The Sunday News
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
Before the end of the year (1961), the Southern Rhodesia Government had had enough of the National Democratic Party and decided to outlaw it, in exactly the same way as it did with the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC).
That such a harsh measure would be taken against the NDP was clear on three occasions, the first was when a massive demonstration was organised in Salisbury for NDP members to march to the official residence of the Prime Minister to present him with a demand for the release of Chikerema, Nyandoro and the other restrictions held in the Mafungabusi area of Gokwe.
So large a number of black people turned up on that occasion that one could have thought that every black person throughout the country had joined the event. When the thick body of people got to the Magaba part of what was then called Harare location, it encountered an armed contingent of the British South Africa Police (BSAP), armed to the teeth, and in a convoy of armoured motor vehicles full of growling Alsatian dogs.
The demonstrators were told that they could go that far (Magaba – Methodist church) and no further. Had TG Silundika not courageously persuaded the surging crowd to turn back and head for Highfields, one shudders to imagine what could have happened, a bloody massacre could have certainly occurred.
The second incident was the rejection of the Southern Rhodesian 1961 Constitution by that party, the NDP, a decision that was utterly unacceptable to the Southern Rhodesia administration. How could Joshua Nkomo and his horde of uneducated black people demand to take over the Government of Southern Rhodesia overnight, and not only that, but in addition change the country’s name to Zimbabwe? White settlers wondered, and could not believe what was happening before their very eyes.
Talking about uneducated black people reminds us about the historic occasion when Robert Mugabe was first publicly introduced to the people of Zimbabwe. It was on the day of the massive demonstration but after the people had turned back at Magaba and were gathered at Gwanzura Stadium at Highfields. Mark Nziramasanga, a patriot from Zvimba Communal Land, Mugabe’s home area, presented Mugabe to the people.
What was unique about Mugabe, Nziramasanga stated, was that he had two university degrees and not just one like the then Southern Rhodesia Prime Minister, Sir. Edgar Whitehead, who had only a Bachelor of Economic degree. That to the oppressed masses completely erased the accusation that the black people of Zimbabwe were not educated enough to rule themselves.
Meanwhile, Joshua Nkomo had taken the Southern Rhodesia issue to the United Nations, a move that virtually put the British Government on trial before the world’s highest public forum.
The third accusation against the NDP was its “Zhi” riots which caused the destruction of property and loss of human life, in addition to insecurity in the country’s urban centres.
The proscription of the NDP was followed by the formation of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, (Zapu), on 17 December 1961. By that time it was clear that the Federation would be dissolved sooner than later, and that Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland would become independent states.
A rather unexpected development had occurred in the British Commonwealth. South Africa had in 1961 pulled out of that club of former British colonies because its totally unacceptable racially discriminatory policies, practices and laws were a violation of the Commonwealth’s non-racial socio-cultural values. That South African decision (to pull out of the Commonwealth) was to stand the Southern Rhodesia regime of Ian Smith in very good stead in 1965 when it made a unilateral declaration of independence. (UDI).
The South African government supported Smith’s UDI militarily and economically. In fact had it been for South Africa’s encouragement, Smith could not have declared independence unilaterally.
On the formation of Zapu, a resolution was made to the effect that should that party be outlawed, it would defy the ban and operate underground instead. Zapu intensified sabotage activities especially in the commercial farming areas where large tracts of land went up in smoke. So serious was the situation that in the middle of 1962, the Southern Rhodesia ministry of information organised an aerial tour of the country to show journalists and chiefs the massive damage done to the farms, all white-owned.
The author of this narration represented African Newspapers, publishers at that time of the Central African Daily News, on that tour. While sabotage escalated within the country, Joshua Nkomo piled diplomatic pressure abroad, particularly at the United Nations where the British Government insistently maintained that it could not intervene in what it termed Southern Rhodesia’s internal affairs because that country was self-governing.
That was false as it was to be proved by a UN Committee on Colonialism that went to London following a proposal made by Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Mali, Morocco, the Philippines, Yugoslavia and the United Arab Republic (Egypt). That committee went to London at the end of March 1962, to investigate whether or not Southern Rhodesia had attained a full measure of self-government to justify Britain’s stance.
The Commonwealth Relations Secretary was by that time R.A Butler who had taken over from Duncan Sandys on 19 March 1962. The Colonialism Committee concluded that Southern Rhodesia was, in fact, a British colony whose constitution and foreign relations were London’s responsibilities.
That conclusion was received with much acclamation and joy throughout the country, and was described by the Zapu vice-president, Dr, Parirenyatwa, as a very important moral victory for the black people of Zimbabwe, a name given to the country during the NDP days. It is a corruption of dzimba dzamabgwe (houses of stones).
The decision was a major success for Joshua Nkomo personally in that when he presented the Southern Rhodesia issue to the UN for the first time in 1960, his opponents at home and abroad said he was whistling against a storm.
In fact, so important was that UN Colonialism Committee’s decision on the Southern Rhodesia status vis-a-vis Britain that the then United Kingdom’s UN chief representative, decided to resign from his highly esteemed post. He did so in protest against his governments policy on Southern Rhodesia which was based on sheer deceit rather than on defensible legality. He could not honourally defend it at the UN.
Back home, it had become quite clear to the top Zapu leadership that the Federation was headed for the rocks, and that the Southern Rhodesian regime would also demand independence under a white minority settler regime. To get black majority rule would require a conserted revolutionary armed struggle. Nkomo had recognised this fact as early as 1959, and had asked the Ghanaian government to give the SRANC military training facilities.
Ghana had agreed and the SRANC sent six people to train in that country. They were Mark Nziramasanga, Sikhwili Kohli Moyo, Edward Mzwayi Bhebhe, a Mudavanhu, and two other comrades. It was for their official pass-out that Jason Ziyapapa Moyo went to Ghana towards the end of 1959 and he first heard about Robert Mugabe who was a lecturer at Ghana’s Tokaradi Teachers College.
He went to talk to him about joining the revolutionary nationalist organisation back home. Cde Mugabe wanted an assurance that those in the leadership were really serious about liberating the country as he did not want to join an organisation that would fizzle out sooner or later, or one that would settle for half-measurers rather than for the country’s complete independence.
Cde JZ Moyo assured him and Cde Mugabe decided to return home and be part of the national leadership. Necessary steps were there — after put in motion after Cde Moyo’s return home, and Zimbabwe’s man of destiny came back to become part of the country’s revolutionary struggle. He became literally Joshua Nkomo’s right hand man until 1963 when he irrevocably aligned himself with those who formed the Zimbabwe African National Union, Zanu, on 8 August 1963.
We have gone a year ahead of where we should be in this narration, that is August 1962 when Zapu actively sabotaging white owned commercial farms, government-owned infrastructure and municipal properties. It was also engaged in military recruitment with a view to launching a guerilla warfare at an appropriate time. Among those who were training abroad were David Mpongo, Philemon Makonese, Charles Chikerema and a couple of others who had been sent to China for that purpose.
The Zapu vice-president Dr Parirenyatwa, was on such a recruitment mission when he was assassinated by the Southern Rhodesian regime’s Special Branch. He had left Salisbury for Nkayi via Bulawayo in the morning in August 1962, and was driven by a Zapu cadre, Danger Ngozi Zengeni Sibanda.
They were follow by a Special Branch vehicle all the way up to Gwelo (Gweru), having stopped at Gatooma (Kadoma) QueQue (Kwekwe) and also in Gwelo. The radiator of their car had developed a leak, so they had to refill the radiator after every little while.
They stopped briefly in Gwelo and consulted a Zapu Midlands official, William Takavarasha on some party issues. They left Gwelo in the late afternoon and noticed that the special Branch vehicle was no longer trailing them. They stopped at Shangani to refill the radiator. By then, it was early evening.
They left Shangani and when they had travelled for about eight or so kilometers, a massive explosion occurred on the left-hand side of the road and, Sibanda would narrate to the author of this article later, he lost consciousness. He came to much later and heard somebody say: “This one is alive but the doctor is dead”
He opened his eyes and realised that he was on a bed and was surrounded by nurses: and doctors, dressed in white. He was at Mpilo Hospital. His head was bandaged and he was placed in a side ward. The following day in the afternoon he was visited by a policeman whom he had never met before. Later that evening, Cde J.Z Moyo ordered him to be discharged immediately. He was placed under tight party (Zapu) security for a day or two before J. Z Moyo and one or two Zapu youths took him by train to Salisbury where he later narrated this story to the author of this article in the presence of the then Zapu publicity and information secretary, Robert Mugabe, at Vanguard House, Railway Avenue.
The official police statement on the tragedy was that Dr Parirenyatwa and his driver were involved in an accident with a goods train at what was by then a railway — road level crossing some kilometres west of the Shangani Shopping Centre.
However, what was most likely to have happened was that the Rhodesian Special Branch assassins used a type of acoustic mine or other massive explosive device which was triggered off either by remote control or by the sound of Dr. Parirenyatwa’s motor car.
After the explosion, the assassins then either towed or drove the vehicle with the doctor and Sibanda inside and left it on the railway road level crossing where it was later hit and pushed by a goods train for about a hundred or so metres.
Dr Parirenyatwa’s death was a shattering blow to Zapu. It showed, however, that the Southern Rhodesian regime would fight tooth and nail to remain in power, and that for the African majority to regain their country, they had to go the whole hog.
(To be continued)…
- Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo- based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734328136 or through email. [email protected]