via ‘Mugabe has dumped war vets’ – DailyNews Live 12 DECEMBER 2014
HARARE – Daily News’ senior writer, Fungi Kwaramba, interviews war veteran and former member of the Zanla High Command, Bernard Manyadza about the goings-on in Zanu PF and the role played by some ministers in the making of Zimbabwe.
FK: Comrade when did you go to war?
BM: I went to in 1973. We left this country with my friends Edson Nyarambi, and Leonard Kunonga, but when we were in Botswana Kunonga came back home and was arrested. Nyarambi and I proceeded to Zambia and we stayed with the chairman Herbert Chitepo at his home. He would cook for us while giving us Zanu orientation.
FK: When did you train?
BM: I trained as a platoon commander while Nyarambi trained as a political commissar. I went to the transit base in Tanzania called Kongwa and then was appointed instructor in 1974, and in 1975 I was the head of instructors at Mgagao Training camp.
FK: Who are some of the prominent figures you trained when you were an instructor?
BM: They were many, and included the late Mernad Muzariri, Air Force commander Perence Shiri, army general Constantine Chiwenga; prisons boss Paradzai Zimondi and Cde Augustine Chihuri.
FK: Can you explain circumstances leading to Chitepo’s death, who you once stayed with.
BM: When Cde Chitepo died in 1975, we came to Lusaka in June when there was talk of the formation of the Zimbabwe Liberation Council. When we joined the council we had misgivings because our leaders from Zanla had been arrested, that is when the Dare had been destroyed.
FK: Why did you have misgivings?
BM: We were saying if they had arrested our leaders from Dare, we would be shown evidence but to date we haven’t heard anything.
Even in Zanu nothing was done to investigate the death of Chitepo. They say it is the enemy agents but why were members of the Dare arrested. How did (Josiah) Tongogara die and what was his role in the death of Chitepo. And the death of (Solomon) Mujuru must also be investigated.
FK: When you heard that Cde Chitepo had died what was the reaction from the camps?
BM: We were shocked and we thought that he had died in the line of duty because we were intensifying the struggle, but we also had questions on how the enemy had managed to infiltrate us so easily.
The person who placed the bomb that killed Chitepo, the person who was his assistant did not get in the car, he opened the gate and was told to leave the gate open by Chitepo but insisted on closing the gate. I think he knew that there was a bomb.
FK: Why would fellow comrades assassinate Chitepo?
BM: There is a background, and it all started with the Badza/Nhari rebellion. These comrades had grievances they wanted attended to by the High Command and Dare, and they made some big mistakes, overreacted and the situation degenerated into a power struggle.
Cde Noel Mukono a Manyika had lost his position to Cde Josiah Tongogara a Karanga, and they are some who would like to put tribal connotations to the whole picture but it was more than that.
Cde Chitepo had recommended that the rebels should be disciplined and not killed and he died around that time after the Nhari/Badza rebellion.
FK: What were the differences?
BM: There were differences on whether to involve the Soviet Union since the Chinese could not avail certain supplies. It was people like Badza who were raising those issues and this did not go down well with the likes of Tongogara.
What the Dare had recommended was that the commanders who had rebelled should be taken from the front for reorientation and then deployed later but there was an overreaction leading to the massacre of over 60 people and up to now no explanation has been given as to why innocent people were killed.
FK: Can you briefly explain how you settled for President Robert Mugabe to take over?
BM: I am a signatory to the Mgagao document where we observed that since Ndabaningi Sithole had failed us, and after the arrest of comrades in Boroma, he refused to visit the comrades. He had his reasons because he was being told by the Zambian government that if he visited, he would be assassinated as was the case with Chitepo, but we lost faith in him.
I appreciated his fears even though he was escorted to the camps guarded by security from either Zambia or Tanzania.
But when he said he would visit us in two days’ time as he wanted to visit his child in America first, we saw this as an affront, he was not concerned about our grievances and we had asked him to implore the Zambian government to release our leaders who were jailed and he did not do that. When he snubbed us, we realised that we could end up being arrested, that was around end of 1975.
FK: What was Mugabe’s position during the time?
BM: Mugabe was in line since Sithole was no longer there, Takawira was dead and so was Chitepo so he held the most senior position (secretary-general) and naturally had to take over.
FK: Ok. Can we go back to the Vashandi, what was it?
BM: The workers and the peasants were our allies and we referred to them as Vashandi, people who work for themselves. It was popularised by the cadres not as an official line, it was popularised by those at Wampua Ideological College. Workers bought us Super Pros, the shoes we wore and helped our families back home.
But then when Zipa commanders were arrested everyone who was linked to Vashandi became an enemy of the struggle. Some of the people who popularised this idea of Vashandi include (Sobusa) Gula Ndebele and Chris Mutsvangwa. Mutsvangwa can tell you what really is Vashandi, he popularised that idea.
FK: So what went wrong?
BM: There were accusations that the college was becoming too elitist because most of the recruits at the college were university graduates. Vashandi became derogatory because there was a new approach of trying to replace the worker/peasant alliance and replacing it with pamberi nemunhu (praise worshipping an individual), that was the bone of contention and that has led us to the king making we have today.
FK: So was everyone linked to the Vashandi and Zipa arrested?
BM: When Vashandi were arrested, myself and Dzino were not arrested and we protested to Cde Tongo, we indicated to him that the Zipa commanders who had been arrested were the ones who fought the war and caused their release from prison in Zambia. We asked him why he was treating his comrades that way and siding with the secretary-general (Mugabe) who didn’t know the commanders.
FK: Was there a betrayal of the struggle in the arrest of fellow comrades?
BM: The Frelimo government was bought by the British government, it received money and wheat, ask Professor David Moore in South Africa, he has the information, and that precipitated the arrests.
FK: Were you not afraid of Cde Tongo?
BM: No, not at all, what was there to lose? Cde Tongo was frank, he told us ‘I understand what you are saying but we differ in approach’, from that statement, 30 years after, we are now beginning to ask is that the reason why Tongogara died.
When he said in London that a single army could be formed, with him at the head and Dumiso Dabengwa as his deputy, this is where the problem came from since Tongogara had indicated that he would free commanders imprisoned at Cabo del Gaddo (the Zipa commanders).
FK: You spoke about general Mujuru. What was his role in the making of President Mugabe?
BM: Oh, he was influential, he was the Zipa commander. He is the person who was dictating the pace, he facilitated the arrest of his fellow commanders so that the secretary-general could take over. The secretary-general had two positions the president and first secretary which is a constitutional crisis because in the founding principles of the party in 1964 there was only the posts of the president, deputy, chairman, and secretary-general not that one of first secretary.
FK: Now Cde during the war, did you ever come to know Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa?
BM: I didn’t know him. I met him once at the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka and I was introduced to him, that was the time when people were arrested in Boroma, the time we had ZLC, and we said to him since you know Zambia, can you help us rescue comrades in Boromo so that we take them to Mozambique but he said he could not assist because he wanted to complete his thesis.
FK: In 1980, did you vote?
BM: Yes. I voted for Zanu PF.
FK: And can you vote for the party today?
BM: No, there is an agenda in that party that all war veterans should go, these so-called votes of no confidence where a person can just bus people and say we no longer want so and so is alien to the party’s founding principles.
I want to ask a hypothetical question. If parliamentarians are bussed to the State House waving placards, can Mugabe leave office that same day? What we saw was not a congress.
For instance look at Cde Mike Nyambuya, who operated in this area (Hwedza), can a mafikizolo (late comer) just go and say leave the party? In the whole of southern Africa, Zanu PF is the only liberation movement that is turning against its best cadres.
FK: But there is an association of war veterans. And there are some who are saying the “gang of four” has taken over Zanu PF. What do you make of this?
BM: They say history always repeats itself only that in Zimbabwe it is going to be a farce, even the brand Mugabe is going to be destroyed.
FK: Are you aware of the role that the minister of Women Affairs Oppah Muchinguri played during the liberation war?
BM: I don’t know much about her, I only know that she was taken from governor Dori Moyana’s home where she was working as a domestic worker.
FK: There is talk that former vice president Joice Mujuru is an impersonator; did she participate in the war?
BK: Teurai Ropa was trained in Chimbichimbi in Zambia, she trained alongside Henry Hamadziripi and Rugare Gumbo, and she was both lucky and unfortunate. She rose like a meteorite. Her greatest mistake is that when she rose she forgot other comrades who she trained with.