By Retired Colonel R. Dube - Gedi
It is very important that matters of history should be researched in detail prior to being penned for publication or uttered to the public.
In reference to the interview of Retired Brigadier General Ambrose Mutinhiri with the Sunday Mail of August 5-11, 2012, his comments cannot be allowed to pass without being corrected. To do so, would be to leave the uninformed public misinformed for a long time - or forever - over what actually took place.
The Wankie battle was not an accident in history. It was a result of deliberate planning by both Umkhoto Wesizwe (MK) of the ANC of South Africa and ZPRA of ZAPU.
The joint ZPRA/MK Hwange Battles were a result of the agreement between the two liberation armies. They became reality only after ZAPU and the ANC of South Africa had endorsed this recommendation by the two fighting forces.
Contrary to Mutinhiri’s assertion on the justification of this operation, it was a well thought-out Military Plan because it took account of the enemy at the country of entry into South Africa i.e. Rhodesia. If one cares to follow the Hwange Battles, he should certainly give credit to their planning and execution by the joint MK and ZPRA forces against the joint forces of the Rhodesian and South African regimes. To the doubting “Thomases” and those who are genuinely interested in verifying the facts, may you be referred to The Chronicle archives that covered the battles that ensured then.
The execution of this plan which led to the Hwange Battles was as follows:
- A contingent of 90 men was deployed.
- A crossing point on the Zambezi river was selected at a point about 10-15 kms. East of the Victoria Falls.
- The contingent was composed of four platoons, three ZPRA and one MK.
- One ZPRA platoon was to remain operational in the Wankie general area, the second to remain in the Lupane/Tsholotsho area and the third was to accompany the MK platoon to the Limpopo river crossing point and assist in their crossing into South Africa and thereafter to remain operational in the Beitbridge area.
The crossing by the joint contingent was successfully achieved and the platoon that was to remain operating in the Hwange area had detached to deploy as per plan. The two remaining ZPRA and one MK platoon found themselves forced to defend themselves against the joint Rhodesian and South African forces that had detected their presence in the area.
Fierce battles ensured in Sinamatela and Masue, in the Wankie area. These battles continued up to Sihubu and Mabogwane in Tsholotsho.
Ninety men were not a huge number, contrary to Mutinhiri’s assertion. Guerrillas engaged in guerrilla warfare, at the early stages of the war, can never bear weapons superior to those of the State army – both in quantity and quality. Mutinhiri’s assertion of poor weaponry is illogical. It is unfortunate that our ZPRA records which were confiscated by the CIO in 1982 have not been handed back to us up to now.
This operation is well-documented within those records.
ZPRA veterans will not fold their arms quietly, when people who did not plan or participate in these operations try to downplay and distort events and efforts which cost the lives of our fallen comrades.
Bitterness at any level should not warrant such unscrupulous comments. ZPRA deserves honest, accurate presentation of facts surrounding all their contributions to the liberation of Zimbabwe.