Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Man Who Saved Samora Machel

The man who saved Samora Machel

Saturday, 27 October 2012 19:26
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Comrade Joseph Khumalo, who was born Joel Samuel Siyangapi Muzhamba some 70 years ago in Kwekwe, is one down-to-earth comrade whose contribution during the libera­tion struggle can be used as an inspiration by many people today. His body is riddled with bullets, in fact one of the bul­lets is still lodged in his chest. He saved the late Mozambican leader Samora Machel from death and Col Khumalo, as he is known today, tells our Assis­tant Editor Munyaradzi Huni (MH) a shocking story that the liberation struggle was sup­posed to last only three weeks. Yes, three weeks!

Col Khumalo, as he is known today, went to stay in Zambia in 1959 together with his other family members. While in Zambia he wanted to go to school but he was recruited to join the liberation strug­gle by Percy Ntini and Noel Mukono. He was among the first group that went for training in Ghana in 1964. Their com­mander, as they went to Ghana, was Shadreck Chipanga while John Mak­washa was deputy group commander.

In Ghana they were trained at Half Asini and Oben Massi camps up to 1965. As this was probably the first group, they received training in military leadership, war tactics, administration and political orientation because their main task was to train others as instructors. After train­ing, Col Khumalo came back to Zambia, where he, together with William Ndan­gana and Felix Rice Santana, had to recruit more comrades as they had been given a camp in 1967 in Tanzania in Chunya. By this time, ZAPU already had its fighters while ZANU had very few fighters.

Col Khumalo says it was a struggle to recruit more fighters during these early days. At the time, ZANU was being led by Ndabaningi Sithole, who and many others leaders at that time were under arrest. Only Chairman Chitepo, who was a lecturer in Kenya, was not in jail.

As someone who had lived in Zambia, Col Khumalo was chosen to recruit Zim­babweans living in Zambia together with Percy Ntini, Felix Rice Santana and Noel Mukono.

“You could go to a camp and find about six fighters to be trained while at that time ZAPU had well over 400 free­dom fighters.”

As ZANU was finding it difficult to recruit more fighters, Zambia’s leadership suggested that ZANU should rejoin ZAPU. ZANU refused because it had taken a decision to stop negotiating with the Smith regime. At this time, Tongog­ara was still working at Liver Brothers in Zambia while Kadungure was a driver at Zebra Taxis in that country. In 1967/68, Col Khumalo said they discovered that voluntary recruitment was not working and they devised a strategy to capture Zimbabweans living in Zambia and send them for military training.

MH: As you forced people to go for training, we hear during these early days, many deserted even after train­ing. Can you shed more light on this?

Col Khumalo: We were taking peo­ple whether they liked it or not. We would identify houses where there were people from Zimbabwe and in the evening we would just drive to those houses and take all those we thought were fit to receive military training. This is how we managed to recruit about 45 people but many ran away after receiv­ing training. We would have given them orientation on why we wanted to fight but still they were not happy with the way we had recruited them and they ran away. Life was also not easy at the camps. We were just starting so we had nothing, even weapons we didn’t have guns. We started this training using wooden sticks. It was only later that we were given rifles and some guns that we used to call pepesha. Life was so diffi­cult that one of our comrades, Simon Bhenhe, turned into a spy after he was deployed to the front. Even after having the 45 people, that number was still not enough because some other countries like Cuba were offering training for us.

MH: You say you later intensified the recruitment and the deployment to the war front started. Tell us why the first battles, especially the famous Chinhoyi battle, failed?

Col Khumalo: We discovered that, yes, we had made a decision to fight the Smith regime, but our comrades who fought the famous Chinhoyi battle in 1966 had all been killed. Some of the comrades who fought that battle had received military training in Ghana. There was also another group that hit Karoi, at Magunje, that had members who were trained in Ghana. We wanted to use these groups to signal that there was going to be serious war in the coun­try, but we discovered that our masses at that time had not really understood the reasons for the war. We discovered that yes, people knew about ZAPU, Puza, ZANU and so on, but they had not really understood what this war was going to be all about. Vamwe vaiva nebelief yekuti murungu haungamurovi. Vamwe vaitoseka kuti, haiwawo, mavakuita zvekutamba, mungatangane nemurungu ane pfuti? Hazviite, tibvirei apa! As we were thinking of ways to deploy into the country and thinking of ways to teach people about the war, that is when people like Tongogara arrived.

MH: So this issue about teaching people about the war was very crucial. How did you finally manage to sort it out?

Col Khumalo: We later chose a group that went to China in 1969. This group came back with serious orienta­tion and they knew how people were supposed to be conscientised about the war. I also later went to China. How­ever, even among this group, some comrades became sellouts. On return we took stock of the battle in Chinhoyi and discovered that people had not been taught enough about the struggle. We lost the Chinhoyi battle because we had inferior weapons. The first coun­tries to supply us with better weapons were China, Cuba and Yugoslavia and as for other logistics like food we relied on Zambia and Tanzania during the early days. At one stage, we had more weapons than the fighters. So after this we started teaching people that we were going to fight the war for a long time and that a lot of blood would be lost, this was around 1970/71.

MH: During these early stages of the struggle, tell us how important was the issue of spirit mediums because we hear you had to ask for permission to start the struggle.

Col Khumalo: We could not deploy troops into the country before consult­ing the spirit mediums. You see, while we were in Mbeya in Tanzania, one Tanzanian akasvikirwa nemudzimu. That spirit medium told us that amongst us there was someone anemudz­imu mukuru wenyika anokwanisa kukutungamirirai kupinda kunorwa muZimbabwe, but tisati tapinda mun­yika, taifanira kubika doro. Chairman Chitepo was there when this spirit medium was giving us this guid­ance. So we did what we were ordered to do and a group of seven was chosen to first go into Zimbabwe. Mudzimu waitaurwa nesvikiro rekuTanzania waiva waChaminuka. Mudzimu waChaminuka wakasvika pane mumwe mukomana ainzi Makahwa. Makahwa was instructed to lead this group of seven, but he was told that there would be a battle in Karoi and he would not survive that battle. Makahwa led that group in 1968 knowing fully that he wasn’t going to survive. Mudzimu waChaminika wakanga wasvika paari had made a sacrifice that kuti hondo isimbe, paifanirwa kutodeuka ropa raChaminuka through Makahwa.

MH: You are saying Makahwa actu­ally agreed even if he knew that he was going to die?

Col Khumalo: Yes, he agreed. You see all of us had made that same sacri­fice that we were going to die for our country. Patakabika doro, pakasvikirwa Makahwa pakataurwa tunhu tuzhinji ipapo, but many didn’t take what was said there seriously, but some of the things that were said that day I am seeing them happening even now. When we got into the country to start the war, we fought a few little bat­tles and after a short while, again we were told that taifanira kuita chivanhu after we had gone to Chief Chiweshe to ask for permission to start the war. That’s when we heard about Mbuya Nehanda vakanga vari kuN­yaka-sikana, kuMusengezi. We could not go to see Mbuya Nehanda before seeing Chief Chiweshe, Chief Dotito and other chiefs. Takazoita chivanhu then Mbuya Nehanda vakazotipa per­mission to start the war, but we agreed that we were supposed to take her to Zambia so that the Smith regime could not trouble her. After taking Mbuya Nehanda to Zambia, that’s when many people started joining the struggle.

MH: Who exactly was this Mbuya Nehanda because many people know that she was hanged by the whites many years ago?

Col Khumalo: Uyu munhu aisvikirwa naMbuya Nehanda. Mbuya Nehanda later told us that we had made one big mistake. She said we were not supposed to have taken women to join the struggle before telling the spirit mediums. She said these women have been carrying your weapons, but they go for mensuration periods and because of that they were not supposed to carry the weapons. She said hondo yenyu yaifanira kupedza masvondo matatu chete mobva matora nyika but nenyaya yekuti maita zvese izvi musina kutiudza and some of your men were sleeping with these women, it will take long. We later took Mbuya Nehanda to Chi­fombo in Mozambique.

MH: You were actually there when Mbuya Nehanda was taken to Chi­fombo?

Col Khumalo: Yes, ndini ndakato­vayambutsa. I was given this responsi­bility because my main duty was to take war material to the front. After tak­ing her to Chifombo, Mbuya Nehanda after two days said vazukuru, ini ndava kuparutsa. She said ndiri kuona kuchauya hondo and handisikuda kun­zwa kunhuwa kwehunga hwepfuti. After this Mbuya Nehanda passed away but before she passed on, and chairman Chitepo was there, Tongogara was there, Mbuya Nehanda vakataura kuti vazukuru vangu, hondo yenyu ichapera asi ichatora nguva. Mutungamiri wenyu wamunoti Ndabaningi Sithole haasi iye mutungamiri wenyu. Handiyeba mutungamiri wenyu. Mutungamiriri wenyu tirikukupai mutungamiriri achauya achibva nekumabvazuva. Asi arikuuya namambo wendoro. Vachauya vari vatungamiri vaviri vakatungamirwa namambo wendoro. Vanhu vakati kombuya vava kutaura chii futi? Isu taiti Ndabaningi Sithole ndiye president wedu. Mbuya vakati uyu wamunoti Ndabaningi, achakuram­bai. Achakusiyai padeuka ropa. Musi unodeuka ropa achabva achienda kunowadzana nevamwe mangerengere. Haasi iye mutungamiri wenyu.

MH: Did this really happen?

Col Khumalo: Mbuya vakati mutungamiri watiri kukupai mutungamiri akanyarara asi zviri mumusoro make hamuzvikwanisi. Muchamupandukira even vamwe vatungamiri varipamuri ipapa asi hamukwanisi kumubvisa tisati tati ngaabve isu. Havana kutaura kuti mutungamiri uyu anonzi ani. Vanhu takazofunga taona Chief Tangwena vavakuuya kuzotaura naSamora Machel kuti ndauya nemumwe mutungamiri wehondo anonzi Robert Mugabe pamwe naTekere. A delegation was later sent to meet President Mugabe. I remember one of the com­rades we sent was called Arkim Mudende, he is late now. Chairman Chitepo was still alive. In fact Chitepo died as President Mugabe was on his way to see him.

MH: As someone who was leading you, how did Chitepo receive the news by Mbuya Nehanda that there was another leader?

Col Khumalo: Chairman Chitepo was very clear. But I have to tell you that most of the leaders at that time were not satisfied by what Mbuya Nehanda had said. Many didn’t take her words seri­ous. We thought what she was saying was impossible. Not many people took her seriously, but when Chitepo passed away, it was agreed that President Mugabe, who was secretary-general at that time, was supposed to take over. That’s how President Mugabe became the leader of ZANU. Mbuya Nehanda even went further saying mutungamiri watiri kukupai haasi mutungamiri wenyu chete asi achava mutungamiri wevanhu veganda dema. Vakataura izvi vakabata ganda ravo. Vakati nyika zhinji dzavanhu vatema dzichamuko­tama. People could not really under­stand what Mbuya Nehanda was say­ing.

MH: Who are some of the people who are still alive who were there when Mbuya Nehanda said these words?

Col Khumalo: I remember than Noel Mukono was there. He is still alive and I am told he is living somewhere in Highlands. This Nhari wekuzopanduka was there. Even Badza was also there. The other person who was there was Kenny Ridzai, he is still alive, the late Mayor Urimbo. The survivors from that group, if I am not mistaken, we are maybe three or four. Mbuya Nehanda even spoke about independence, she spoke about how those who would have died during the struggle would be taken back home. She spoke about how things were supposed to be done in Zim­babwe. That’s why I say among the lead­ership today they didn’t tell President Mugabe the truth about what Ambuya Nehanda said.

MH: What is it that Mbuya Nehanda said that you are saying peo­ple didn’t tell President Mugabe?

Col Khumalo: Even some traditional leaders didn’t tell President Mugabe what Ambuya Nehanda said. You see Chief Chiweshe was there, but Chief Chiweshe later died and no one really told the President what was said. Mbuya Nehanda had said, in order to avoid disturbances in Zimbabwe, chekutanga mutungamiri wenyu anofanira kugadzwa chivanhu. Zvichireva kuti President Mugabe vaifanirwa kunge vakagadzwa nemhon­doro, nemudzimu yemuno munyika pamwe nemadzishe acho. Kwaiva nemidzimu yenyika kumativi mana enyika, yaive mhondoro yaifanirwa kugadza President. Mbuya Nehanda vakataura kuti hamuendi kumadzishe esvutugadzike, munoenda kumadzishe endoro kuti vatsvage mhondoro dzino­gadza President. Vakati President Mugabe mutungamiri akazodzwa nemudzimu. She said after vagadzwa nemhondoro that’s when we were sup­posed to hold those celebrations we held at Rufaro in 1980. President Mugabe wasn’t told all this. The leaders who were there, like Tongogara, had passed on. There is nothing that Mbuya Nehanda spoke about that didn’t come to pass. I didn’t believe in spirit medi­ums. I was born in the Seventh Day Adventist, a church that doesn’t believe in spirit mediums.

MH: That’s quite interesting and I am sure many people will have a lot to say about what you have just said. Now, Col Khumalo, we hear that some time during the liberation struggle you saved former Mozambican leader Samora Machel from death. Tell us exactly what happened?

Col Khumalo: As I have already told you that I was responsible for keeping and transporting war material at Kak­widze. Samora Machel at that time was visiting war bases as his country was now having talks with the Portugeese that led to his country’s independence. This was around 1972 and 1973. You see at this time, most of his fighters were still in their bases.

We were at the point where Musen­gezi River and Zambezi River meet. I was with a fellow comrade called Binda from the Frelimo side at that base. Some of the people I was with at Kakwidze even now are still alive because I hear some people saying I just want to make myself a hero. Samora was going to die on this day during this battle. He came to the base where we were as he was going around the Fre­limo bases.

He arrived at Kakwidze base around sunset and slept. In the morning he called his soldiers for parade and began telling them about the war situa­tion. Whilst he was doing this, we were not aware that the Portuguese and the Rhodesians had got information that Samora was at this base. There were some of our comrades who had been captured by the Rhode­sian army so I think they are the ones who sold out. So while Samora was addressing his sol­diers, someone just arrived running say­ing mabhunu ariku­uya and whilst he was still talking, we realised that the Portuguese and the Rhodesian forces had already arrived. They started firing, trying to corner us so that we were left with no option but to jump into either Zambezi River or Musengezi River, but then these rivers were flooded.

MH: This was really a bad situation. So how did you retaliate?

Col Khumalo: We saw that we didn’t have many options but to fight. And to make matters worse, we from Zanla still had our pepesha guns which were not very useful in such circumstances. While the Portuguese and the Rhode­sian forces on the ground were firing at us, helicopters started bombing the camp. Remember also during this time, Zanla was not yet very used to such war situations. Ndaiva nemumwe mudhara ainzi Shakeshake and another comrade called Chinodakufa. We started fighting against these whites together with the Frelimo comrades led by their com­mander Binda. We quickly came up with a strategy to hit one side of their war formation so that we could open a route where Samora Machel could escape through. This was around past 8 am and pfuti dzakarira zvechokwadi. As we were fighting, pfuti yangu ini pepe­sha ichibva yajema. So yaiti ikajema woirovera pasi kuti irire. Samora was just a few metres away from me and we discovered that if we retreat or run away, they would kill Samora, so we kept on fighting. One of Samora Machel’s bodyguards could not stand the fight and he thought of running away, but Samora instructed one of his bodyguards to shoot him. He was shot dead. Samora took that dead body­guard’s gun and took his own pistol, he had two pistols and gave me. He gave me the gun and the pistol, I still have the pistol.

MH: He, himself actually gave you the gun and the pistol?

Col Khumalo: Yes, Samora pachake, he handed me the gun and the pistol. After he gave me, the fight continued. Binda and I, together with a few other comrades, decided to shield Samora as we fired back at the white soldiers to open a route for Samora to escape. Takanga tavakurova pfuti zvekuti pakar­wiwa hondo yakatyisa.

MH: As you were fighting, was Samora also fighting or he was just hiding behind?

Col Khumalo: He was firing also. Samora haasiri munhu wekuti aikuudza zvekuita iye asingaiti. Airidza pfuti kwete zvekutamba. Samora was a real com­mander. He was as good as zvaiitwa naMujuru. Mujuru akanga asingakupi command iye asingaiti. Even Tongogara was the same. Samora airidza pfuti kwete zvekutamba. In fact, what I can say is that leadership yese yeMozam­bique hapana ainzi uyu haaridzi pfuti.

MH: So this battle continued . . .

Col Khumalo: You see what we used to do, when a leader was visiting a base, two days before that we could make sure all was safe and Binda had already dispatched vanamujibha kuenda kuMukumbura kunotaura kuti Samora was visiting. Kakwidze was not your normal base that had many sol­diers. This was a base where Fre­limo kept some of its material and so I was at that base because from the Zanla side, like I told you, I was responsible for material also. So I used to work at Kakwidze regarding issues to do with material. So there were very few sol­diers at this base just to protect the material. Many of the soldiers who helped us fight on this day are the ones that had come with Samora Machel. So we put up a serious fight until we escaped with Samora. About 19 Fre­limo soldiers died during this battle. From the Zanla side we lost comrade Chauya Chauya. I survived together with Shakeshake. After escaping with Samora Machel, we later handed him to his soldiers that had come from Mukumbura.

MH: You fought this battle for how many hours?

Col Khumalo: I think it was for about three, four or five hours. Pakanga pakaoma. Kunaka kwacho ndekwekuti takabatsirwa nemiti inonzi misawu because miti yacho yairembera zvekuti taihwanda mukati mayo. So these Por­tuguese and Rhodesian forces would fail to locate us while we would use this cover to take our aim at these whites. And this place yaive nemakoronga akawanda so taihwanda imomo.

MH: So after handing over Samora to these Frelimo soldiers, did you ever meet him again?

Col Khumalo: Yes, I later met him while I was training a group of female comrades that had people like Mationesa. However, after this battle Samora Machel went and told Tongog­ara and Chitepo about this battle. He also told Joseph Chimurenga.

MH: Do you know what exactly he told them?

Col Khumalo: He just praised me but I only got to know this after these comrades Tongogara and Chitepo came to me praising me for saving Samora. They said Cde Khumalo, pfuti dzenyu dzamakapihwa naSamora hatikwanisi kudzitora. So I was among the very first people to own a pistol and an AK gun among Zanla forces. Later we were given rifles then AK guns. I later surren­dered the AK that Samora had given me to the ZNA, but I kept my pistol.

MH: So before this battle, you had never met Samora Machel?

Col Khumalo: No, I had met him in Kongwa. He was a commander and was just coming back from the Soviet Union. At that time Mondhlane was still alive.

MH: So after this, the struggle con­tinued. Tell us what happened?

Col Khumalo: I later got into many battles where I got injured and was sent to China for treatment. I later came back and became the commander of all bases in the rear. The last battle of the liberation struggle at Mount Cassino, which was called Man-to-Man Battle, I was the commander of that battle. This is where Cde Kadungure died.

MH: Why was this battle called Man-to-Man Battle?

Col Khumalo: It was Peter Walls who called it a Man-to-Man Battle. The Rhodesian forces came thinking that this was going to be a walkover. They were armed to the teeth, but they didn’t know that we were very ready for them and by this time, we had powerful weapons to fight. We now had anti-air guns from Libya. One of the guys who got injured when I also got injured dur­ing this battle is still alive. I call him Shorty. So the white soldiers thought they were going to have it easy. I think that was the battle that lasted more hours during the struggle. That was in 1978/79 when we were going towards the Lancaster House talks.

MH: Do you have any idea how many whites died during this battle?

Col Khumalo: I am not sure of their number, but I know that we downed seven of their planes, including four hel­icopters. One of the helicopters was shot down by a girl we used to call Mac­hazu. This is the girl wamunonzwa achi­imba that song achiti, ndiro gidi vako­mana. This girl was positioned near an anti-air which was a bit up the moun­tain. This anti-air was bombed and the comrades who were manning it were killed. Mac­hazu then jumped, took control of the anti-air and shot at this helicopter which instantly fell down. On seeing this, the Rhodesian soldiers advanced towards her and they killed her on that spot. They called it Man-to-Man because many whites perished. I think a whole battalion came, but many went back as corpses.

MH: Do you think the way they lost this battle helped in the talks?

Col Khumalo: You see their strategy to come and hit us this way was so that they could go to the talks and say they were on top of the situation in the bush. So when they came and discovered that we were ready for them and after we defeated them, Peter Walls agreed that this was a Man-to-Man Battle and they had lost. Varungu vakabuda apa vak­abuda neluck otherwise takaita vekukuya.

MH: How did you survive this fierce battle?

Col Khumalo: I survived because we had many well-trained soldiers who had powerful weapons. We had devised many well-thought-out strategies. We had put our soldiers in what we called the W-formation that protected our base. We were now masters at this war and we really surprised the Rhodesian sol­diers. There were also many move­ment tunnels underground so the Rhode­sians were really confused. You see Ton­gogara was also at this base on this day so they really wanted to run over the base. They tried to penetrate the base from all sides, their planes tried to bomb the base, but we repelled them in ways that really sent a message that we were not only ready for this battle but many others.

MH: Col, can you really explain here because some youths say kana zvakunetsai dzorerai nyika kwa­makaitora tinonoisunungura. Can you explain what exactly is war?

Col Khumalo: (laughs) Yaahh, zvi­noitika kana munhu adya aguta. War is not a pleasant experience. Hondo yakanaka mukupedza gakava rinenge riripo pakati pevanhu, but during war a lot of blood is lost. Even innocent blood is lost. When war comes, it doesn’t choose who is who. Young children, pregnant mothers, the elderly, etc, all these people are caught in the crossfire. Bombs don’t select who is who. Just one bomb can kill about 200 people. Just about eight bombs, Harare CBD can be flattened. You see pfuti ikakurova semu­musoro, uropi hunobuda wonoti puu pakadaro apo, munhu anosara achimhanya urupi asisina. That’s war for you. These people saying this should go to areas like Mukumbura, Guruve, Mt Darwin, Masvingo and talk to those who really experienced war. Even some people in Government now don’t know what a revolution is like. They are enjoying life that some people sacrificed for. Some people look down upon war veterans saying they are not educated. Yes, war veterans are not educated, but why? It was war. Hondo yakarwiwa nemawar veterans yakakurira fundo yemunhu akaenda kuchikoro.

MH: After the liberation struggle, what did you do in independent Zim­babwe?

Col Khumalo: Like I told you, that I was responsible for material, soon after independence I was given the task to collect all the material from the bush. During Independence celebrations, I was lead­ing Zanla forces during the parade. The first parade I was the com­mander rep­resenting the Zanla forces while Gen­eral Phillip Valerio Sibanda was the commander from the Zipra side. While Agnew Kambewu was pulling the Rhodesian flag down and pulling our Zimbabwean flag up, I was the com­mander representing Zanla forces dur­ing that parade in Rufaro Sta­dium. I did integration of 2 Brigade, 2.1, 2.2, after that I was given the task to form the Presi­dential Guard, yaPresi­dent. I formed the Presidential Guard during Canaan Banana’s time. I formed it at Com­mando. After this I was sent to solve problems at 5 Brigade in Inyanga, while there I led 5.3 Battalion.

Later I was sent to Gokwe together with 5.3 Battalion. As a former instructor, after some time, I was called to lead in the formation of the Zimbabwe People’s Militia deep down in Gokwe. We opened ZPM camps in Dadaya, Neshuro, Rupise, Bulawayo, Beitbridge and training the ZPM. Our headquar­ters was in Bindura. Later some Kore­ans came to train the ZPM soldiers and some of them that I trained are now high-ranking officers in the ZNA. After about three years, there were problems in Mbalabala during the time of dissi­dents and I was sent there after suspi­cion that some weapons that were being used by the dissidents were being smug­gled from there. All this time I was a lieu­tenant-colonel. I trained officers there. Then there were problems at Llewellyn Baracks in Bulawayo where some offi­cers even committed suicide around 1986/87. I sorted the problems there. Again I was assigned to go and open up CDF, the clothing factory for the army, in Darwendale. I started that factory from scratch and even estab­lished an ammunition depot. When I finished, there were problems in Bindura caused by ZPM soldiers. As someone who formed ZPM I was tasked to go and sort out the problems, but other problems came up.

MH: What problems?

Col Khumalo: You see, there is one thing that I have not really understood. The first group that went and trained in Ghana, the group that led in the recruit­ment of Zanla forces during the early days of the struggle, is up to today not recognised.

MH: Why?

Col Khumalo: I really don’t know why. Some people are now national heroes because of their education. When I returned from the war, I was sent everywhere where there was a problem. In 1989, that’s when I left the army as a lieutenant-colonel. Just as I was leaving, that’s when I was made a full colonel.

MH: Thank you Colonel for your time.

Col Khumalo: My pleasure Cde.

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