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    Wednesday, 22 April 2020

    The return of the Heroes

    Advocate Dumisani Kufaruwenga.

    I used to work in my father's shop, especially during school holidays.
    The shop had had its fair share of fame and success, especially when my brother Joshua was running it, may his dear soul rest in peace.
    But at the peak of the war of liberation in Zimbabwe in the late '70's, after the departure of my brother Joshua, the shop was just managing to get by.
    Resources were scarce, customers were few. The war had taken its toll.
    lts name was Chibi Store. lt sold groceries and clothing items and hardware.
    And attracted the war to its open doors.
    The war was escalating, and was drawing closer to Chirashavana Township where the shop was situated.
    Night vigils which were popularly known as "pungwe" were now taking place as near as Mazioni Village, where the Freedom Fighters interracted with villagers, and took time to explain the purpose and the governing principles of the war.
    We attended the pungwes in the thick of night, feverish with excitement.
    We learnt about the war. lt was endearing, it was righteous, it was led by the ancestors of the land, and was destined to succeed.
    We learnt to sloganeer.
    We learnt to hero worship those who were waging the war for a just cause.
    But Chirashavana Township where Chibi Store was situated was not yet a liberated zone. A cleric called Bishop Muzorewa who was an ally of lan Douglas Smith, had formed a military outfit called "Dzakutsaku," which set up camp at Chirashavana Township.
    Of course we knew, from attending Pungwes, that Dzakutsaku was also an enemy.
    Members of Dzakutsaku roamed Chirashavana Township as if they owned it, dangling dangerouus weapons all over the place in their brown murky uniform, accosting women and girls, and asserting authority over men.
    They always issued threats:
      "we know the
       collaborators here. they
       attend pungwes. but
       they will all die. we
       were trained to kill"
    They left an atmosphere of fear and tension lingering in their wake.
    We learnt to hate them.
    The comrades, as the Freedom Fighters were affectionately known by us the villagers, thus approched Chirashavana Township with chameleonic caution.
    One day they sent an emissary dressed as an ordinary man. He had a letter addressed to "Our Parents At Chirashavana Township." ln very cordial language, the letter requested for assistance towards the war effort, anything would help, it said, but proceeded to give a list of clothing items and their sizes, tennis shoes and their sizes, specific quantities of pairs of socks, jackets, t-shirts, the works.

    The emissary must have been a trained combatant. He was calm and composed. He sat casually under the Msuma tree in front of Chibi Store, bidding his time. When neither the odd customer nor the bedruggled Dzakutsaku was in sight, he walked straight into Chibi Store and requested to see "father."
    My father was summoned into the shop, and after respectiful salutations, the emissary handed the letter to my father and the emissary stood leaning against the door frame facing the other way, as if nothing had happened.
    Without facing my father, the emissary said;
      "please make
       arrangements for the
       parcel to be ready for
       collection in two hours"
       time. The details of
       delivery will be
       communicated to you.
       Nothing will happen to
       you. You are safe with
       us. Forward with the
       struggle!"
    And he vanished.
    My father called Tariro Mandevere the handyman who was employed at Chibi Store and gave him instructions which l did not hear. Tariro left with haste. Soon after Tariro left, all shop owners at Chirashavana walked into my father's improvised office. We were given the letter which had been brought by the emissary to pack the items that were available in Chibi Store, and calculate the price.
    The other shop owners brought money and other goods to my father.
    l dont know when and how the parcel was deliverd or collected, but next morning l was worried with the state of the shop, it was as good as empty, with most clothing items gone.
    My sister Lois could see my distress. She told me not to worry. Our father had left for town to replenish the stock, and if anyone asked about it before his return, we will tell them a man came and bought the items when we were about to clos shop the previous night.
    But the plan didn't work.
    Dzakutsaku pounced that very morning, aggressive and armed to the teeth. They threatened to bomb down the shop if we didn't tell them what happened to the clothes.
      "a man bought them"
    I stammered.
     "shut up you toddler, l
      want to speak to elders"
    the lead Dzakutsaku roared back.
    They took my sister Lois to their camp, and the rest is history.
    My sister Lois was released later that day, but only after my father had been arrested at Donga on his way back from town with the replacement stock.
    My father was detained at the dungeons of Donga, and we were not allowed to see him.
    My mother made the decision to close the shop, and we retreated back to the village.
    lt was the most daunting part of my family's life, not knowing whether my father was alive or dead.
    The war raged on, the Coucil offices at Chirashavana Township were bombed, right under the nose of Dzakutsaku.
    We rejoiced.
    A lady business owner at Chirashavana Township was whisked away at night and killed.
    We were petrified.
    prisoner in Dzakutsaku's camp.  We could go and see him.
    We did. l dont know why we did. No one spoke to him. When he was brought to us out of Dzakutsaku's camp by two armed men, we all broke down and wept, myself, my sister Lois, my mother, and my aunt Vatete Mai Dhevhison, every one of us except my father, we wailed. The emotion of seeing a leader held prisoner was overwhelming.
    My father was escorted back to Dzakutsaku's dungeons, without any one of us having uttered a word.
    But there was talk that lan Smith had agreed to talk to the leaders of Freedom Fighters, and that the war would be over soon.
    We waited with bated breath.
    And finally the word came. Smith had agreed to hand over power. All prisoners of war had been released.
    And some of the true heroes of the struggle like my father came back home, but others didnt.
    And Chibi Store reopened its doors, and the place at which it still stands today has been renamed Tongogara, after the great guerilla leader who waged and won the war for Zimbabwe's independence.
    But Tongogara didnt come back home.
    Like many others, Tongogara perished at war.
    (Dedicated to my father Matthias Charles Kufaruwenga and the other unsung heroes of Zimbabwe's war of liberation). #MasvingoMirror#
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