Rhodesian raids into Zambia: Attack on Mkushi Camp for girls

09 Aug, 2020 - 00:08 0 Views
Rhodesian raids into Zambia:  Attack on Mkushi Camp for girls

The Sunday News

Pathisa Nyathi

GREEN leader communicated with the Lusaka International Airport tower, advising them about impending raid on ZAPU camps within the vicinity of Lusaka but also at a site over 150 miles (about 241 km) from the Zambian capital. What was about to commence were the heartless and ferocious attacks on ZAPU camps where refugees were housed. That was the start, on 19 October 1978, of a series of raids that went on intermittently until towards the end of 1979, at a time the Lancaster House talks were in progress, having commenced in September of the same year, following the Commonwealth Heads State and Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Lusaka.

We refer to this incident as part of a continuing rendition of the Rhodesian state’s dastardly cross border attacks on ZAPU’s refugee facilities in Zambia and beyond. In response to the raids ZAPU relocated some of her facilities to Solwezi region which was deemed far enough to be safe from the wrath of the Rhodesians. As we do so, we are cognisant of the fact that the ZAPU archive met, over the years, with a chequered history and fate to which we refer very briefly.

ZAPU’s history outside of Southern Rhodesia commenced in the early 1960s when some cadres left the country to undergo military training in friendly countries such as Egypt, China, North Korea, Algeria, Ghana, Algeria and Cuba. That was followed, soon after, by the relocation of ZAPU’s administration to Tanganyika and the appointment and posting of early Party Representatives such as Edward Ndlovu, Tranos Makombe, Leopold Takawira, Enock Dumbutshena, Benjamin Madlela and Isaac Ronald Mswelaboya Sibanda, inter alia. When Zambia attained her independence in 1964, the ZAPU office relocated from Dar-es-Salaam to Lusaka.

Among the party functionaries that were leading the external wing were the following: James Robert Dambaza Chikerema, Jaison Ziyaphapha Moyo, George Bodzo Nyandoro, Edward Ndlovu, George Silundika and others. Chikerema was the chief of the external operations, including the Special Affairs which was tasked with with the responsibility over the prosecution of the armed struggle by ZAPU at the time. ZAPU created an archive of its role in that struggle. In 1971, there was a split within the movement in Lusaka which ultimately led to ZAPU being torn apart into three components: ZAPU led by J Z Moyo, the March 11 Movement led by Philemon Mabuza and the Frolizi, under the leadership of Shelton Siwela.

Following that split, the ZAPU archive was lost or was taken by Chikerema. The bottom line is that ZAPU lost its archive as main stream ZAPU was that led by J Z Moyo and not the one led by Chikerema. Following the reconstitution of ZAPU, a new archive was created by Edward Ndlovu who kept it as a private collection to and beyond independence. I had sight of that very rich useful archive after the death of Edward Ndlovu. His wife, Mary, a lecturer at the Hillside Teachers’ College preserved the archive. Being a historian, she was quite alert to the importance of archives in preserving the history of an organisation.

At the time I was researching on Edward Ndlovu’s biography, a project for which I had been commissioned by Longman. I was accorded unlimited access to the archive and took copious quantities of notes from same. In my last communication with Mary, she informed me that she had passed on the archive to (South African History Archive Trust) SAHA. We can rest assured that the archive is in safe hands although it would been good to have the archive digitised and a copy deposited with the National Archives of Zimbabwe (NAZ). We are most grateful to Mary for her role in preserving that ZAPU archive.

I am not sure who, after the 1971 split within ZAPU, was officially responsible for the compilation and preservation of the ZAPU archive.

What I do know is that the archive did survive to independence. The archive was, at that time, housed within one of the properties that ZAPU ran through the auspices of Nitram whose directors were ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo and Dr Isaac Nyathi. Mishek Velaphi was treasurer.

When politico-military problems surfaced in the period following independence, ZAPU properties were forfeited to the state together with the vast archive and J Z Moyo’s military uniform which was kept at Nijo Farm, one of those that were forfeited to the state following the application of the Unlawful Organisations Act (1959), a piece of legislation which was enacted in 1959 and used to ban the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (SRANC) during Emergency Regulations which were imposed on Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), Southern Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (today known as Malawi).

The last time I heard about the missing archive was when Dumiso Dabengwa informed me he was optimistic , in the period when he had become part of government, that there was some glimmer of hope that the confiscated archive could be recovered. However, soon thereafter his optimism were dashed and the ZAPU archive was never recovered to this day. The Mafela Trust has, under the management of Zephaniah Nkomo, and sponsorship from Tshinga Dube, worked relentlessly to rebuild the archive especially as it related to the role of ZPRA in the armed struggle, alongside other ZAPU/ZPRA histories.

In last week’s installment we referred to airborne attacks on Freedom Camp (FC). Today we give an account based on the Edward Ndlovu archive, that relates to the attack on Mkushi Camp, a ZAPU girls’ facility over 150 miles away from Lusaka. Mkushi was a camp where girls were receiving basic instruction and training as police officers, customs and excise, immigration, medical assistants, social welfare and driving lessons in preparation for an independent Zimbabwe. In a recently published biography of the widow of Welshman Hadane Mabhena ( Nyathi, Pathisa, 2020, Rebecca Mabhena nee Dlodlo, A Biography), Mrs Mabhena says she trained with some of the medical assistants at Mt Selinda soon after independence.

“No women at this camp have been given combat roles,” wrote Edward Ndlovu in a document bearing both his signature and ZAPU official stamp on 18 November 1978, and also bore the party address as P. O. Box 1657, Lusaka. The document had been compiled about a month after the raids on Mkushi Camp. The camp, according to Edward Ndlovu, had male and female instructors. In all, there were about 2 000 females at the camp and 36 men. Some of the men provided security to the camp.

The Rhodesian planes arrived at about 11.00 am when the girls were gathered for their meal.There were about 3 or 4 bombers which were accompanied by 8 helicopters. The commander at the camp was Jane Ndlovu and the Rhodesians demanded that she blow a whistle to summon the girls to gather. Once the girls, responding to the whistle gathered, she was commanded to open fire on them. She refused to take the command, after which the Rhodesian soldiers opened fire on the girls and shot them all down. Thirty of them were killed by a grenade which was hurled into a shelter where the girls were hiding. Some of the wounded girls had napalm bomb burns.

“It is only by extreme good fortune and resourcefulness of the girls in finding hiding places for their survival.” After the bombers and helicopters had done the initial massacre, Rhodesian white and black paratroopers of both sexes appeared on the scene and rounded up the girls and went on to massacre them. The camp was completely destroyed. Before the Rhodesians retreated, they heavily mined the area. That made it extremely difficult to carry out body counts. Be that as it may, about 112 girls were killed during the raid, 90 were injured and 192 were unaccounted for.

From the report, it is clear the Rhodesians possessed intelligence regarding the times when girls gathered. When the girls were having meals or at the parade square, those were times when they were most vulnerable. The Rhodesians knew too that a whistle was blown to summon the girls to gather, be it for a parade or time when they got their meals. Such timing was not limited to Mkushi camp. The same was true of other camps both in Zambia and Angola that were attacked. The Rhodesians seem to have infiltrated smart moles from the outset of the armed struggle to its conclusion. Some of these were identified and incarcerated at Mboroma where the Rhodesians spirited them out and took them back to Rhodesia.

Recruitment was done inside Rhodesia and the moles went together with genuine cadres going for military training. The exercise was not confined to armed cadres, among the civilian personnel there were some who worked closely with organizations such as MI6, the CIA, Pide and Mossad in addition to the CIO and Selous Scouts. That was the case both within and without Rhodesia.

Edward Ndlovu may have been concealing the fact that some girls did undergo combat training. I have certainly interviewed some of them who indicated that they indeed underwent combat training. After leaving Nampundwe Transit Camp, they proceeded to Mkushi for more advanced training. In fact, there were frequent references to the Women’s Brigade at Mkusi and later at Solwezi where Gertrude Ngwenya was the commander. Further, how was Jane Ndlovu expected to open fire if she did not possess basic skills in military matters? Pictures captured by Zenzo Nkobi indicate girls donning military attire and holding AK 47 rifles. One such girl, back then, was Sijabuliso Gumede.

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