The Loss of Husbands

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

Irene Staunton: Publishing Director, Baobab Books

Women whose husbands were involved in politics, or in the nationalist movements were often in prison or in exile:

White soldiers came and called out from behind the gum trees, 'Where is Karembe, the father of guerillas?' Then they hit my husband several times and he collapsed. I knew there was no life in him since he was already weak from his previous imprisonment. I went over to him, his nose and ear were bleeding badly. Then they pushed him into their truck. It was terrible, terrible. I could not do anything: I had just lost a son and the other one was in hospital. They just took my husband and put him in prison. They said that he had helped the comrades. They said the vakomana travelled all the way from Mozambique and then my husband took them wherever they wanted to go. His wounds healed when he was in prison, but, since then, I have never been well. --Helen Karemba (282-3)

My husband was arrested in 1962. He was arrested in Zvishavane and I only heard about it from other people. First he was put in prison in Zvishavane and then they moved him to Harare Central. He stayed there for two years. It was very hard for me. You know that if your husband is under arrest, people look at you in a funny way. They think that whatever you do is a bit odd. ... I visited my husband once a month. I was permitted to see him for only five minutes, even after travelling all the way from Mvuma to Harare. I usually travelled on a train which took all night or a whole day and a half because you had to go via Gweru. After all that time travelling I saw my husband for only five minutes, and then I waited for the next train home which took another day and a half. ... Although he had been sentenced to twelve years imprisonment, he was released two years later. He was healthy and strong. ... Then he was arrested again. But, after ten years in prison, he went to Zambia to join the rest of the politicians there. --Maudy Muzenda (61-2)

My husband, who had been interested in politics for a long time, had been taken to Kwekwe prison. I don't remember the reason but I think it was because he refused to dig contour ridges. ... After his release, he did not stay very long at home. He ran away because the police were after him for political reasons. ...afterwards ... he was arrested and taken to Gonakudzingwa. He spent a whole year at the restriction camp and, after he was released, he came home and married a second wife. But it was not long before he was arrested again and taken to Wha Wha, where he spent another year. I did not complain or feel unfairly treated because my husband had told me that he was being arrested for political reasons. So I knew that he was working for his country and I accepted the consequences. Of course, it was painful to live alone at home, it would have been nice if he had been with us. --Anna Madzorera (113-14)

It is no wonder that there was fear, 'sell-outs' or so-called 'sell-outs' were often summarily killed.

The night after [the guerrillas] finally came to stay in this area, they arrived at my house at around ten p.m. We heard sharp knocks at the door. My husband and I opened it and they told us to ... follow them. We carried a lamp into the kitchen hut. The comrades ordered us to go and wake the children and then they were ordered to stand outside the kitchen. My husband and I sat in the kitchen with the comrades. I offered to cook for them but they refused. I asked if I could light the lamp, and I did. The comrades then ordered me to go outside. They started to interrogate my husband. Unfortunately he had always had a stammer and the comrades interpreted this as an to attempt to lie. They accused my husband of being a sell-out. They alleged that he had spent the day at Chisasike with the soldiers. I heard everything outside and so I stood in the doorway and demanded to know what they wanted. The refused me entry into the kitchen. I told the comrades that they were being unreasonable and I reminded them of what they had promised when they first arrived - that they would thoroughly investigate each accusation before punishing anyone. At that, one of them opened fire on my husband who was seated cross-legged by the fireplace. The comrade was standing at the doorway. The comrade fired four shots but they all missed my husband who asked, 'Why do you want to kill me? What have I done?' The comrade did not answer but aimed his fifth shot. This time the bullet pierced my husband's neck. My husband collapsed and I saw blood begin to flow. I could not believe what was happening. The children were then told to move out of the yard and the comrades set all our rooms alight, including the two granaries and the storeroom, although they took our wireless and my husband's special pair of shoes out of our house first. I just stood there, in the courtyard, with my baby on my back. I had nothing with which to cover it. The comrades had removed the baby from the house before they set fire to it, but they did not bring anything like a blanket with them. The comrades then said they wanted to kill our cattle. So I explained that the cattle were my mother's. In fact they were mombe dzemai. So, in the darkness, we went to the kraal. When we got there, one of the comrades said that, no, he didn't think it was right to shoot the cattle, but others disagreed with him and they argued amongst themselves. Then they told me to go and tell the soldiers what had happened. I told them simply that I would not go, I did not know any boers and I did not understand their reason for killing my husband. So they went off in one direction and I went in the other. I did not go back to my home, although the fire was dying down. I collected my children and I went to a friend's house. I only had on my dress without a petticoat, headcloth or shoes. I felt terribly confused. --Loice Mushore (89)

Zimbabwe OV Literature [Politics]