THE CROCODILE COMMANDO GROUP AND THE CROCODILE GANG WERE DIFFERENT [BY STEVEN CHIDAWANYIKA –HISTORIAN]
There has been a lot of debate concerning the earliest groups of the Zimbabwe African National Union[ ZANU]fighters that were assembled to put in motion the new policy of ‘Direct Confrontation’ that it had expounded at its Gwelo Congress of 21-23 May 1964. These two groups, both existed in the early 60’s, but were in themselves different, to the extent that lack of factual research today amongst historical academics clamouring to publish the history of the Armed Struggle, have brought unnecessary confusion into an otherwise straight forward issue. The Crocodile Commando Group of six fighters killed the first white man, whilst the Crocodile Gang or Group were trained militarily and were deployed using that code name.
The genesis of the two groups, was a result of the coming into being of ZANU on 8 August 1963, after its leadership had broken away from The Zimbabwe African People’s Union[ ZAPU], for purely operational differences, rather than ideological. The reason why Ndabaningi Sithole, Leopold Takawira, Robert Mugabe, Hebert Chitepo, Enos Nkala, Michael Mawema, Washington Malianga, Morton Malianga and the others, to mention only but a few, had decided to break away from their former party ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo, was basically because they were saying that the nationalist politics that had prevailed from the mid 1940’s, was not bringing any meaningful progressive results to the black people’s cause at all.
It was therefore to advance a more radical approach of ‘Direct Confrontation’, towards the oppressive colonial regime, which at that time had fallen into the hands of the ruthless Ian Douglas Smith and his Rhodesian Front party, that the Zimbabwe African National Union[ ZANU] was formed, although at the displeasure of those that remained at ZAPU. It was at the legendary Gwelo Congress, that ZANU urged its members to take up whatever form of arms was at their disposal, be they axes, spears, bows and arrows, picks, shovels, knob carries and the like, to confront the scourge of colonialism to the very end, reciprocating violence with violence.
The Gwelo Congress, set 4 June 1964, as the date war was to officially start. To achieve that, the leadership commanded one of its most radical cadres, Enock Muteveri Sithole to ignite the war, together with five others. The group that was thus assembled was named the Crocodile Commando Group, which in itself had six fighters according to Enock Muteveri Sithole its commander and only surviving member. The six were Enock Muteveri Sithole, Victor Mlambo, James Dhlamini, Nesbert Makotsi, Duly Shadreck[one from China] and Furanai Masunda. According to Enock Muteveri Sithole, he was given the orders to get into action at the Dewure River brigde by Ndabaningi Sithole himself, who had pursued the bus in which Muteveri Sithole had boardered on his way to Fort Victoria [Masvingo], where he intended to go and meet with Leopold Takawira, the Party’s deputy president. Enock Muteveri Sithole was, then ordered to alight from the bus and the two then drove back together to Birchenough Bridge, where they met the other five.
After having been given instructions to start the war, they went to the Chipinge area, to consult spirit mediums there. They then went and killed Petrus Oberhelzer on 4 June 1964 using okapi knives, exactly twelve days after ZANU had declared its policy of ‘Direct Confrontation,’ at its Gwelo Congress of 21-23 May 1964 and that war was to start on that very day 04 June.
It was after the Gwelo Congress and the killing of Petrus Oberholzer, that leaders from both ZANU and ZAPU were rounded up and detained in a merciless dragnet by the colonial regime. According to Enock Muteveri Sithole himself , those that were arrested in the mop-up operations soon after Petrus Oberholzer, the very first white man to be killed heralding the very beginning of the war, were Arnold Mabvira Sawana Mutendadzamera, Mughido, Chatema, Barwai Gwitira, Mutezo, William Ndangana [who owned a shop at Nyanyadzi], Kombo, Kaiboni and others. But all these had not taken part in the killing of Petrus Oberholzer, at the Skyline in Melssetta [Chimanimani], but were well known to be staunch ZANU party activists within the area.
The Crocodile Gang or group, on the other hand, was the name given to the group of close to seventy  Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army [ZANLA] fighters who had been trained in Ghana’s Obenamasi and Half Asini camps, China, Egypt, Algeria, Tanzania, and one or two other countries. Unlike that Crocodile Commando Group of six, the Crocodile Gang, were the very first military trained ZANU cadres. The Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army [ZANLA] and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army [ZIPRA], the military wings of ZANU and ZAPU respectively, were created after their nationalist leadership had been arrested in 1964.
Of course, the first training bases had been organised by Morton Malianga under the National Democratic Party [NDP] around 1960 in and the fighters that were sent to Algeria and the Soviet Union for the first training and courses, including Peter Chamoko, Happy George Mariri, David Mupongo, David Sikhwa, Mark Nziramasanga, Charles Chikerema and Christopher Mutizwa.
When the NDP was banned on 09 December 1961 and ZAPU was then formed, it sent people like Alfred Mutasa, Denis Mapani, Njodzi Machirori and Matthew Malowa to Egypt in 1961 for military training. The group’s journey to Egypt was facilitated by Andrew Mutemba of Zambia’s UNIP party and they arrived in Egypt in February 1962. Alfred Mutasa, who was to become the first ZANLA Commander, after having crossed the floor from ZAPU when ZANU was formed on 08 August 1964, and the only one of that group who remained in Egypt to complete his Officer Cadet military course, says that, before their group went to Egypt the first group that had been trained in Egypt under the National Democratic Party [NDP], were Mariwa Boniface Gumbo, Washington and Morton Malianga, and six others.
In 1962, another group of ZAPU cadres which was at Iringa in Tanzania, waiting to go Egypt for military training which included cadres like Emmerson Mnangagwa, Thomas Ziki, Edson Shiriburu,Lawrence Svoswe and Jameson Mudavanhu amongst others, crossed the political floor from ZAPU to ZANU after its formation, and were sent to China for military training at the end of 1963, before being deployed to fight at the front after completing their training in 1965. When the split in ZAPU happened, those like Alfred Mutasa who were in Egypt, also crossed the floor and joined ZANU.
But ,who constituted the Crocodile Gang or Group, and why did they assume the name that had been used by another earlier group and which was nearly identical to its predecessor the Crocodile Commando Group?It is important to note that most of the members of this group, that had been trained at Ghana’s Obenamasi and Half Asini Camps and ,included Shadreck Chipanga[its Commander], John Mukwasha[Deputy Commander ],Joseph Joel Khumalo Muzhamba, Watson Chihota, Charles Chahwanda, Wisdom Chinanga, Cephas Masakadza, Linos Mukaro, Shame Zvikaramba, Stephen Musungwa Zvinavashe, Kenneth Chisango, Langton Kufa Banda, Emmanuel Masango, Reuben Chikwanha, Shadreck Rambanepasi, Andrew Muchenje, Gilbert Majiri, Xavious Virukayi, Clarkson Mutemwa, Hassan Chen Chimutengwende , Sydney Mutungwazi, Bernard Mandizera, Amon Chadoka, Aaron Chadoka, Christopher Sakala, Garikai Mandizha, Mwaraza, Titus Chakavanda, William Ndangana, Master Tresha, Simon Benhe[the traitor], Emmanuel Chokani, Robson Masunda, Felix Santana Rice Mupunga, Chigwadakavi, Bernard Mutumwa and one or two others. It said that it was Percy Ntini and Felix Rice Santana, who had recruited most of these early fighters despite the fact that Santana went to Ghana amongst these trainees.
Why then was this earliest group of fighters named the Crocodile Gang or Group, like the 04 June 1964 commando group? It was probably to have continuity, as the Skyline incident of the killing of Petrus Oberholzer, had proved to be a land mark for the impending black races struggle, against colonial bondage. The successful challenging of white hegemony and supremacy through the brave deed of the Crocodile Commando Group, needed to be emulated by the incoming groups of fighters, so that their bravery act could inspire their colleagues to succeed as well.
Yes, according to Enock Muteveri Sithole, William Ndangana could have led future Crocodile Groups acts, but was not one of the six commandos of 04 June 1964.It is also important to note that here that cadres like Matthew Malowa, who had been trained in Egypt from 1962 to 1963 also entered the country to fight under the auspices of the Crocodile Gang proving the fact that there were cadres trained in a number of countries within that group. Matthew Malowa s deployed to the war front with Emmerson Mnangagwa who had adopted the name’Trabablas Dzokerai Mabhunu’ as his pseudo name. The two successfully blew up a locomotive in Fort Victoria [Masvingo], which led to their arrest.