Causes of the Rebellion
- The pent-up grievances of ZANU military cadres which came to a head in late November and the early part of December, 1974, precipitated a crisis of unparalleled proportions in the annals of ZANU External Wing. Some cadres at the Front, led by their commanders, Thomas Nhari and Dakarai Badza, had revolted against the Military High Command and were irrevocably bent on ousting them from office and replacing them by commanders of their own choice. Most of these cadres were of North-Eastern origin.
- As already stated, the 1973 Biennial Elections to the DARE saw members of the Karanga group in the majority. The group had gone one step in the overal plan to completely control ZANU both in its military and political aspects.
- According to the evidence before the Commission, the Karanga group begana process of removing commanders in the front line and replacing them with Karangas, some of whom were inexperienced and lacked the necessary qualifications. Rapid promotions of Karangas in the military ranks followed, with a corresponding demotion of men of record from other tribes – the Manyikas in particular.
- The cadres said that the front line continued to be neglected notwithstanding the fact that there was a new DARE and Hig Command after the 1973 Biennial Elections and that there was no adequate supervision among the fighting forces because those charged with the responsibility in the DARE were away from the zone of campaigns. These peopledid not visit the war zones to have first-hand knowledge of the conditions prevailing there and to ascertain the need for essential military equipment.
- Conditions became insupportable. Some commanders in the field felt that the only remedy for the deteriorating situation in which they found themselves was to take matters into their own hands and rectify the position by seizing and replacing the High Command and taking them to the Front. This took the form of kidnapping by the Nhari group when they got to Lusaka.
- Listed below are the main grievances of the cadres:
(a) Short supplies of essential commodities and war materials at the Front such as food, clothing, shoes and provisions for the fighting forces. The troops had sometimes to obtain these from FRELIMO in Mozambique. Even in the harzadous matter of ferrying cadres across the Zambezi River to and from the fighting zones, the commanders met with no consideration from the High Command. Very often, FRELIMO had to assist with crude native boats because no provision was made for the supply of properly constructed boats for thw operations.
(b) Those in charge of operations in the Military High Command were completely out of touch with what was going on at the Front. They would not visit the areas where the fighting was taking place even at the request of the field officers. The Military High Command were not therefore, in a position to appreciate the difficulties the front line fighters were facing or to assess what was involved.
(c) Wholesale corruption riddled the Military High Command. This manifested itself in the form of tribalism and preferential treatment. It was alleged that funds intended for prosecution of the war were mis-appropriated and misused by the leaders. These leaders lived in luxury and affluence. Some engaged in business while rumours were circulating to the effect that a member of DARE was building a house in Lusaka for his wife. According to the evidence, Chitepo himself had once expressed great surprise at the ostentatious display of wealth by this person and had complained to some members of ZANU. Since these people were not gainfully employed, it was argued that such enterprises could only have been possible through misappropriation of monies donated by neighbouring African states, the OAU and foreign organisations and intended for use by freedom fighters.
(d) There was also the case of whisky and cigarettes which Josiah Tongogara, ZANU Chief of Defence, is said to have sent by the Girl’s Platoon Leader for his relative, Josiah Tungamirai at the Front. Drinking at the Front was forbidden. Here, the cadres thought, was a member of the High Command flagrantly violating an important military code of discipline, only to favour a relative.
(e) The irregular promotions by the Military High Command even in cases of people newly arrived at the Front, like Josiah Tungamirai, who was promoted to Provincial Political Commissar in the MMZ Province in the first month of his arriving at the Front. The post had been vacant for a long time, notwithstanding the fact that there were capable officers who had been recommended by their provincial Commanders.
(f) Class distinction amongst the children of DARE and High Command personel. Some of these children, it was said, were attending special schools in Lusaka. The issue of class distinction was exacerbated by the fact that the wives of some DARE and High Command members were engaged in remunerative employment. The personal lives of some of the leaders in DARE and High Command caused resentment among the rank and file. The way they lived fell far short of ZANU’s socialist principles, they said. It was socialism for those who were down, the underdogs, they maintained.
(g) The policy of sending people to the Front as a form of punishment was considered wrong and dangerous. A letter which had been written by Molife and Badza to the Military High Command, accusing them of corruption, resulted in Molife being sent to the Front as punishment for his effrontery. Others too, suffered similarly. The High Command, they felt, prostituted the noble objectives of the war. Every soldier worth his salt should regard going to the Front, not only as a national duty, but also as a personal triumph. If soldiers were sent to the Front as punishment every soldier commited to the fighting would regard orders to go to the Front as a punishment and would tend to be inclined to lose heart in the overall purpose of the fighting.
(h) The use of Freedom Fighter girls or cadres as house-maids and concubines with whom to relax by the leaders of ZANU, was a burning issue with cadres at the Front. Some of these girls had relatives at the Front who kept track of their movements and activities in Lusaka. These relatives used to come to Lusaka from yhe Front for medical attention and saw things for themselves. Also, others who came to and from training camps saw what was happening in Lusaka. It had been as a result of their personal intervention and pleadings that their sisters had registered for service in the Liberation Army. The girls were trained to serve as nurses, soldiers, teachers etc. in the war zone but the ZANU leaders in Lusaka, including members of the DARE and High Command, deviated from this objective and used them otherwise and even made some of them pregnant.
(i) The cadres from Operation Zones stated that they had come across people they were convinced were agents. They gave examples of this and alleged that despite their repeated representations to the High Command that these people were enemy agents, no action was taken by the Military High Command.
- However, according to the evidence obtained from the members of DARE, the mutineers in the forefront were influenced by leaders in Lusaka. The events of December, 1974, were master-minded by certain members of DARE and other people living in Lusaka. Badza, Nhari and Ceasar Molife had come to Lusaka sometime back saying that they were sick and needed treatment. These people had several meetings with Mukono, Santana and George Mpini, who advised them that the solution to the problems they were facing in the forefront was for them to have a new High Command. At one time Badza and Basil Chimbodza prepared a document, with the assistance of Malianga, Santana and George Mpini in which they condemned DARE and High Command and praised the people who had lost elections in 1973.
- After Badza had recovered in March, 1974, and was going back to the forefront, he passed through Chifombo. There, he, Nhari and Molife were involved in an incident in which Molife wanted to shoot Rex Nhongo, but a member of the security arrested him. The blame was put on Badza, who was senior. It was because of this that Badza was demoted and replaced by Thomas Nhari as Provincial Operational Commander.
- The belief that the NHARI rebellion was master-minded by the rear leadership was also expressed by one of the militants who was in the NHARI group. He was surprised about the meeting that Badza and other escapees held with Mukono, Mutambanengwe, Malinga, Santana, Mpini and others at Mautsa’s place on the 10th December, 1974. A member of DARE should not have held meetings with people that rebelled against the High Command and DARE.
93.According to Tongogara, the rebellion was also instigated by the propaganda of the rebel regime of Southern Rhodesia. The enemy used psychological methods aimed at demoralising the ZANU armed forces at the forefront. The propaganda concentrated on discrediting the work of leading freedom fighters in ZANU and made reference to their luxurious living in towns compared with the life of the young men in the forefront. According to the propaganda, the young men were sent to die for those who were living comfortable lives with their families in the city. Tongogara said that according to his information, rebel soldiers led by a certain Captain Soares met the ZANU militants led by Nhari. However, this story of meeting rebel soldiers was completely rejected by the witnesses who were in the NHARI group.
- Tongogara admitted that some of the grievances of the militants in the forefront such as shortage of funds and war materials were genuine. However, he added that they did not start in 1974. They had been with the Party ever since the beginning of the struggle. He and his colleagues had constantly explained these problems to the militants and all of them were supposed to fully understand the problems. He admitted, however, that he, as Chief of Defence had not been able to go inside Zimbabwe although Kangai said that most members of the Military High Command had been inside the country.
- Tongogara said he was always at Chifombo and other bases in Mozambique. There was always a member of the High Command stationed at Chifombo who was in touch with the cadres at the forefront. If the leaders lived well in Lusaka, it was because some were married to wives with professional qualifications and who held responsible posts. The story of the bottle of whisky, a carton of cigarettes and a pair of socks was denied by Tongogara.
- The High Command and DARE had not up to December, 1974, appreciated the danger of punishing people by sending them to the forefront. The Party was prepared to review the policy. The story of immoral conduct with the female cadres was denied, though not strongly. Tongogara said that no leader was building a house in Lusaka. It was only a wife ir fiance of one of the leaders who was building a house with a loan from the Zambia National Building Society. NHARI GROUP ON THE MARCH TO LUSAKA
- In pursuance of their resolve to change the ZANU Military High Command in Lusaka, the dissatisfied cadres at the Front (mostly North-Easterners) organised a meeting about the middle on November, 1974, at which the High Command headed by Josiah Tongogara was purpotedly deposed and replaced by the following new High Command:
(a) Thomas Nhari, Chief of Defence – Zezulu (NE)
(b) Dakarai Badza, Chief of Operations – Manyika (NE)
(c) Patrick Tabenga, Chief Political Commissar – Zezulu (NE)
(d) Ceasar Molife, Chief of Security and Intelligence – Manyika (NE)
(e) Herbert Mutise, Chief of Personnel – Korekore (NE)
(f) Peter Sheba, Chief Representative (East Africa) Zezulu (NE)
(g) Cephas Tichatonga, Chief of Logistics – Manyika (NE)
(h) Chemist N’cube, Chief Instructor – Zezulu (NE)
(i) Cuthbert Chimedza, Military Atache (East Africa) – Karanga (SE)
(j) Timothy Chiredza, Chief of Transport – Korekore (NE)
(k) Sam Chandawa, Provincial Chief of Defence – Karanga (SE)
- This new High Command was also organised on regional lines, as all but two of its members came from the North – East, in contrast to the deposed military High Command whose membership was predominantly composed of South Easterners.
- At this meeting, it was resolved that all the members of the deposed High Command were to be brought to the Front as ordinary cadres.
- Consequently, a group of thirty cadres led by Thomas Nhari marched from the Front towards Chifombo. On their way, they found that new recruits had been organised by a self- confessed enemy agent, who professed to be a relation of a member of the High Command. Under the orders of this agent, the recruits had destroyed the boats used for ferrying cadres to and from the warzones and had also planned to run away. After his open confession to the Nhari group, the enemy agent was physically eliminated by that group.
- As they continued their journey, they met a group of cadres carrying war materials and found among them another well – known self-confessed enemy agent. It was revealed in evidence that he had caused several deaths in Zimbabwe as a result of the information he gave to Ian Smith’s forces. He had been discovered by the militants and warned, but to no avail. He too was executed by the Nhari group.
- According to the evidence before the Commission, the Nhari Group took over the Chifombo peacefully, although other accounts point to the contrary. It is reported that the Camp Commandant, Sheba Gava, was found drunk. He was arrested and taken to the Front together with his comrades Silas Shamiso, Timothy Gudura, and Madib Muchasvipedza. Gava had been forced by the group to give them K400 (four hundred Kwacha-Zambian currency) and to sign all necessary passes to enable them to cross the Luangwa river to Lusaka.
- The following cadres were among the rebel group that took over Chifombo:
(a) Thomas Nhari (leader) (NE)
(b) Cephas Tichatonga (NE)
(c) Sam Chandawa (SE)
(d) Ceasar Molife (NE)
(e) Peter Sheba (NE)
(f) Rameck Gatawa (NE)
(g) Seisa Malisha (SE)
(h) Elias Mhanda (NE)
(i) Loveness Chitankwa (NE)
(j) Revayi Mabunu (NE)
(k) Loice Moyo (NE)
(l) Muchaneta Mabunu (SE)
(m) Fungai Musha (SW)
(n) Timothy Chiredza (NE)
(o) Chemist N’cube (NE)
(p) Dakarai Badza (NE)
(q) Elizabeth Mudyanevana (NE)
(r) Hewiti Mangena (NE)
(s) Farayi Kufakunesu (NE)
(t) Catherine Garanewako (NE)
(u) Nephew Ndanga (NE)
(v) Mativonesa Kupfuwahandu
- After taking over Chifombo, Nhari, Chiredza, Tichatonga, Molife and Sam Chandawa left for Lusaka on the 30th November, 1974. They passed through Luangwa, and intimidated Peter Sheba and Nephew Ndanga about their design and asked for their support. Both men dithered as they were of the opinion that DARE would not give support to such a move. However, they followed the group the next day to Lusaka.
- The Nhari group arrived in Lusaka and on the 1st December, 1974, they arrested the following members of the Military High Command:
(a) William Ndangana, Chief of Operations – Zezulu (NE)
(b) Joseph Chimurenga, Provincial Secretary – Karanga (SE)
(c) Charles Dauramanzi, Officer for supplies – Karanga (SE)
Peter Sheba and Nephew Ndanga, who arrived in Lusaka that day were also arrested. The group also went to Chigowe’s house to arrest him but he was not found. While at Chigowe’s house, a pistol went off.
- The captured ZANU officials were taken to Chifombo where Nhari explained in detail to the cadres about their grievances at the Front. He specifically made mention of thing like spending a lot of money on drinks, spending time in hotels, the wearing of expensive dresses, running personal cars, constructing expensive buildings and selling some of the clothes which were meant for ZANU comrades. Nhari revealed that their grievances were not directed against the DARE but the militant High Command, particularly Tongogara (Chief of Defence) and Chigowe (Chief of Security)
- It was further alleged that Tongogara and Ndangana had sent poison to Chifombo in the form of tablets which were meant to kill Badza, Nhari and Tichatonga.
- After listening to Nhari, Peter Sheba and Nephew Ndangana agreed to support him and consequently joined the group.
- After this, Nhari and his colleagues came to Lusaka on the 6th December, 1974, in order to discuss the position with DARE and try to establish a new system of working. The list of the members of the new High Command was subject to the approval of DARE.
- By this time, the news of the kidnapping and the shooting incident in Chigowe’s house had spread throughout the ZANU circles. There appeared to have been a division of opinion among ZANU leaders on what appropriate steps to take against the Nhari group. Some called for tough action while others advocated negotiations with the rebels.
- Both the DARE and the High Command finally opted for mediation. As unity talks were taking place in Lusaka at this time, members of the DARE were fully occupied. However, they mandated Josiah Tongogara (Chief of Defence) and John Mataure (Political Commissar) to hold discussions with the Nhari group. Tongogara and Mataure met the Nhari group at No. 93 Mpelembe Street, New Kabatwa.
- At that meeting, Nhari, as spokesperson for this group, outlined all their grievances to Tongogara and Mataure. The Nhari group specifically requested to meet the DARE and discuss matters with them.
- Tongogara and Mataure met the other members of DARE the following morning at Mulungushi Village and reported what transpired between them and the Nhari group. The DARE took a decision that they were not going to listen to these grievances until the rebels surrendered back those comrades they had kidnapped. This decision was conveyed to the Nhari group accordingly by both Mataure and Tongogara.
- The Nhari group had collected information during their second visit to Lusaka that Chigowe was organising an army from ZANU camps and that all soldiers at the ZANU farm were well armed in readiness for the group. The prospects of reconciliation having failed to bear fruit, Nhari and his group returned to Chifombo and prepared for their last and final onslaught on the Military High Command in Lusaka.
- On the 9th December, 1974, a group of armed cadres led by Nhari came to Lusaka and kidnapped 19 persons most of whom were Karangas. Amongst them were the following:
(a) Mrs Angelina Tongogara and her three children – Karanga (SE)
(b) Kumbirai Kangai – Karanga (E)
(c) Peter Chitowa – Karanga (SE)
(d) Timothy Chimbodza – Karanga (SE)
(e) Mukudzei Mudzi – Karanga (SE)
(f) Peter Shoniwa – Karanga (SE)
The arrest of the Nhari Group
- Before Nhari and his group could lay their hands on all the members of the High Command, they were intercepted by the Police. Of the Nhari group that came to Lusaka, 16 were apprehended by the Police while six escaped arrest. Those who escaped back to Chifombo were:
(a) Dakarai Badza
(b) Chemist N’cube
(c) Seisa Malisha
(d) Nephew Ndanga
(e) Timothy Chiredza
(f) Mativonesa Kupfuwahandu
Badza and other members if the Nhari group left two machine guns at the house of Edgar Madekurozwa when they escaped to Chifombo after the arrest of Nhari and others.
- Those arrested were briefly detained by the Zambian Government pending Government decision. It was during this period that 10 of the 16 abductors escaped from custody on the 31st December, 1974. These were:
(a) Thomas Nhari
(b) Cephas Tichatonga
(c) Peter Sheba
(d) Sam Chandawa
(e) Elias Mhanda
(f) Madiba Gwata
(g) Catherine Garanewako
(h) Farayi Kufakunesu
(i) Elizabeth Mudyanevana
(j) Ceasar Molife
- The following did not escape:
(a) Hewitti Mangena
(b) Fungayi Musha
(c) Loveness Chitankwa
(d) Muchaneta Mabunu
(e) Revai Mabunu
(f) Loice Moyo
- Among those who escaped, the following were recaptured by the Police at Rufunsa:
(a) Thomas Nhari
(b) Peter Sheba
(c) Sam Chandawa
(d) Elizabeth Mudyanevana
(e) Farayi Kufakunesu
- In an effort to find a solution to the problems of these abductions a meeting was convened on the 23rd January, 1975, with Zambian Senior Government Officials at which Chitepo, Mukudzei Mudzi, Kumbirai Kangai and Rugare Gumbo, were present. The purpose of this meeting was to get first- hand information from the rebel group as to why they wanted to overthrow the High Command.
- Thomas Nhari, the leader of the revel group outlined the reasons and produced a document containing grounds of their rebellion against the Higj Command. It was discovered that the proper channel and procedure for expressing grievances had not been followed. A decision was then taken that the Nhari group were to remain under detention until the next meeting that day.
- At the meeting which followed, Zambian Government officials asked Chitepo what action he intended to take against the mutineers if they were handed over to ZANU. Chitepo explained that past experience had shown, that given a chance, wrong- doers can always reform through reorientation. He went on to say that the Party would like to have the men back. On being asked whether the men would not be executed if handed over, Chitepo replied that in ZANU’s code of discipline, execution was not one of the punishments prescribed.
- As a result of Chitepo’s firm assurances, the Zambian authorities agreed to hand over the detained cadres to the Party. However, before the actual handing over on the 27th January 1975, three of the recaptured ex-ZANU cadres had again escaped on the 26th January, 1975. These were:
(a) Thomas Nhari
(b) Sam Chandawa
(c) Peter Sheba
Stay tuned for next Friday’s installment – Chapter 5 – The Aftermath of Nhari Rebellion.
Source: Special Commission on the Assassination of Hebert Whiltshire Chitepo, published in Lusaka in March 1976 by the government of Zambia.