Grace Ethel Noko
Grace Ethel Noko.jpeg
BornGrace Ethel Noko
(1959-07-22)July 22, 1959
Gwanda District
ResidenceZimbabwe
NationalityZimbabwean
CitizenshipZimbabwean
Known forUnsung top female war veteran
Home townGwanda

Grace Ethel Noko is a veteran of Zimbabwe's war of independence and a Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) former instructor. Her nom de guirre was Grace Muchichi.

Background

Noko was born on 22 July 1959 in the Halisupi area in Gwanda District, about 12km from the border with Botswana.[1]

Education

Noko did her primary education at Halisupi Primary School and completed her Grade 7 in 1973. [2]

Career

Noko left the country to join the armed struggle with three other locals on 15 July 1975 when she was a week short of her 16th birthday.

She said it was easier to cross into Botswana because her mother’s sister was married just across the border and from time to time she used to visit her.

The group crossed the Shashe River, then later slipped out and went to Bobonong and then to Selibe-Phikwe.

Noko and her colleagues spent some time at Selibe-Phikwe Prison, but not as prisoners. They were later moved to Francistown where they spent two months at a ZAPU house in Blue Town.

In December 1975, Noko and her team were flown to Zambia and taken to Nampundwe Transit Camp.

The group spent three months at Nampundwe before being moved to Mwembeshi for real military training and were part of the group of 800 to open that camp.

Out of the 800, there were nine women. The nine were Noko, Chiratidzo, Audrey, Tebogo, Thoriso, Alice, Dorothy and Gladys.

Before they could finish training, they were moved to Mgagao in Tanzania and later to Morogoro where they resumed training because of the conflict that erupted [at Mgagao] between ZANLA and ZANLA.

After training at Morogoro, Noko and Thoriso were recommended to be instructors. They then returned to Mwembeshi to start their tasks.

At Mwembeshi they trained 300 recruits and among those were 52 women.

After the group of 300 had finished training (1977), Noko and Thoriso were taken to Victory Camp (VC), which was a facility that had been opened for women.

At VC, Noko trained the likes of Chiratidzo Mabuwa, who is the former Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce and Cecilia Bhebhe, a prominent Bulawayo businesswoman.

Noko and 13 other fighters were later on sent to Cuba for further training where she specialised in military intelligence.

They were in Havana for six months. The group returned to Zambia in September 1978 and they found Mkushi, a women's military camp bombed.

On her return to Zambia, Noko was deployed to the ZAPU headquarters, Zimbabwe House in Lusaka where she worked under the late Vice-President John Landa Nkomo.

She worked with Cecilia Bhebhe, Maggie Mhambi, the wife of the late ZANU PF National Chairman, Simon Khaya Moyo, Hazel, who was the officer-in-charge of Magwegwe Police Station (2014), the late Chenjerai Hunzvi and Obert Matshalaga, the former Deputy Minister of Home Affairs as well as Eunice Sandi Moyo, the former Provincial Affairs Minister for Bulawayo.

Noko worked at ZH until the attainment of the ceasefire.

Post-independence

Noko became a member of the special constabulary in the police force but later left to do a course in secretarial studies.

She later joined the ZEDCO group of colleges owned by Sikhanyiso Duke Ndlovu but has since retired from the college.

Noko said she is wallowing in poverty even though she sacrificed for the country's liberation. Some of her colleagues were rewarded with farms as well as top posts and higher ranks in the country’s security service sectors such as the police and the army.[3] She said:

Everyone is a hero. I cannot say we are enjoying it at the moment because the situation we are in now in the country is not what we fought for.

We could be better than this if we really meant to build real Zimbabwe for Africans, but at the moment even if we are being given a little as war veterans I cannot buy anything.

I think you can even see that my body does not reflect someone who is sitting pretty or who is really happy. We are suffering in our own Zimbabwe which we fought for.

Further Reading

  1. Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu Tales of a top female combatant, Published: 25 August 2021, Retrieved 08 August 2022
  2. Mkhululi Sibanda, Noko one of first Zipra women instructors, Published: 31 August 2014, Retrieved 08 August 2022
  3. Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu HEROES DAY SPECIAL: Unsung heroine Grace Ethel Noko says ‘real’ heroes struggling to survive, Published: 08 August 2022, Retrieved 08 August 2022