Comrades-in-arms: Zipra commander Lookout Masuku (left) and then Zanla deputy commander Rex Nhongo on their return to Zimbabwe in 1979 after organising and leading the liberation struggle from outside the country., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Rex’s prophetic interview
Sunday, 21 August 2011 02:03
In 1978, the late Retired General Solomon Mujuru (known then as Rex Nhongo) was Zanu’s deputy defence secretary. Below we publish an interview he had with Tempo Magazine in Maputo, Mozambique, in December of that year. The interview was conducted in the heat of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
Tempo: In your opinion, what is the current state of the Rhodesian military following the latest destabilising campaigns by the Zimbabwean combatants, particularly the fire that recently destroyed Salisbury’s reserve fuel tanks?
Rex Nhongo: Smith’s regime is desperate. Our power is increasing as a result of popular support. The people of Zimbabwe are behind the armed struggle. Only two days ago, Smith, himself, just admitted in a radio and television transmission that his troops are already facing considerable challenges in containing the numerous actions by the combatants.
In addition to this, the masses and even the international community are beginning to understand the necessity of an armed struggle.
However, information on our progress is often under-reported to outsiders as our information channels are not yet within our control. For example, our fighters have already attacked Umtali three times, information which is not available to the public.
Tempo: The Smith government recently issued a public threat to the Government of the People’s Republic of Mozambique. It has vowed to execute violent attacks against Mozambique and to massacre ordinary citizens if the Mozambican government continues to support the Patriotic Front. What do you think about such a threat?
Rex Nhongo: This threat will not change anything. This threat is nothing new for us because Smith’s army has already been attacking the Mozambican people. It has been massacring the population since 1976; we have proof of this in Mapai, Changara, Mavue and other cases committed last week such as the attack on the Province of Sofala. This is nothing more than intimidation.
Tempo: Justin Nyoka, the Zimbabwean journalist who just spent three months in Zimbabwe with the Zanla forces, brought us important information on the liberated zones in Zimbabwe. As a fighter yourself, can you tell us what these liberated zones are?
Rex Nhongo: Liberated zones are areas where the enemy does not enter, zones within which the enemy can never be sighted. Of course when a free zone is discovered, it is immediately bombed by planes. But they are areas where the enemy troops do not venture. The morale of the combatants in these areas is very high. They have no doubt whatsoever that we will soon achieve victory.
Tempo: Can you explain to us from a politico-military perspective, the process which leads to the creation of a free zone?
Rex Nhongo: The first thing that we do when we get to an area which we know to be in the control of our forces, is to gather the civilian population in the area.
We then begin by giving clear explanations of our position. Why the armed struggle?! Then we make concerted efforts to remain with the masses. We stay together with them so that they will not alert the enemy agents. Isolating ourselves from the local populations would be our undoing. The same principle holds in the military camp.
Once our objective of sensitising the masses on the need for an armed struggle is achieved, the people themselves begin to ask to be armed.
After this we have a process of consolidating the free zones into the ideological and social framework. This begins with a session of political discussion with the people which is organised by our political commissars. It then continues through the creation of health centres, schools, etc.
As far as organising means of production in these liberated areas, we already have some co-operatives, but are currently faced with the challenge of defending them against air attacks.
Tempo: Zanu has just revealed that Zanla forces will soon mount a major offensive. Can you give us some general information on the new strategy that will be applied in this offensive?
Rex Nhongo: First of all, we will strongly descend on the only areas which are not liberated, the eastern horn. We will then proceed to the fundamental strategy of this offensive: the isolation of the enemy in the cities through the destruction of all avenues of communication.
To accomplish this, we will attempt to cut all roads and railway lines, as well as the telephone lines linking different cities. We will thus control all the land area leaving Smith with only the air space under his control. As far as the cities are concerned, we do not anticipate sophisticated defences.
Meanwhile we also have combatants inside the cities — factory workers — who we always keep informed on what is happening in the cities. Sometimes we also create conducive conditions for the entry of some groups of combatants.
Tempo: Infiltration by enemy agents in popular forces is a problem that is faced by many revolutionary movements. Can you tell us if this is a concern at the stage you are in?
Rex Nhongo: Infiltration is also a serious problem in Zanla, but it is not a problem that can stop the war.
Tempo: How do you think Smith will react when he finds that his defeat is imminent?
Rex Nhongo: I think we will have serious problems when that happens. He has already begun massacring populations, Zimbabwean civilians, in the hundreds.
I think he will then try to sabotage the economy. He will use napalm bombs everywhere. He will also conduct chemical warfare.
At this time, fear will grip the masses and they will begin to ask themselves who to support. But after a few months, they will hear that Smith has fled.