Today marks 40 years since the Chimoio massacre in which thousands of freedom fighters, including women and children, perished at the hands of the Ian Smith-led Rhodesian forces in Mozambique at the height of the Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
The legacy left behind by over 3 000 freedom fighters and war collaborators who lost their lives in the Chimoio massacre carried out by the Rhodesian forces on 23 November 1977 at Chimoio ZANLA military camp in Mozambique is eternal as it is engraved in Zimbabwe’s history.
The Rhodesian Security Forces attacked Chimoio in combined air and ground raid on that fateful day.
It was the mass murder of innocent lives at Chimoio by the Rhodesian Forces on this day when the world woke up to the shock news of the atrocity we now know as the “Chimoio Massacre”.
One of the survivours of this horrible act, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is a member of the Zanu PF politburo, in one of her interviews after Zimbabwe attained independence, says the Chimoio massacre remains vivid in her memory.
“I was a member of the General Staff where I worked as Secretary of the High Command. We had several bases at Chimoio – farming, medicine, commissariat – and Chimoio was the headquarters.
“We saw planes, about 10 initially, flying towards the camp. We did not suspect anything as we thought they were Mozambican. We had been attacked before at Nyadzonia… The planes started dropping bombs and parachutes.
“Rhodesian ground forces had already been dropped and had us surrounded, so the planes were targeting their bombs at our camp. As the bombs fell, those who tried to escape faced helicopters which were targeting the outskirts of the camp,” she narrated,” she said.
Today, Zimbabwe commemorates the Chimoio massacre which lasted two days after one Morrison Nyathi reportedly infiltrated the guerillas and sold out the liberation war cause to the settler regime.
It is said that a Douglas DC-8 airliner was flown over the Chimoio camp around seven in the morning, 10 minutes before the actual air strike.
This was part of a deception plan in which the freedom fighters were dispersed in a false air raid alert, so that when the aircraft participating in the actual air strike approached, they did not cause alarm.
When the first Air Force jets arrived, the assembled ZANLA forces, as planned, did not take cover again as they assumed it was the DC-8 that was returning only to discover that they were under attack.
In their first pass, four Canberra bombers dropped 1 200 Alpha bombs (Rhodesian-designed anti-personnel cluster bombs) over an area 1.1 kilometres long and half a kilometre wide.
The paratroopers and heliborne troops were deployed on three sides of the objective into various stop groups and sweep lines, and killed a number of fleeing ZANLA cadres.
Among the thousands killed at Chimoio were defenceless women and children who had taken refuge at the camps.
The Rhodesian forces committed many other untold atrocities through air strikes and ground attacks at Tembwe, Nyadzonia, Mboroma, Dukwe and Mkushi, among other camps.
Zimbabweans must never forget those who paid the supreme sacrifice at Chimoio!