By Joseph Qobo Mayisa
A decision was reached after extensive consultations and negotiations for a joint ZPRA and Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK ) operation. Early in 1967 a group of trained MK fighters were moved from their camps in Tanzania to the ZAPU camp outside Lusaka Zambia. A high command was set up that had ZAPU Special Affairs and MK cadres. The commander was John Dube (ZAPU) and Chris Hani ( ANC) was Commissar. The MK cadres named the group the Luthuli Detachment in honour of ANC President, Chief Albert Luthuli who died in July 1967. The high command included liberation stalwarts MK Commander Joe Modise , ZPRA commander Ackim Ndlovu, Archie Sibeko aka Zola Zembe (MK chief of operations), Dumiso Dabengwa (ZAPU intelligence), Walter Mavuso aka Mavuso Msimang (MK chief of Communications). A reconnaissance team was set up with Lehlohonolo Lambert Moloi to spy the land and map out routes. My father (Mayise) a Russian trained military intelligence officer was part of the reconnaissance teams in the Wankie Sipolilo campaigns. The first battle by the joint ZPRA MK units was on 13 August on the banks of Nyatuwe river. It pitted the Luthuli detachment against a joint Rhodesian African Rifles unit and a British South Africa Police unit. It signalled the first military battle involving trained liberation armies in Zimbabwe’s liberation war. After a battle lasting 7 hours the Rhodesian army fled. A defeat acknowledged by Ron Reid Daly who was later commander of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.
As Zimbabwe celebrates heroes’ week, we will tell our story bit by bit. The story of men and women who challenged racism and apartheid and risked life and limb declaring in combat that black lives matter! There have been attempts to airbrush the battles of Wankie and Sipolilo from public history record. But they are alive who participated in those battles, and thankfully have started telling their stories. We know our heroes, as the Ndebele song says ” ngiyamazi ubaba ” ( I know my father). Long live the ZAPU-ANC liberation alliance, long live the ZPRA- MK alliance, long live the memory of great men, Chris Hani, Dumiso Dabengwa, Ackim Ndlovu, Oliver Tambo, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Abraham Nkiwane, Moses Kotane, Moffat Hadebe, the living and the dead heroes, we celebrate and appreciate your sacrifice to give us freedom.
Mayibuye i Africa.