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HomenewsHeroic sacrifices delivered Zimbabwe to the masses

Heroic sacrifices delivered Zimbabwe to the masses

The Chronicle

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Yoliswa Moyo, [email protected]

With just the T-shirt on his back, a vest, a pair of trousers and shoes, a 15-year-old naïve Jabulani Dube set out on a journey that would soon change his life as he knew it.

From being a school boy and occasionally heading cows and tending to goats at his village in Mangwe District, Matabeleland South province, young Jabulani had decided to join the country’s liberation struggle.

He carried the pain of seeing his grandmother on her knees, pleading for the mercy of Rhodesian armed forces and the hope of a country where the black majority could live freely, without fear of harassment or being disenfranchised.

When he set out to join the liberation struggle back in 1976, the former Mzingwane High School boy had no idea this would become the biggest sacrifice of his life.

The kind that would go into the annals of history as a precious gift bequeathed to generations and generations.

In an interview with Chronicle, Cde Dube (62) narrated how the injustices blacks suffered at the hands of Ian Smith’s regime pushed him to join the country’s protracted liberation struggle.

“I was born in Esigodini but I come from Bhango in Mangwe. My mother was one of the pioneering nurses at Esigodini District Hospital. I was never really involved in political activities but what made me join the liberation struggle was what I would see in a paper called the African Times. It would show the weapons that guerillas would handle; guns, grenades, all types of weapons. They were trying to alert people to make reports if they saw anyone handling such weapons. That was in 1976 and I was 15-years-old by then,” said Cde Dube.

He said one day, his mother sent him and the lady who would help around their house to buy some relish.

“It was in the evening. There was a footpath in Esigodini that a lot of people used and there was also a bridge for trains. I was used to this bridge but the lady I was with would feel dizzy while trying to cross the bridge as it was quite high. So we opted for the footpath but as we were walking, something scared us and we ran back. We went to the phone booth, called my mother and told her we had to turn back because something had scared us. She instructed us to wait at the booth which was close to Why Not Hotel. While we were seated next to the booth, some whites came with their children. Those children started clapping us; we couldn’t hit back, we were afraid. The whites gave their children small branches from a nearby tree to beat us up. I was really hurt by that incident,” said Cde Dube.

But this was just one of many incidents.

“While I was on a school break at our rural home, some white Rhodesian forces passed by and the way my grandmother was so frightened broke my heart. She was on her knees trying to talk to these soldiers. Although they didn’t beat her up, the way she was so scared and apologetic broke my heart. It really bothered me why blacks were being treated this badly. They couldn’t live freely, without having to look over their shoulders,” said Cde Dube.

As a Form One pupil at Mzingwane High School, Cde Dube arranged to join the liberation struggle with his nephew.

He was determined to fight, if that was what would free his fellow kinfolk.

“I had gone home one exeat weekend and was asked by my mother to send some money to my grandmother through the bus. I told the lady who helped around the house that if the clock hit a certain time before I came back, she should tell my mother not to look for me. I had a bit of pocket money and went to our rural home. When I got there, I organised with a nephew, whom I considered a friend, to leave and join the liberation struggle. While we were still talking, an uncle joined in the conversation. He asked what we were talking about and although we tried to hide our conversation from him, we ended up telling him. However, I ended up going with my uncle and not my nephew,” said Cde Dube.

“I didn’t know anything about Zanu or Zapu, I just wanted to join the liberation struggle. It was in the afternoon when we left via Khalanyoni and had planned to cross into Botswana via Makorokoro. As we were travelling, no one asked us where we were going and we were not searched.”

In those days, people would be searched and questioned about their movements. There were some cadres who would help people cross into Botswana who assisted Cde Dube and his uncle.

It was in December 1976 at the crack of dawn that Cde Dube finally crossed into Botswana after a long bus ride.

“After we had crossed, we met a man who could speak Setswana. I don’t know whether he was going to South Africa or to join the liberation struggle but we ended up going with him. I was the youngest in the group that left that day. There was a man in the group who had grown tired and wanted to go back but the risk of being killed by the whites was very high. We had to ask some villagers for some mealie-meal later that day and we cooked isitshwala. That was our only meal for the day.

“We were directed to some traditional leader’s homestead and from there taken by police to Francistown. When we eventually made it to the transit camp in Botswana, we were flown to Nampundwe Training Camp where Zipra forces were trained in Zambia,” said Cde Dube.

Things were tough. It was no child’s play as the freedom fighters went through rigorous drills to prepare them for the trenches.

“At around 4AM, a signal was sounded for everyone to go for training. It was still dark and you could hardly see people’s faces. It was on this day that we were given pseudonyms,” he said.

Cde Dube was Christened Oscar Mpofu. This was done to protect the identity of the freedom fighters and that of their families as it would make it difficult to trace their roots.

The conditions in Zambia were not exactly favourable. The comrades had to make do with the little food available and stretch whatever resources they were given.

“While there was a medical facility, people picked up a lot of illnesses. When I left Zimbabwe, I only had a pair of trousers, vest and t-shirt with no change of clothes. At some point I had intwala in my hair and some parts of my body. The food was inadequate and people would often fall sick due to the poor diet,” said Cde Dube.

Hard as it may have been, there was no turning back at this point.

“(Ian) Smith would’ve killed us had we tried to go back. There was also the Zambezi River infested with crocodiles to consider. You needed to cross the river if you wanted to head back. There was also the risk of being labelled a sell out so we had no option but to hold on.”

Upon completing his training, Cde Dube was deployed to Yugoslavia where he received further training in communications.

“Once I finished training, I worked under Cde Tshinga Dube at the Zipra Communication Centre. While I was working there, we were bombed by Smith’s forces a couple of times. It was not easy seeing fellow comrades lying in pools of blood, dead,” he said.

At the Zipra Communication Centre, their role was to link commanders with units in front and rear bases.

When the late Vice President Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo told the lads that Zimbabwe was back in the hands of the black majority, Cde Dube said a sense of relief came over him.

“He (Dr Nkomo) was our leader; he was our commander. We had so much faith in him and we knew this day would eventually come.”

On his return back home, Cde Dube served in the Zimbabwe National Army and was deployed on several missions in different countries including Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He retired from the army in 2013.

Cde Dube called on the youths to continue working hard to build the country’s economy and safeguard the gains of independence.

“We fought for political independence and endured a lot of struggles. However, economic independence is everyone’s responsibility. Our youths should commit themselves to ensuring what we fought for doesn’t go to waste. We have a lot of mineral resources and other sources of wealth in our country that we need to safeguard. It’s our responsibility to build our country together,” he said.

Cde Dube is the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association Provincial Secretary for Matabeleland South and a Zanu-PF central committee member. @Yolisswa

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