Sunday, November 29, 2020

‘Nyathi Was a Sell-out from the Start’

29 NOV, 2020 - 00:11 

Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Harry Macherure, also known as Cde Jackson Chakaipa during the liberation war, poses for a picture in Tanzania


The most famous, or infamous, sell-out from the liberation struggle is probably Morrison Nyathi, with the most-talked about tragedy being his decision to provide intelligence to Rhodesians that led to the bombing of Nyadzonia refugee camp. Harry Macherure, also known as Cde Jackson Chakaipa during the liberation war, reckons Nyathi was a plant from the Selous Scouts from the word go, and sold out seven of his comrades at the front. Fortuitously, only Cde Seven survived from that episode. In this narration with Garikai Mazara, Cde Chakaipa remembers the events from more than 45 years ago like it all happened yesterday.


Q: As per tradition, can we get to know a little background of Harry Macherure and how he got to the liberation struggle?

A: I was born on November 21, 1960 in South Africa as my father was working there. We came back around 1965 and attended Manzvire Primary School in Chipinge, where I rose to become school captain. 

One day, soldiers came to the school and were asking learners what they wanted to do when they finish school. You know how it is in primary school: Some were saying they want to be doctors, teachers and pilots. 

As the school captain, I was the last one to be asked, and I said I wanted to be a terrorist.

One I now know to be a captain in the army held my hands like he was greeting but pressed my hands so hard that the pain made me wet myself. The following morning, July 25,1975, I left school and went to war. 

I went to Espungabera and then Machaze. We stayed at Machaze for some months and then one day Cde Tsana — I am not sure if he is still alive — came to introduce Cde Robert Mugabe.

Q: Where is Machaze?

A: It is in Manica province of Mozambique. At Machaze life was difficult as the camp had between 10 000 and 15 000 people in a very small area. 

Hunger was an everyday thing. We survived by scavenging for food. If a buffalo strayed into the area, it was something else.

From Machaze we went to Toronga, then Chibawawa, where I went under instruction from Mutinhiri to Mai Mujuru. Despite my young age — remember, I was just 15 — I was very intelligent and knew party ideology inside-out. 

I knew ideology by head; knew all the leadership by head.

In 1976 I went to Takawira 1 — that is at Chimoio — for training and later on to Takawira 2. 

At Takawira 2, that is where I met Cdes Chiwenga, Joshuarus  Misihairambwi (Mark Dube) and Tongogara. I became an assistant to Cde Chiwenga.

The first provincial commander for Manica province was Chinemukutu, who was blown away by a land mine, and Cde Chiwenga went to take over his position.  

Then came Tiziwei Goronga and Tonderai Nyika. Manica had two provincial commanders.

Q: Tiziwei Goronga, is he alive?

A: I am not sure. These names are big names but not much is being said about them. 

When Cde Chiwenga was withdrawn from being provincial commander, he was deputy army commissar. By the way, Cde Josiah Tungamirai was the army commissar. Part of the duties of the deputy army commissar was to move around the provinces, and there is no part of the provinces that I didn’t go with Cde Chiwenga.

Later on, he left me in Manica province where I operated extensively. I remember being given a task to capture two whites, John and Martin. 

Q: What was the point of capturing the whites?

A: It was just propaganda, to prove that we could do anything with the Rhodesians. Remember, we now had some semi-liberated zones. 

The son of one of the whites, I can’t remember his name,  went on a campaign to try and find his father. Helicopters, horses, motor bikes — they were all used to try and locate the two. 

Tiziwei Goronga instructed me to lead a team that would take the whites as far away as possible. We went to Mbudzi . . . that is where we left them.

But before that, there was an incident at Gondola, where the likes of Mugabe, Muzenda and all the provincial commanders were meeting. I was part of the security team that unmasked a Portuguese, or was he a coloured guy, who had been planted. He was found with a pistol on him and he was working in the kitchen. 

He failed to explain himself — who he was or what he was doing there. He was apprehended and handed over to the Frelimo forces.

Q: When independence finally came, where were you and how was the atmosphere?

A: In 1979, I was sent to Tanzania for further training, but, in essence, we were kind of a reserve army: that if something went wrong, then we would mobilise. So ceasefire and independence I was in Tanzania. I never got to taste the euphoria that came with it. 

I only came back into Zimbabwe in 1981, to be integrated into the national army.

Q: Let us rewind a bit, a lot has been said about Morrison Nyathi — did you know him, came across him or trained with him?

A: Morrison Nyathi, his ways did not start at Nyadzonia as many people think. It was around 1976 when he assigned himself to the front with Cde Seven, among others. He had arranged with the Rhodies and he said to his comrades, “you are very naughty, you guys. Bring your guns and go to your poshtos”. 

He then removed the firing pins on the AK guns and when they came under attack these comrades could not fire back. All of them were caught, except Cde Seven who managed to escape.

Q: Is this Cde Seven still alive?

A: I am not sure but I was to meet him later at Chimoio. He was a bit of a tough guy. 

Sorry to digress a bit as I want to talk about Cde Zhepe, who trained a number of comrades. I think only the three of us — that is, myself, Cde Chiwenga and Cde Tongogara — know where we buried Cde Zhepe during the battle of Mavonde. 

If Cde Chiwenga is reading this, I want him to help in the repatriation of Cde Zhepe who was killed in the man-to-man battle at Mavonde through a landmine. Cde Zhepe was a great comrade. Everyone who fought alongside him would testify to that. Even those who were trained by him.

Q: Back to Nyathi?

A: Morrison, after selling the other comrades, he went to Nyadzonia where he knew almost everyone. Remember, he was a high-ranking comrade there. He sold out the entire refugee camp.

Q: So Nyathi went to war as a plant or he turned sell-out later on?

A: No, Nyathi was a plant from the word go. He was intelligent. He would stand before a crowd and talk; he was very confident. 

Though the Rhodesians messed it up by not sending him away, say to Britain or some other place to hide him. But then he met comrades who were emotional and they meted instant justice. 

But it would have been better if he had faced the nation and told everyone what and how he did it. 

By then, the death penalty was still active, maybe they could have given him a death sentence anyway.

Q: Would you know where he came from, here in Zimbabwe?

A: I wouldn’t know but I heard he met his fate in Goromonzi.

Q: And you were given land?

A: Not all war vets got land. Some war veterans are being evicted today. You can’t say you gave me land when you gave me six hectares. 

Q: But are you utilising the six hectares?

A: Some of them are farming but some are not because they have not been capacitated. . . I doubt if we are more than 25 000 (war veterans) right now, and if we remove all those with means, the remaining number is a small to mobilise resources for.

In the next instalment, as the nation inches closer to Unity Day, signed on December 22, 1987 between Zanu and Zapu, we speak to a decorated Zipra cadre. 

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