"I'm young. There's lots more fighting I can still do if necessary," said the guerrilla leader who claims he has been fighting in the Rhodesian bush for half of his 24 years.
That softly spoken but chilling appraisal of what would happen if the Patriotic Front fails to gain power in the Rhodesian elections scheduled for February was repeated in varying words but identical sentiments by most of the dozen guerrillas who have reported to this cease-fire rendezvous point.
So far, the few guerrillas who have turned up at this abandoned mission school 70 miles northeast of Salisbury in compliance with the three-day-old cease-fire are an unusual combination.
From their wildly varying dress they appear to be a motley crew, but even a few minutes of conversation reveals that they all have a core of hard-line discipline.
Eight guerrillas who said they were leaders of 100 or more men showed up this morning to test the waters of the ceasefire in what is becoming a familiar pattern: With arms weapons always at the ready, they drifted in and out of the camp all day.
A couple were in fatigue uniforms but most presented a wide variety of colors and styles. Chiroro Makumbe, 28, the only guerrilla who gave his real name, said, "We get our clothes givn to us by the masses." If so, the sartorial tastes of the Zimbabwean masses run the gamut.
A guerrilla, who said he was known as Aircraft Drooper because of his facility for "firing any type of missile," was wearing what might be called modified tight fatigues with yellow piping on the pockets, sleeves and pants. His outfit was topped by a bright green beret.
Asked about his prowess with missiles, he said he had shot down "at least, approximately, just around . . . many helicopters." He said he was trained in the Soviet Union, China, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
His mate, Guntrigger, wore a big game hat with artificial leopardskin band, short-sleeved blue shirt and khaki pants, along with a copper bracelet (for good luck) from his aunt and a Mozambican medal on a chain around his neck.
Reading from a copy of Lenin's "On Workers' Control and the Nationalization of Industry," he also enunciated one of the hardest political lines.
He could not conceive any way the Patriotic Front could lose the election, but when pressed he said if Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who enjoys white support, won, there was no doubt the war would continue.
The favorite of the reporters here today was Automatic, so called because of his alleged ability with the AK47 and Kalashnikov rifles that are standard equipment for the guerrillas.
He claimed to be 20 and to have had four years of service in the bush, but he looked like he could have tried out for a Little League team. His experiences, however, differ from your rtun-of-the-mill American youth.
He was trained in Ethiopia, he said. "I'm cruel," he added. "I've killed thousands" with accurate fire. He said he saw blood whenever he looked through his rifle sights.
All this came from a guerrilla only slightly taller than his riffle who sported a baseball-type cap with a pink pussycat near the bill.
The British cease-fire monitoring force, led by Lt. David Hill, welcomed the guerrillas today.
Hill asked if they were happy they had come in. Makumbe, who said he had worked six years for the Salisbury Bus Company, responded, "If you have come to help, you are our friend. If not, you are our enemy." He added, "We want to be free. If we are not yet free we want to fight."
Guntrigger, however, softened, shook hands and said, "You are our friend."
Hill asked them for their names, but not ranks, saying "I don't want to push them that far."
He gingerly broke new ground today, allowing two guerrillas to go into the nearby town of Mwera where the Rhodesian police, who have been fighting the Patriotic Front, are responsible for law and order. The guerrillas were armed and accompanied two British soliders, also bearing arms. g
British Sgt. Maj. Phil Hall, who led the expedition, said they needed to get toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap and beer for New Year's Eve.
A crowd of about 150 to 200 gathered around the guerrillas cheering them and shaking hands. The only tense moment, Hall said, came when the police pulled up behind the crowd. But the sergeant told them to leave matters to him and there were no incidents.
If the two opposing sides had encountered each other on the street as recently as last week, at least some would not have escaped alive.
The penchant of the guerrillas to come and go as they size up the situation can be a bit disquieting to the British, who are hoping they stay.
This morning a guerrilla, whose fatigue jacket was resplendent with red hearts, got up to leave. Lt. Hill, who then only had five guerrillas in the camp, groaned to himself: "Oh god, he's not off again is he?"
"Where are you going this time?" he asked.
"To the toilet," was the reply.
Hill, a graduate of Britain's prestigious Sandhurst military academy, grinned and shook with laughter.
The rules for the Rhodesian ceasefire aren't in the Sandhurst texts.