ZIMBABWE – Despite embarrassing her by saying the war legend claiming she singlehandedly downed an enemy chopper was a propaganda fib, war veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa has insisted he will always salute former vice president Joice Mujuru.
Those who claim to have downed a helicopter when they did not will be unmasked and told openly that they are lying, Mutsvangwa told a public meeting in the capital this week.
Mujuru, who joined the liberation struggle as a teenager after completing just two years of secondary school, was said to have downed a Rhodesian helicopter with a machine gun on 17 February 1974 after refusing to flee.
With nom-de-guerre Teurai Ropa (Spill Blood) Mujuru rose to become the first woman commander of ZANLA forces and a celebrated heroine of the struggle after independence in 1980.
But Mutsvangwa exploded the helicopter heroics last year revealing that it was a fid put out by the ZANLA propaganda wing.
The revelation came a time Mujuru was under a vicious public attacks by President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, which culminated in the vice president’s ouster from the ruling party and government.
Mutsvangwa told Monday’s Samora Machel 2015 Memorial Lecture in Harare that Mujuru’s participation in the struggle was never questioned.
She (Mujuru) was there, I saw her, we were together and I respect her for that and she took part, handina kumboramba (I never disputed that), he said doing a crisp salute as he spoke.
She was my commander and she was the first woman I saw who had been trained; I wasn’t. I was coming from University.
I have so much respect for her and I will never stop respecting her from that aspect.
What was unacceptable, the minister explained, was the appropriation of Rambo-like heroics during the struggle.
This was not a war about individual heroics, he said.
I did not survive because I was very smart at the battle field. No; I survived because the other guy shot the other enemy who wanted to shoot me.
And then he/she got shot later because he or she had exposed themselves to the enemy. There were no Rambos in that war, women or otherwise.
Again referring to the alleged helicopter incident, Mutsvangwa said: And you know, incidentally, when a helicopter is going round you get scared because you only have a gun and they have a cannon.
And makawanda ndege yobva yadonha wotanga kuti ndini ndakaidonhedza wazviziva sei? (You are among a group of fighters, so how do you know it was you who shot the helicopter?)
You are scared. This is a battled field. Is the bullet written Mutsvangwa’s name?