Zimbabwe People First leader Dr Joice Mujuru was not in the first group of 74 female recruits who joined the liberation struggle in 1974 and only received basic military training for three weeks under the “Chimbi-Chimbi” programme, a commander who trained the first group of Zanla female freedom fighters, Cde Francis Komboni Gondo, has said.
Instead, Dr Mujuru, Cde Gondo said, only received basic training from one of 12 instructors picked from the first 72 female recruits. Cde Gondo, whose Chimurenga name was Cde Elias Hondo said Dr Mujuru was not part of the first group of 74 female recruits who joined the liberation struggle in 1974, with 72 of them eventually going for military training at Nachingweya Camp in Tanzania.
“This Chimbi-Chimbi was meant to just introduce these comrades to some of the basic war tactics. The only female comrades who received proper training are these 72 who trained at Nachingweya. They were trained for four-and-a-half months. Ndivo vakadzi vakanyatsobikwa. From then on, most female comrades received short training. Just to know the basics.
“When these female instructors finished training, other female comrades like Joice Mujuru, were later taken to Chifombo, then to Mozambique. Their role was to train other women,” said Cde Hondo.
This is contrary to claims by Dr Mujuru who has been presenting herself as a veteran of the liberation struggle and a sharp-shooter who gunned down a helicopter during one of the battles at the war front. In an interview published by our sister paper, The Sunday Mail under the column, Chronicles from the Second Chimurenga, Cde Gondo said some of the first female freedom fighters later trained Dr Mujuru under the “Chimbi-Chimbi” programme.
“I had been appointed as Zanu representative in Botswana. The representative who was there Dick Chikara, was moving to London. When I got to Lusaka, while waiting for Richard Hove to change my passport from the Tanzanian passport to obtain a Zambian passport, the first group of women recruits arrived in Lusaka. That was 1974,” said Cde Gondo.
He said the commanders agreed that they could not just handover the female recruits to anyone fearing they could be abused. The women, he said, were put under his leadership and Cde Joseph Khumalo (Cde Mazhamba) with instructions to take them to a Frelimo camp in Tanzania called Nachingweya where the late Cde Samora Machel used to stay.
Cde Gondo explained that before training, women recruits were examined first to check whether they were not pregnant.
He said he took the group through political orientation while other instructors taught them the drills and other such exercises.
“During examination, one of the females named Tichahwina was found pregnant and it emerged that Cde Rex Nhongo (the late Mujuru) had made her pregnant. They had met in 1973. Tichahwina was sent back to Lusaka and was accompanied by Cde Gwitira. We were left with 73 female comrades. After a few weeks, another female comrade, Concilea developed heart problems and was taken back to Lusaka. We were left with 72 female comrades.”
The women excelled in their drills and behaved like their male counterparts that they even made a strong impression on Cde Machel. They stayed at Nachingweya for four and half months, he said.
Cde Hondo explained the rules against promiscuity: “We actually said ‘usaite cheupombwe.’
But people indulged anyway. It was not allowed but this happened. There was a system in some instances where some commanders would just say to some of the female comrades, ‘Iwe huya kuno. Watova wangu.’”
He said he had proposed love to one of the female comrades but the proposal was turned down because she was already involved with someone at the war front.
“Some commanders abused their positions but this was later as the war unfolded, especially at the war front. Many commanders later did this. Anoti haana kuita, those are blue lies,” said Cde Gondo.
The female recruits, he said, were trained mainly by Frelimo instructors. Their training was the same with what their male counterparts went through.
“Vaiti kana vofora vachiimba ivo vana Suzan Rutanhire ava, iweka iwe. Even the politics that we taught them was the same that male comrades were going through at Mgagao. This was the first group of female comrades to go for military training under Zanu. On their passout parade, chairman Chitepo came together with Cde Tongogara. I remember Samora Machel speaking highly about me and Cde Khumalo.”
After the passout parade, Cde Tongo instructed him to identify 12 female comrades who would become instructors and members of the General Staff. He said he first picked on the female comrade whom he had proposed love to.
Some members of the 12 included Andy Garikai, Suzan Rutanhire, Revai, Vimbai ( who was later killed during Badza’s time), Apronica Chinyandura, Loveness Chidhakwa and Cathrine Garanewako.
“These 12 instructors are the ones who later trained other female comrades who included Joice Mujuru. Joice and these other female comrades received training for three weeks only. We used to call it Chimbi-Chimbi. People like Rugare Gumbo, Henry Hamadziripi, Kumbirai Kangai, Richard Hove and other went through this Chimbi-Chimbi training but the male comrades received training for male instructors. This camp was 25 miles out of Lusaka.” Herald