|Survivors recall Chimoio massacre|
|Tuesday, 23 November 2010 18:29|
The 23rd of November brings with it sad memories of the brutal massacre of refuges at Chimoio and Tembwe camps in Mozambique by Rhodesian forces.
[Please note that some pictures in this story may not be suitable for children or those of a nervous disposition]
Even though the massacre happened 33 years ago, many, survivors of the cowardly and horrific act, still recall vividly one of the darkest moments in the liberation struggle when the colonial regime committed acts of genocide.
“As Secretary I was responsible for the safekeeping of all party and war documents so I dug a hole and buried them in the ground.”
“The liberation war was real. People sacrificed themselves to bring independence. People suffered to set Zimbabwe free,” she said.
Another survivor, Cde Mandi Chimene, whose Chimurenga name is Cde Rumbidzai Courage MuHondo, narrates her ordeal.
“It was morning, about 8am. I was a 17-year old medical officer at Parirenyatwa Hospital based at Chimoio. We also had Takawira, Nehanda and Chitepo bases. As I was preparing our bed I heard the sound a small plane, (Kandege kemagumba)” reconnaissance plane hovering directly above our camp. It was the type that spelt bad news.
“Before anyone realised what was happening, we were under attack. In confusion, I left the barracks and went outside. A helicopter was hovering above me, spraying petrol down onto our building. I ducked inside as the soldier inside the helicopter started firing at me.
“I then pretended to be dead. The firing stopped and I managed to roll away from the building towards a 20-metre deep gully that was between our base and the Chitepo Hospital base. I momentarily fell. When I woke up, I saw dismembered bodies everywhere – limbs torn apart, stomachs ripped and comrades lying dead.
“I followed the gully and met a commander who had been beaten up for indiscipline the previous night, Mahesi. Apparently, Mahesi had joined the enemy and he actually knew there would be an attack on our camp.
He had an FN rifle which he pointed at me. I was confused. Why was he holding an enemy weapon? Surprisingly, Mahesi did not shoot at me. Perhaps it was because I was not armed myself. That is how I escaped. Afterwards I heard a password that anyone who met Mahesi should kill him.
“I ran away from the camp as fast as I could. A bomb would drop every 100 metres. I did not think I would survive. At one point I thought I was running without legs because gunfire erupted right in front of me, knocked me down and shredded the ground to a ball of dust. When I woke up, my legs were covered in dust and I could not see them. It was terrible.
“I met with other survivors and we resolved to return to the camp to see how we could assist the seriously injured. It was getting very dark and an enemy helicopter spotted us as we walked. We hid in a gully and covered ourselves with some leaves. Every time anyone of us raised their head to make a move, we discovered there were about two big snakes close by which also raised their heads as if to strike, forcing us to remain in the gully. We later discovered the snakes actually protected us because when they finally left, it was now calm and we followed them to safety. It was a whole night’s walk to safety.
“In the next morning the planes bombed the camp again. They were following up on any survivors.
“We got to see the brutality of the whites first hand. What I can say is that whites do not want to see black people. They may smile at us (blacks) but only when it is to their advantage. There is no way a black person can think they are friends with whites because whites think they are superior because of their skin colour.
“But as blacks we are also superior because God, in his full knowledge, gave us this skin colour and this part of the world, together with its resources. We are bosses in Zimbabwe because we are black,” she said.
The Rhodesians conducted many other untold atrocities through air strikes and ground attacks at Nyadzonia, Mboroma, Dukwe and Mkushi, among other camps. Such atrocities serve to show that the Rhodesians had no respect for the life of Africans in their quest to stop the onward march to independence by the liberation movements.
The Nyadzonia Massacre on 9th August 1976 and the raids on Chimoio on 23rd of November 1977 and on Tembwe the next day were horrifying.
Among the thousands killed at Chimoio and Tembwe were defenceless women and children who had taken refuge at the camps.