Wednesday, 18 April 2012 00:00
Isdore Guvamombe Features Editor
WORD had done the rounds again and again. It was powerful whispers and gossip.
A buzz and a password! You could feel it. It tinged and tickled the brain, encoded and decoded it to finality. You needed to be there, yourself and yes indeed, yourself. The D-Day was Sunday January 27, 1980.
In Seke communal lands, Mambongi was a known hypochondriac, always ailing from one thing or the other, but at times it was mere laziness. He had survived the war of liberation and compulsory call-up in Rhodesia because everyone treated him as a special case.
But this particular night, he needed to travel to Salisbury under the cover of darkness, for a special if not lifetime event.
The idea was novel.
In the dead of the night, he left Seke communal lands for Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield on foot and was prepared to walk all night long on his spindly legs.
The crescent moon helped a bit.
For someone not used to walking long distances, his legs were not fat, but looked firm and boasting of well-turned ankles and trim feet.
Moonlight slanted down through the leaves and blossoms of trees, making whimsical coloured patterns that flickered on the ground.
There was silence in the air, as a faint warm breeze stirred the sleepy leaves, bringing with it fragrance of flowering grass and trees, and a breath of something languid, inducing idleness, voluptuousness and strangeness.
As the moon set in a silhouette, the green grass turned a golden hue from the dainty patches of light that flickered and quivered as though they were living.
Then there were fireflies, that made the grass under the trees look like it was about to catch fire.
There were roadblocks along the way.
Rhodesians were all over the place and you needed to know how to circumvent them.
Finally, by dawn, Mambongi was in Highfield, together with multitudes of others, who had come in droves, barefoot, in wheelchairs and all sorts.
Even the blind came and so did women with children strapped on their backs.
The sun burnt, as if protesting the dark past, burning the shit out of Rhodesia in an afternoon furnace about to give a stainless steel Zimbabwe.
Strong and reinforced! Unbreakable!
The guerilla leader, a larger-than-life bespectacled nationalist, clad in Maoist regalia, arrived and mother earth shook under the feet of an eccentric crowd.
Green grass cracked and died into a greyish deathly colour. Deflowered!
That day, thousands greeted the Zanu-PF leader, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe, when he arrived to deliver a speech in which he assured every Rhodesian of a normal life in a Zimbabwe ruled by his party.
Police put the crowd at a conservative 150 000, the biggest police estimate for a rally in the grounds in Rhodesia.
A Zanu-PF spokesman that time, Justin Nyoka, said the party estimate was 1,6 million people.
According to police, there had been a continuous stream of traffic to Salisbury since Saturday, mainly from the eastern districts.
Between 7am and 11am the previous day, a Saturday, at least 40 000 people had gone through police checkpoints in buses, trucks, tractors and cars.
This did not include those who came by train from Gweru and Kwekwe.
Cde Mugabe was back in Rhodesia after almost a five-years exile in Mozambique and was cheered as he mounted the steps to the platform from which he spoke, closely guarded by security men.
Excited supporters broke into song and dance and then rushed forward from all sides of the rostrum to catch a glimpse of the famous guerilla leader.
Waving clenched fists, a gesture reciprocated by Cde Mugabe and members of the Central Committee, they applauded thunderously, drowning appeals for calm, through a public address system, from Eddison Zvobgo, one of the stalwarts of the struggle.
Officials had to delay the start of the meeting by about 30 minutes.
Members of the party’s Central Committee led the crowd in chanting slogans, as each was introduced to the crowd.
The meeting also chanted slogans praising the presidents of Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and Angola, and ruling parties in the Frontline States.
When he rose to make his speech in Shona, Cde Mugabe was given another standing ovation accompanied by ululating, drum beating and foot stamping.
In an emotion-charged voice, Cde Mugabe spoke about the reasons behind the armed struggle, the trials of war, the loss of life and limb, and “the glory of ultimate victory”.
The Zanu-PF leader introduced to the crowd Chief Rekayi Tangwena, Chief Chiweshe, and Chief Veke, who, he said, had fled “persecution” and returned to Rhodesia with him yesterday.
Chief Tangwena sported a long grey beard.
After the rally, Chief Tangwena was carried shoulder high out of the grounds.
In his long address, punctuated by “revolutionary songs” led by the secretary-general, Edgar Tekere, Cde Mugabe dwelt on what he said was the wrong image painted on his party.
Cde Mugabe said all Rhodesians needed not fear for their future under a Zanu-PF Government.
Churches would be allowed to continue operating, but they should leave those who choose to honour Vadzimu (ancestral spirits) to do so without condemnation.
To the police and members of the security forces, he gave an assurance that there was no cause for fear.
A Zanu-PF Government would strive only to show them “the correct path”.
This applied to other workers as well. Many would even be promoted to positions of responsibility, he added.
He urged Governor Lord Soames to “accept reality” and “recognise that Zanu-PF was the most popular party”, adding that when the party won the election it would not abuse its power.
Speaking briefly in English, he attacked the deployment in Rhodesia of South African troops and of the security forces.
He took exception to the presence of auxiliary forces in rural areas.
Cde Mugabe warned that if the auxiliary forces in the rural areas were not checked, Zanu-PF might have “no alternative but to come to the defence of the people”.
The subsequent election that came saw Cde Mugabe romp to victory and become the first black Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.
The war to liberate Zimbabwe has been a long, winding and arduous journey.
To the visionless, the war was an abyss, the end was unknown, but to the visionary, victory had been certain.
The war, being over, it was time to deliver.
It was time to pacify the spirits of all and sundry, the spirits of the gallant sons and daughter who sacrificed their limb and life for Zimbabwe.
It is time to appease those whose bones lay and still lie buried in shallow graves, unburied in valleys, bushes and mountain feet, those who never reconnected physically with their families after the war.
Hence it was critically important for the new Government to bring stability and reintroduce lost dignity to the black majority through the land reform and indigenisation projects, decolonisation of governance and the legal system.
It meant systematic dismantling of white supremacy and privileges and become unpopular with Western governance.
In short, the struggle continued on another front, away from the battlefields.
Without these projects, the war would have been fought on empty promises and would have lost not only its meaning but its justification. Political independence without a buffet of economic and indigenisation projects would certainly be a white elephant.
This is precisely the reason why Mambongi, ailing as he was, made it to Zimbabwe Grounds.
The lame and the ill, came too.