The Arena Hildegarde
“I was in cell 32 and Aiden Diggeden (the Rhodesian thief and legendary jail breaker) was in cell 31,” recounted Cde Larry Dube (Fox Adolphus Urayai Ndambakuwa Muwani), a Zipra deep cover agent.
This was an insult to have a cell next to a notorious jailbreaker who was giving the Rhodesian police and prison officials sleepless nights, since Cde Dube had been incarcerated for daring to fight the Rhodesian system.
The Arena this week continues with narratives on the Second Chimurenga held with war veterans from the sixties and early seventies. These are the stories that gave birth to everything that is Zimbabwean, including this column.
Cde Larry Dube is a happy-go-luck fellow, but also a hard nut to crack. When he recounted the darkest moments of the struggle, he broke down and wept like a child, but more of that later.
Maybe, due to his intelligence background, he showed that he is a well- organised man, who brought a bunch of copies of official documents (not embargoed), to support his narrative. One of the documents is: “Ian Smith’s Hostages: Political Prisoners in Rhodesia” published by the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, in London, UK, 1976.
Born on October 10 1939, Cde Larry Dube left Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) for Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1961 after completing his Junior Certificate. He went to Zambia not to join the liberation struggle, although he was an active youth member of Zapu, which had been banned by Rhodesians.
Cde Larry Dube explained: “When Zapu was banned, Uncle George Nyandoro said to me, ‘For your betterness, why don’t you go to Zambia,’ because the party there had not been banned. I also had my sister working there who advised me that with the level of education I had, I should seek employment at the Copperbelt. So, I went to the Copperbelt and within a week, I got a job as an assistant personnel officer at Nchanga Consolidated Copper Mine, one of the biggest copper mines in Zambia.”
He added: “Zapu then was not identified with Ndebeles: from Mutare to Plumtree, from Masvingo to Zambezi, Joshua Nkomo was very popular. So, during that time, there was nothing about Zapu being a Ndebele party. Never, ever!”
His point of departure was February 3 1965 when he was recruited: “What happened is that (James) Chikerema and Dumiso (Dabengwa), travelled throughout the towns of Zambia – Mfulira, Nchanga, Bancroft, etc, because we used to have meetings. They were targeting their own people (Zapu members). So, when they came, it was obvious that after the meeting, they would identify that this is the right person for certain tasks. When they did so, they would ask you about your background, and level of education.”
This was how they were recruited, and there were 12 of them in his group: “Six Ndebeles and six Shonas. They were Cdes John Mashakada, John Guzha, Ephraim Musaka, Steven Gondo, Moffat Ndhlovu, Richard Ncube, Shadreck Majaya, Elliot Moyo, Swithun Mbambo, Barnabas Sithole, and Cedrick Dube.”
The group was being sent to undergo military intelligence training. They were moved from Zambia in Zapu vehicles, to Mbeya Training Camp in Tanzania. “We had Cde Nkomo’s Ford motor vehicle. Our driver was Bhebhe Dube. He was the one who transported us to Mbeya, where we spent two days and were then advised, ‘Comrades, time is running out’.”
They proceeded to Dar es Salaam, where they went to Mangela’s place who was Zapu’s representative in Tanzania.
Cde Dube said they spent a week in Dar es Salaam before moving on: “On the day we were supposed to leave, Chikerema and Mangela took us to the airport. We took a flight to Nairobi and when we arrived in Kenya, we proceeded to Ethiopia, and from there, to Sudan,” he said.
“When we got to Sudan, you know what, we drink beer! We went to a hotel and the beer was so warm. You know how hot Sudan is. Then we boarded a Russian plane. We were taken to Cairo and then Moscow,” Cde Dube narrated.
He said that the group’s mission in Moscow was to be trained as intelligence officers.
They had five instructors, two men and three women, who stayed with them during entire duration of the training. “They were very strict, checking on our movements. Then we started the training. They initially gave us political education.
“After that, they taught us intelligence systems of various countries: Britain, America, Germany and Israel – the whole world. They said it was because we might meet these guys upon return, so we had to know their strategies.”
Apart from the espionage and counter-espionage training, the group also received politics and political science training and training in small firearms.
Cde Dube said it was not all work and no play. Before the end of their training, they were taken on holiday to Tashkent. “They said we want to go and show you where we make our wines.”
Any person who wanted to drink had to start from the first tank right up to the end. They were advised: “There is a small dam. That was in case one got drunk, and they would drop you in there to sober up. Some got drunk, and maybe I got drunk. When we went back to the hotel one guy said: ‘We are going to Mubaira’, and I said to him ‘Now listen, we are deep down in Asia and you are talking about Mubaira here? Unokuziva kwaMubaira?’ And, we laughed.”
When they got back to Moscow, it was time to say goodbye. “We left Moscow for Cairo and then on to Dar es Salaam. We took the same route. We were not put together with guys that had gone for military training. We were just a group of 12. We were then moved to Mbeya, and then Lusaka.”
When they got back to Lusaka it was time for deployment into Southern Rhodesia. The strategy by Cdes Dabengwa, Chikerema and Nyandoro was that the first group would enter Rhodesia on November 11, 1965 – “the day Ian Smith was to declare UDI”.
He added: “The first group comprised Fox (himself), Mbambo and this sellout, Clement Dube. Dumiso and Chikerema accompanied us. Tasvika paLivingstone, then Clement started complaining: ‘You see guys, the money you gave me is inadequate because I was working here in Zambia as an engineman’.”
To affirm that Clement Dube was a sellout, Cde Larry Dube said: “In fact, while still training in Moscow, our commander, John Mashakada, was cautioned: ‘When you get back to Zambia, don’t let this man go into Rhodesia. He will sell you out. We don’t know what they had observed about him.
“So, we knew that while we were still in Moscow and we told Dumiso and Chikerema, that the man who was accompanying us was questionable,” said Cde Larry Dube.
Together with Cde Mbambo, they were issued their train tickets. “Since we worked in Zambia, we had forged our travel documents. We were aware of our traditional rituals, and they advised us that even on the train, we could perform them. Zvikanzi boys, kana mutrain munongopota muchiputa (fodya yebute).”
They boarded the train from Livingstone to Victoria Falls, and problems started: “The train was stopped, and everyone told to get out. Takasara tiri two, inini naSwithun Mbambo. When we got to Wankie, it was the same and also in Bulawayo.”
But nothing untoward happened. When they booked into a hotel, he said he told Cde Mbambo: “If we had trained in sabotage and others, we could have blown up this hotel. But then, we were going to have our people killed. That was a general talk.
“That evening I boarded the train, to Gwelo (Gweru), then Salisbury (Harare). When I got to Harare, guys from the Special Branch like McGuiness, Dowell (sic), Mugadza and some of their best people whom I knew so well were there waiting, but I slipped through and went home to Harare (Mbare).
“That intelligence training was now being put into practice. I just passed through them because in some instances they don’t know you.”
However, it was a homecoming that broke his heart, which eventually led him to cry. When he got home, he was greeted with the news that Rhodesian security forces were looking for him, and it was a do-or-die situation.
“When I got home in Daramombe, Mudzinganyama village, my parents told me that the Rhodesian security forces were looking for me. Panouya helicopter yozomhara pano. Ndikati vachitsvagei? Zvikanzi iwewe! Ndikati ko imi munombovati kudii? Zvikanzi tinongoti wakaenda kuchikoro kuLondon, ndozvatinoziva! (We tell them that he went to study in London.)”
“Then I said to myself (sobbing): ‘My own mother Emma being harassed like this.’ But she advised me to go to my father’s sister. I did. I stayed with her for two weeks. She reassured me, and said if need be, I should return to Zambia.”
Later, the Rhodesian security forces followed his tracks to his aunt’s place. Sobbing, Cde Larry Dube also said that at one point they wanted to detain her sister-in-law and her twin babies.
Cde Larry Dube said he was crying because his family had protected him, despite the dangers they faced: “They protected me. They never released information. They knew that I had gone for military training. They knew it very well, because my sister in Lusaka had written them the day I left: ‘Mwana wenyu . . .’, ivo vakati hauzivi here kuti vokwaZimuto ndiro basa ravo. Vari kurwa hondoka.
“They never released information about me, never, ever! May God bless them! They were elderly, but they never said anything. They insisted that I had gone to school in London and even challenged the Special Branch: “If you find him, please bring him back to us!”
Cde Larry Dube said all this was because of the sellout, Clement Dube. “We used to wonder why he would ask a lot of personal questions. He would want to know other people’s whereabouts, even their home villages.”
He left Daramombe and told his parents that he was going back to Zambia to look for a job. “I then went back to Mbare. We hatched a plan. My brother used to work for Glens Removals and he arranged transport for me to go back the following day. But the following morning around six o’clock, we woke up to find my brother’s house in Mbare heavily cordoned.
“They shouted at me: ‘Don’t move; don’t do anything. We have come for you.’ Seven of my comrades had been captured and I had seen the story in the newspaper. I said directly to them, ‘You have won. You could not get me.’ And they retorted, ‘Today, we got you’.”
After his capture, they took him to Beatrice. “I was also always handcuffed and in leg irons. After about two weeks, I was moved alone and appeared in court, and I was told: ‘Vamwe vako vese takavabata’.”
He endured a three-month trial, going to the High Court in Harare every day. He initially blamed his comrades for selling him out after they had been captured. “But no one had sold me out. The one who had sold us out (Clement Dube) was not there. We then shared experiences of how we were caught. Some were arrested while crossing the Zambezi Valley, some on the bus.
“In court, we argued that they should know the background of this country – like Mbuya Nehanda, and vowed that they could also hang us like they did her. We argued that we were not terrorists but freedom fighters. We didn’t care whether they would shoot us,” he said.
According to The Rhodesia Herald of May 14 1966, Justice Davies jailed Cde Larry Dube and 19 others 10 years each “with hard labour for being trained in communist countries as sabouteurs and spies for the purpose of overthrowing the Rhodesian government”.
After sentencing, they were taken to Khami Maximum Prison near Bulawayo. In the next instalment, we look at life in detention, especially the inhuman and degrading treatment at various detention camps like Khami.
But, Cde Larry Dube’s message of unity is noteworthy: “Yes, we have unity … The most important thing is that we are brothers and sisters. If we are united through the love of God, we will be a big nation. If we are united, all things will work well, because we were fighting for one thing.”
At Independence Cde Larry Dube fell in love and married Patience, a Methodist pastor’s daughter, and they were blessed with three sons and one daughter. Their names summarise Cde Larry Dube the freedom fighter, intellegence guy, and political detainee. The names are: Zvenyika, Zvaiitika, Zvapera and Zvataida but one is late.
He says he gave these names “because of what I did”.