MORE than a week has passed since the burial at Glen Forest Cemetery in Harare of Wilfred Mhanda, better known as Dzinashe Machingura or Dzino.
Chrispen T Mataire
A morsel hotchpotch of attendees contrasted sharply with the multitudes of cadres that fell under his command during the liberation struggle.
It was indeed a sad moment, seeing my fellow comrade lying lifeless in typical resignation to the cruel fate that characterised the larger part of his life.
As someone who knew Dzino and witnessed his transformation during and after the liberation struggle, I felt duty-bound to add my voice to his tributes.
It is extremely hard for me to compartmentalise Dzino’s life without also retracing my own footprints during the war as our lives became intertwined mainly because of our obstinate beliefs and philosophy of how the war should be prosecuted.
In June 1970, I crossed the floor from the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra, military wing of PF Zapu) to the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (Zanla, military wing of Zanu PF) and as a rule I was retrained at Itumbi Camp under Zanla in the same year.
Upon completion of my training, I was sent with others to Kongwa Holding camp in Tanzania.
In December 1972, I was deployed to the front in Mozambique and fought against the Portuguese with Frelimo fighters in what they called a “baptism of fire” before being sent to fight on the front of the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).
I carried war materials across the crocodile-infested Zambezi River. I was part of the famous group of 45 combatants who crossed into Zimbabwe and tentatively started operating in 1972.
I got wounded from enemy fire on February 5 1972 in the Mt Darwin area.
Commander Josiah Tongogara requested that I return to Lusaka to recuperate, a request I flatly refused as I felt I was getting better and itching to go back to the front because my injury did not involve bone structure.
My request to return to the front was granted.
In December 1973 I was recalled again by Tongogara to Mgagao to join the training team and share my experiences with instructors and trainers.
It was during my stint at Mgagao that l first met Dzino. He was at the time political commissar at the camp, second in charge to camp commander John Gwitira.
Unfortunately, Dzino and Gwitira felt I was best suited to be in charge of the camp clinic given my earlier training as a medic while in Zipra. My interaction with the instructors and trainers was thus casual and informal.
It was not long before Dzino and I realised we shared similar philosophies and ideologies. We were both well read in Marxism-Leninism.
Dzino had joined several teams that made visits to China and was well acquainted with the Chinese liberation against Japanese imperialism. I could also tell that Dzino had read widely on various revolutions.
Like Dzino, I naturally sided with the Soviets because of my training in political science in the then Soviet Union in 1967. Very few cadres understood the socialist ideology or any ideology for that matter.
The political discussions drew us closer, creating a better appreciation of our standpoints with regards to the essence of our fight against colonialism.
By default or design, Dzino and I were selected to represent the Mgagao Camp at the funeral of Herbert Chitepo who died on March 18 1975. Both of us were subsequently arrested by the Zambian police and only released on June 6 1975.
After our release we were sent to Mboroma Camp where all forces were gathered after being rounded up from all the camps in Zambia.
I was immediately appointed commander of the camp and at the end of July of the same year, the commanders at Mgagao pleaded with the Organisation of African Unity Liberation Committee to allow Zanla to rekindle the armed struggle on the grounds that détente had failed.
Peaceful negotiations with Rhodesia’s Ian Smith regime were simply a decoy by the regime to gain time and restrategise.
The OAU conceded on condition that the political leadership should step aside and let the fighters lead the resumption of the armed struggle and that Zanla and Zipra forces should unite to form one army, the Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa).
In my view, the decision by the OAU to exclude the political leadership from the war sowed seeds of discord and internal contradictions that led to our incarceration in Mozambique.
A request was made to release Dzino from Mboroma as junior commanders could not conclude such an arrangement without the involvement of their superiors. Thus the Joint Military Command was comprised of nine commanders from both Zanla and Zipra.
The late army commander General Solomon Mujuru (Rex Nhongo) was appointed the commander of Zipa and was deputised by someone from Zipra. Nikita Mangena from Zipra was appointed political commissar, deputised by Dzino.
These were the four critical positions in Zipa.
In September 1975, Zanla fighters from Mboroma were released and taken by air to Mozambique and I was appointed commander of the Chibavava-Toronga Camp. My deputy was the late former Governor for Matabeleland South Mark Dube and third in command was) Joice Mujuru.
The other members of Zipa from Zanla included Saw Sadza (logistics and supplies) and Tendai Pfepferere (medical assistant). I don’t know how I was left out when almost all the members were my juniors.
I, however, knew Dzino had something to do with this exclusion and he probably had good reasons.
When Dzino visited Chibavava Camp where I was commander, I took the opportunity to brief him on the need to set up an ideological college in the same mould as the one that had been established in China where political instructors founded the Wampoa College in 1922.
Dzino readily accepted my idea and in March 1975 I founded the Wampoa Ideological College at Chimoio Camp.
Meanwhile, President Samora Machel had relocated Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere to Quelimane Island in Mozambique after their arrival at Zhuuta Camp. The two senior Zanu leaders were virtually unknown to fighters and recruits when they arrived. Due to the laxity of security at Quelimane, Mugabe and Tekere occasionally sneaked out of seclusion to visit some camps.
Dzino, who seemed to be more familiar with Zanu’s organogram initiated these unsanctioned visits, introducing the two leaders to both fighters and recruits.
It was Dzino who regularly told cadres that in accordance with the Zanu structure, Mugabe was automatically the new leader following the death of Leopold Takawira in prison in 1970.
Contrary to distorted public perception, the endorsement of Mugabe as the new leader of Zanu was reflected in the Mgagao document.
It was very ironic and one of the tragic contradictions of the struggle that Mugabe was widely viewed as having aligned or influenced Machel to get rid of Dzino and anyone of the same ilk from the command of the Zanu military structure when the same Zipa was the one which had pressured Machel not to quarantine him in Quelimane.
I was appointed into the Zipa High Command responsible for logistics and supplies in 1976 following the death of Saw Sadza after a Rhodesian raid that left more than 2 000 refugees dead.
It was after my appointment to the High Command that I formed a formidable team with Dzino who always consulted me before making any decisions.
One other point that needs historical correction is the fallacy that it was the Zanu leadership and its central committee that instigated the arrest of Zipa commanders. Far from it; the real instigator and initiator was Machel.
However, due to the material and human losses that the new Mozambican government incurred due to the constant raids by Rhodesian forces, Machel could not continue placating Zipa, obstinate in continuing the war and dismissing the Geneva Conference as a façade. He accepted without critical analysis Henry Kissinger’s strategy code-named “Tar Baby”, meant to bring an immediate peaceful settlement of the Rhodesian problem.
The whole of the Zipa leadership were united in their rejection of the Geneva conference as a waste of time. However, after about two weeks upon the resumption of the Geneva conference, Zanu sent the late Kumbirai Kangai to plead with Zipa commanders to be part of the conference, but they would not budge.
The Zipa commanders advised Tongogara to return and try their best to negotiate with the Americans, while they intensified the war.
Hardly three days after Tongogara’s departure, Machel summoned the Zipa leadership for a meeting where he impressed upon it to appreciate the need for negotiations in the war situation.
He strongly expressed his disdain for our refusal to attend the Geneva conference and in turn accused me personally of being a KGB agent and used some of the most unsavoury words to describe our group. It was clear that we were no longer his “darlings”.
He ordered us to send a delegation to Geneva and we had no option, but to give in to his demands in return for his country’s hospitality.
True to our prediction, the Geneva conference failed to yield anything, but when the Zanu delegation returned, Machel subsequently accused the Zipa commanders of serious insubordination and then hatched a plan to rid them from the front.
A meeting was then called in Beira which had Mugabe and Machel in attendance. We were given our chance to express our views and why we had misgivings about the whole negotiation process. At the end of the meeting, some were told to exit through different points and we found ourselves under military captivity.
Surprisingly, Mujuru was not part of those arrested even though he was part of Zipa and had also inputted his views on the Mgagao document.
After our arrest, Dzino was immediately released and it was out of the benevolence of the leadership that he was spared jail and to the surprise of his captors, he opted to go and join his colleagues in captivity unless the same benevolence was extended to his colleagues.
Dzino thus re-joined us out of his own volition at Cabo Delgado, the typical Robben Island of Mozambique where we were to spend three years before being released after Zimbabwe’s Independence.
A question can be asked: Who arrested the Zipa commanders? Was it Mugabe or Machel? Since we were in Mozambique, we can safely conclude that it was the host who arrested us, but we cannot absolve our leader’s involvement.
If Mugabe was able to reconcile with white Rhodesians at Independence, why is it so difficult for our leader and some of our colleagues to reconcile with Zipa commanders, even assuming that they erred.
Contradictions were apparent in the struggle and it would not be good for a person to be permanently maligned because of those contradictions.
There must be a realisation that no one should be condemned as a perpetual sinner.
In summary, Dzino’s selfless dedication to the liberation of our country can never be doubted. He had the tenacity and vision of a true revolutionary.
While it is highly regrettable that out of frustration Dzino turned his back on the revolution and aligned or sympathised with reactionary forces in the mould of the MDC and George Soros, I still feel that he deserved a dignified send-off that typified the role he played in the birth of independent Zimbabwe. I pray that his soul finds eternal peace.
Mataire is a senior veteran of the struggle whose Chimurenga name was David Todhlana. He was arrested at the height of internal contradictions within Zanu together with Dzino and later Rugare Gumbo, and others.