Real war veteran fights for peace

ZPRA Veterans Trust chairperson, Retired Lt Col Baster Willie Magwizi,is determined to spend the rest of his life fighting for peace, unity and reconciliation.

Retired Lt Col Baster WilleMagwizi “People deserve peace.”
Retired Lt Col Baster WilleMagwizi “People deserve peace.”

While some former fighters under the umbrella of the Zimbabwe War Veterans Liberation Association, led by Jabulani Sibanda, have chosen to be an appendage of Zanu (PF) and mete out violence against the people they claim to have fought for, Magwiziand the ZIPRA Veterans Trust preaches nothing but peace.

Born 1957 in the Chenjiri area in Kadoma, Magwizi joined the struggle in 1976 after spending six months in the notorious Chikurubi maximum prison for inciting political violence.

“Some of my colleagues were hanged, but I was lucky because a Zapu lawyer, Advocate Katsvere successfully represented me and I was acquitted,” said Magwizi in an interview with The Zimbabwean.

“My arrest gave me the strength and determination to leave the country and fight for the removal of the colonial establishment. While we were on our way with other 13 youths to a ZIPRA training base, we were attacked by Rhodesian forces in the Rutenga area of Mwenezi. All five girls in our group died on the spot and some of the youths I never saw again,” recalled Magwizi.

He did his first Military training in Zambia under the command of the late nationalist Nikita Mangena.

“My group fought the Rhodesian garrison in Kavila forests along the Zambezi river. It was a serious battle. After the battle our group split into two. Some went and attacked St Luke’s hospital in Lupane while some went to Mberengwa,” he said.

Magwizi sustained a knee injury and was taken back to Zambia. In 1978 he was sent to Russia where he trained in heavy artillery. He was then redeployed inside the country and took part in many battles in Mwenezi and the Zambezi valley.

Soon after independence Magwizi joined the Zimbabwe National Army and was posted to the Military Academy in Gweru with the rank of a major. In 1982 he assumed the role of 4-2 infantry battalion acting commander in Masvingo following the transfer of the commander, Col Reuben Moyo.

“Because of my ZIPRA background it was very hard for me to be promoted as the substantive commander, despite my qualifications. During that time most former ZIPRA cadres were ill-treated in the army,” he said. In 1983 he was deployed to army HQ and did a company commander course at Inkomo Barracks. Most of his colleagues from ZANLA, some of whom failed the course, were promoted – but he was not.

He later went to Mozambique to trainFrelimo during the time of Renamo. In 1991 Magwizi was sent to Italy for a course in International Humanitarian Law on armed conflict.

He finally quit the army in 1999 after numerous battles with Major General Douglas Nyikayaramba.

“Nyikayaramba was one of the worst commanders whom I worked with. He introduced his Vapositori church in the camp and wanted every officer to attend his church. He saw me as a threat to his post because I had better qualifications than him. Because we were always at loggerheads, I decided to quit,” he said. He started a private safari business before forming the ZPRA Veterans Trust.

The trust has conducted a series of national healing meetings in Matabeleland, Mashonaland and the Midlands. Magwizi‘s goal is to unite all military veterans in the country. “Most of us are now old and need to improve the general livelihood of ourselves and our dependents. We should never allow ourselves to be used by politicians,” he said.

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