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I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on yebomimi@gmail.com The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

THE BATTLE OF KAVALAMANJA REMEMBERED

Battle for Kavalamanja in Zambia Remembered

This is the first of two parts of an article by Dr Godrey Mahachi on the commemoration of the Battle for Kavalamanja, a battle that was fought on Zambian land during the Zimbabwean war of liberation but had far-reaching impact on the fate of colonial rule in the Zimbabwe.
For most of us in Zimbabwe, Saturday March 7, 2009 came and went as so many other days do. The day was ordinary, probably like so many other days that see us doing the usual things that keep us going. But for the people of Kavalamanja, the day was no ordinary day.
It was no ordinary Saturday, and it certainly was no ordinary weekend. This weekend reminded the Kavalamanja community of mayhem, death and the loss of homes and other property. Kavalamanja is an ordinary looking village on the northern banks of the Zambezi River about 10 kilometres upstream of the river’s confluence with the Luangwa.
The village is in the Luangwa district of southeastern Zambia lying across the Zambezi River from Chief Chapoto’s area in the Kanyemba area of Zimbabwe’s lower Guruve, now Mbire District.
To the east of Kavalamanja and just across the Luangwa River is the Mozambican settlement of Zumbo, popularised by early Portuguese documents as one of the key trading posts upstream of the Zambezi River in the very early years of European colonial advance in the southern African region.
When the 7th March 2009 came for the Kavalamanja community it was not the day for business as usual. This was no surprise to any member of the community since most of the activity in the past few weeks had been devoted to preparing for the day.
That morning the Kavalamanja community and indeed the community in the triangular area created by the confluence of the Zambezi and Luangwa rivers, such as the Kakaro village just to the north east of Kavalamanja, converged at Kavalamanja Primary School to commemorate the “Battle for Kavalamanja,” a Zimbabwe liberation war battle that raged in this remote part of Zambia for many hours between 6 and 7 March 1978.
The battle contributed to the demise of the colonial political set up in the then Rhodesia but was fought, like the many other similar battles of those years, outside Rhodesia’s own battlefronts for the reason that Rhodesian military philosophy of the time dictated that the enemy needed to be stopped or eliminated in the countries that supported the military and political training of the freedom fighters.
While the battle was for Rhodesia’s survival, it was equally a battle for the survival of the people of Kavalamanja who found themselves very much a part of the war that was raging across the river in neighbouring Rhodesia.
Those long hours of battle from 6th to 7th March were hours when the war for Rhodesia transformed itself into the battle for Kavalamanja. For those seventy odd hours, the people of this otherwise small insignificant and remote village experienced what it is to fight a colonial military force whose determination to win the battle and win the war was not going to be tampered by the humanity that we most often take for granted.
The Kavalamanja area, being on the Zambia/Zimbabwe frontier, was like most other areas along the Zambezi River a possible area for infiltration into Zimbabwe by liberation war fighters who were using this part of Zambia and neighbouring Mozambique as rear bases.
The Rhodesians had suspected that this section of the Zambezi was probably more prone to use as a crossing point into the country because the river becomes wider as it leaves the gorges.
The widening of the river makes the current more spread out and therefore less powerful, hence the suspicion by the Rhodesian military that the area was more likely to be a favoured crossing point by liberation war fighters.
This suspicion received credence especially from about the middle of 1976 when Rhodesian war intelligence started receiving reports of a Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army, Zipra base in this area.
This base was the suspected source of liberation war fighters who were known to be moving into war operational zones from the Kanyemba area of lower Guruve. These fighters then ended up further up the Zambezi escarpment and beyond.
Information reaching Rhodesian war intelligence rooms gave the name of the camp variously as Feira Base or Geneva Kanyemba. As a result of this information, Rhodesians stepped up their intelligence activities in this area with the intention of locating the base.
The activities included air photographic reconnaissance by the Special Air Services unit, these being intensified during the period June to July 1977. These initial efforts failed to locate the base that was being looked for although intelligence reports often mentioned a lot of Zambian army activity in the area.
The Rhodesians continued to be worried by the situation in the area as it was apparent from military encounters in the lower Guruve that freedom fighters were moving into the country from a base or bases located somewhere in the Kavalamanja area.
It was for this reason that more of the reconnaissance missions were deployed, especially in the early months of 1978. Determined to finally solve the puzzle of the origins of the freedom fighters, the Rhodesians took advantage of the local terrain characterised by thick bush and two very high mountains between which is the village of Kavalamanja.
The higher of the two mountains, known as Kansindu is to the west of the village whilst the other is to the east. Both mountain ranges stretch north south towards the nearby Zambezi River which is part of this terrain system.
On 1st March 1978, the Rhodesians finally got lucky. From the top of Kansindu, a Rhodesian reconnaissance team of two, taking advantage of the aerial view of the village below managed to locate the Zipra camp that the Rhodesian military had been looking for, for more than a year. The team, enjoying the relative safety of the mountain top covered in lush green vegetation began to map out the settlements pattern below, taking particular care to locate all positions at which anti aircraft weapons were placed as well as the exact position of the Zambian military camp.
Armed with this information, the Rhodesians were quick to plan a surprise attack on Kavalamanja. The speed with which the planning was done could probably be indicative of the level of apprehension the Rhodesians were now experiencing with the whole war prosecution effort.
The battle for Kavalamanja started at break of dawn on March 6, only some five days after the successful reconnaissance of the camp.
Using Hawker Hunters which swept over the Zambezi from the south, the aerial bombardment of everything lying between the two mountain ranges in the Kavalamanja area had commenced.
Troops had been dropped and deployed to the north of Kavalamanja to box in the residents of the area as well as stop any vehicular movement on the main road linking settlements in this area to places further north. The Rhodesians had in so doing attempted to contain the military and civilian population within the area defined by the Zambezi river in the south, the two mountains in the west and east and the marshlands in the north where the Rhodesian troops were already in place to stop any people who tried to escape the aerial bombardment supported by a strong contingent of ground troops.
The battle for Kavalamanja lasted for nearly two days as both the Zipra and Zambian military forces fiercely resisted the attack. The attack, however, resulted in numerous casualties especially among the civilian population, most of whom were killed as they tried to leave the area through routes already occupied by Rhodesian soldiers positioned as they were to kill anyone in flight from the central area of the bombardment.
Some of the civilians killed include Chrispen Mwale, Selina Tembo and her baby who was strapped on her back, Mati Kaponda who was pregnant, Anastazia Damasake, Grace Phiri, Saineti Tembo, Shadreck Phiri, Tomaza Ngulube, Mazhaina Ntuka and Edwin Tembo.
The villagers not only lost lives but also homes, livestock and other property as the whole area was devastated by the attack.
The local school was not spared as some of the buildings were extensively damaged whilst books and other school equipment was lost to fires that resulted from the bombardment.
The Herald (Zimbabwe)

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9 Comments on “Battle for Kavalamanja in Zambia Remembered”

  • Jimmy wrote on 28 July, 2009, 11:28so
  • Gritty wrote on 28 July, 2009, 11:35Were these poor villagers compensated? Or since they are black its ok. But for the whites who stole land in a savage money have to be compenstaed whent the same was taken away from them.
    And Jimmy, are you so dull you can’t see the human rights abuses in here?
  • Mono wrote on 28 July, 2009, 11:37Zambia has given a lot to Southern Africa, money, time and human life. Or Zambia, my zambia. But what do we get? Contempt in the region
  • Dongo Na Sundu wrote on 28 July, 2009, 11:51Good piece of info Dr. Mahachi. One would just want to read more of such history so that we remind ourselves that we owe it to those who perished in such stupid wars. Another thing is for us to reflect back on the past so as to have a focus of what it is we wanted freedom for – was it coruption or the wellbeing of all our citizens. Sometimes that is why we need not to be harsh on people like KK, Mugabe and others who have experienced such tragedies. It is with passion and not selfishness that these people have wanted to guard their nations jealously.
  • Surprise wrote on 28 July, 2009, 12:16Leaves so much hanging: How did the battle end? Did the rebels achieve their mission? Could be better if narrated by a military analyst.
  • Mike wrote on 28 July, 2009, 12:54Do we have comprehensive documentation somewhere covering those dramatic liberation years? We need to remind ourselves and generations to come what we went thru as a nation. We want to read the Zambian version of the events. I recall an officer talking about this incident (possibly another but similar one). He got wounded. It was an early morning surprise attack. He said their commander only managed to give one command “Take cover!” before all hell broke loose.
  • KAPATAMOYO wrote on 28 July, 2009, 14:04This just brings fresh memories of my school cadate years.
    One morning I and a friend (who went on to join the Zambia Army) were preparing ourselves to go to Burma Barracks for training.
    Before 8 hours in the morning that day there was a lot of noise – like the noise of a very big vihecular engine. And having been aware about what was happening in the country and region re: Liberation of Zimbabwe, I and my friend thought that maybe it was the noise of tanks (tankars as we would normally call them). However there was nothing in sight.
    As we kept gazing in the direction of Chipata Compound and Chazanga Compound from Roma Girls Secondary School workers’ compound of twelve houses, we suddenly saw choppers on the horizon, determinedly coming straight at us.
    One could see the white Rhodesians fighters sitting with their guns at the doors and windows of the choppers. When they came over our compound, one of them shouted ‘No, not here!’ And instantly turned right (Left to us on the ground and watching them).
    They went to the house which was home to the freedom fighters, where they broke down part of the boundary wall fence, as they off loaded their fighting men. They killed the people in the house. The choppers returned to collect their fighting men and left the area.
    However, before the devastation, my friend and me decided to spy on what was going on where the choppers were headed. So we did run in that direction, came to the T-Junction of the Roma Girls Secondary School private feeder road and Mulungushi road, and guess what? We saw a white Rhodesian soldier, with a gun, thankfully, he was facing eastward, so that he gave us his back.
    My friend and I really wished we had a gun, because we were going to shoot and kill this guy. This sentry was positioned to shoot anything in sight, including cars as they did that day.
    Anyway, my friend and I tip-toed backwards, facing this guy to make sure he did not turn and spot us before we knew he had seen us (in our training one of the phrases of war we learned was ‘see before you are seen, and kill before you are killed), and when we had safely cleared his possible view distance, and descended down hill, we ran to hide our school cadet uniforms in the ground, in case the Rhodesians decided to inspect or check our compound for anything military.
    When our uniforms were safely dug in the ground, we ran on to the Mulungushi Village where we knew we could find the Paramilatary Police who were permanently camped there.
    When we arrived, we told them about the Rhodesian Rebels. There was comotion in the camp as the “Paras” got themselves together for action, saying ‘inchito yaisa bane’, while others started paying back money they owed just in case they did nto return alive.
    Finally, we set out for battle. I led one group of fighters, while my friend led another. We were scouts for them. The sad thing is that we were both wearing white PE skippers “T-shirts”.
    We got to the area on foot. We showed the “Paras” where this mubunu was standing, in the meantime while their commander was examining the situation, the “Paras” were shouting, asking for permision to fire, saying ‘tiombe!?’ The boss responded ‘wait!’
    Finally, we made our way to the house where the Freedom Fighters had been living. The rebels had left, having killed some Freedom Fighters. The Paramilitary police went back to Mulungushi Village, we were too late to do anything to prevent “them” rebels from killing the Freedom Fighters.
    Then bands of soldiers showed up, and jet fighters flew past a number of times. A lone soldier we personally knew came through the house, a Lozi man with a gun, then a senior army officer, could have been a captain – he came when the dust had settled.
    I have now forgotten when this happened. It was either 1977 or 1978. This took place in Lusaka’s Roma Township.
    That day, was a very sad day.
    I hope this just helps to add to the history of the Liberation Struggle for Zimbabwe.
  • Yambayamba wrote on 28 July, 2009, 14:53Ooh, jimmy, jimmy, jimmy!!!! How sad people can have such rotten attitudes about consequential events such as this—”So[?!]“—–are you really serious with your reaction??!!!
    Anyway, may the souls of the innocent who died in Southern African Freedom causes rest in PEACE. The article is a good reminder why they say “no man/woman, or country for that matter, is an island.”
    Where are the indigenous Zambian historians at?!!!! These are some of the most important events that have shaped our country and region and, therefore, they need to be properly recorded, told, conserved, and taught in schools to our young generation—-lest we forget our own history and HEROES!!!
    Anxiously awaiting the second part. Hopefully the second part will fill in some holes left by the first.
  • Pierre wrote on 8 October, 2009, 21:49Can anyone recall bombings that occurred in the Makeni area in this same time-frame. I recall they missed purported army camps, and hit UNHCR villages instead. I remember seeing the bombs falling from planes in Makeni outside of Lusaka, where we lived, and a person from our church was killed. Again, is this history recorded properly anwhere??