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Hard won Zim, lest we forget

By Catherine Murombedzi
THE war of liberation had started in earnest. First, it was the word that spread like a veldfire, then it was a whisper and later it was one boy and girl after the other in the neihgbourhood and Rhodesia caught fire.

The first born in our family was Shadreck who was born in 1951. I was the last born in a family of eight. Mukoma Benny was the second eldest child and then came the girls. I grew up knowing the family tree like that. It was only decades later that I came to know that Benny was our cousin but had been raised by my parents. Our uncle had divorced and the extended family saw it fit that amaiguru who was our mother take in Benny as her own. So to me Mukoma Benny was the second child. I did not know the nitty gritties because of our age differences. I was born in 1968.

Mukoma Shaddy had left for work in 1974 and never to come back home. He was already working then after having successfully completed Form 2 as a carpenter. Mukoma Benny also worked somewhere in Msasa industrial area. Our residence was in Old Mabvuku, 93 Chirimuta to be precise. Our father had told us that Mukoma Shady had found a better paying job in Que Que, so as an apprentice he would not be coming home any time soon. That put a damper on me, Mukoma Shaddy always brought me a sucker sweet and a candy cake now and again. So how long was the wait going to be? Since he had found a better paying job, he would bring me a packet full of sucker sweets, I dreamt.

A year later father announced that Mukoma Benny had also joined Mukoma Shaddy in Que Que so he would not be coming home any time soon too. The queer aspect of all this was that Amai was very saddened by Mukoma Shaddy and Mukoma Benny finding 'good work opportunities' in Que Que. I did not understand her then.

From that time mother lost her appetite and was off sadza, beef, chicken, bread, eggs you name anything that was supposed to be food for a normal ghetto family. She was now hooked on rapoko porridge. Now and again she would accept a bottle of Coke. She also became anti-social, she would spend the whole day tending her garden and when tired would sit by the banana shed. Baba was worried. He would bring home appetisers, grapes, apples, ham or even cheese but still mother refused to eat. I would gladly eat these. Baba even planted a vineyard, an apple tree and planted some strawberries in the small garden all in vain. Amai refused to eat. Two boys now remained in the home, that was Cloudius and Denny who was the youngest among the boys. In 1977 Denny whispered to me that if he does not come home by end of day, Amai should not be worried, he had joined Mukoma Shaddy and Benny in Que Que.

By 7pm Denny was no where to be seen and Amai stood in the cold winter night by the gate asking anyone who passed by if they had seen Denny. I told her that Denny had said he was going to join Mukoma Shaddy and Benny in Que Que. Amai collapsed and was carried inside the house.

My father then worked for doctor Bernberg as a messenger and the next morning he took Amai to the doctor. She was diagnosed with high blood pressure and since then she has been on medication. o was Que Que bad news to Amai, I failed to understand. Amai who looked beautiful as a woman in her early forties wasted away and she suddenly became old, exactly how she still looks today. So the years that passed by were all the same, Baba trying to lift Amai's spirits and beg her to eat but with no success. In 1980, as a pupil in Grade 6 I could understand the history of Rhodesia then for my age. My parents were so excited, Mukoma Shaddy, Benny and Denny were going to come back from the war. That was the first time I got to know that they had gone to Mozambique and not Que Que.

The war issue had strained the extended family relations too. Our uncle's son Goodson (babamudiki) who was friends with Denny had left together with my brother. Our aunt (aminini) had blamed my mother for letting Denny drag her son along. They had stopped in Sakubva where our aunt (tete) lives. They had lied to her that they were on their way to Zimunya to see our grandparents. She never suspected that they were on their way to Mozambique.

As a family every night we would tune to the Voice of Zimbabwe and hear Chimurenga songs. Songs: "Kure kure kwatinobva" raised hope. Maybe this had kept Amai alive for the years she refused to eat and lived on porridge rezviyo. It was on the news that the comrades would be coming home into assembly points over the ceasefire period. But one needed to hear this from an authentic radio and when the Voice of Zimbabwe said the war was over in December 1979 my mother was ecstatic. So what is this a story, one is bound to ask.

The war had just come to an end, liberation war heroes were staying in assembly points. The Muuduri's (that is our surname mainly used) were excited on the prospects of having the three sons who had left home come back after the war. The joy that the family experienced one late afternoon in March when Denny arrived home stays in us. Denny the youngest of the three brothers had called from an assembly point somewhere in Melfort unanounced.

I vividly remember him. He wore a pair of brown trousers two or three sizes too small. Had a beige short sleeved shirt, a pair of tattered tackies and the famous beret that had a thread falling by the face nape. He had sadza hastily prepared and after heartily eating he had a hot bath. He was given new clothes and in no time he was transformed. His old clothes were put in a plastic bag except the beret that was a signature.

My mother originally comes from Botswana, Makaleng village so for her, cross border trade was a part of her. Every time we visited our uncles and aunts amai brought back something for resale, clothes, digital watches, plastic sandals, hats and leather tackies. So a new wardrobe was not that difficult to be assembled for Denny. One question that Amai had asked as Denny had arrived was: "Where is Shadreck and Benny?" this was met by dead silence. Not to spoil Denny's home-coming that was shelved.

My father called home from work around 6pm. He came straight home because he heard as he disembarked from the bus that Denny had come. Around 7pm under the cover of darkness Denny and baba left. Amai had given Denny some clothes to take to Mukoma Shaddy and Mukoma Benny and he took that with him. Around 9pm baba came back. Before we had gone to bed my mother had asked the whole family to assemble in the small dining room cum-lounge for a prayer. She had asked the Lord to protect my brother Dennis. We then retired to bed, no one had the zeal to watch television, we were all very excited with seeing Denny.

We are woken up by gun shots and a booming voice on a loud speaker. Usatize (Do not try to escape) and the voice gave more orders for us to open doors and put our hands on our heads. This was March 1980. The scene was in Harare's high density suburb of Mabvuku. There was a sudden sound of a falling metal gate that had been pushed by a mighty force. Our house was under seige from the police. Baba was the first to lead the way out. I was so scared I remained in bed shivering. I heard the voice again: "Where is the gandanga, Denny irikupi." Amai answered: "Denny haapo." "Yaenda kupi gandanga" She replied: "Denny never came".

I was pulled out of bed by a black policeman. Suddenly I was pushed by the back of the big gun he wielded. I had heard my mother: "Denny had never come." So that was the answer. Baba was pushed and he fell down. One of the cops asked my mother why she kept so much money in the house. She answered that she was a licenced hawker and this was proceeds from the sale. She was also pushed over. I was shoved into the big truck, similar to one that takes prisoners to court and remand prison. I could hear my mother crying, please take me instead of her, do not hurt her, she cried.

I was taken to Mabvuku Police Station. My parents followed on foot. They thought by taking in the youngest, I would give in, but I had heard Amai say Denny had never come back so I stuck to that. At the police station I was moved into a room where the interrogation continued. One cop mentioned that (a neighbour) had reported seeing Denny. I was slapped twice but that would not have me change. I was detained over night. Just before I was released I was brought a cup of tea because all the time there was someone to intimidate me. I failed to take the tea, it would have choked me. I was informed that if I told the truth I would long have been released. What truth? Denny had never come, was all I knew. Around 5am I was released to find my mother weeping seated on the charge office office floor. She was told that we were free to go home. Baba embraced me and whispered: "Maita Soko."

Despite being in my teens, Amai carried me on her back. Baba left for work despite not having slept. He asked us to follow and see the doctor he worked for when I had caught enough sleep. By midday we were in town and the doctor examined me and said the pain I had in the ear would go away with time. The 18th of of April signalled a joyous moment for my family. It meant Denny could now visit without restriction. He briefly came home for a week and told amai that he would be leaving for Lewellyn Barracks in Bulawayo to train as a soldier. Amai wept.

She argued if he had made it back why join the army again but my brother was adamant. He wanted to join the army. He was attested into the ZNA.

The wait for Mukoma Shaddy and Benny continued. Amai became pensive. Timothy Dzara who was our neighbour had left with Mukoma Shaddy. He had been elusive when asked when he last saw Mukoma Benny and Shaddy. He told Amai that there were some people still in China and Russia receiving military training so the two could have been posted there. That brought a ray of hope but as the years went by and all who were abroad receiving training came back and there was no sign of my brothers and Amai became depressed further. Timothy was now working for the CIO in Rusape. Baba got to have a man to man talk with Fare (Comrade Granger) who had been a buddies to Mukoma Shaddy. The two had left together and he too had not said a word on Mukoma Shaddy's whereabouts.

My mother got better but, this was now in 1999. There was no explanation but that was good news she could now eat sadza though in small portions. Everyone was thrilled. From 1992 Baba who had two operations for prostate cancer had a heart attack and died on December 3, 2004 while he attended a church meeting. After his burial Amai gave me Baba's briefcase so that I go over his documents and take with me the important ones for safe keeping. To say I was shocked is an understatement.

Neatly placed in an envelope was an affidavit by Mukoma Shaddy's long time pal Fare. The affidavit read: "I Gabriel Musafare Dambaza (63- 428524X23) of John Tapedza Street, Old Mabvuku do solemnly swear that I know Cde Shadreck Mauyakufa since 1961 in Mabvuku. We trained together at Tembwe in 1976 where he left after specialising anti-air (12.7) and operated in Takawira sector before me. When I was deployed there in 1977 I was told that he was killed at a battle near Masarakufa Keep in Mutoko. Since then I have never seen him again." This was stamped 5 March 1998.

My heart sank, so Baba and Amai knew for those years now. I asked amai on the affidavit and she said that is what she had heard from Fare. Fare who worked for the ZBC died a few years after my father. That explained why in 1999 my mother received some healing. She knew the truth of her sons. She later told me that she had been told that Mukoma Benny had perished at Chimoio.

Independence marks a heavy and sad day for me since then. I weep for my brothers. I tell myself, weep not but how can I not? Today Denny is a grandfather of two, has a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law. He named his first son Shadreck after mukoma Shaddy. Amai says had mukoma Shaddy and Benny been around, then the family would be a big homestead with lots of grand children. I always remember my brothers with the late Simon Chimbetu's song: Pane asipo.

Gungano ramaita iri pane vamwe vasipo Mabiko ataita aya pane vamwe vasipo Kuguta kwataita uku pane vamwe vasipo Tatadza kukanganwa isu kukanga takoniwa Mukoma Shaddy, mukoma Benny, our cousin Godson and all the fallen heroes who lie in unmarked graves, you are remembered in Tomb of The Unknown soldier.

May all fallen heroes' souls rest in eternal peace. I am still to see mukoma Benny's resting place. I will make the trip.

Long live Zimbabwe!


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