Collaborative Efforts

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

Irene Staunton: Publishing Director, Baobab Books

Small groups of guerrillas moved through the country: Zanla from Mozambique; Zipra from Zambia; and both could come from Botswana. They set up camp outside the villages, the women fed them and they held what were called pungwes to give the villagers political education. Some guerrilla groups behaved well:

There were many groups of Zipra freedom fighters in the area. We fed them. What happened was that if they came to your home to ask for food, you then went to tell the other villagers. Then, after we had provided the food, the 'youth', as we called them, meaning both boys and girls, did the cooking. They ate whatever we had available; they weren't fussy. ... [A]s time went on, and the comrades explained their purpose, people cooked and fed them happily because they knew what the freedom fighters were fighting for. I used to hear people say. 'No hungry soldier will fight a successful war. They must have energy to fight and win.' --Margaret Nkomo (109,112)

The boys travelled in groups. I cannot tell how many groups there were but sometimes they came as often as three times a week. Usually they came during the day or just before dark so that we could identify them. I don't remember a time when they came at night. The behaviour of these freedom fighters pleased me. When they arrived they were told that I was away. So, they asked my small daughter where I kept my sugar and tea-leaves and whatever else they wanted. She pointed to the things they needed. Then they prepared some food for themselves and after that washed all the dishes. They cleaned my house and even washed my dish towels. I was pleased because the boys felt free to take whatever food they could find and prepare it for themselves. This showed me that they considered themselves as my own children and that they felt at home. This went on for about six years. It was a long period. At cease-fire when the vakomana were leaving the area, all the groups came together to show their appreciation and bid me farewell. --Tetty Magugu (161-2)

The Zipras were really living with us and each group would take turns to stay in the area. They always told us to be courageous and reliable. They did not bother us: all they wanted was food and water for bathing and washing their clothes ... we knew that they stayed in the bush and we were the only people who could feed and help them and we were determined to help in any way that we could. ... We were never afraid of the freedom fighters. We were just determined to do what we could. --Ida Mtongana (177-8)

The women retained enough humanity to recognize that even white soldiers or mercenaries could sometimes behave 'well'

White soldiers visited our area, but they weren't either the ordinary soldiers or the Selous Scouts. Mm! They were those who wore earrings. ... I suspect that they came from other countries because of the way they behaved and looked , with their earrings. I think they came from other countries to help Smith's soldiers. ... The good thing was that the villagers were not at all harassed by [these] soldiers, even though the vakomana had been killed in a village home. That is my reason for thinking that those soldiers came from another country: if they had been Smith's soldiers they would surely have tortured and even killed some villagers. --Tetty Magugu (164-5)

Zimbabwe OV Literature [Politics]