How ED helped ANC comrades during Apartheid

Isdore Guvamombe
Less than a month into Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, then African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo met with then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe over how the new nation would help the liberation movement execute its war against Apartheid.

The two leaders then set up a committee co-led by Emmerson Mnangagwa, then Minister of State Security and Thabo Mbeki, that time a high ranking ANC cadre to come up with a deal and operationalise it.

This new interesting detail is according to former President of South Africa and ANC struggle veteran Thabo Mbeki who recently gave a eulogy during a recent commemoration event held in honour of the life of Zimbabwe’s ex-President, Cde Robert Mugabe, who died a fortnight ago.

Cde Mbeki said the committee then came up with a cocktail of interventions that oiled the ANC’s struggle for independence, including movement of weapons from Zambia and cadres, using Zimbabwean identity cards.

“Emmerson Mnangagwa, was Minister of State Security that time and I worked with him. He is now President of Zimbabwe. Under the deal we crafted, Zimbabwe moved a whole battalion to the Limpopo river at the border with South Africa.

“That means the Zimbabwean soldiers would cross our weapons from Zambia to the Limpopo. Our people would then cross from South Africa, without weapons and get them in Zimbabwe. There were a lot of roadblocks then,’’ said Mbeki.

Mbeki said, many ANC cadres travelled to sensitive meetings internationally using fake Zimbabwean documents.

“For instance, if I wanted to travel to some sensitive meeting abroad, I would go as Patrick Zhuwao,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd that included former Zimbabwean a minister Patrick Zhuwao.

The security situation then was very fragile and dangerous. It was a transitional period and Ian Smith’s spies were still in Government.

“Imagine it was just within a month of Zimbabwe’s independence and the security situation was still delicate. There we were, requesting Zimbabwe to host our freedom fighters. Mugabe then said let us come up with a team from both sides to operationalise the process.

“We needed to cross our weapons from Zambia through Zimbabwe to our border, then into South Africa. Mnangagwa helped our cadres get Zimbabwean identity cards and our people carrying weapons passed every roadblock without problem. Each time they produced Zimbabweans IDs they passed through each road block without problems.

“This is a secret am letting out for the first time. That is how Mugabe and Mnangagwa stood by us. I could say more. But Zimbabwe played a very important role until we got our independence in 1994,’’ said Mbeki much to applause.

“The liberation struggle in South Africa had reached fever pitch, inspired by the new State of Zimbabwe, and needing to up the guerrilla movement against black discrimination. For some of us in the ANC, Zimbabwe is a very special country.”

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