Former ZIPRA base Commander dies a forgotten man

By Thabiso Mdhluli

FARAI Lawrence Makwarimba who was commonly known by his pseudo name “Cde Moses Phinda” and who was a commander of the ZIPRA base Mkushi in Zambia, collapsed and died and was buried last week.

Makwarimba (65) collapsed and died in Harare on 11 October and was buried on Wednesday last week (14 October). 

Retired Brigadier-General Abel Mazinyane who fought with Cde Makwarimba penned an obituary on his fallen comrade Makwarimba.

Below is Rtd Brig-Gen Mazinyane’s piece which we reproduce in full: 

For his schooling Cde Farai Makwarimba attended Matsine Primary, Waddilove and Kwenda Missions. He did his secondary education at Mpopoma High where in 1973 he left for the war front via Botswana.

Then after the war he worked in Harare for Glens Removals and Stuttarfords Removals until 1998. Married to Evelyn Makwarimba they were blessed with four children.

At the time of his death he is survived by wife Evelyn, four children and five grandchildren.

I met Cde Moses Phinda in 1973 at Chakwenga ZPRA Transit Camp. I had just returned from the Soviet Union where I had been sent for specialist training. Myself, Richard Dube or Gedi, Matswaha Mbuzana, Ndlovu, Farou Madiro, Ngwenya/Tangwena, John Nkomazana/Bonanza we had just established a base along Chakwenga River, east of the transit camp.

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Cde Farai Lawrence Makwarimba

However, for logistical reasons we were relocated to the transit camp where Phinda was with other recruits. Their camp was commanded by Cde Solomon Ndlovu (Busobenyoka).

Other recruits there included comrades like now our State Vice-President, Cde Kembo Mohadi, Gadaffi Kerius Msimanga, Rodwell Nyika (Retired Brigadier-General Collin Moyo), Twoboy, Patrick Mhandu, Retired Colonel Marshal Mpofu, Nicholas Nkomo (Gilbert Khumalo), Toddy Mpisi, Kenneth Chitambo and many others.

Cde Phinda was one of those recruits who had come from then Salisbury City now Harare. They easily adapted and were curious and mischievous…

Phinda, Tizie, Kenneth Chitambo (Khwela), Mtsuku, Pasco, Khanda were boys who were bilingual as they could speak both ChiShona and SiNdebele well. These young boys were always arguing about a lot of issues especially politics and soccer.

Phinda proceeded to Morogoro in Tanzania for military in 1973. Their group had 48 comrades. On completing training at Morogoro, Phinda was sent to Zambia for deployment into operations inside then Rhodesia.

In 1974 he was withdrawn from the front and sent to the Soviet Union to train as a regional commander. The group was led by the now late Major-General Jevan Maseko (Enoch Tshangane). Cde Phinda despite being the youngest in that group was appointed Maseko’s deputy.

Other members of the group were Cdes Chitambo, Gadaffi (Kerius Msimanga), Makepesi Tshuma, Feso Davies Dube (Nzula) among others.

While in the Soviet Union on a tour of Moscow, Phinda is said to have been kissed by a beautiful blonde Russian girl on the street. His colleagues also died with envy while Pinda was almost paralysed. The Russian girl confessed that Phinda was very handsome. Was Phinda lucky or what?

After training and departure from Moscow back to Zambia, it is said one of the Russian instructors called Phinda aside at the airport and asked him to send him Madumbe (fruit) when he goes to Zimbabwe after Independence. The Russian military man made his request in pure ChiManyika. Phinda is said to have divulged this when they reached Dar es-Salaam in Tanzania.

While in the Soviet Union, the group was based most of the time in Moscow City from where they would travel out for field work. On its return to Zambia in 1975, Cde Phinda was immediately deployed to the front again.

As a result of his military astuteness, Cde Phinda was appointed commander of Mkushi Girls Training Camp. Mkushi was a ZPRA military facility for women and was situated on the east of Kabwe Town of Zambia.

The camp was training 2 000 girls beginning in 1977. Phinda took over from Toddy Nkomo (Billy Mzamo). The command element below Phinda at Mkushi included KK, Tilus Magadi, Ntatshana, Ishmael Makanyanga, Jane Ndlovu, Elizabeth Malaba and Audrey.

This is the command of Mkushi that was there when the camp was bombed by the Rhodesian forces on 19 October 1978.

Phinda survived the bombing together with some members of the command element. Those who died there included Hobane Sheilla, Dorcas Dube, Difference, Etinah Dube, Mantu Dube, Sikhangele Maphosa, Rebecca Makhalima, Sithabisiwe Matshayisa, Lethani Mohadi (elder brother to VP Mohadi), Leon Dzuke, Egen Mareta and many others.

From the time he joined the armed struggle, Cde Phinda took everything in his stride. He was ready to take any mission.

  • Retired Brigadier-General Abel Mazinyane

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