Friday, August 26, 2011

General Paradzai Zimondi Pays Tribute to Solomon Mujuru

A hands-on, honest man...Farewell gallant son of the soil

Sunday, 21 August 2011 02:17
Opinion By Paradzai Zimondi

SUCH a trustworthy and honest man was General Solomon Mujuru.

It was difficult to lie to Gen Mujuru as he was always hands-on and so honest that one would feel ashamed to lie to such an honest person.

Akanga asingadheerereki.

I first met him in 1975 at Mgagao Zanla Training Camp in Tanzania. There was hunger and starvation at the camp that resulted in the death of some comrades.

When he joined us at the camp and noticed the massive hunger that saw our comrades steal from the fields of the locals and incurring swollen stomachs, he quickly negotiated with the Tanzanian government for a farm.

Gen Mujuru strongly believed in self-reliance and told us that we should grow our own food and not wait for other processes for food provision.

Soon, hunger became a thing of the past at Mgagao.

The quick response by the Tanzanian government to his request and the introduction of our own food production made Mgagao a bearable place to be and, soon, high morale was restored.

I experienced his strong leadership skills through that.

In High Command meetings, which he sometimes chaired, his word always carried the day and he kept the soldiers motivated by being with them on the battle front.

He was instrumental in the first white attack in Centenary where he attacked white Rhodesians playing tennis in 1972. He also initiated the first attack of white-owned farms in the St Albert’s area in Centenary.

When Cde Tongogara died in 1979, he took command under the most difficult and volatile circumstances. And he again showed his diligence when he took charge of the unification of the belligerent and warring sides at Independence that resulted in the now professional Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

One of my most memorable times working under him was during the Battle of Mavhonde in October 1979, which he took charge of.
Mavhonde was the Zanla headquarters in Mozambique situated close to Hauna Growth Point in Honde Valley.

The Battle of Mavhonde became a decisive factor in the independence of Zimbabwe as it took place in the preliminary stages of the Lancaster House talks.

Rhodesian forces, under General Peter Walls, attacked Mavhonde, the idea being that if they beat us then they would pull out of the Lancaster talks.

They believed that if they could beat us at Mavhonde then they would not need to remain in talks as this would have emboldened them. The Rhodesians were determined to beat us.

But they met their match in General Mujuru. He took command and the battle raged until they retreated back to Rhodesia. And in a key way, the talks continued.

Among the generals at Mavhonde were Mujuru, Vitalis Zvinavashe, Amos Chimombe, Mupunzarima (who died on the spot) and myself.

Incidentally, I am the sole surviving member of the team that defended Mavhonde.

Gen Mujuru took charge of the integration and formation of the Zimbabwe National Army. This was a difficult time, but his wisdom enabled him to walk the tight and narrow road of integrating belligerents.

At Independence, we all believed we would live in Government houses, but Gen Mujuru disabused us of that notion and encouraged us to buy our own properties. He had strong foresight and, because of that, we all own properties.

He took all by surprise when he announced that he was retiring from the army. He, however, told us:

“If I don’t retire, there will not be room for others to get to the top. No commander will rise; so I am going to create room for new commanders.”

Today, I say go well, gallant son of the soil.

Retired Major-General Zimondi is the Commissioner of the Zimbabwe Prison Service.

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