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    Friday, 9 August 2019

    Maj Gen Mashingaidze remembers the Grand Rift Airbase attack

    Rtd Major Gen Gibson Mashingaidze.


    The attack on Chimoi on 23 December 1977 by the Rhodesian Forc-es was one of the most callous and brutal offences of the Zimba-bwe’s liberation war where 3 000 refugees were killed.
    It humiliated the Zanla Forces, dented confidence in the fight for ma-jority rule but whipped up anger among the oppression-weary Zimba-bweans.
    The Zanla High Command knew exactly what the Chimoi attack had done to the war campaign; many lost hope and there was need for redemption.
    The High Command met and planned a retaliatory attack on the odd-est of days; Christmas Eve 1977. The implementers of the attack were some of the most decorated and seniors in the Zanla command structures. There was Retired Major General Paradzai Zimondi who led the attack and was the Commander of Tete Province and his deputy Major General Gibson Mashingaidze who operated under the nom de guerre Gibson Gumbo. Zimondi led the attack while Chihuri whose Chimurenga name was Cde Chocha was responsible for re-connaissance.
    The Mirror tracked down and found Mashingaidze at his sugarcane farm at Buffalo Range in Triangle where he now spends most of his time after retiring from the Zimbabwe National Army.
    Mashingaidze told The Mirror that of the many battles which he fought during the liberation struggle, the attack on Grand Rift Air Base in Mutare on Christmas Eve of 1977 which involved 250 Zanla com-batants will go down in history as his best of that war. Grand Rift was the one of Rhodesian Army’s airbases in Manicaland Province.
    “We left Mozambique for Rhodesia via Mambwere and proceeded in-to Zimunya and went to Gandai. Our reconnaissance team went into the area and they gave us the signal that our target was ready for us to hit. We had the heaviest of weapons in our armoury including re-coilless rifles (anti tank), heavy machine guns, light machine guns, mortar 82s.
    “It was on Christmas Eve and the whites were in a celebratory mood, merry-making, drinking and eating. The time was 10pm and we moved into the airbase from the South Eastern side. We took the en-emy by surprise and launched our attack on the enemy firing from all sides and we got right onto the runway. The attack lasted 30 minutes until 2330hrs. While we could not overrun the airbase we later got in-formation that we left several whites dead and destroyed 20 buildings.
    “The surprise on the enemy was so startling that they did not hit back much and we escaped with no causalities
    “After trip flairs were thrown into the air which we were not accus-tomed to, we retreated. We were shocked to see the night becoming day because of the light and as a policy we retreated and divided ourselves into two groups with Zimondi and his group retreating to-wards Bocha and I took the other team which went via Zimunya. I passed through South of Marange, Buhera, Sadza, Manyene and came down to Gutu and disappeared further into the ground” said Mashingaidze.
    He however, said the introduction of political provinces in the Zimba-bwe has destroyed the fabrics of comradeship as people are now be-ing identified with the provinces that they come from, a practise which is different from the idea which pushed people to the liberation strug-gle where politics never talked of districts or provinces.
    He said there are other provinces which are unfortunate, like Masvin-go and if you come from them you are not recognised despite having played a major role during the struggle.

    “When we joined the liberation struggle we were all from a single province Zimbabwe. During that time politics never talked of districts. The introduction of provinces has destroyed the fabric of comrade-ship. We are now being identified with provinces where we come from.
    “If you come from an unfortunate province like Masvingo you will not be recognised. I am one of the most senior if not the only surviving senior liberation war fighter in Masvingo but I am in the sidelines eat-ing maputi nenzimbe. That is why we want heroes to be declared while they are still alive rather than being honoured after death” said Mashingaidze.
    Mashingaidze said Chiredzi which was part of the famed Gaza Prov-ince during the liberation struggle should continue to be recognised as the area which together with Manicaland had Manica Province creat-ed a link for liberation fighters to and from Mozambique.
    Most celebrated liberation fighters like  Vice President Constantine Chiwenga and Minister of Lands Chief Air Marshall Perrence Shiri once operated In Chiredzi`s Gezani area which is in Chiredzi South and they still have strong links with the area.

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