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From Moscow to Khami Maximum Prison

From Moscow to Khami Maximum Prison In this collage Cde Larry Dube breaks down as he gives an account of how his parents had to lie to Rhodesian security forces that he was studying in London when he had gone for guerilla warfare training in Moscow. — (Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda)
In this collage Cde Larry Dube breaks down as he gives an account of how his parents had to lie to Rhodesian security forces that he was studying in London when he had gone for guerilla warfare training in Moscow. — (Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda)

In this collage Cde Larry Dube breaks down as he gives an account of how his parents had to lie to Rhodesian security forces that he was studying in London when he had gone for guerilla warfare training in Moscow. — (Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda)

Hildegarde The Arena
THE children’s names are a reflection of the freedom fighter, intelligence agent, and political detainee he is. They are: Zvenyika, Zvaiitika, Zvapera, and Zvataida. He says he named them thus “because of what I did.”

This is the final instalment of the interview with Cde Larry Dube (Fox Adolphus Urayai Ndambakuwa Muwani), and his ordeal fighting for the Independence of Zimbabwe, held with Munyaradzi Huni, Tendai Manzvanzvike and Forget Tsododo on October 23, 2015.

A Zapu cadre and one of the early members of its military wing Zipra, he was recruited while working in Zambia by Dumiso Dabengwa and James Dambaza Chikerema on February 3, 1965.

Together with Cdes John Mashakada, John Guzha, Ephraim Musaka, Steven Gondo, Moffat Ndhlovu, Richard Ncube, Shadreck Majaya, Elliot Moyo, Swithin Mbambo, Barnabas Sithole, and Cedrick Dube, they underwent military intelligence training in the Soviet Union (Russia) and were later deployed into Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) before Ian Smith’s declaration of UDI.

He evaded capture and arrest travelling from Victoria Falls to Salisbury, but when he arrived in the city, he realised that a revolution was not a stroll in the park.

“When I got home in Daramombe, Mudzinganyama Village, my parents told me that 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 you went to study in London.)

“Then I told myself (and he breaks down uncontrollably), ‘My own mother Emma being harassed like this.’ Still, she advised me to go to my father’s sister. I did. I stayed with my aunt for two weeks, who also told me to return to Zambia.”

Still sobbing, Cde Larry says at one point, the Rhodesians wanted to detain his sister-in-law and her twin babies.

But, why cry, when men should hold back their emotions?

Cde Larry said it was because his family had protected him, despite the risks: “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.

“My parents 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!’”

As a man on the run, Rhodesian security forces tracked him to his aunt’s place. He said all this was because of Clement Dube, the sell-out.

So, he had to leave Daramombe and told his parents that he was going back to Zambia. “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 that morning, at around six o’clock, we woke up to find my brother’s house heavily cordoned.

“The Rhodesian security forces called out: ‘Don’t move; don’t do anything! We have come for you.’ Meanwhile, seven of my comrades had already been captured. But I challenged them, ‘You have won. You could not get me.’ And they retorted, ‘Today, we got you.’” That was in early 1966.

The security forces took him to Beatrice (police station). “I was always handcuffed and in leg irons. After about two weeks, I was moved alone and appeared in court, and I was told, “We captured all your other colleagues.”

He endured a three-month trial at the High Court in Salisbury.

Cde Larry said he initially blamed his compatriots for selling him out after they had been captured, but he later realised that was not the case.

“The one who had sold us out (Clement Dube) was not there. We then shared experiences of how we were captured. We started to wonder why Clement always wanted to know everyone’s personal details. We also wondered why he asked so many questions — including our home areas.

“Some of us were arrested while crossing the Zambezi Valley, others on buses. 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 to her.

“We also told them 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 convicted and sentenced Cde Larry (identified as Adolphus Mwane), and 19 other “African men”, to 10 years each, “with hard labour for being trained in Communist countries as saboteurs and spies for the purpose of overthrowing the Rhodesian Government.”

He said, “After sentencing, we were taken to Khami Prison, one of the most notorious maximum prisons where isolation, torture and other inhuman treatment were the order of the day.”

“Taigara one-one mucell; your mat on the floor and your toilet chamber on the side. In that chamber woisa mvura yako and you would have your ‘nice’ bath. Food was a rarity. Life at Khami was terrible and indescribable. Some of us became starved of food and natural nutrients.”

Then there were the tribunals, and Cde Larry Dube said, “We could not beg them to release us. Takange tisinganyengereri kuti ndaakuda kubuda ivo vambondisunga. All eight of us, we were of one mind regarding that.”

After Khami Maximum, he was taken to Gwelo (Gweru) Prison where the unthinkable happened: “Three of our colleagues — Duri, Morgan Tandi and Ignatius Muchero managed to escape, but the other two were captured while Tandi sneaked out of the country and went to Zambia.”

From Gweru, they were moved to WhaWha where he met the likes of Cde Jane Ngwenya.

After the Lancaster House Agreement, they were released and he was restricted to his communal home in Daramombe, where he had to report to police twice a week.

“But, during the 15 years of incarceration, relatives were allowed to see us briefly.”

When Cde Larry Dube finally got his unconditional freedom, he went to Rapid Results College to further his education. While some of his colleagues were attested into the newly integrated Zimbabwe National Army and other Government departments, he joined Manica Freight Services where he served for more than 20 years.

But, he did not reveal his liberation war identity. Only his brother’s friend knew. He went on to become chairman of the workers committee.

Cde Larry Dube said it was at Manica Freight that he also met MDC-T’s Ian Makone, and said of their relationship: “He liked me, but also feared me because he had been told about me. I was shocked when I heard that he was now working with (Morgan) Tsvangirai. Ndikati Oh-h . . .”, and other unprintable remarks.

He values unity and said it is one of the legacies from the former liberation movements — Zapu and Zanu.

“In the early 80s,” he said, “we urged Mudhara Nkomo that there be unity, so that we are one team. We told him that this would end the bloodshed (from the dissident era.)

“Dai zvakaramba zvakadai, Zapu yakamira uku, Zanu yakamira uku, pasina unity, mungadai muine civil war munyika muno, do you know that? Civil war, muno. Every ethnic group wanted to rule.

“This is why we encouraged unity. The problem was there, especially among military guys. They did not get along on ethnic lines. Leadership was the problem. As intelligence people we used to get reports that there was instability in military camps, and we would take them to the High Command.

“I am glad that we are united. What you are doing (the Chimurenga chronicles) is one of the best things because people will be better informed, and it will turn other people into thinking properly. I also urge kuti dai vachiitisa malessons kuti vanhu vadzidziswe kuti nyika yakamira sei, kuitira kuti mangwana mugoramba muripo, noruzivo rwenyu.

“If we remain united, all things will work well. We were fighting for one thing,” and concluded with his usual affirmation, “Ndiri kutokutaurira inini!” (Get it from me!)

Below is an abridged statement on the inhuman and degrading treatment at Khami Maximum Security Prison:

Khami is well-known to Zimbabweans as the harshest of Rhodesia’s Maximum Security Prisons. Situated outside Bulawayo in the west of the country, it has been used as a political prison since at least 1959, when over 500 members of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress were detained there.

From the mid-sixties onwards, conditions deteriorated as Khami received an increasing number of captured guerilla fighters and others sentenced under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act.

Security became intense, and in 1964, after warders had opened fire on prisoners who were protesting about conditions, killing and wounding an unknown number, Khami’s political prisoners were segregated from other convicted prisoners.

Those political prisoners classified by the regime as “most dangerous” were isolated from other prisoners in a special section of single cells. They are allowed out for only two or three hours a day, to undertake hard labour, and are forbidden to talk to other prisoners at any time.

Some political prisoners are known to have been held in solitary confinement in this manner for years at a stretch.

The cells at Khami are bare, apart from a sisal sleeping mat, three blankets per prisoner, and a toilet bucket. The clothing provided consists only of shorts and shirt. No shoes or jerseys are allowed even during the winter months.

The day begins when the prisoners are unlocked in batches to use the washroom. During a five-minute period, prisoners are expected to empty and clean their toilet buckets, use the flush toilets and have a cold shower.

Exercise at Khami is limited to hard labour of varying periods, shortest in the case of single cell prisoners. Labour consists of crushing stones by hand for road-mending and other purposes, at the bottom of a pit quarry.

The final event of the day is roll-call at which prisoners are counted, strip searched and marched naked back into their cells.

Inmates of Khami consistently refer to repeated beatings, assaults and harassment, the indiscriminate withdrawals of privileges and the arbitrary imposition of punishments such as reduced diets or additional hard labour. (From: “Ian Smith’s Hostages: Political Prisoners in Rhodesia”, by the International Defence and Aid Find for Southern Africa, 1976)

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