The Sunday News
WE wrap-up our interview with Bulawayo Town Clerk, Retired Major Christopher Dube aka Cde Edmos Ngulube who was part of the Zipra conventional forces that were ready to storm into then Rhodesia to take head on the Smith forces. Rtd Maj Dube an Angolan trained guerilla who was then drafted into the third battalion stationed at Mlungushi in a brigade of regular forces today tells our Assistant Editor Mkhululi Sibanda (MS) about life at Mlungushi and eventual deployment along the Zambezi River.
Below are excerpts of the interview. Read on….
MS: You were telling us about life at Mlungushi where there was formation of regular or conventional forces battalions, take us through that process.
Rtd Maj Dube: Life at Mlungushi was a major deviation from what we were taught at Luso in Angola. It was just military and nothing else compared to guerilla training where we were exposed to political training as well. Like I said before we did not like it at first as our perception was that colleagues at Mlungushi were British trained and not properly oriented to the dictates of our revolution.
Then came the issue of being commanded by the group coming from Kohima, a Zambian Military Academy, that also caused friction. Among the group from Kohima was Cde John Nyamupingidza whom we regarded as very senior as he had seen action at the front and was also trained at Morogoro before. He was very popular and later became commander of the Northern Front One (NF1) that covered Tsholotsho, Bulilima and Hwange.
MS: So what we were you doing there?
Rtd Maj Dube: We were doing what was expected of us as soldiers, we were taught how to fight as big units and regular force. I think our integration with comrades who were coming from other camps was meant to be done at emagojini but commanders from Kohima ran away after we roughed them up a bit. So that is why we were taken to Mlungushi which was known for discipline and sasesisiyaphekwa.
MS: It was at a time when the Rhodesian forces were carrying out aerial attacks on Zipra camps in Zambia, did you face the same problem.
Rtd Maj Dube: There is no Zipra camp that was bombed like Mlungushi. There was a time when the Rhodesians were coming in the morning, afternoon and evening. Those aircrafts would fly over a nearby dam, which was on the eastern side and then start bombing us. However, we were well dug in, that camp was well fortified. So when they came we would quickly jump into the trenches and when they had gone we will jump out and take positions in case their infantry came for a comb up. After hours people will have fever blisters. I think they were using some chemicals on us.
MS: So how many times were you bombed at Mlungushi?
Rtd Maj Dube: So many times, we even lost count. But there was nothing they could do, that camp was properly fortified. We even thought they will use chemicals to poison us. Then one day at night we were ordered out of the camp and moved for about 10 kilometres. We then met members of the Zambian Defence Forces and their vehicles drove us to an area around Kabanga.
We then started moving on foot, we were three battalions, ours commanded by Jackson Matiwaza was deployed close to one commanded by Cde Zuva. The one commanded by Madliwa (Retired Major-General Stanford Khumalo) was deployed in the Kariba area. We were deployed along the Zambezi River and we had everything in terms of arms and our camp was heavily fortified. However, the Rhodesians started crossing over to Zambia to ambush our supply cars and also destroy Zambian infrastructure such as roads and bridges. So, the Zambian territory became a theatre of war, it became another front.
To to counter that we will wake up early in the morning and do patrols. We will be with our military engineers to remove the mines, we had Cde Mthimkhulu whom I regarded as a very competent military engineer who did a lot during that period but unfortunately he was killed by a landmine, imagine on the eve of the ceasefire.
There were incidents where the ceasefire was being violated as there were sporadic contacts, enemy forces shooting at us. Those incidents came to an abrupt end when some Zambians tipped us off that among the Zambian villagers there were people who had been Rhodesian agents. We acted on that information and combed up villages and to our surprise we recovered 24 rifles. Those people admitted that they were enemy agents and had been trained at Guinea Fowl near Gweru.
MS: What did you do to them?
Rtd Maj Dube: The first thing that came to our minds was to kill them. However, reasoning prevailed as we thought we could get into trouble with Zambian authorities and also that it was during the ceasefire period. So, we handed them over to the Zambian security forces.
MS: But were your guys ready to enter Rhodesia and take on the Ian Smith rebels?
Rtd Maj Dube: We were more than ready. Our battalions were attached with specialized forces, we had anti-air, anti-tank, military engineers, mortar units and so on. In fact, the Rhodesians tested our strength when they attacked one of our battalions, the first battalion commanded by Madliwa near Kariba. They admitted in their own words that they were surprised with what they found there.
Being used to fight guerilla units who will hit and run, they came across a force that stood its ground. Our battalions were well armed and well drilled with proper armaments and that surprised the Rhodesians. That Kariba battle had a big bearing on the Lancaster House Talks, the enemy realized that if they could get such fighting from one battalion what more if they were many.
Babona ukuthi umhh abantu laba abaseright. We were all waiting to cross. There was also another battalion commanded by Soneni Mdlalose while the fifth was composed of troops that had trained in Ethiopia. Besides these battalions we had guerilla units in operational areas while some troops were also being trained. Remember Zipra had also mechanised units and an Air Force.
MS: So as for your battalion where were you supposed to cross?
Rtd Maj Dube: Ours was meant to cross koSiampondo endaweni zeBinga. We were just waiting for the signal, everything was in place. We could have crossed at night sivuke siphakathi ekhaya. Of course the guerillas were going to play their part in harassing the enemy while we occupied and held the ground. All the battalions were along the Zambezi River. Ienemy yayingasenzani vele.
MS: Then came the ceasefire period.
Rtd Maj Dube: What happened was that our commander-in-chief who was also the Zapu president Dr Joshua Nkomo summoned all commanders that is from section commander to battalion commander to go to Lusaka. I was part of the command element that went there.
Umdala told us that they were from Lancaster House and he took us through what happened there. He mentioned that they had agreed to contest the elections as the Patriotic Front (PF) with our colleagues from Zanu. However, Dr Nkomo made it clear that he would not put all his eggs in one basket as he did not trust the Rhodesians, so not all of us were going to go home, he said some of us had to remain in Zambia as there was a need to study the situation first.
However, during that meeting, somebody whom I cannot remember walked in and whispered something to Nkomo, which we were to learn later that it was about the death of Josiah Magama Tongogara in Mozambique.
At that point Nkomo stopped the meeting and left. He did not finish his talk. Then we had to be briefed by Enoch Tshangane (Major-General Jevan Maseko) that Tongogara had died. Tshangane then revealed to us that the death of Tongogara had greatly affected Nkomo. In fact he was devasted.
He said that was because from a Zipra/Zapu point of view, Tongogara had shown that he was for the unity of the liberation forces, so his death might throw into disarray the initiative to fight the elections as the Patriotic Front.
Tshangane said Tongogara stood for unity. We were soldiers and that is what we were told by Tshangane. After that we went back to our battalions.
MS: So when the first elections were held you were still in Zambia?
Rtd Maj Dube: Yes, in fact after the announcement of the elections, we pulled our weapons back to Kapanga, boarded a train to Victoria Falls and that was in April 1980. It was difficult to convince the troops that Zapu had lost. They openly said war had to go on, but Nkomo being Nkomo and his Zapu leadership spoke sense into the troops that what was important was that we had defeated colonialism.
We went straight to Gwayi River Mine near Dete. At Gwayi River Mine there was a brigade structure and I was withdrawn from my battalion and made to join a company of military police. So, I became a military police officer to bring order within the troops at the camp. I was made deputy platoon commander in the military police.
MS: How was the command structure like at Gwayi?
Rtd Maj Dube: The camp was commanded by Bitwell who was deputized by Soneni (Polate Maphenduka) while Madliwa came in as Chief of Staff.
MS: Then from Gwayi where did you go?
Rtd Maj Dube: We went for integration, soldiers were taken to Llewellin Barracks or Mbalabala then called Bhalabhala. Non-commissioned officers were sent to Guinea Fowl. Thina we were taken to the Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZMA). It was there that some of us came out tops and we did better than our commanders during the war. For example my company commander during the war came out as a corporal. Mlungushi comrades were coming out with flying colours in terms of performance.
From ZMA I was deployed to Llewellin as we were being fused with our troops who had been there. Thina we formed 1:3 battalion that was commanded by Dickson Chauke, an ex-Zipra and we were taken to Granville just here in Bulawayo. Later on I was put into the advance part going to Hwange. At Granville after we had left there was in- fighting between Zipra and Zanla forces and that battalion was disbanded.
We had gone to Hwange to form 1:2 battalion and we were later joined by colleagues from 1:5 battalion. We were absorbed in that battalion, so I remained in Hwange until I was transferred to 2:3 in Mutoko and that was in 1983. Todd Mpala was attested as a Lt-Colonel commanded that battalion and he died a Brigadier-General. I was later deployed to Mozambique for operations against Renamo.
I was later removed from the fighting forces and sent to Tete Province to train Mozambican soldiers. After that I was deployed to the Military Police based at Brady Barracks. From there I enrolled at the Bulawayo Poly in 1989 where I graduated with a Higher National Diploma in Financial Accounting.
MS: So you had gone back to school?
Rtd Maj Dube: Yes, I had written Ordinary level in 1988 through correspondence. I wrote five subjects and passed all of them including Maths and English. Even during operations in Mozambique I had taken my books and some notes along to read when the situation allowed. While I was reading some people thought ngiyahlanya. After my HND in 1992 I was deployed to the Army Headquarters in the finance branch and that was when I was promoted to a Captain.
I worked there up to 1994. It was staff work. Then in 1994 the army was downsizing and I was one of the first officers to leave. I wanted to continue with education and also I had been promised a job at Zesa. However, when I left the army, the Zesa job had been taken as there were delays in being cleared. I then joined the Bulawayo City Council as an accounting assistant working from Tower Block.
I did not stay long before I was promoted to the position of admin officer (engineering services). Then in 1999 I got a job as Victoria Falls Town Treasurer, I had completed the full CIS (Chartered Institute of Secretaries). By that time it was taken for a degree. In 2002 I left Vic Falls Council to become Director Finance and Administration in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2006 I was transferred to the newly created Ministry of Rural Housing and Social Amenities where I worked under the current State President, E D Mnangagwa who was deputised by the late National Hero, Cde Joe Biggie Matiza.
MS: How was it working with Cde ED?
Rtd Maj Dube: I worked closely with him, he was a good boss and I was in charge of the ministry’s finances. It was very refreshing to work under him. He took us under his wing and made us feel at home. I know what a good boss is like because I had worked under other Ministers. S
asebenza kuhle kakhulu lo ED. Wayengakhathazi ngitsho. I then left for the Ministry of Public Works during the Government of National Unity (GNU), then under Theresa Makone and then Joel Gabuzza. After that it was reconfigured after the GNU when it became the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing under Chombo (Ignatius).
I left Government for Vic Falls to become Town Clerk and that was in 2014. I was to complete my Masters in Business Administration (MBA). In October 2016 I returned to the Bulawayo City Council for this post of Town Clerk.
I then enrolled for an LLB with the University of South Africa (UNISA). I completed it last year, so I am waiting to write my conversion course, which is a requirement. I am a lawyer now. However, I have no ambition of going into practice but just want to be registered and that is for now.
MS: In your spare time what do you do?
Rtd Maj Dube: I am into mining and farming. But I have passion for mining. As for farming I do cattle ranching and cropping. At family level I am married to Thokozile and I have four children, two boys and two girls. My children are Admire, Priscilla Dube who is married to a Mpofu family, so she is Mrs Mpofu, the third born is Busiso and the last born is Natasha.