Nikita Mangena was a visionary leader
One of the pioneers of the armed struggle, Rogers Alfred Mangena was killed in a landmine explosion in southern Zambia in 1978. His remains were reburied at the national shrine on August 11, 1998. Rogers, whose Chimurenga name was Nikita, was the son of Bakayi Mangena and Elizabeth Ngwenya. He was born on March 16, 1945 at Fort Rixon in Insiza District.
He received his primary education at Namande School and with the help of missionaries, he went to Musume Boarding School where he was first in every class and was the school captain for all the years he was there.
Cde Mangena then moved to Chegato Secondary School, where he was again school captain. In 1963, there was a strike by the students over increased fees. The mission authorities accused Mangena, the captain, of leading the strike and expelled him from school, at the age of 18.
His maternal aunt who was a teacher at Chegato, Keorabileo Ngwenya, helped him cross the border into Zambia to join his maternal uncle Ngwenya in Chingola. The good school reports Rodgers brought with him from Chegato enabled him to enrol in second term of 1963 at Chingola Secondary School, after brilliantly passing an aptitude test. The following year in 1964, he completed his Form Two and was position one in the whole school. He was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship which he did not take up because he opted to join the liberation struggle at that time.
When schools opened in 1965, Zapu was engaged in the recruitment of cadres for the armed struggle and Rodgers was among the first volunteers. Despite the fact that his uncle had endorsed his enrolment for further studies, nothing could stop him from taking the highest human sacrifices for the liberation of Zimbabwe.
His school principal, teachers and many fellow scholars openly criticised the recruitment as a waste of brains as they believed Rodgers deserved to be somebody better than just a cadre and guerilla.
After the initial military training, Cde Mangena together with Andrew Mafu, Philip Maphosa and Tapson Sibanda were selected to go for further training at a Military Academy in Algeria. At the end of their course they were sent to Tanzania, first to Kongwa then to Morogoro training camps where most cadres were trained.
When Zapu’s military wing was reconstituted and renamed Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) in 1971 following the departure of the Chikerema-Nyandoro group, Cde Mangena was appointed Commander of Zipra with Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo as acting Commander-in-Chief. Cde Mangena also became a member of the Zimbabwe’s People’s Revolutionary Council.
Under his command, Zipra matured and grew from strength to strength and developed into a well-organised and disciplined force within a short space of time.
The Zipra forces owed their ideological clarity to Cde Mangena’s conversion and commitment to Marxism/Leninism. Cde Mangena was editor of the Zipra military magazine “The Combat Diary”. He is the author of the famous poem, “Forward”, in which he wrote: “Our patience is at an end. Let us strike mercilessly at the enemy, any enemy who is now clearly defined. Now is the time for mass revolutionary action.”
When Zipa was formed in 1974, Cde Mangena was appointed Chief Political Commissar. Zipa was a merger of the two liberation forces, Zipra and Zanla. Unfortunately, Zipa disintegrated shortly after its formation.
Cde Mangena was part of the Zapu delegation to the 1976 Geneva Conference and subsequently the Malta Conference.
Cde Mangena died tragically in 1978 in a landmine explosion in the southern Province in Zambia where he had gone to inspect bases that had been targeted by enemy attacks.
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