Communities Torn Apart

Part 10 of Mothers of the Revolution: Oral Testimony of Zimbabwean Women

Irene Staunton: Publishing Director, Baobab Books

Given the number of families whose mothers and daughters supported the guerrillas and who then had to care for the children born into those families, it is surprising that there was an outcry from the ex-combatants when the film Flame - which lightly touches upon rape in the camps - was made. The official ex-combatant position is that this did not happen. War is never as heroic as the victors would have us believe. But if one was afraid for your daughters, the chimbwidos, the women quite often had to endure the arrogance and insults of the mujibas: the young men used by the comrades as spies or look-outs, and who thereby unofficially acquired a great deal of power.

Another problem was the mujibas. For example, you might be in your house, when suddenly you'd get the surprise of your life, when a child from next door acted fearfully like a lion. Your door would be banged, opened and then you would be forced ... to go a meeting or something. The mujibas came into our houses and demanded that we prepare food for their 'brothers'. Sometimes they weren't even sent by the comrades. Some of the mujibas turned into hooligans and cheats and they lied about many things. Sometimes they said that the comrades had demanded chicken, or goat's meat, when they had said no such thing. Those mujibas caused a lot of people to die because they told untruths to both the comrades and the parents. For example, they might say that such and such a parent had refused to provide food, or this or that shop owner had refused them cigarettes. The mujibas caused a lot of problems and hardship, especially if you remember that we were their parents and they, our children, from the villages. Now we regret that we cannot do or say anything to or about them because all they did happened during the war, and although they misused their power, we cannot reverse those events. They lost direction and did not follow the instructions they had been given by the comrades. Often they were the same people who took our daughters and slept with them. I think that even some of those children, whose fathers we do not know, are theirs. --Thema Kumalo (79)

The mujibas saw what people had in their homes because they collected the food and carried messages for the freedom fighters... [and if] they demanded something from you which you couldn't give ... they never wanted to listen to what you had to say. My neighbour, for instance, was killed because she had no milk to give them. It was not the old people, the villagers, who told on each other but the mujibas. They were the ones who sold out on people by telling the comrades stories. They would call people to meetings and even if it was not convenient for you to go, because of sickness, for example, you had to go. This is because we were afraid the mujibas would tell the comrades that you had refused to attend and then you could be killed.... we did what the mujibas wanted us to do, because we were afraid of them. They were told by the freedom fighters that they could beat anyone who did not want to co-operate. [And they] were very cruel; they beat to kill. ... --Agnes Ziyatsha (171)

Another major and very frightening threat was the fear of being sold out, sometimes for reasons of neighbourly jealousy or distrust: People who were jealous also caused problems. some people did not like others who were better off than themselves. Many people died - they were killed because the sell-outs were jealous. They did not like those who were successful and said they collaborated with security forces ... Unfortunately, the comrades were not aware of this. We, the ordinary people of the area, were not willing to report the sell-outs because they would have been killed. ... When the comrades killed a person for being a sell-out they washed their hands of it and said it was not their fault but only their duty ...--Meggy Zingani (127)

Sometimes a person might ask someone else for something - sugar, for example - and, if you did not give it to them, they might tell the freedom fighters that you were a sell-out, to get you into trouble, although what they said was not true. You could be killed for nothing, just because someone wanted you dead, and told lies about you, all because you did not give them something they wanted. It was common, especially among women, for them to sell out on each other. For instance, if one worked very hard and acquired some possessions, one could be branded a 'witch' by those who were jealous. The freedom fighters were against witchcraft, so that was a sure way of having someone killed. Witches were killed mercilessly. Sometimes a bonfire was made and a person who was said to be a witch was thrown in and burnt to death, dying for a bag of sugar, or just because someone was disliked by someone else. In most cases it was due to nothing but jealousy of somebody who was successful. --Margaret Viki (152)

At sunset Zanlas in their dozens came looking for my father-in-law. They gathered people at Thabete's farm and killed him there. They said he was a sell-out because they had heard that a car belonging to one of Smith's soldiers, had been seen at his home. They said he had been given a radio with which to report to the soldiers. After beating him thoroughly the Zanlas said he should stand up and go. But he could not stand up and he told them that they should finish him off ... they killed him at Thabethe. It was all a lie. They did not even find the radio with which he could talk to the soldiers. The Zanlas had been given this information by people who hated my father-in-law because they said his children supported ZAPU. --Elizabeth Ndebele (189)

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