Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bumpy Road to Zimbabwe Unity Accord
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Chrispen Tapfuma Mataire, whose nom de guerre was Cde David Todhlana, is an archetypical Marxist who throughout his life has always prioritised the interests of the collective rather than personal inclinations.

Imbued with a perceptive mind and a keen sense of duty, his military training in the then Soviet Socialist Republic in 1968 reinforced his belief that the liberation struggle was to be a hard sell without the unity of Zapu and Zanu.

Cde Todhlana, 71, a medical practitioner now retired at his Normadale Farm in Mazowe, is one of the earliest cadres to join the liberation struggle in 1967 together with National Hero General Solomon Mujuru.

Faced with an avalanche of illiterate and semi-literate recruits at the height of the struggle around 1976, Cde Todhlana, then a Zanla commander, consummated the idea of an ideological college as a panacea to the rampant indiscipline and raucous behaviour among fighters.

He fervently believed that most recruits lacked the ideological foundation and clarity of the essence of the war.

After consulting and selling his idea to his comrades, among them the late Dzinashe Machingura, the college was brought to life and Cde Todhlana named it Whampoa Ideological College, a name derived from a similar college in China opened by the Soviets.

Cde Todhlana had a military stint in the Soviet Union where he was described by the Soviets as one of the most intellectually advanced recruits.

In an exclusive engagement with The Sunday Mail, Cde Todhlana, who became the first director of the college, recounted how the college was established to infuse focus, unity and an appreciation of the essence of the war as enunciated by the Zanu leadership.

Set up to run wartime leadership and Marxist-Leninist studies, the college’s mandate was to mould a cadreship committed to a people’s struggle beyond ethnicity or tribe.

As the idea’s consummator, Cde Todhlana recounted why the Chitepo Ideological College, the successor to Whampoa, never acquired the kind of intellectual liberty, longevity and the human/material resources needed for the generation of a cadreship committed to socialist principles.

He also articulates why the Chitepo Ideological College must be revived and allowed to thrive to foster unity, curb delinquency and eliminate unnecessary internal contradictions.

Cde Todhlana said although he has always believed in unity, his beliefs were unpopular at a time when Zapu and Zanu were literally engaged in a mortal battle of legitimacy.

His military training, however, vindicated him.

“The Soviet officials liked me very much. They singled me out as being the most intelligent. I was quick to assimilate Marxism and Leninism. I used to read Marxist literature widely. When I went to the Soviet Union, I was given a Chimurenga name, Tafirenyika Mugai, but my mastery of Marxist teachings saw my colleagues rename me ‘Marx-Tafirenyika Marx’.”

Upon his return from the Soviet Union, Cde Todhlana stayed at an Umkhonto Wesizwe Camp with a few Zipra cadres.

The camp had a library with a wide assortment of literature, especially on revolutions and Marxism, Leninism and the writings of Cde Mao Tse Tung.

“As before, I read extensively about the Cuban revolution, the exploits of comrades Fidel Castro and Che Guevera. Revolutionary works by Malcom X, Frantz Fanon, Vo Nguyen Giap were abundant in the camp library.

“I also read about the Vietnamese War against first, the French and later, the Americans. Chairman Mao’s works on the Chinese Revolution were also abundant.”

Away from the Soviets, Cde Todhlana had time to formulate his thoughts about the struggle and the Cuban, Vietnamese and Chinese revolutions were a great awakening.

He started writing his own ideas on the Zimbabwean revolution, and his thematic concern was “Unity between Zanu and Zapu”.

“In the thesis, I advocated unity between Zanu and Zapu. I propounded the view that it was the leadership within both parties that was frustrating the unity of the people of Zimbabwe.

“I was convinced that some leaders felt that they would be dropped to inferior positions if the two parties united. It was these leaders who stood in the way of unity. While I was writing, I would discuss my ideas with friends at the camp.”

However, no later had he gone far in his writings than word was relayed to the Zapu leadership in Lusaka.

It was taboo at the time to talk about unity between the two parties.

Zanu was considered a splinter party with marginal support at home and little more than a thorn in the flesh of an elephant.

Cde Todhlana was picked up for questioning, and the interrogation team comprised Cdes James Chikerema, Dumiso Dabengwa, Ackim Ndlovu, Robson Manyika and Tshinga Dube.

Cde Todhlana said at first, the panel wanted to know how he had crossed the Zambezi River, who had tipped him to travel to Zambia and the role he had played in the party’s youth wing.

After the interrogation, he was thoroughly beaten by Cdes Robson Manyika, the then Chief of Staff, and Ackim Ndlovu, who was then the army commander.

He said Cde Manyika did most of the thrashing.

“I told Cde Manyika that he was being cruel to me in an effort to please his Ndebele seniors. I held a very low regard for him for he always had a session with me each time he returned from his regular trips to camps elsewhere. I recall some comrades like George Silundika and Nkiwane protesting at the excesses meted out on me by Cde Manyika.”

His ordeal was to get worse when he was captured while attempting to escape.

As a Marxist, Cde Todhlana scorned all forms of religion, regarding them as the opium of the oppressed.

However, one cold night in solitary confinement, he thought of praying to either Sekuru Kaguvi or Mbuya Nehanda or even his own immediate ancestor, Mbuya VaMurozvi. Despite his ordeal, Cde Todhlana was to be appointed commander of a unit that was to operate in Wedza and Chikomba.

One of his subordinates in that unit was Cde Solomon Mujuru. However, deployment was stalled as he and his team were dispatched to Bortovgrade, Bulgaria for further training.

After training, the situation in Zapu became untenable because of internal squabbles.

Cde Todhlana and other Shona-speaking cadres hatched a plan to cross over to Zanu. But he never abandoned his beliefs in the sanctity of unity between Zanu and Zapu.

The comrades used to hold political meetings where members were given an opportunity to express their views regarding the struggle. It was at one such meeting that Cde Todhlana reiterated his views on unity. But before he even finished his speech, he was pulled aside and locked up in a cell.

“I was accused of being a Zapu agent. Remember when I was in Zapu, I was accused of being a Zanu agent. Now, in Zanu, I was being accused of being a Zapu agent. Poor me!”

He was to stay in that cell for eight days, and was only rescued by Cde Herbert Chitepo, the then chairman of Zanu.

“Cde Chitepo was briefed about my political philosophy. Cde Chitepo came to my cell to talk to me. I repeated to him what I had said at the meeting. Cde Chitepo ordered my immediate release, and then addressed us (69 combatants). There was nothing wrong with people holding divergent views.”

Cde Todhlana was part of the first contingent of 45 cadres to be deployed to Tete Province in Mozambique. On November 11, 1972, the column entered Zimbabwe from Chamboko.

Four years later, after several encounters with Ian Smith’s forces and after having trained thousands of recruits, Cde Todhlana suggested setting up an ideological college at Chimoio.

“I was appointed the director of this college which I named Whampoa, a name I borrowed from a similar college opened in China in 1922 by the Soviets. My first task was to gather as much literature as possible. I collected a few books from Karl Marx, Lenin, Cde Mao, Frantz Fanon and other revolutionaries. I was the founding director, the lecturer, librarian and commander at this institution.”

The candidate selection criteria were based on one’s performance during political orientation lessons, level of education – whether literate or not – and one’s general comprehension capacity.

Some of the cadres who passed through his ideological training included Cdes Oppah Muchinguri, Happison Muchechetere, Sobusa Gula-Ndebele, Grey Mapondera alias Everisto Mwatse and the late Basopo Mupangara. Whampoa Ideological College offered him an opportunity to lay the foundation for upright cadres with ideological clarity and who could defend the party’s socialist ideals.

“This was the opportunity to replicate myself. Now was the opportunity to multiply myself million times over. Unfortunately, my plans at the college were abruptly stopped when I was appointed into the High Command in August 1976.”

Cdes Mapondera and Muchechetere took over the running of the college and after the arrest of Zipa commanders, the college was renamed Hebert Chitepo Ideological College. As Zimbabwe celebrated Unity Day on December 22, 2016, Cde Todhlana was happy as he reminisced about the long road to 1987 when the Unity Accord between Zapu and Zanu was signed.

“Our enemy is very cunning, indeed. Yesterday, he was all white. Today, he has the capacity to change like a chameleon, making it difficult to identify him. Of all the colours our enemy can assume, the most difficult one is the colour of money.

“It is very disturbing that some within our ranks. . .the enemy is supplying (them) both paint and brush. Money is indeed the root of not just evil, but treason. Above all, money is also the godfather of quislings. Only fools do not appreciate that integrity has more value than power, fame and money – all put together.”

Some excerpts of this article were taken from Cde Todhlana’s upcoming book, My Heartland Struggle.

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