more Quotes
Connect with us

About Us

Book Review-The Day Salisbury Fuel Tanks were set ablaze, December 11, 1978

A good manuscript for adoption into a movie

By Tapfuma Machakaire

Ongoing through the first three chapters of the 119-page book; THE DAY SALISBURY FUEL TANKS WERE SET ABLAZE, DECEMBER 11, 1978, a reader can easily be confused by the maze of information that seems to excessively dwell on the oppressive nature of the white minority regime in Rhodesia under Ian Douglas Smith, then Prime Minister.

The reader is also taken through snippets of the history of the second Chimurenga which gives an insight into what has been termed “liberation politics.” The sequence however appears to pick up shape when the story progresses to “Rhodesia’s Fireforce Strategy” described by the authors as “a vertical envelopment technique involving light infantry, helicopters and paratroopers in a rapidly deployable posture.”

The Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (ZANLA) responded with a counter strategy which culminated in the idea of a major attack in the capital Salisbury, which led to the selection of the lean “tactful” strike force for deployment on the historic mission.

Ordinarily, from the onset, a reader would have expected a catchy teaser on the daring attack, but the authors Kenneth Gwena and Joel Masuka were of a different view. The writer’s preferred to play the card of creating  anxiety as they prepared to plunge the reader in the breath-taking Hollywood movie style operation by the “A Team”, which sneaked into the capital to launch an attack that was to mark a turning point in the history of Rhodesia. 

From the background provided in the opening chapters, a reader gets to appreciate that the attack was not an impromptu incident where some guerillas strayed into Salisbury and opened fire at the strategic installations. Instead, we learn that it was a well-planned activity by the top echelons of the liberation movement, calculated to unleash a heavy blow that would have serious economic implications on the regime as well as sending a strong signal that the war had escalated to another level.   

On careful perusal, I get the understanding that the book is being penned by two people who were both badly affected by their bitter experiences as black lads growing up in Rhodesia. I guess I might not be totally off the mark by assuming that the two also played an active role in the second Chimurenga.

No wonder the style and language which exudes simplicity, creativity with frequent intonation that pours out emotion which is clearly discernible as reflections of a grim recollection from the past.

In undertaking the difficult task of coming up with a manuscript that captures an important chapter in the history of their country, a challenge many Africans have dared not attempt, the two authors executed the assignment in an approach divorced from that of foreign “academic” historians, renowned for their “appetite” and “passion” to record African history on behalf of the people of the “dark” continent. 

The story of the hit on the Salisbury fuel tanks is narrated with poetic license from the two men who remind their readers that “the book was written and published for the public, and at the request of the surviving members of the revolutionary unit that attacked the Salisbury fuel tanks in 1978.” Whereas the book might not have been meant for a certain class of readers, it certainly answers the many questions that Zimbabweans and historians had on the bombing of the Salisbury fuel tanks.

It must have been painstaking for the two to ponder over an appropriate  approach that they felt would put the readers in a position to visualize the environment and events leading to the meticulous planning of such a “suicidal” attack that would arm-twist the enemy to agree to come to the table.  

The rigorous planning that went into the project could possibly explain the use of an unfamiliar creative style of side notes, and anecdotes that clarify scenarios that may not necessarily be part of the main plot of the story.

In some instances side notes in between chapters of the book will include lyrics of motivational liberation songs and the writers have made it a point to constantly remind the readers of the important role played by musicians in motivating the fighters and the public during the struggle.

The twelve chapters from Strike Force Selection to the Last Days On The Run are  packaged in a spell binding style  which keeps the reader engrossed in visual-like episodes as if they are watching a fiction movie based on a true story where anxiety makes it difficult to entertain the temptation of putting down the book before one gets the full story.

The appetite for the action is heightened by description of the strike force team and their qualifications for the task.  Simpson Mukuru Manjonjori aka Comrade Member Kuvhiringidza, a former bus driver in Salisbury had displayed his adventurous acumen when he drove a bus across the border to join the liberation struggle. Any reader would be keen to know how the man performed during the operation. He did not disappoint. And was the 17-year old Dominic Kapfunde aka Comrade No-Rest Muhondo the M90 specialist mature enough to remain composed and undertake the highly risky assignment?

The book gives a blow-by-blow account of how the team evaded the Rhodesian security forces until the day they opened fire and began their daring escape from the capital, this as narrated by the surviving members of the “A-Team”

While I regularly interacted with States Masunda and Nhamho Mukumbudzi at the time the two worked in Gweru in the late 1980’s, I might have heard murmurings about their involvement in the operation, but I never imagined they could have been part of such a dangerous operation. The two remained simple and humble and never boasted about the sacrifice they made for the country in that undertaking.  

It is my humble submission after going through the book that more voices could have been included among them surviving members of the team that attended the high stakes meeting at Uriri Base in Tete, Mozambique, notably General Josiah Magama Tongogar’s secretary Oppah Muchinguri who took down the notes and an observer Terurai Ropa Nhonga who came up with the brilliant idea for the target. More photographs could also have been captured from scenes particularly in Domboshava and in Harare.

A good manuscript for adoption into a movie-but does our nation have the capacity. My heart bleeds.

The Book is available from the following:

Book Bazaar at Sam Levy Village
Auntie Jersey 0778295576

Bells Florist is at 55Baker Avenue Harare
Aaron Kondo 263 718727581/263 773542332

Terence Kennedy
+263 772422582 /+263 242663779 Harare

+263 242663779 – Bulawayo

Continue Reading

About Us


Continue Reading


Copyright © 2021 ZimFocus.

One Zimbabwe Classifieds | ZimMarket

Zimbabwe Market Classifieds | ZimMarket

1 Zimbabwe Market Classifieds | ZimMarket

Linking Buyers To Sellers Is Our Business Tradition