The Sunday News
STERLINGTON Shumba’s experiences soon after independence are a clear testimony of the post-independence political turmoil and turbulence that beset the new state of Zimbabwe. Right from the creation of the Patriotic Front with its co-presidents it became clear the situation after independence was going to be challenging. The two parties should have known patently clear that there could never be two bulls living in the same cattle pen, so goes the wise saying of the Ndebele people.
At the same time a united political movement was not in the best interests of the western powers. The Soviet Union would have attached itself to the coat tails of PF-ZAPU. There had to be various political shenanigans to ensure there was no genuine unity between PF-ZAPU and ZANU-PF. Serious homework was done to forestall any moves towards striking amity between the two political movements. Western moves were calculated at playing one leader against the other. As indicated in Mtshana Ncube’s comments, the 1978 contacts between the agents of Western powers and (Dr) Joshua Nkomo were clearly calculated to generate mistrust, ill-feeling between the two political parties.
The strategy worked to drive a wedge between the two political parties. The end result was costly in terms of loss of human lives and enduring ethnic divisions.
The issue was not, as some might be tempted to think, about differences in political ideology. There were no fundamental ideological differences at all. Knowing where they obtained the weapons and military training facilities, the parties were able to put up a façade and mouthed appropriate ideological pronouncements. Beyond mere mouthing there really was nothing they were convinced about. No wonder after independence there was a steady drift from the pronounced Marxist-Leninist stance to fully fledged capitalism. The Leadership Code was cast overboard.
A look at what Shumba wrote about his experiences becomes a clear indication of the challenges that emerged when the Patriotic Front failed to fight the 1980 general elections as a single entity. Today we draw Comrade Shumba’s accounts to a conclusion. It is not that his written memoirs have ended. It is that our thrust for this year was to focus on the history of the liberation struggle. As will be seen in this week’s installment, the tribulations that Shumba faced extended deep into the post-independence period. By that time, he was a refugee at Dukwe in Botswana. Time will come when that episode where the South Africans were meddling in Zimbabwe’s politics out of their own interests whose main thrust was to prevent or delay independence in that country, would be told.
South Africa knew ZPRA and the ANC’s uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) had mounted joint operations both in 1967 and 1968. Even at independence and beyond their cooperation still existed. South Africa was at the time sponsoring Super ZAPU which they were training in the Limpopo Province to destabilize Zimbabwe through their sponsored dissidents. At the same time some white members of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) had been recruited to serve as double agents. Those of week political conviction and orientation were blown by the strong winds of political deception and got recruited into Super ZAPU which undertook its operations especially in Matabeleland South which was the province nearest to South Africa and therefore likely to be used by MK for its own infiltration into apartheid South Africa.
Sterling Shumba was not among those that were persuaded to join Super ZAPU. He knew his politics well, that even when they were being put under challenge in Zimbabwe for being ZPRA, they would not assist South Africa who they considered a pariah state and enemy of progressive forces back then.
He remained in Dukwe until the end of Gukurahundi when the political refugees at Dukwe were repatriated. In the meantime, let us proceed with his account before he went to Dukwe.
“The next day I had to visit home (in Bulawayo) and find out how things were. On arrival at home, I gathered that the police had visited the place in search of me. I then decided not to stay at home as this would place the rest of the family in danger. I used to spend the whole day at the Centenary Park or at relatives’ or friends’ homes. I made it a point that I did not sleep at one place twice.
“As time drew on, the dragnet was slowly closing in on us. The last straw that broke the camel’s back was when they raided our home and took away with them my brother. It was a combined force comprising the military police, the CIO and civilian police. The security agents found my aunt at home and made it clear they were not going to release my brother from there until the family revealed my whereabouts. They also wanted to know where another sister of mine lived. They suspected I could be holed out there. So, they went to her place but did not find me. Many of my relatives’ and friends’ residential premises were raided. So, on that particular night I decided to put up within some church premises in Makokoba. Two more nights I spent within the same premises.
“My sisters advised me that I should go to Botswana by train even though I had no passport. One of my sisters gave me a book titled “Brothers Beloved,” a track suit, toiletries and a travelling bag. She even arranged a decent flat in the city but I spent the night in the Botswana-bound train. My brother booked a place for me on the train and took my luggage to the coach so that I travelled without any luggage but found it in the coach. I got into my coach, closed the door and started reading the book I had been given by my sister. I was booked and travelled under a false name of Vic Jabulani Ndabazaphezulu.
“CIO security agents were teeming both at the railway station in Bulawayo and also aboard the train. I maintained a very low profile. I began somewhat relaxing when we got to Plumtree. My ticket indicated I was travelling to Plumtree. Then came the immigration officials. Fortunately, one of them was an ex-ZPRA cadre with whom I had trained in the Soviet Union. He trained in immigration when I trained in intelligence.
He was so pleased to see me and he offered me accommodation in Plumtree. I told him I was visiting my girlfriend at Tegwane Secondary School. I told him I did not know the place that much so he offered me some accommodation at Plumtree where he was based
“He used to get to work early and return in the evening. There was a male assistant who attended to the domestic chores. So, my routine was to get up, take a bath, eat breakfast and start thinking. Plumtree had may agents from the Zimbabwe Intelligence Corps (ZIC) and the CIO who were moving up and down. As a result, I did not venture out of the house at any time till I left Plumtree. My task was to make enquiries about illegal crossing points into Botswana. One day I crossed the border and got to a village known as Siviya on the other side of the border.
It was ploughing time and I met some Batswana who were going about their business of cultivating their crop fields. I asked them to direct me to the chief who I told I had crossed illegally and would like to get to the police. I travelled to the main road linking Plumtree and Francistown. Later I learnt that the CIO got to the chief in their vain in an attempt to catch up with me. The poor chief was beaten unconscious! I traveled till I got to Tshesebe where I bought some food before travelling to Francistown.”
Sterlington Shumba was fleeing Zimbabwe for the second time. He did not witness what was taking place in Zimbabwe until he returned home following the signing of the Unity Accord of 22 December 1987. Dukwe was to become his home for several years. The goings on at Dukwe constitute a story for the other day.