The Sunday News
CDE John Maluzo Ndlovu who turned 79 on Thursday last week is a veteran guerilla who belongs to the pioneering group of freedom fighters.
The former Zanu-PF Member of Parliament for Nkayi Constituency who served between 1995 and 2000 belongs to the first group of freedom fighters that was trained in the People’s Republic of China. The group had decorated fighters such as Luke Mhlanga, Gordon Butshe, Charles Njodzi Dauramanzi, Felix Rice, Clarke Mpofu, Johnson Ndebele, Stone Nkomazana, James Chatagwi, Lloyd Gundu, Amen Chikwakata, Douglas Mudukuti and others whom Cde Ndlovu cannot remember.
Cde Ndlovu was to be later on captured while operating in the Mashonaland provinces and then Salisbury (Harare) in the 60s. Our Assistant Editor Mkhululi on Friday last week traced Cde Ndlovu to his home where the veteran freedom fighter who is not feeling well spoke about his early life, political activities, how he joined the armed struggle, training in China and deployment to the front. Below are excerpts of the interview. Read on . . .
MS: Many people know you as the former Member of Parliament for Nkayi and a veteran freedom fighter. May you please begin by going through your early life, where you were born and so on.
Cde Ndlovu: I was born on 6 June 1940 at Emaguswini (Matabeleland North), koChief Solomon Mahlangu, koSivalo. So yesterday (Thursday) was my 79th birthday. I grew up there and I started my primary education at the local Sivalo Primary School and that was in 1947. During those days it was unheard of for such a young person like me to just enrol in school. So in my class I was by far the youngest pupil as among my classmates were individuals who were bearded, amadoda ayelendevu. Youngsters like myself did not qualify, so I started my Sub-A with people who were way far ahead of me in terms of age. The reason why I was able to enrol at the school was because the headmaster, a man who came from Shurugwi then called Selukwe in the Midlands Province just like me saw it fit that I attend school. In fact I ended up staying with him and his wife at the head’s cottage because he liked me so much. That couple did not have children, so I became their child, so to speak. They had spotted me at my home as it was very close to the school.
MS: So how did you cope with your lessons?
Cde Ndlovu: I was doing very well, I was passing with flying colours although to be honest I did not understand what was happening around me. I say so because when the end of term results came, I was happy that I had passed, but when those who had failed were told that they had done badly, started crying, I also joined them in crying. I think kwakuyi buntwana. So this trend continued up to Sub-B. For Standard One I continued at Sivalo, but for Standard 2 I moved to Sagonde Primary under Chief Sikhobokhobo, which is quite a distance from my home. I moved because my school did not have Standard 2. So I was at Sagonde for Standard 3 and then for Standard 4 I moved again, by that time I was aware and could understand what education was. My parents took me to Cyrene Mission in Matabeleland South Province. There I met the principal who was called Mr Francon James. I was at Cyrene until I completed my secondary education. At Cyrene that is where I met the father of the late Dumiso Dabengwa, whom we called Mavakatsha, he was teaching agriculture there. He was a brilliant teacher, that man. At Cyrene that is where I gained notoriety for mischief.
MS: What mischief Baba Ndlovu?
Cde Ndlovu: Angithi yithi esasitshaya abantu! We are the ones who were beating up people, the newly arrivals at the school, amadzwinyi, I was enjoying those serious beatings of the newcomers especially the Form Ones, which was sort of a culture in initiating the new comers to school.
MS: Kkkk you are not serious Cde Ndlovu.
Cde Ndlovu: I am very serious, that was part of growing up.
MS: Then after school where did you go?
Cde Ndlovu: After my secondary education that is when I felt that I was really educated, I was very proud of myself. Instead of looking for a job or going further with my studies I decided to return home in Nkayi. At first I thought I was going there briefly, but I ended up staying there for a long time because of the developments that happened. When I returned home after school, I became the storekeeper at my father’s shop, for he was a businessman. It was during that time that I was seized by the spirit of the liberation struggle. It could have been between 1957 and 1958. I became politically conscious.
MS: Tell us more about that period?
Cde Ndlovu: You know during those days I used to see people driving all the way from Bulawayo coming to visit my father to discuss the political situation prevailing at that time. Those people included the likes of Mswelaboya, the late national hero, Sikhwili Khohli Moyo, uMP Jikelele, who was affectionately called Madlezibabayo, another late national hero, Welshman Hadana Mabhena and Lalatshona Ndebele. Our home became a meeting ground for politicians and that changed my thinking. I became entangled in politics. My father was also critical of the colonial government. He was critical of its policies such as downsizing of the black’s livestock, cattle to be particular, he was also not happy with how people were being forced to dig contour ridges in their fields, amakandiwa.
MS: What was your role in all this, were you directly involved in political activities?
Cde Ndlovu: I became the secretary of the local leadership as I was deemed educated enough. My role was to record minutes of the meetings. However, when they went to do other things like carrying out sabotage activities I was left behind. Later on I was trained on how to effectively use traditional weapons such as spears. That was when there was word doing the rounds that the colonial army trucks were coming to invade our area. People mobilised themselves and vowed that they would ambush them ekhunjini lukaTshangane River and stab their tyres. That was how fired up and prepared the villagers were in resisting the policies of the colonial government. Then came the period of political parties, first the African National Congress of Southern Rhodesia, which I joined and that is when I started enjoying politics. By 4 July 1959 I was a fully fledged young politician, who had become active in the reserves as the rural areas were known then. I was an activist in the reserves while other youths like DD (Dumiso Dabengwa) and Clarke Mpofu were very active and making waves in Bulawayo. I enjoyed operating from the reserves. Then came the period of Zhii, spontaneous riots and burning of property in Bulawayo in 1960 where there were casualties with some people killed. The whites would shoot to kill.
MS: Were you in Bulawayo during that period?
Cde Ndlovu: No! I was in Nkayi, but those protests also had a bearing in the rural areas as people fled from Bulawayo to their rural homes in droves. Some walked more than 200km to their rural homes, it was an interesting period.
MS: What was your reaction to that?
Cde Ndlovu: Personally I would ask them what were they doing in the cities, working for the white man? I would mock them. I would tell them that the white man should in fact have killed them.
MS: Any incidents worth talking about that were taking place in the rural areas or reserves during that period?
Cde Ndlovu: We were not sitting back and folding our arms, we were also working, stoking the fires of the liberation struggle. We would identify homesteads of sell-outs and bring them down, using fire. Arson was our weapon and it was very rife in the reserves, particularly in Nkayi. We were using arson in the reserves while our colleagues in towns were throwing stones, those were the weapons that were at the disposal of the firebrand youths at the time, like myself. That was the genesis of the armed struggle, we were planting the seeds of the revolution. Every revolution has its stages, that was the first stage of the armed struggle.
MS: May you please elaborate on your activities where you were burning down homesteads and other infrastructure.
Cde Ndlovu: Aah wena mfana, you want to know too much, I will tell you mhlana ngidakwa.
MS: Doing all this, what was the reaction of the colonial government?
Cde Ndlovu: Obviously it could not stand by and watch. We became the target of the Rhodesian security forces and it was during that time that I was arrested together with nine elderly people from Nkayi including my father, James Maluzo and Yona Sibanda who were deemed too extreme. We were thrown behind bars at Khami Prison where we spent nine months.
-To be continued next week with Cde Ndlovu talking about how he was recruited to join the armed struggle in Zambia and his training in China.