FORMER ZBC and Zimpapers journalist Tapfuma Machakaire has made sensational claims that he survived execution by soldiers from the 5th Brigade during the Gukurahundi atrocities after he was mistaken for a South African spy.
Report by Nduduzo Tshuma Staff Reporter
Machakaire revealed this in his new book titled A Nose for News launched at a function organised by the Media Institute for Southern Africa in Bulawayo last Friday.
At that time he was employed by Sunday News and was covering a restricted area in Jotsholo.
“In late January 1983, the 5th Brigade was deployed in Matabeleland North Province,” Machakaire wrote.
“The media was banned from entering the operational area. I was keen to sneak in and find out what exactly was happening.”
The veteran journalist, who was once attached to Cable News Network, said he managed to go there when he heard that the then provincial marketing and co-operatives officer Aaron Gwetu was to be a special guest at the official opening of a local co-operative.
“The event was to take place before the Easter holidays of 1983,” Machakaire wrote.
He submitted the diary to his editor then Bill Saidi “who was surprised by my courage, but encouraged me to make the best out of the story.” He was allocated an additional Zimbabwean $90 to use just in case they encountered danger. “Close to a hundred people had gathered for the low-key function. I then went with my team to the shops intending to talk to soldiers,” he says.
“They asked for my identity particulars, I had carried my old identity card from my days as a government Press officer to evade any looming danger.”
He said he became acquainted with one of the soldiers from his home province in Manicaland. He offered drinks to them.
“I started asking about the security situation in the area when one of the soldiers suddenly accused me of being a South African spy, which was still under apartheid rule and I was accused of aiding dissidents,” wrote Machakaire.
Four other soldiers were convinced that he was a spy.
“Five of them said it had been decided that I should be taken to the river and be killed.
“I hoped my homeboy would rescue me, but he was quickly silenced.”
One of the soldiers allegedly requested for a vehicle which they later used. “He told the driver to drive towards the Arda Estate. The car headed deeper into the rural area.” wrote Machakaire.
“After driving for about a kilometre, the soldier told the driver to make a U-turn and drive straight to Lupane centre. At the business centre, the other soldiers who had ordered my execution had camped in the centre of the road wielding AK 47 rifles.
“Our Good Samaritan said he was taking me to the base at Lupane where I would be dealt with. One of the soldiers warned him that he would be dealt with if they did not find me at Lupane centre.”
“Our friend told us to go wherever we felt safe and walked away,” wrote Machakaire.
He said it was 5pm when they drove to Gwayi, 50km from Lupane towards Victoria Falls and returned to Bulawayo the following day.