The Shattering of Home

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

Irene Staunton: Publishing Director, Baobab Books

Although the war officially began on 28th April 1966, its ugly tentacles - through the activities of the Rhodesian soldiers or guerrillas - reached into different parts of the country at different times over the next ten years. And the women remained and had to survive:

Neither my husband nor I ever considered running away from the war, although some people left. We never thought of abandoning our home to go and stay in town because we knew that our children were also fighting. If we had gone to live in town, who would have welcomed the children when they brought independence? --Thema Khumalo (74)

People were afraid I thought of taking my children to live with me in town but I couldn't because it would have been inconvenient to have them in the yard where I was working [Betty Ndlovu was a domestic worker]. also I wondered what would happen to me after the war if I had taken my children to town. It would be difficult to return home if once I ran away from it. --Betty Ndlovu (239)

Forced removals into 'keeps' which were officially for the protection of villagers from the 'intimidation and excesses of the guerrillas but were in fact intended to break the link between the guerrillas and the villagers.

All the people from Madziwa district were put into keeps but we were mixed together from different villages. We carried our belongings and our food on our heads as there were no trucks. If you had many things you went back and forth ... . We spent the whole day moving our property from our home into the keep. ... my husband ... carried the heavier things. In the keep we built our own huts. Each headman was supposed to have all his people ...around him and all the huts were very close together. Had there been a fire [they] would have burnt down. ...

We left our homes as they stood. We did not destroy them although later on the security forces instructed us to remove the roofs on all the houses because they thought the comrades might hide in them. After that some of the houses fell down because of rains. There was a big fence around the keep and there was a gate through which we all had to go. Each time we went through it we were searched by the security guards. ... They searched everyone, regardless of age. We were told to jump up and down so that if we were carrying anything for the guerillas they would fall out. If ever you were found carrying food you were thoroughly beaten. We were supposed to be in the keep by four o'clock in the afternoon so if you were late you ran as fast as you could in order not to be shut out, because once that happened it could cost you your life. We were supposed to go out at six in the morning. The children went to a school outside the keep. They came and went every day, but both the school children and the teachers stayed in the keep. ... People were beaten in the keeps, but no huts were burnt except those when children caused a fire ... if there was a fire, the security forces came to put the fire out. If your huts got burnt, all your property was burnt ...

People in other keeps suffered more than we did. What happened was that the comrades would accuse the people of supporting the security forces and then sometimes they cut through the fence and entered the keep. When this happened people ran away. Some injured themselves because they fell into pits and some were cut by wire; some came to hide in our keep and sometimes all their houses in their keep were burnt down. When the comrades arrived, the security forces always hid themselves. Once the comrades shot at our keep from outside. The soldiers returned �re but, instead of hitting their target, they killed a woman who was in her hut. --Dianah Girori (262-3)

People were driven into the keep like animals. They had to go into the keep. It did not matter whether they wanted to or not ... There were no houses. People lived in sheds. There was no sanitation, no water: nothing. People were forced to live like animals. They had nothing to eat, they had no fields and no money ... --Daisy Thabede (200)

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