We have achieved most  of the liberation war objectives: Machacha Cde Munyaradzi Machacha

Ranga Mataire Group Political Editor

Cde Munyaradzi Machacha, whose Chimurenga name was George Kashiri, was the liaison officer at Foxtrot Assembly Point in Buhera, Manicaland.

It was the largest gathering point in the country at the time with about 15 000 freedom fighters. Cde Machacha’s main role as the liaison officer was to be the link-man between ZANLA forces and the Commonwealth Monitoring Force (CMF).

The CMF was established by the British Commonwealth and had troops from Australia, Fiji, Kenya and New Zealand. The role of the CMF was to keep the peace between the Rhodesian forces and Patriotic Front guerrillas during the run-up to the 1980 general elections, which would establish a new independent state.

Our Group Political Editor, Ranga Mataire (RM) spoke to Cde Machacha (MM), who is also the principal of the Chitepo School of Ideology, about the situation at Foxtrot Assembly Point leading up to the elections.

RM: As we are celebrating Independence Day, what are the immediate emotions that come to your mind as you reflect on the journey the country has travelled from the liberation struggle to April 18, 1980?

MM: Well, the struggle itself was tough, very demanding event. Quite a number of our young men and women perished as a result of the war. This year’s independence celebrations is a reminder that their loss or death was not in vain and that what they fought for has been achieved. Yes, there is still a lot to do to complete the liberation struggle objectives, mainly in the economy where we are still struggling to stabilise our currency; to strengthen our economy and put it into an irreversible growth trajectory. We are quite confident with the recent measures that have been taken, with the announcement of the monetary policy by the Reserve Bank Governor and the decision to back our currency with gold. We hope this time around we have found the winning formula and that those lying in the forests, in valleys, pits —right across the country will surely say their death was not in vain.

RM: This year’s independence commemoration is being held in Buhera at Dzapasi Secondary School close to Foxtrot Assembly Point. The holding of national events in each of the country’s provinces started with the coming in of the New Dispensation. Can you comment on this devolving initiative where national events are to held in each of the country’s provinces?

MM: Independence is for all of us and not just those in the capital city. Most of the battles were fought in the rural areas and Buhera being one such area where the liberation forces had virtually driven the enemy away. By the end of the liberation war, Buhera had become a semi-liberated area and so those are the people who bore the brunt of the war. Going to Buhera is our way of recognising their efforts and joining them in celebrating our victory is the right thing to do. But this is not just for the people of Buhera. You are aware that this new policy has also benefited people in Mashonaland Central. The first such celebrations were held in Mt Darwin, which was the centre of our war efforts where the struggle started. And now we are in Manicaland, again another area or province that was at the forefront of the struggle. This will enable people to have a buy-in and feel that this independence is theirs and rejoice in the victory. It helps in keeping the memory of the liberation struggle alive.

RM: What exactly do you think today’s youths need to know about the sacrifices you and your comrades made to liberate this country? I say this in the context of some statements being made by some of us that there was nothing extraordinary done by freedom fighters that they cannot do today? Others go as far as praising Rhodesian existence, saying Ian Smith was better.

MM: The struggle was not a walk in the park. It was a serious, bloody and demanding assignment, which the young people of that time had to undertake and made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom and independence of Zimbabwe. Those that try to belittle those efforts and think that we can get recolonised and then the current generation can liberate us for the second time are merely day dreaming.

Zimbabwe is independent and shall remain so for eternity. There should not be any childish day dreaming that they can re-liberate Zimbabwe. But I think they are doing so out of ignorance. It is also a reflection that our former colonisers are busy playing with the innocent young minds and polluting those minds.

We notice that Rhodesians have regrouped and are peddling their own narratives, painting a rosy image of colonial existence and yet we know that the horrendous atrocities committed against Africans in this country were worse off than Hitler’s genocide against the Jews.

We also know that indigenous people of this country were denied access to the resources, the wealth of the country and were merely paid wages for their labour — wages that were far less than the value of the labour they put into production of their factories, mines and farms.

We also know that it is only after independence that the African people in this country regained their worth, their labour was now being paid for what it is worth. Black people started governing themselves after 90 years of colonialism. So there is no way you can say Rhodesia was better, it was hell. It was meant for just the few hundreds of thousands of whites.

It is sad to note that some of our young people are not schooled in these matters. It is one of our responsibilities, as the Chitepo School of Ideology, to reach out to the young people, to reach out to all segments of our society and teach them about our history and the journey we travelled in order to gain our independence.

RM: Can you say with confidence that the ruling Zanu PF has achieved or fulfilled the liberation promises?

MM: Yes, I would say, with confidence and without any shadow of doubt, that yes indeed we have achieved our objectives. Most, if not all, of them have been achieved. One of the objectives was on governing ourselves. That we did achieve in 1980 on April 18. Another objective was to regain our land, restore the land to its rightful people. That was achieved through the land reform and the land and its people are now reunited and no one can ever take that land away from us again. Another objective was to ensure that there was equality of all races and I think that has been achieved. The fourth objective was that of access to education and health facilities must be on non-racial basis and must be affordable to all. I think we have gone a long way in fulfilling this objective regardless of the fact that sanctions sometimes prohibit Central Government from acquiring the requisite drugs or medicines that the nation requires.

You can talk of economic development, bring the economy of the nation into the hands of the people. This we have done through the indigenisation and empowerment policies and through deliberate measures designed to make sure that there is food self-sufficiency at household level. Empowering our artisanal miners to mine legally and contribute to the mining sector. All these policies have made it possible to bring the black person into mainstream economy and are no longer mere spectators but key players in economic production. So I can say yes, we have achieved quite a lot. Our only challenge is that the country has been under sanctions for the past 20 years. If we had been in a normal environment without sanctions, I am sure we could have achieved even more success.

RM: You are the Principal of Chitepo School of Ideology and I understand you are in the process of building a campus somewhere in Harare’s CBD. How far have you gone in completing this project?

MM: The project is now 98 percent complete. I cannot say when are we likely to open. There are still a few remaining works to be done and naturally it is the President or the Presidium who can set the dates for the opening of the school. However, what I can tell you is that we are almost there. It should not be a matter of years but perhaps a few months.

RM: Cde Machacha, what qualifies one to enrol at the school?

MM: We are working at entry qualifications. It is still subject to approval by our superiors but I can tell you that our target would be middle to top leadership in both party and Government, parastatals and local authorities.

RM: So in other words, your target is not just party cadres?

MM: We are guided by the President’s directives. He has directed that Zanu PF is a heritage for all and that makes Chitepo School of Ideology a heritage for all. It is a school meant for all citizens of Zimbabwe; to inculcate high consciousness, ideological and political consciousness and also to give people greater insight on our history and the war of liberation. It also teaches and explains policies being enunciated by the Government in terms of foreign, defence and economic policies. So we are not just targeting Zanu PF members or supporters. We target every patriotic Zimbabwean who wishes to widen his or her knowledge about the country. One can enrol at the college regardless of political affiliation, religious beliefs or race.

RM: I understand the Government intends to re-introduce the National Youth Service programme this year to include a culture of service, constructive participation of youths in nation building by offering them training in various programmes. Will this not clash with the teachings of the Chitepo School of Ideology?

MM: No there will not be any conflict. We are working together with the Ministry of Youth as we do with all other line ministries and we will be working together in the training that will be taking place under the auspices of the Youth National Training programme. We are contributing to this training with ideas, with content and we hope that the graduates from the youth training programme will be as conscious as those that will be graduating from the Chitepo School of Ideology. I would like to believe that the graduates that will be churned out from the two institutions will be of equal competence as far as ideological training is concerned.

RM: What is your last word as the nation commemorates Independence Day?

MM: As the liaison officer of Foxtrot Assembly Point, for me it is a joyous occasion. It is a time for reunification with the people of Buhera and the people of Dzapasi. It is also a time to reflect on those dangerous and tricky times when we assembled and were threatened with possible attacks. Some of our cadres were captured on their way to the nearby shops. They were eliminated and thrown into Lake Kyle in Masvingo. All those sad memories, as well as the pleasant ones, when relatives or parents were coming to see their sons and daughters for the first time after the war. It was an emotional and joyous occasion. We carry these memories as we go to Buhera for the independence celebrations.

RM: Briefly explain how it was at the time being in the thick of things as the liaison officer at Dzapasi Assembly Point. How did you deal with the mistrust, the anxiety and the suspicion that this ceasefire might not hold?

MM: It was not an easy period. It was a dangerous period in the sense that the Rhodesians were still determined to eliminate our forces and were carrying out ambushes and capturing those who went to shopping centres because we were insisting that no one goes out with their weapons. They went there unarmed and were captured and eliminated.

RM: Was the Commonwealth peacekeeping force not aware of these eliminations?

MM: Initially they were not aware. We became aware of it after roll calls, which revealed some of our members were missing. One patriotic young lady in Masvingo noticed that a large number of ZANLA forces were in prison cells in Masvingo. She alerted the commanders at Dzapasi who then took action to have them released.

Those that were still in prison were released but obviously others had already been eliminated. It was indeed a dangerous and sad moment of our history.

RM: Cde Machacha thank you so much for granting us this opportunity to have a conversation with you.

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