The Sunday News
TODAY we conclude the series of interviews that we have been having with former dissident, Phumuza Ndlovu who operated under the pseudo names, Mbulali Nare, Donki Itshekile and Mdzwengi at the height of the post-independence disturbances in the 1980s.
In this last instalment with our Assistant Editor Mkhululi Sibanda (MS), Ndlovu speaks about among other things the killing of 16 members of a religious commune at two farms in Esigodini in November 1987.
The 16 including a one-month-old baby were killed when a group of around 10 dissidents led by Gayigusu raided New Adams Farm and Olive Tree Farm. According to a news article carried on 28 November 1987 by Chronicle, the dissidents are reported to have tied the hands of the commune people, all whites behind their backs before ransacking the houses for money, clothes, guitars and also the commune shop of groceries.
The victims were then herded into one house and then called out one by one to a rondavel where they were axed to death. Ndlovu said he has no regrets with what the dissidents did at that time. He said the killing of the 16 was well planned by the dissidents and Gayigusu was just given an order to go and carry out the mission. Below are excerpts of the interview. Read on . . .
MS: During your time as a dissident there is that well documented incident about the killing 16 white people at Esigodini at two farms. May you please shed light on that.
Cde Ndlovu: Lokhuyana kwaba yinto eyabanhle kakhulu, kwasiphatha kahle kakhulu lokhuyana.
MS: So what Gayigusu did was it an instruction from the command element of the dissidents or he just carried out those brutal killings on his own?
Cde Ndlovu: Leyana yinto eyahlalelwa phansi. Ngaleso sikhathi kwakubukeka kakhulu. To us during that time it was a good thing. That’s is why that 13-year-old child survived and the cook. They are the ones who were given the letter to pass on to the authorities so that they speed up the unity talks that culminated in the signing of the Unity Accord in December 1987.
MS: What were the contests of the letter?
Cde Ndlovu: We were urging the political leaders to unite, we were calling for the unity of the nationalist leadership, we wanted them to come together. Initially those whites who were killed by Gayigusu and others were very good friends of us the dissidents. We had good relations with them. Amakhiwa lawana sasingabangane abakhulu kakhulu.
MS: If that was the case why did you kill them?
Cde Ndlovu: The reason was simple, among those whites were former high-ranking officials from the Ian Smith government. The reason also was that those whites were keeping weapons of war while claiming to be Christians.
Babegcineleni imbhobho bona bengabantu bakaMlimu? The other issue is that although we were in good books, those whites looked down upon blacks.
In our absence it was clear that they were saying bad things about us in the presence of their children. We were all aware of that but we would pretend as if we were not seeing anything. On occasions we visited them, we would hear their children saying “dad, here is the baboon, take your gun and shoot them.” They pretended to be with us while they were against us.
MS: Besides Gayigusu how many dissidents were involved in the killing of members of that community?
Cde Ndlovu: We deployed around 10 for that mission. Like I said that operation was always in our minds. It was not a Gayigusu thing, we had been thinking about it for some time. However, I was not there when those people were attacked. But I gave the order.
MS: Then there is Thambolenyoka who seemed to have been prominent and even today he wins elections in Local Government elections and even within Zanu-PF structures. Just recently he was elected vice-chairman of Insiza DCC unopposed. What is it with him?
Cde Ndlovu: During operations as a dissident he was not all that different from the rest. But as a former high ranking member of Zipra during the armed struggle we relied on him for advice on many issues. He gave us guidance, he could be relied upon. However, he only became a dissident in 1986.
MS: When you became dissidents were you not disappointed that you were not joined by many of your former colleagues in Zipra?
Cde Ndlovu: We did not care.
MS: You seemed to have suffered losses at the hands of the security forces, tell us about the death of some of your colleagues.
Cde Ndlovu: Last time I mentioned those who fell at the hands of Super Zapu dissidents. Then we had the death of Castro who was accounted for by the security forces, remember we started our activities as dissidents with Castro. He is the one who came with six others all the way from Nkayi to operate here in Matabeleland South, Matopo area in particular. So, what happened is that we had a meeting with some elements from Super Zapu at a homestead if Gwandavale. There were 10 Super Zapu dissidents while from our side we were 21.
The Super Zapu dissidents were trying to convince us join their ranks, they wanted to change us. We flatly refused and told them that there was no way we could work for the South African regime. We had fought against people like General Peter Walls when they commanded the Rhodesian forces, so there was no way we could line-up alongside them.
MS: What exactly were those Super Zapu dissidents proposing?
Cde Ndlovu: They were talking of establishing an armed resistance movement like the one that was led by Dhlakama in Mozambique, the MNR. We said no, we don’t want to be sponsored by the apartheid regime.
MS: So how did that have to do with the death of Castro?
Cde Ndlovu: After we had failed to agree to their proposals, the Super Zapu dissidents then went on to murder the owner of the homestead where we had met. They killed that woman and her daughter who was an albino. They were killed in cold blood. What happened after our meeting is that they returned there to commit that murder.
The woman lived near the Gwandavale Camp. When the Super Zapu dissidents committed the murder, there was one comrade from our aside, but he was powerless to stop that. The killing of those two villagers then triggered a comb up operation by the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). They came in full force. It was during that comb up that Castro and another dissident, Mabaleka were accounted for. They were killed at Mazhone River near Dula. Then there was also the killing of Danger in Mtshabezi by the security forces.
MS: What happened there?
Cde Ndlovu: They had a contact with the security forces and Danger was killed there. He was in the company of Gayigusu and another comrade. Gayigusu and the other comrade managed to break free. Many of our comrades were killed by the security forces.
MS: You have been talking about unity and the signing of the Unity Accord. What is your take on the Unity Accord now?
Cde Ndlovu: In 1989 when the first congress of the united Zanu-PF was held in Harare I was there as a delegate. We were happy to see the equal sharing of positions between PF-Zapu and Zanu-PF. However, of late it looks like abadala are no longer sticking to what we started with in 1989. That is why you hear of people saying iUnity Accord isifile. Positions should be shared equally, the Unity Accord is very important to this country and should be respected at all costs. We need to revisit what we started with and stick to it.
MS: But there is this feeling that people need to move forward and stop looking at personalities when it comes to sharing of positions, some are of the view that the two parties have been united for a long time and why reserve a position for Zapu for instance.
Cde Ndlovu: That is dangerous thinking. The old Zanu-PF should get its allocation and the same applies to PF-Zapu especially in the Presidium.
MS: There is also the thinking that there are few Zapu people now, those who were in the leadership positions, a majority of them are late.
Cde Ndlovu: Lathi sikhona, abantu banengi. Mina lami nginje I want a position and in fact I think I deserve one. What do you think? You think I can’t be at the top there.
MS: I think I am the one who is supposed to be asking you questions, not the other way round.
Cde Ndlovu: Mina ngithi akulamuntu ophelayo. Lathi sikhona as the younger generation.