The Sunday News
GROWING up in the drought-stricken Beitbridge District in Matabeleland South Province, the then-young Alson Masunge Muleya (pictured) had a dream of owning a piece of land where he could quench his thirst for farming. His affinity for land and the urge to reverse the racial discrimination by the Rhodesians saw the now Lieutenant-Colonel (Rtd) Muleya pseudonym Cde Edward Banda walking through the rugged terrain of his district and cross the border to Botswana en route to Zambia to join the armed struggle in April1977. He has realised his dream as today he owns a piece of land in
Beitbridge and is doing well in both crops and livestock. When Lt-Col (Rtd) Muleya, who had completed his Ordinary level education at Matopo Mission and had decent results got to Zambia he was chosen to be part of the group of 95 ZPRA cadres who were sent to go and do an officers cadet course. The course was done at the Zambian Military Academy at Kohima. The recruits to Kohima were chosen from guerillas who had seen action at the front such as now former commander of the Northern Front One (NF1), Colonel (Rtd) Waison Tshipa aka Cde John Nyampungidza, former frontal commanders of the Southern Front, Cdes Carlos Mudzingwa and Irvine Khulekani Sibhona (Baberton Mzwambila). The other recruits were drawn from the group that had trained at Morogoro in Tanzania but had not yet seen action while the last was from those deemed educated, youngsters with O-level and above such as Lt-Col (Rtd) Muleya, Major-General (Rtd) Chancellor Diye, Major-General Emmanuel Matatu, now late Brigadier-Generals Milton Siziba and Todd Mpala as well as now academic, Cde Peeps Gonde, among others. On Thursday our Assistant Editor Mkhululi Sibanda (MS) spoke to Lt-Col (Rtd) Muleya and he narrated how he left the country to join the armed struggle in Zambia before he was deployed to the front. He operated in Binga, Lupane and some parts of Gokwe in the Midlands Province. Below are excerpts from the interview. Read on…..
MS: Cde Muleya thank you very much for granting us this interview. Let’s start by giving us your brief background.
Lt-Col (Rtd) Muleya: I was born on 3 March 1952 at Masunga in the Siyoka area in Beitbridge District, Matabeleland South Province. I went to school very late, which was the usual thing those days as I started my Sub-A in 1965 at the nearby Masungane School where I went up to Standard 3. I was then moved to Beitbridge Boarding School where I completed my Grade 7. That was after the education system had done away with amaStandard and introduced the grades. I completed Grade 7 in 1970 and the following year I enrolled for Form One at Manama Mission in the neighbouring district of Gwanda. After Form Two, I transferred to Matopo Mission where I completed my O-level in 1974.
MS: After Matopo Mission, what was the next step?
Lt-Col (Rtd) Muleya: After Matopo I moved to the then Salisbury, now Harare where my brothers were working. I had other relatives there such as uncles. My brothers, two of them were working as police officers and so they encouraged me to join the police force, but I refused. During my stay in Salisbury, I was not employed as I was being spoiled by my brothers and uncles. However, all the time I was thinking about leaving the country to go and join the armed struggle. I had become politically conscious as at my rural home there was a lot of political activity. I had become a member of the Zapu Youth Wing. There was a man in our area who was mobilising for Zapu and his name was Pin Mbedzi. He used to address meetings in the Siyoka area, he was the local commissar. My other motivation to join the armed struggle stemmed from the Rhodesian government’s segregation against the blacks, the indigenous people of this country. I then found myself in the leadership structures of Zapu in my rural home. I chose not to look for employment and in April 1977 I left the country to join the armed struggle.
MS: Take us through your journey to the armed struggle.
Lt-Col (Rtd) Muleya: What used to happen is that I would go to my rural home, stay there for some time and then go to Harare. Then by 1977, the political temperature was high and I had also intensified my political activities as a youth in Beitbridge. I then decided to leave. So one day I and another local, Luke or Luka Bandula we left our village for Botswana. From our village, we headed to Zezani Business Centre where we wanted to meet a businessman called Sibungwana. Sibungwana had a reputation for assisting those who were going to join the war.
He is the one who will give directions to the border to those going to the war and also update them on the movement of the Rhodesian forces. He will tell the potential recruits which areas to avoid. We then walked with Luka to Zezani Business Centre and when we got there we found 72 others who were on their way to Botswana.
They were coming from Beitbridge East. It was in the afternoon and we then started moving after being given directions by Sibungwana. To avoid being an attraction we split into smaller groups and to me the military instinct had kicked in. We had started behaving like soldiers. We were moving in a tactical formation. The previous night it had rained continuously and when we got to Toporo we found the river in flood. The rains had been so heavy that some trees had been uprooted, so we sought shelter under the branches of the uprooted trees. We stayed there until 2 pm when others suggested that I and Luka we should go and seek directions from the villagers. However, that is how we separated from the 72.
MS: How did that happen? Take us through that.
Lt-Col (Rtd) Muleya: While we were looking for the best direction towards the border we stumbled upon an old woman who was working in her fields. She then told us that some people who were going to the war were shot by the Rhodesian forces in Jalukanga. She then suggested that we go towards Shashe Business Centre. At that point, we were very hungry. The lady then gave us watermelons which were not yet fully ripe. With the way we were hungry, we were very grateful for her kindness. We then walked and later on, decided to put up for the night just before Shashe. The night was extremely cold and we then set up fire to keep us warm and also to keep the mosquitos away. We woke up around 3am and started walking again.
We got to Shashe River at sunrise. There were shops there and we approached them. We bought bread and sat down to eat. We crossed the river around 9am as we had been warned that there was usually a spotter plane that would be seen hovering around the area. By the time it started hovering around we had crossed to Botswana in the Bokwena area. We were shocked to find that Botswana was very dry, no water.
The rain had not fallen there. We were thirsty and we started looking for water.
To be continued next week with Lt-Col Muleya talking about how they were received in Botswana, moving to Zambia where he was chosen to go for an officers cadet course at Kohima.