By Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa
Major General (Retired) Paradzai “Tonderai Nyika” Zimondi was the pinnacle of ZANLA’s military prowess. He commanded the ZANLA positional guerrilla forces during the battle of Mavonde, a.k.a Monte Casino. It was fought from September 26 to October 6, 1979.
The Rhodesian Army fell back in its “Operation Miracle”, a combined air and ground assault launched to scupper the (Lancaster) talks. This was in the wake of a heavy and demoralising mauling by a well-dug-in and armed-to-the-teeth ZANLA.
The invading force had to abandon equipment in hurried and disorderly retreat.
Rhodesian Army General Peter Walls was thereafter summoned by the British government. Humbled, he was forced to take part in the Lancaster House Conference Peace Armistice.
Hitherto, he had been disdainful and scornful of those talks under the illusion of military invincibility.
Walls was wallowing in the memories of the abortive 1976 Geneva Peace Talks Conference.
That time, his troops had inflicted painful guerrilla losses. I was one such victim of a nasty battle by the Nyagadzi River in Chief Tanda’s area.
This time around, the Mavonde Battle went on to set the successful tone of the Lancaster House Conference. By the same token, the Battle of Mavonde decided the military precedence during the Lancaster talks.
General Magama Tongogara was duly accorded military command over Peter Walls.
In short, Walls was ordered to salute ‘General Tongo’, the victorious modern African warrior.
On a personal note, I moved into Linquenda House, Salisbury (now Harare), the headquarters of the Rhodesia Ministry of Information soon after the crushing electoral victory of 1980. I was a member of the Voice of Zimbabwe Propaganda Unit of ZANU from Radio Mozambique, Maputo.
We were taking over power.
In my new office, I found strewn sheets of an unissued “war communique” about the Battle of Mavonde.
The Rhodesian propaganda honchos had written a fictional account of “glowing military success” as of their habit of disinformation.
Just that this time and turn, the magnitude of the Rhodesian military reversal was too stark to hide.
The Battle of Mavonde entered into history without ever a communiqué by the defunct Rhodesia Army Combined Military Operations-COMOPS Headquarters.
Farewell Comrade Paradzai “Tonderai Nyika” Zimondi.
I remember you well from The Farm Base west of Chimoio. You were in charge of 400 freshly trained units from Tanzania.
Chimoio — ZANLA headquarters — was attacked because Rhodesian intelligence mistakenly thought they were being deployed from there.
You were commanding together with Comrade Sobusa Gula Ndebele of ZANLA General Staff and the late Tinzwei Goronga of ZANLA High Command.
Commander Tinzwei Goronga later died together with Comrade Jani Musungwa, General Staff; both of them in a Rhodesian Army’s road ambush in Mozambique.
At the Chimoio Farm Base, I had recovered from war wounds in Tete Province.
I wanted to go back to the battlefront through Manica Province.
Cde Zimondi, you made me run to prove my fitness. You went on to block me with a firm but compassionate stricture: “Comrade Che (Guevara Muchazvirega), wait for another turn at the battlefront. But only after I have run out of fully fit soldiers.”
I have yet to come across such bravery, empathy, coolness and sagacity enveloped in the most unassuming of humility.
Major General (Rtd) Paradzai “Tonderai Nyika” Zimondi moved mountains while retaining the utmost of ice-cool composure. My commander, lifelong comrade and friend, go well.
Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa is the chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWA).