‘Let us also celebrate our living heroes’

BY ZBC Reporter

As the nation remembers those who lost their lives in the quest for political and economic freedom, it is also pertinent to celebrate living heroes.

For Bulilima East villagers, vivid memories of the 1977 Ngwana Battle remind them of the harsh realities of the liberation struggle.

The people of Ngwana village, Bulilima East in Matabeleland South, lived in fear and despair after their houses were burnt by the Ian Smith regime on the 3rd of July 1977. They still have vivid memories of how their houses were burnt after ZIPRA guerrillas opened fire on the Rhodesian forces.

One of the guerrillas, a former ZIPRA regional commander Cde Bigboy Magabela, who fought with the Rhodesian forces in the Ngwana Battle, takes us through events of that fateful day.

“We came here in Ngwana as we operated in Plumtree. I was the regional commander then for the southern front. We came and settled in the fields opposite the Agritex office houses. I remember the Rhodesian Forces heard that we were around and we hid in a pit and they did not see us.

“You see that borehole there; the Rhodesian Forces came to that borehole for water. We immediately attacked them and one of them managed to escape and alerted others about the shootout. Sadly, we lost one of ours and we managed to escape. On their side, they had fatalities too as some lost legs and two died.”

Some of the witnesses of the 1977 Ngwana Battle vividly remember what transpired.

“It was on the 3rd of July 1977, I was coming from Plumtree town with my son. When l got home my children told me that there were guerillas in our field. What shook me was that the Rhodesian forces were sitting by the Agritex officer’s house.

“I quickly went to my brother’s house to sell the little things I had brought from Plumtree. I did not take time there and went back home. Around seven in the evening we heard dogs barking and my mother went outside to check what was happening. She came back with four men who asked her if she was going to report them to the Rhodesian forces.

“Around 4 am we heard gunshots, we quickly left our homestead and went to the nearing homestead. On our way we met guerillas holding one of them who was short and bleeding heavily, the Rhodesian forces then came looking for us and we are arrested and taken to the nearest holding place for hours. When we came back later in the evening we found our homestead burnt to ashes and our livestock shot dead.”

Bulilima East legislator Honourable Mangaliso Ndlovu urged youths to work hard and safeguard the gains of the country’s independence.

“His Excellency Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa has the welfare of war veterans at heart. Very soon they will be welfare for war veterans gazetted by the government and every ministry will have a mandate to better the lives of war veterans. ”

This year’s Heroes Day celebrations were not marked by the usual huge gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with President Mnangagwa addressing the nation through virtual platforms.