The Sunday News
Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
CLAD in a blur of olive fatigues, Cde Falcon Dube was unfazed by the air superiority of the Rhodesian Air Force as he pointed his powerful anti-air gun to the enemy’s fighter jet and subsequently bringing it down in mid-air.
Cde Dube (58), a Zimbabwe People`s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) ex-combatant, is a survivor of the Mulungushi attack by the Rhodesian Air Force in December 1978.
He is one of the country’s freedom fighters who fought tirelessly and under painful circumstances to liberate the country from the shackles of colonialism and oppression under the Ian Smith repressive regime. Cde Dube, who was attached to the Zipra’s air defence unit, distinctly recalls how he downed a Rhodesian Air Force fighter jet.
“I recall it was on 22 December 1978 at around 8AM when the Four Rhodesian Air Force jets and five helicopters descended on Mulungushi Camp and attacked us. I was a gunner who was on the frontline with my anti-air gun and there was an intense exchange of fire during which I managed to bring down one of the fighter jets. However, because of my position, the enemy managed to spot me and subsequently launched their missile, which hit me,” he said in an interview recently in his home district of Beitbridge in Matabeleland South Province.
Cde Dube was hit on the left leg and sustained serious injuries, which resulted in his leg being amputated. He said 28 freedom fighters were killed during the Mulungushi attack while several hundreds were injured.
“The missile hit me on the left leg and I fell down. I was taken to Makeni Clinic which catered for the injured freedom fighters and it was during my stay in hospital that I learnt of the death of my 28 colleagues. I was among the injured having survived the attack,” he said.
Because of the nature of the injuries Cde Dube’s left leg had to be amputated. He said he was then taken to a rehabilitation centre at Kafue where he pursued his studies. Cde Dube also recalls another air raid by a joint air force of Rhodesia and South Africa at CGT2 base of artillery in Zambia where they were attacked by 24 helicopters, five fighter jets and a Douglas C-47 Skytrain commonly known as a Dakota.
Douglas C-47 Skytrain is a military transport aircraft developed from the civilian Douglas DC-3 airliner. It was used extensively by the Allies during World War II and remains in front line service with various military operators. Dakota shot down several helicopters.
“I also vividly remember in October 1978 when the enemy brought 24 helicopters, five fighter jets and a Dakota and launched an aerial attack. We however, managed to repulse the enemy and they retreated,” he said.
Cde Dube crossed the border to Zambia on January 30 in 1977 after dropping out at Grade Seven to join the armed struggle.
He arrived at Nampundwe Camp, located about 45 km west of Lusaka in February before proceeding to Angola three months later to undergo military training.
At Nampundwe this is where the screening exercise was done as people arrived from Zimbabwe to join the liberation struggle.
The arrival at Nampundwe was remembered as distressing and disorienting owing in part to the stark difference between the recruits imaginary of war and what they found in the camp. On arrival at Nampundwe many had expected to be handed a gun and then quickly dash back to the then Rhodesia to engage the enemy in combat.
However, that was not to be as the induction at Nampundwe was not complete without going through what was known as “meeting the old man,” a term used to refer to the late Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo. Dr Nkomo, a figure of heroic proportions had inspired many to join the armed struggle. According to excerpts from some publications it made sense to recruits that Dr Nkomo would welcome them, but what happened subsequently was described as terrible shock.
“In January 1978, I completed my training on anti-aircraft in Angola and deployed to CGT2 base of artillery under the defence section of anti-air guns,” he said.
In the later stages of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, Cuban and Soviet Instructors trained a substantial force of some 8 000 soldiers in military camps in Angola. The Angolan-trained group probably constituted a third of Zipra forces by the end of the war. After the war in 1980, Cde Dube returned home and continued with his education.
“I used part of my demobilisation allowances to further my studies. I wrote my ‘O’ Level in 1986 before enrolling at the Bulawayo Polytechnic where I did my diploma in accounting and finished in 1988,” he said.
Cde Dube was employed by the Ministry of Health as an accounting clerk before moving to the Ministry of Youths Affairs. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting with the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU).