Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
Sixty-five year-old ex-Zipra combatant, Cde Moses Moyo, is yet to find closure after losing 11 of his comrades in a Rhodesian forces 15-minute massacre at Cross Jotsholo in Lupane district while on their way to an assembly point following the declaration of a ceasefire.
The 22 freedom fighters were ambushed in December 1979 while travelling on a Pullen bus from Jotsholo business centre to St Paul’s assembly point.
Eleven of them were gunned down by enemy forces, an attack that nearly led to the resumption of the armed struggle as tempers flared in assembly points with fighters threatening to take up arms again and seek revenge.
Interventions by Zipra commanders like General Lookout Masuku and intelligence supremo Dumiso Dabengwa urging fighters to remain calm fell on deaf ears until the intervention of the Zipra Commander in- Chief Dr Joshua Nkomo.
The angry combatants infact detained the late national hero Cde Dabengwa after he called for order at the assembly points.
Cde Moyo said the victims of the attack are convinced that the driver of the bus was working with enemy forces.
“I was occupying the front seat and as we headed for the Bulawayo – Victoria Falls main road, there was a Puma army truck blocking the road.
Our driver started increasing speed and when I asked him why, he stopped the bus before jumping out and at that moment one of the guys on top of the bus screamed out saying there was a helicopter coming.
The next moment bullets were raining, this is why we strongly believe that the driver knew everything,” said Cde Moyo during an interview at his homestead at Makokomba Village in Umguza district.
Cde Moyo was wearing his Zipra camouflage jacket, the same one he wore when they came under attack.
Narrating events leading to the unfortunate ambush, Cde Moyo said their area of operation was Lupane, Nkayi, Kwekwe and Gweru under Zone four.
“When the ceasefire radio came through from the Black Russian (Dabengwa), 26 of us were told to remain behind for a few days so as to mop up the area by making sure no soldier decided to ignore the ceasefire call.
After accounting for everyone, we prepared to report to St Paul’s where a Pullen bus was arranged for us.
We were now 22 after four of our colleagues fell ill and had to be left behind at the nearby health facility,” said Cde Moyo.
On arrival at the pickup point at Jotsholo business centre, they could not find the bus as promised.
He said they arrived around mid-morning and had to seek overnight accommodation in surrounding villages because the bus had not arrived.
“The next morning, the bus arrived but already we were skeptical as to why it did not come the previous day as agreed.
Commanders assured us that there was nothing to fear since the bus was from St Paul’s and had been transporting other comrades.
Despite those assurances, we still had to take our own precautions so I asked six guys to sit on top of the bus, one had a bazooka while others carried AK47s.
The rest of us got inside and we left for St Paul’s. Just some distance before the main road I saw a Puma army truck that had parked across the road,” said Cde Moyo.
He said the driver increased speed towards where the truck had parked and when he asked him why, the bus suddenly came to a halt before the driver bolted. Cde Moyo said it was then that their fears were confirmed.
“I heard one of the comrades who was on top of the bus screaming that a helicopter had been spotted coming towards us and in a flash, bullets rained on us.
Most of the bullets were directed towards the bus entrance to prevent us from escaping.
In the meantime, those on top were returning fire which enabled us to escape.
It was hard to repel the enemy while on top of the bus and minutes later I heard one guy Cde Lizwe, crying out that he had been hit.
Cde Lizwe is the one buried alone on one side of the road while 10 others are on the other side,” said Cde Moyo.
He said him and the other comrades managed to escape the hail of bullets and regrouped at a safe place.
“We were now 11, our colleagues had been mercilessly killed when we thought the war was over.
Their graves as we speak are still in an open space with no sign or fence to show that freedom fighters are buried there,” said Moyo.
He named the fallen 11 as Cde Nhlanganiso Mariepha Ndlovu from Plumtree, Washington Khumalo from Kezi, Charles Moyo from Gwanda, Portiva Mzala Mbedzi from Beitbridge, David Madubeko Moyo from Gwanda, Zethi Malala Ngwenya from Gwanda, Lizwe Ngwenya from Gwanda, Teams Mzingeli from Tsholotsho, Oceans Magutsha from Gwanda, Temba Tshabangu from Plumtree and Themba Ndlovu from Plumtree.
Cde Moyo appealed to Government to honour the 11 fallen heroes by fencing the area and putting a plaque in their memory as the nation celebrates Heroes Day next week.