The Sunday News
TODAY we round up our interview with Cde Clarence Tshuma pseudo name Cde Shungu Moyo who was part of a contingent of Highlanders Football Club 1976 U-16 squad, which after winning that year’s Castle Cup left the country to join the armed struggle in Zambia.
In today’s interview, Cde Tshuma, a neighbour to former Highlanders midfield maestro, Johannes “Tshisa” Ngodzo at Mzilikazi’s O Square narrates to our Assistant Editor Mkhululi Sibanda (MS) on his deployment after receiving military training at Boma in Angola. He was part of the first group of more than 2 000 recruits that was sent to Angola in 1977 to be trained by Cuban and Soviet instructors. Below are excerpts of the interview.
MS: You spoke about your pass-out parade at Boma in Angola where Dr Joshua Nkomo was the reviewing officer and subsequent return to Zambia, then tell us about your deployment.
Cde Tshuma: I was deployed in December 1977 and while on our way to the DK (point along the Zambezi Valley) crossing point on the Zambian side our vehicles were ambushed by the Rhodesian forces. The first truck was hit by a Rhodesian landmine and assaulted. I was in the second truck and it was by the grace of God that I survived in that attack although I was injured.
The Rhodesians’ attack disrupted our mission and we ended up returning to the Freedom Camp (FC). I was taken to hospital in Lusaka and later moved to Makeni. A shrapnel had to be removed just below my breast. When I had recovered, I went to Communist Guerrilla Training 2 (CGT2) and by that time it was under the command of Cde Dennis Tekenya. I did not stay long as I was later deployed to the artillery unit under the command of Siboza. As someone who had also done training in signals when the time came to reconstitute the Signals Corps I was deployed to that unit, which was being transformed into a more professional and effective outfit.
It was during that period in my new role that I was one of the survivors of the attack on the Freedom Camp (FC) on 20 October 1978.
MS: Take us through the attack at FC
Cde Tshuma: The camp was attacked in the morning around 7 or 8am. Some of the comrades who were there were on transit and the Rhodesians did a lot of damage with their air power and to be honest the camp was not properly protected possibly because the Zambians were against the deployment of heavy weapons there as it was close to their capital, Lusaka. There were also heavy casualties because a number of comrades were gunned down as they ran through an open ground, which was a field. The field had been ploughed in readiness for the cropping. For me it was just sheer luck that when I tried to run through the open field, I saw an opportunity to take cover where a tractor had turned the soil and the heaps of soil had sort of been elevated. That is where I hid. The jet fighters had a field day and if I am not mistaken more than 300 comrades perished in that bombing.
While on the attack the jets would even fly low and use their wings to chop off the fleeing comrades. That incident is still vivid in my mind.
Then there was another attack where the Zipra chief of military communications, Zvafa Moyo, brother to now commander of the Airforce, Air Marshal Elson Moyo was killed. I survived that incident since I was now part of the Signals Corps and when Cde Zvafa died I was there with comrades such as now Retired Major Mark Mbayiwa whom we called Dobson. Cde Zvafa was then replaced by now Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube whom we called Embassy. Rtd Col Dube came from the Soviet Union. However, he had before going there been the chief of communications.
MS: Tell us about the Signals Corps, how effective were you?
Cde Tshuma: We were able to intercept the Rhodesian communication system on a number of occasions and send the codes to those who could interpret and on some occasions that helped as we would alert the comrades at the camps about the impending bombings. However, at times the messages were not sent quickly enough, resulting in the comrades being caught by surprise. We had state-of-the-art equipment that came from the Soviet Union and even comrades being deployed to the front were issued with radios. So I stayed in the Signals Corps until 1979 when it was decided that a majority of trained personnel had to move to the front. I arrived in the Lupane area in a unit of 15 and that was quickly followed by the ceasefire period. I then moved to Mike Assembly Point at St Paul’s Mission in Lupane. Later on I was sent to Gwayi River Mine Assembly Point where I re-united with my former teammates from Highlanders Juniors.
MS: Did you have any team?
Cde Tshuma: We started playing football again. My visit to Bulawayo after such a long time was when we came to play against a second string Bosso team at Babourfields Satdium. Our team had those former junior players, George Nkomo, brother to Peter Nkomo and George Moyo. Others were people like Smart Moyo who had also played for Bosso before he went to the war.
In fact, after Independence Smart played for the Highlanders first team and would keep goal when Peter was not in the team. Other guerilla footballers were Charlie, Spinks, Mahanganza, Fletcher, Ronnie, Muzondiwa and Embassy Tsambani. The Gwayi Assembly Point team later on played in the Zifa Division Two team as Dynamo Kiev, borrowing the name from a Russian team. By that time we had been demobilised and we used to have practice sessions as Desert Ground in Njube suburb.
A majority of the players were running a co-operative, situated at Woodville. We used to finance the team from our demobilisation proceeds.
After the collapse of the team because of financial problems, I joined Stars Football Club which was owned by an Esigodini miner and businessman, Mr Stone.
While in my twilight football life that is when we were joined by players such as current Bulawayo City chairman, Jerry Sibanda. He came from Gwanda Ramblers via Highlanders.