The Sunday News
Lt-Colonel Jackson Joseph aka Barnabas Sibanda
“Since I said the aircraft that was shot from the other camp was burning, we were ordered to make a follow up”. That was an article from the Sunday News 28 March to 3 April 2021 edition quoting now Bulawayo Town Clerk Major (Retired) Christopher Dube aka Cde Edmos Ngulube under the Lest We Forget column.
The quotation from Maj (Rtd) Dube is one for the archives as it brings joy, peace and happiness in my heart especially as next month we mark the 43rd anniversary of that battle across the Zambezi River in Zambia. The aircraft that Maj (Rtd) Dube was referring to was shot by the Foxhole Brigade and was seen burning by comrades from the neighbouring ZPRA camp where Maj (Rtd) Dube was based.
The camp where I was based and that of Maj (Rtd) Dube were some distance from each other, just a short distance. Obviously, the pilot could have been roasting, this was exciting, and it made good reading material, good news indeed.
The Rhodesian Aircraft (Canberra) could have taken off from New Sarum Airbase (Manyame), Salisbury, now Harare, Rhodesia less than an hour earlier laden with bombs, canisters, drums of napalm with a mission to bomb and kill us on parade.
A total of 3 000 of us had been deceived to parade at Tsetse Control Point Chinyunyu so that we could be massacred. It turned otherwise as our anti-aircraft guns had done the job they were designed for. So, the Canberra bomber was burning and the pilot was obviously screaming and roasting. That was good news.
That incident happened in October 1978 and next month we mark the 43rd anniversary of that military accomplishment. I was a member of the Foxhole Brigade, to be precise I was the Advance Guard Commander of the Brigade. I had personally deployed the three anti-air craft guns that fired and hit the Canberra as such I have reasons to be happy, a cause to celebrate.
All along the Rhodesians had thought they were superior in technology and purpose. Their technology was the wheel, the canon and the maxim machine gun, their purpose was enshrined in the Berlin Conference of 1884, an exclusive conference conducted in the Arctic Circle.
They (Rhodesian) had massacred Africans, destroyed our kingdoms and chieftaincies and established their own illegal regimes based on white supremacy. They (Rhodesians) were to declare Unilateral Declaration of Independence, an illegal racist government. This was an insult to the Creator.
To the smooth skinned people abeNsundu God had allocated continental Africa; the land of abundance, that is abundant rainfall, abundant minerals, abundant sunlight, extensive rich land. This he gave to his people land suitable for all forms of agriculture, unfortunately our neighbours to the North were allocated an Ice block for their inheritance.
The Arctic Circle is frozen most of the time, so there is virtually little agriculture, they were blessed with white meat penguins, beavers, seals, fish and crabs. It is this starvation in the Arctic Circle which brings us to the Rufunsa District of Zambia, Southern Africa 150 kilometres East of Chinyunyu Business Centre. We, members of the Fox Hole Brigade were the targets. We, Zimbabwean nationals were refugees in the territory of Zambia, in the thick forests of Rufunsa Game Reserve, deep in the intestines of Africa.
The Rhodesian rebels made a follow-up and we gunned them down. God had given us the Desheka and the Zeg-u-I anti-craft artillery, God had given us the Rocket Propelled Grenade Model 7 R.P.G.7 the bazooka, a weapon of the masses special designed to kill imperialists, God had given us the AK- 47 and its sisters the RPK light machine guns.
We were no longer the Imbizo of the previous century that was brought down by the maxim gun, which was spitting fire when the imperialists raided our country. We were no longer the Umgandani nor the Insukamini which were armed with spears, we had evolved.
In that operation Ian Smith, the Rhodesian premier was making a follow up-operation; a hot- pursuit operation, crossed the Zambezi with all military arsenals at his disposal to bomb us on parade unaware that we had evolved from men who had crossed the Zambezi to seek refuge in Zambia. We were no longer the “miserable” African natives and tribesmen, we had evolved from “pathetic” individuals to a formidable Brigade, the Foxhole Brigade.
It is important to celebrate the achievements of the Foxhole Brigade. We have to do the academic part of ZPRA’S war monster; the apostles of liberty. The story of the Foxhole Brigade sounds like the story of the tomb of the Unknown Soldier as very little has been written nor said about those tigers.
We have heard and read about the capture and execution of South African Sergeant-Major Kuhn by ZPRA forces, told about numerous battles and campaigns about the gallant ZPRA/Zanla operations, on its own a brilliant development. We have read and heard about the Freedom Camp, Mkushi, Nyadzonya and Chimoio raids, but absolutely nothing has been documented about the Foxhole Brigade the culminating point of Operation Demolition Zipra of October 1978.
In a series of articles I am working on, if the Sunday News editor gives the nod I shall therefore seek to write, unveil the Foxhole Brigade, the Zipra’s mechanised Guerilla Brigade; the Guerilla Unit that gunned more aircrafts than any other Brigade. This is the Brigade that sired the Lancaster House Conference.
Tactical we can say the Foxhole Brigade was the first echelon, the second being the Mulungushi Brigade. We need more stories from members of the Foxhole Brigade. Comrades come forward and tell your accounts of the war.
NB: Cde Jackson Joseph who is popularly known by his pseudo name Barnabas Sibanda was soon after independence attested into the Zimbabwe National Army as a Lieutenant-Colonel. In the 1990s he made headlines when he tried to build a helicopter using an engine of a Citroen.