Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE late Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Lieutenant-General (Rtd) Dr Sibusiso Moyo (SB) was as an open-minded, courageous and honest man whose determination to liberate the country saw him defy his parents’ earnest implorations to return home as they feared he would be killed in a foreign land.
Dr Moyo, who was among a group of about 400 pupils from Manama High School in Gwanda District, Matabeleland South, recruited by Zipra cadres, refused to board one of the buses sent by the Rhodesian government to ferry them back from Botswana.
A priest from the Lutheran Church, who was sent by Dr Moyo’s parents to Francistown, Botswana, to fetch him and his peers, failed to convince them to return home.
Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) Commander Air Marshal Elson Moyo, yesterday spoke to the Chronicle, narrating how he and his late cousin, Dr Moyo, refused to be cowed into submission by the repressive Rhodesian government.
Not even fervent pleas by their parents could stand in their way. Air Marshal Moyo said they had already agreed as a team comprising folks from their home village, Mberengwa, to proceed to Zambia for military training, “come thunder come lightning”.
“We were part of the Manama High School students who had successfully crossed into Botswana under the guidance of guerillas who were operating in the Gwanda area. Soon after we had arrived in Francistown, there was pressure, which was put on the Botswana government by the Smith regime to try and get the Manama students back,” said Air Marshal Moyo.
“The Rhodesian government dispatched the buses and relatives to collect us from Francistown. SB and I, including others from our area in Mberengwa, sat down as a team and agreed that only one person was going to represent them. Since I was the most senior, I volunteered to go and meet Reverend Shiri who had been sent by our parents to come and collect us.”
Air Marshal Moyo said while a handful of their peers agreed to return home, he and his team stood their ground.
“The message that I gave Rev Shiri was that we are not returning home until after independence. It was not a question of being forced because those who did want to go to Zambia had an opportunity to get onto the buses and return home, and of course, a few offered to return. Most of the buses went back virtually empty.”
Air Marshal Moyo said from their area, there were only seven people who offered to return to Rhodesia.
He said everybody at school had gone political and one of the things that created that situation was that the Rhodesian army had been deployed to the school and staying in the classrooms.
“Our situation was ripe such that we were now in a war situation and the politics at the school was to get out of the school. The previous term, quite a number of boys who were in Form Four including A level study groups, had crossed into Botswana to join the liberation struggle,” said Air Marshal Moyo.
“The spirit for joining the liberation struggle was already there with people being detained for political reasons and therefore it was ripe for us to join the liberation struggle. Of course, one would say the innocence of being young made us adventurous, but certainly the situation in the country was not good.”
He said upon arrival in Zambia, they embraced and treated each other as brothers. In Lusaka, they were met by senior Zipra cadres and taken to Nampundwe where they started the initial training in preparation for the actual military training.
“We didn’t stay long in Nampundwe because there was an instruction for us to go to training as early as possible. We stayed for a month before we were taken to CGT training camp. When we got to Zambia the first thing that had to be killed was blood relationships,” said Air Marshal Moyo.
“Everyone was a relative and we become one big family driven by the same desire to liberate our country. We treated each other as fellow Zimbabweans.”
The training lasted for about six months and upon completing the course in August, Dr Moyo and Air Marshal Moyo were among those selected for specialised military training.
“Cde SB and I were not in the same company during training because he was much younger than I was. He trained with another group, which was mainly for those aged between 16 and 17 years,” said Air Marshal Moyo.
He described Dr Moyo as a person who was intelligent, open-minded, honest and friendly.
“I interacted well with him and he was an honest man who would say out his mind. At personal level, we are cousins and more or less he was like a brother during the war time, but at the same time, we became personal friends because of the experiences which we shared together during the struggle up to the time of his passing on,” said Air Marshal Moyo.
Umzingwane legislator and chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services, Brigadier- General (Rtd) Levy Mayihlome said Cde SB was a fearless, hardworking and innovative soldier who never gave up on what he wanted to achieve.
“We worked together doing strategic planning for the Zimbabwe National Army and then he was Lieutenant-Colonel and being our leader. He was a person who would never give up no matter how difficult the situation was,” he said.
“He was a rare breed of military officers, a workaholic and fearless and would not allow any obstacle to stand his way. He was visible in whatever we did as military officers.”
Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mayihlome said during his tenure as their commander in the Six Brigade, Dr Moyo accomplished his duties well in Mozambique just before the country withdrew its troops from that country.
“He then became a staff officer at army headquarters and the ZDF headquarters, but always exuberant and determined to push things harder and higher. It wasn’t of any surprise that through his bravery, Dr Moyo announced the new dispensation to the country.
“I knew that it only needed a person of his bravery and it was also not a surprise to me that he also did very well as a Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He knows no boundaries he was a man who always aspired to do greater things. Zimbabwe has lost a gallant son of the soil. All that he set out to do he achieved it. He is a man who had a great vision and aspiration. He was very humble, dedicated and committed to serving the country.
“Initially I worked with Dr Moyo in 1984 and 1985 when we were directing staff in the junior division of the Zimbabwe Staff College and we were majors. I was later deployed to Mutare for two years before going to the UZ to study economics. Upon completing my studies, Dr Moyo assembled us as a team and I was coming in with my economic and financial expertise,” said Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mayihlome.
He also described Dr Moyo as a chief planner and a person who would drive them to bring up the required concept in the military.
Brig-Gen (Rtd) Richman Ncube said he worked together with Dr Moyo as instructors at the Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZMA) in Gweru.
“I worked with Cde SB at ZMA and at some point, I was chief Instructor and he was my assistant. We were very close to each other and we even shared a house in Lundi Park staying together as two families,” he said.
Brig-Gen (Rtd) Richman Ncube said he was a very intelligent, dependable and hardworking man.
“I also had an opportunity to interact with him when he was at the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Headquarters. Even when I had retired, he assisted me to implement an economic project since he was the one in charge of army projects,” he said.
“He was always in a jovial mood and I don’t remember seeing him angry. He was a tolerant man and even after I had left the army we continued to communicate.”
Brig-Gen (Rtd) Abel Mazinyane said: “When Cde SB came in I was already in the Zipra High Command. They came as group from Manama High School in 1977. They were about 400 pupils and because of their numbers, they were immediately posted to Zambia.”
He said the boys were taken to a camp, which was opened by General Philip Valerio Sibanda.
“When they arrived at CGT training camp, Cde SB was with the current Airforce of Zimbabwe Commander (Air Marshal Elson Moyo), among others. After training he went to a military academy in Kabwe, Zambia to further train as a cadet officer. He trained with the likes of Major-General Khotso Dube, Major-General Diye, Colonel Gonde,” said Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mazinyane.
Lt-Col (Rtd) Binoni Benjamin Dube who was Dr Moyo’s instructor in Zambia said Cde SB was one of the most brilliant students at his camp in 1978.
He said Cde SB trained the last group of Zipra cadres of two battalions which was brought from Maheba to Mazowe Training Depot (MTD) in western Zambia.
“SB was part of the group that came from Manama and they were taken to CGT 2 camp in the eastern province of Lusaka. He was one of brilliant cadres who physically and mentally fit. The training was basic Zipra military training which we termed a guerilla warfare type,” he said.
“We trained them in weaponry, physical training, a bit of military engineering, first aid, topography so that they would be able to navigate the field. Cde SB was one of those boys who ended being elected to be one of the instructors.” — @mashets