Friday, 4 September 2020

I ESCAPED THE HANGMAN'S NOOSE


BY a stroke of luck, one of the country’s pioneer liberation stalwarts, Cde John Maluzu Ndlovu escaped the hangman’s noose at the hands of the Ian Smith regime at the eleventh hour.

Cde Ndlovu (77), whom the white minority government had charged with various capital crimes against the administration of the time had been sentenced to death.

He was part of the first group of fighters trained in China with the likes of Felix Rice and was captured in the 1960s during operations to rein in blacks fighting the whites’ oppressive laws.

Just as he was about to be hanged, the decision was reversed. In an interview on the sidelines of the distribution of food hampers to war veterans donated by Doves Holdings in Bulawayo yesterday, Cde Ndlovu recalled his experience on death row.

“I was sentenced to die on March 8, 1965 at the Salisbury High Court. They said I had committed many capital crimes. I had been tortured immeasurably but the judge, Sir Hugh Beadle, said their intelligence had informed them that my training was so high such that I would be willing to die without revealing anything. We were trained to die in silence.

“Sir Hugh Beadle then said he would read my crimes, whether I pleaded guilty or not didn’t matter because he had been told torturing me would be pointless,” said Cde Ndlovu.

He said he had been sentenced to a combined 43 years in prison for some crimes while he got life imprisonment for other offences.

“I got into prison garb and was locked up at Salisbury Central Prison. I was in prison for three years. Impi yasitshisa ngo1968, that’s Hwange and Sipolilo. One day, soldiers came to my cell camouflaged by black paint. They said as long as I was alive, they were not going to win the war,” narrated Cde Ndlovu.

He continued: “‘Let’s kill this one,’ they said. ‘So that they’ll understand that when we capture, we kill.’ It wasn’t long before one evening, while I was sitting in my cell, I heard keys rattling.”

“John Maluzu”, one of the prison guards called, to which he answered, ‘Yes sir.’ The prison guard ordered me to gather my blankets and get out of the cell. I did that and as we approached the main door, I saw more guards at the A Hall, where people were hanged. I got there and the senior superintendent arrived five minutes later. He stood in front of my cell, and called my name. John Maluzu Ndlovu, he said. Again, I answered, ‘Yes sir.’”

“You’re going to be hanged on Monday, the 11th of March, I was told. I took it as a joke considering I’d been told I’d be imprisoned for 43 years before I was killed. I laughed because I knew we would be liberated by then. It was on a Friday, I still remember, the 8th of March, 1968. I sat there waiting. I was told to hold a press conference on the Sunday and speak to my relatives because I’d be hanged on the following Monday,” said Cde Ndlovu.

The 25-year-old John Maluzu said the Monday came and he was to be hanged at 8AM.

“I was with a few other people who were also supposed to be hanged so we waited for 8AM. But surprisingly, at 7.30AM, the prison superintendent came and said, ‘John Maluzu Ndlovu.’ ‘Yes sir’, I responded. 

‘Your execution has been postponed until further notice,’ he said. I thought he was crazy and told the guys I was with to wait for 8AM as earlier advised,” he recalled.

Cde Ndlovu remembered how he kept asking: “Sergeant Major, what time is it?”

He was told it was 7.50AM but moments later Cde Ndlovu asked again.

“Sergeant Major, what time is it?”

It was now 8AM but there was no activity showing that he would be executed that morning.
“It was just quiet. The clock hit 9AM but still, nothing was happening,” said Cde Ndlovu.

He said he had been in prison for three years and he knew how people were executed. Eventually, they took some prisoners but left him behind, he said.

Cde Ndlovu recounted how he had to observe some ‘pre-death’ rituals pending his execution.

“Before you were executed, you wouldn’t bath or do other things. They would say you should die in your most natural state,” he said.

Cde Ndlovu, who was the MP for Nkayi constituency between 1995 and 2000 said he tried to rehearse how the execution would go way before the day came.

“Everybody was in solitude thinking of how they would be hanged. They (Ian Smith regime) were very cruel but I knew why they wanted to hang me and I wasn’t the first person to face the death penalty. Many had been executed before. I was fighting to see black majority rule. I left home because of the pain I felt when I saw the Ian Smith regime heavy handedness on blacks,” said Cde Ndlovu.

He said a few days later, he was removed from solitude and paraded at the prison grounds.

“John Maluzu,” called the prison superintendent. “Yes sir,” he responded. “Your sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment,” he was told. Cde Ndlovu said he was then moved to Khami Prison in June of 1968. 

He had joined the liberation struggle as a young man fresh out of Cyrene High School.

He was among the war veterans who received donations from Doves Holdings in Bulawayo yesterday. Doves managing director Dr Talent Maziwisa said his company had been deliberate when it came to war veterans.

“We have been impressed by the kind of progressive thinking the war veterans have been exhibiting. I’m sure you’ve seen the borehole and solar system that has been installed. There’s going to be a green house, a fowl run and a fish pond that will be put in place. Coming to this sort of place (Entumbane war veterans offices) makes it easy to donate whatever you provide because here is an arm of government that’s ready to generate for its own sustenance,” said Dr Maziwisa.

He said his company would be headed to other provinces to make similar donations.

“It’s good to be a pioneer. It’s difficult to start something but it’s easy to emulate. You the pioneers of the struggle made it possible for those that followed for the country to be what it is today,” said Dr Maziwisa.

Speaking at the same occasion, Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Cde Judith Ncube said the country would always be grateful for the commitment and dedication shown by war veterans during the liberation struggle.
  
“Doves Holdings has come up with this programme in honour of our living liberation war heroes for their immense contribution to this country. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Doves Holdings for this kind gesture as many have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Cde Ncube.

She said the Government recognises the work being done by Doves Holdings in offering support to communities.

“May I ask the people of Bulawayo to continue observing the lockdown regulations as we are not out of the woods yet,” said Cde Ncube.

The war veterans who benefitted included senior Zipra cadres such as Cdes Moffat Hadebe, David “Sharp Shooter” Moyo and Lot Siziba. They received food hampers including mealie meal, cooking oil, sugar, flour, rice, soya mince and sugar beans. Chronicle

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