By Rex Mphisa
While war veterans across the country are fighting for gratuities and other benefits for their participation in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, some Zimbabweans believe they should be fighting for the recognition of fallen heroes.
The protracted 1970s fight has seen the former liberation war fighters engaging the government head-on on numerous occasions with their battles even spilling into the courts and at times they have resorted to demonstrating against fellow comrades in government.
However, some Zimbabweans believe the former fighters should not be paid anything because that would erode their claim to being selfless liberators.
Others believe they must be rewarded in an orderly manner which will not disadvantage the same people they liberated by plunging the country into economic chaos as witnessed when they received $50 000 gratuities in 1997.
Some feel if they are pensioned, they must have no political constituency and live like ordinary people without having to dictate the country’s destiny since they would have been rewarded.
The debates are endless and are similar to those in the region where most fighters in liberation movements who brought colonialism to a halt, live unenviable lives, most in abject poverty.
In Mozambique, up to 30 000 fighters of that country’s liberation are yet to receive compensation having been omitted in registers, according to reports.
In 2012, Angolan war veterans demonstrated against their government for not getting monetary rewards and recognition.
South Africa is trying to give the veterans of its struggle certificate to pave way for gratuities.
It seems it is an African curse how liberation fighters fail to get recognition.
Opposition parties, as the case in Zimbabwe, have joined the debate and want the veterans respected with MDC leader Nelson Chamisa expressing his disgust at
how the veterans of the war have been handled.
In their WhatsApp group seen by this journalist, war veterans are convinced President Emmerson Mnangagwa has abandoned them and blame him even for mistakes by
his predecessor and Zimbabwe’s first leader Robert Mugabe.
The debate rages, but for villagers in Makumbe, 15 kilometres north of Gutu-Mpandawana, they contend that war veterans should spearhead a fight of a different
Villagers want the living war veterans to champion the building of a shrine at Hurodzevasikana Site where 10 freedom fighters along with 11 collaborators
perished at the hands of the Rhodesian army.
“For us, that will be a noble fight. Yes, if they are paid their gratuities it is good, but do they think of their comrades who died in the same struggle with
them? Who will ensure these men and women are eternally recognised if the war veterans concentrate on the demands for cash and not recognise the fallen heroes?
“We want a proper shrine. The living heroes must not forget that as much as they want to be paid, we have children from our village who died and no one will
ever get compensation. We just want a shrine, recognition of the fighters and our relatives,” Daniel Makumbe, who lives near the site, told Southern Eye.
On June 27, 1979, while talks of a ceasefire were on, the Rhodesian military surprised fighters whose nom-de-guerres were Mashoko Hondo, Teaspoon, Magorira
Tasangana, Paradzai Mabhunu, Samoa Pachedu Moyomuchena, Motion Hondo, Danger Mapfava Mushambaneropa and Tendai Pamwe.
These fighters were relaxed with youthful villagers, namely Joseph Majoni (17), Rosa Majoni (20) Sabina Majoni (18) Mhiripiri sisters Kudzai (18), Helen (17)
and Tendai (20), Rafuma Mazuru (16), Unice Togo (18) Rudo Chiwunye (16), Solomon Hwenje (22) and Esiyeni Mahaso (27), when all of them died in that single
According to Makumbe, still a young boy back then when the day-long intense military contact unfolded, the freedom fighters were servicing their weaponry and
far off guard when a spy plane led ground and air forces to the hill.
“The comrades were given no chance and were bombed while ground forces encircled the small hill. It was a day of shelling and only one survivor identified as
Chipere Chomunyati miraculously escaped the fight. Villagers watched in horror as sounds of gunfire filled the air,” he said.
Unconfirmed reports say the team was sold out by another villager whose children strangely left the scene minutes before the one-sided fight. Other fighters
later came to avenge and killed some of the suspected sell-outs.
Makumbe remembers the entire village being plunged into mourning.
The bodies of the fighters were put in Red Cross body bags and buried in mass graves while the villagers took their dead relatives and buried them.
“At Majoni, there were three people dead. At Mhiripiri, there were three people dead and it was a sad week. We were young, but it is in our past. We want a proper shrine so that the generations that follow will remember relatives and the fighters’ fate in our village,” Makumbe added.
At Hurodzevasikana Hill, a shrine built by villagers exists, but they want a service centre or playground established.
“We do not want to celebrate Heroes holidays at any other place, but here at home. Our families have so much to gather there for.
The 11 people who were not fighters and the 10 fighters themselves are enough for a proper recognition. We want the living war veterans to come here and celebrate the lives of those who died here at least once a year and have all the year to themselves to complain about their gratuities,” another villager demanded.
The government has banned the cutting of trees from Hurodzevasikana Hill which villagers believe is sacred.
The villagers encircled the places where bodies of the dead were picked and a still atmosphere envelopes the area which overlooks some few homes. A small tower decorated with a granite plaque inscribed with the names of the 10 fighters and 11 collaborators, built by the villagers, stands as testimony to how the villagers revere the site.
“It could be better with a proper security fence. This is a tourist attraction. When the history of the country is written, this place should appear as a battle site,” Makumbe said.
The fighters buried there were later exhumed and reburied at Gutu-Mpandawana district heroes acre in 1989 at a function officiated by Mugabe.
But for the villagers, the emotion that gripped the village, the scenes witnessed during and after the Hurodzevasikana battle, now commonly referred to as the Makumbe Contact, is not transferrable to any site.
“That’s why we say in their fight for pensions and gratuities, the living veterans must also remember to fight for the recognition of battle sites where our relatives and other fighters, who will never be paid, gave up their lives,” Makumbe said.