Female veterans of the struggle demystify gender stereotypes

By Tafara Chikumira

When the story of the liberation struggle is told, men are often presented as fearless fighters who confronted the enemy head-on while their female counterparts are portrayed as mere assistants.

The war of liberation is one of the complex stories in the history of Zimbabwe, with many untold stories still coming out from all angles in a sign that not much has been done to chronicle the heroic acts of the veterans of struggle.

A chat with female combatants reveals a story of courageous women who managed to overcome societal patriarchal norms to push for the country’s freedom from colonial bondage.

Cde Evelyn Nduna whose nom de guerre during the liberation struggle was Farirai Dzimbahwe was only 15 years old when she joined the war.

“It was a struggle for us all. My vivid and terrible encounter was the Chimoio battle where we lost a number of Cdes. I was shot more than three times on the leg and at the back. This gave me strength to say I will make sure that I play my part in that struggle. At training, our training was the same and so was our fighting. I never enjoyed my girlhood as I spent those years in the bush. I operated at Mavhonde where there was another serious encounter as we lost some Cdes there. I also operated at Gandanzara for some time before we were demobilised after Zimbabwe became free,” explained Cde Nduna.

Cde Felistus Masiya is another female veteran of the struggle who joined the liberation struggle at the age of 16.

Cde Masiya whose Chimurenga name was Cde Fungai Hondo tells a story of how abuse by the Smith regime forced her to join the war of liberation.

“It was a moment of intimidation and sell outs were all over the place. Women my age were being raped at the hands of the soldiers. The soldiers also got wind of who I was and my problem was that my sisters had already joined the liberation struggle. I realised that either way I was facing death. My initial training was in Mozambique. I remember one day our camp was bombed and we experienced a number of causalities. You will realise that we would share chores as no one was ever recruited to do a particular chore. Most of the time it was our male counterparts who would do the cooking since the pots were quite huge. I was then sent to Libya where I received nurse training. When I came back I was involved in the treatment of the wounded Cdes. However, you would do this with a gun in your hands as sporadic attacks would often be there,” she narrated.  

It’s now 42 years since Zimbabwe gained independence from the colonial bondage and the month of August has been set aside to honour the veterans of the struggle both fallen and living for their selfless sacrifice.