongogara to receive me. I didn’t know him at that time,” recalled President Mnangagwa.
President Mnangagwa was yesterday accompanied to the bridge by Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Sithembiso Nyoni, Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu and other Government officials.
At one point he conversed in fluent Tonga with Advocate Mudenda. Tonga is widely spoken in Zambia as well as Binga and Hwange districts.
The President has been in Victoria Falls since Tuesday and yesterday officially conferred city status to the resort town while today he is set to officiate at the Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga) female councillors’ conference.
The city also presented him with Freedom of the City for his contribution to the town’s development.
He signed the freeman roll to become the first citizen to be in the city books and was also handed a warrant and cascade with a key symbolising the Freedom of the City.
In his acceptance of the recognition, President Mnangagwa said: “The honour for me personally symbolises my freedom from the arresting chains of the racist oppressive colonial regime and subsequent deportation through Victoria Falls to Zambia. Victoria Falls and Zambezi River also remind us of the inseparable connection we have with our sisterly neighbouring Republic of Zambia.
“We have a shared past with regards to our struggle for independence and undoubtedly common aspirations for the mutual prosperity of our people.”
Victoria Falls mayor Somveli Dhlamini, said the city was grateful to the service rendered by President Mnangagwa hence the Freedom of the City.
“The role played by the President in the liberation struggle at a tender age leading to the attainment of independence will not go unnoticed as it mirrors the President’s befitting stature as a role model to our youth and country at large,” he said.