Noah Pito
As the Zupco bus ferrying 62 members of Simudza Hurungwe Youth Empowerment Trust hurtled through the last 10 kilometres of the tiresome journey to Chimoio last week, Zanu-PF Women’s League deputy national political commissar, Cde Alice Mutindori — the tour guide — shushed the excited youths for the second time. “I plead with you my sons and daughters not to do it until we accomplish our mission. Don’t play in any manner that offends our fallen heroes ahead. I urge you to maintain discipline until we go back home. Please abstain from any kind of fun that invokes disrespect for the comrades who lie at Chimoio. The place is sacred, no matter you are husband and wife please you should not do anything, reserve that for your time back home,” she pleaded.

It was around 9pm when the group finally arrived at the shrine. In no time the monument soon reverberated with song and dance as the youths reincarnated one of the pungwes peculiar to the liberation struggle.

The following morning the youths were taken through mass graves by Cde Mutindori, a war veteran who happens to be an eye witness and survivor of the 1977 bombing of Chimoio by Rhodesian Forces.

The tour of the mass graves and the first-hand information that the youths received from Cde Mutindori was an eye-opener as they later asserted.

Speaking soon after touring the mass graves, Cde Mutindori, who also worked closely with the late Cde Kumbirai Kangai, among others at Chimoio, said it was imperative for every Zimbabwean youth to visit shrines like Chimoio so that they came face to face with reality.

“When we are in Zimbabwe and you hear of Chimoio and Nyadzonia, some of you think we just narrating folktales. You have seen for yourselves the mass graves, the remnants of guns in the museum, the drums that we used for cooking and the foundations of buildings that today remain as testimony to the massacre of Zimbabwe’s sons and daughters at the hands of Ian Smith’s Rhodesian forces. This is not fiction.

“As you stand here please, pray so that you draw from the comrades who lie here the inspiration to defend your country. Never, never brook the enemy’s manoeuvres to recolonise your country. His Excellency President Mugabe has always emphasised this,” she said.

The place is alive with history, as the silence talks volumes of the past.

An interesting turn, however, relates to the ongoing mysteries that are witnessed by the people who tend this sacred ground.

Francisco Fernando and Martino Augusto have since 2006 been working as groundsmen at the shrine.

Said Ferenando: “This place is no joke my dear brothers and sisters. Whenever you are here take care never to put to test the comrades who lie here. We used to bring down the flags every evening and hoist them the following morning.

“We stopped the practice after we experienced some mysteries. While trying to bring down the flags we would receive a spray of sand and leaves into our eyes just from nowhere.

“Whenever we took the flags home for safekeeping we would not sleep at all as groups of people would be heard running up and down the courtyard and making noise at our homes. It is the same reason why we no longer lock the two gates to this shrine. Each time we secured the gates with locks, the next morning we would find them open with the locks neatly dangling on the gates.”

Fernando added that some weeks ago a local farmer had parked his car close to the shrine after which he questioned them as to why they were wasting their time toiling at the shrine.

“I tell you, just in a week’s time his car developed a mechanical fault right at the spot he had said that to us. In no time it was up in flames. The car he tried to use to tow away the remnants of his burnt car was also reduced to ashes. We never know how he finally managed to remove the two shells.

“Just a few days ago a local villager who was carrying charcoal to Chimoio for sale abandoned his bicycle and the charcoal claiming that he had seen hundreds of people in front of him. He came running to my house saying he wanted to be assisted to retrieve his bicycle as it could be stolen,” he said.

He narrated that one night there was also a gathering of hundreds of people in white here.

“We thought they were Apostolic sect members but on coming closer to investigate we discovered that they were not church people as they were sitting on a mass grave chanting revolutionary songs,” he said.

According to Augusto, good and bad times in Zimbabwe are accompanied by some miracles at the shrine.

In 2008 when the political landscape in Zimbabwe was uncertain, blood would ooze out of a mass grave that had cracked on one of its sides. Soon after the July 31 elections, mysterious chanting voices and the cracking of guns were heard celebrating the revolutionary Zanu-PF party’s victory against the Western sponsored MDC party.

“In the case of the oozing blood, we went to inform the chief who dispatched his aide to this place but by the time we arrived at the mass grave the blood was no longer there. This was in 2008 when all was not well in Zimbabwe,” recounted Augusto.

“Ironically, on the day election results were announced in Zimbabwe last year, it was like there was a party in the shrine museum and all over here. There was cracking of the guns and chanting of slogans and the singing of revolutionary songs, the same songs that the youths have been singing here. We only heard a day later that President Mugabe had won the elections,” said Augusto.

Both Augusto and Fernando said they were still shocked by how a student on a research tour was attacked by bees from a mass grave after he had uttered derogatory words to the effect that there were no human bones in the mass graves but rather cattle bones.

“You should not come here to tempt the comrades. He had to run for cover into a bus but the bees never stopped attacking him. We later heard that he died upon being hospitalised in Zimbabwe.

Several mysterious events are happening here daily. Most of them occur as punishment to those who try to trivialise the comrades who are buried here,” said Augusto.
In support of the accounts by the two groundsmen on the mysteries at the shrine was a local villager, Mrs Luwiza Alberto who also spoke highly of President Mugabe and Zanu PF.

Mrs Alberto said Zimbabweans should regularly visit Chimoio as a gesture of continually thanking the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives.

Addressing the youths just before departure, SHYET Chairman Cde Tapiwa Masenda said the group’s trip to Chimoio was meant to invoke in its members the true spirit of nationalism that is known to have existed in those who lie at Chimoio.

“As we are the vanguard of the nation, we must thus not be divorced from those who sacrificed their lives for the independence we enjoy today,” he said.

SHYET is a grouping that focuses on creating an enabling environment for Hurungwe youths failing to realise their potential and talent due to lack of funds or enough information.

As required by its constitution, SHYET membership is drawn from all the five constituencies in Hurungwe district, namely Hurungwe East, West, Central, North and Magunje.