TRANSPORT minister Obert Mpofu recently brandished his liberation war credentials saying he was the best commando, but his former colleagues in Zipra say he may have embellished a little and overstated his role.
Officials from Zipra Trust revealed that while Mpofu trained as a fighter, he immediately went to India to further his education and may not have been deployed at the war front as he claimed.
Mpofu reportedly told a gathering in Victoria Falls on Monday that he was the best trained guerrilla in the country, but the Zipra Trust officials said he only received normal training like anyone else.
According to the former guerrillas, when Zipra was working on plans to attack Wankie (now Hwange), Mpofu’s brother — a staunch Zapu supporter — suggested that they use his sibling as a courier to his father in Jambezi.
They said a combined force made up of Umkhonto Wesizwe, the armed military wing of South Africa’s ANC and Zipra — known as the Luthuli Detachment — crossed through Jambezi into the Wankie National Park and Mpofu’s father, together with a Sibanda, drove goats to cover the detachment’s trail by wiping the fighters’ spoors.
However, Mpofu’s father and Sibanda were later arrested after some villagers reported them to the Rhodesian security forces.
The family then decided to send the younger Obert to Livingstone to live with his brother fearing that he would also be arrested.
“Mpofu later joined the struggle and received military training in Morogoro, Tanzania, between 1967 and 1968,” the Zipra Trust officials said in a statement.
“In 1970 and 1971, operations were suspended as Zapu was experiencing a crisis which led to the formation of the Front for the Liberation of Zimbabwe (Frolizi) under James Chikerema.
“Mpofu and other cadrés were moved to a holding camp around Mwembeshi in Zambia.”
Mpofu reportedly then tried to stage a mutiny and a report was made to the commander, Nikita Mangena, who ordered that he be withdrawn from the camp, the Zipra Trust statement said.
“He was then brought to the publicity section under George Silundika and sponsored to study at Evelyn Home College in Lusaka and later in India,” the statement, which is said to be drawn from Zipra archives, says.
“In India he furthered his education until independence.”
But Mpofu insists that if the officials from Zipra Trust were authentic, they would not issue a collective statement, but identify themselves.
“These are the people who worked with (the late Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian) Smith,” he said.
“You must ask people like (Zapu leader Dumiso) Dabengwa about my role. I was trained in Morogoro and deployed in various parts of the country that include Binga, Deka, Mlibizi and Sipolilo (present-day Guruve).”
Mpofu said his commander at Deka was the late national hero Cephas Cele.
“I am more senior than all those people you interviewed,” he shot back.
“People take bar talk seriously.
“You must interview people like (Phelekezela) Mphoko and (Ambrose) Mutinhiri.
“You must not talk to people who are ignorant of our liberation struggle as I worked with the likes of Rex Nhongo (the late General Solomon Mujuru). Nikita liked me very much.”
Mpofu said he received military training for nine months at Morogoro in 1968 and he was deployed in the western front the following year.
From 1970 to 1971, he was in the reconnaissance mission under Killian Dube and a Butshe.
Mpofu said he was responsible for identifying safe routes for guerrillas to use.
He added that he was recalled by Silundika in 1973 to enrol for an international university exchange fund run by former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s wife, Zanele.
This was when he studied towards a B.Com degree and a diploma in journalism.
“If all those people saying I was never deployed are genuine guerrillas, they came when I was already furthering my education in India, they don’t know me.”
But a Zipra Trust official, Jack Mpofu, who said he was one of the commanders and used the pseudonym Daki, insists Mpofu was never deployed.
“Unless he was deployed by helicopter, he never crossed the Zambezi to the war front,” he said.
“But Zipra had no helicopters.”