Matthias Mainza Chona and Reuben Chitandika Kamanga were joint Chairmen of the Chitepo Commission looking into the death of Herbert Chitepo a Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe) Freedom Fighter. Below is an article from the Standard newspaper on the report of the commission.
CHITEPO ASSASSINATION—Chitepo first black barrister in southern Africa —BIOGRAPHY OF HERBERT WILTSHIRE CHITEPO
3. Herbert Witshire Chitepo was born on the 15th June, 1923, in a village in Inyanga District of Southern Rhodesia. He was educated at St David’s Mission School, Bonda, St Augustine’s School, Penhalonga and then at Adam’s College, Natal, Southern Africa, where he qualified as a teacher in 1945.
4. After teaching for a year, he resumed his studies to graduate with a BA degree from Fort Hare University College in 1949. He qualified as a Barrister-at-Law while in London as a research assistant at the School of Oriental and African Studies. He was the first African in Southern Rhodesia to qualify as a Barrister. On returning to Rhodesia in 1954, he practised as a Lawyer and defended many African nationalists in court. In 1961, he served as legal adviser to Joshua Nkomo at the Southern Rhodesia Constitutional Conference in London. The settler regime did not detain him as he did not come out in the open as an official of the nationalist movement and the regime also feared that being the first lawyer, Chitepo was too internationally well-known to be locked up. However, this could not be ruled out.
5. In May, 1962, he was persuaded by ZAPU to go into voluntary exile to escape possible detention. He became Tanganyika’s first African Director of Public Prosecutions and performed his functions exceedingly well. When the Sithole/Nkomo split occurred in July, 1963, he sided with Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and became Chairman of ZANU from its foundation. He held this post until the 7th December, 1974, when the Lusaka Accord was signed.
6. In January, 1966, Chitepo resigned as Director of Public Prosecutions and moved to Zambia in order to concentrate on the armed struggle. He toured world capitals canvassing support for ZANU and for the enforcement of total economic sanctions against Rhodesia. With his friendly disposition, he was very effective and earned for ZANU international recognition and respect.
7. Rev. Sithole and others who were in detention within him prepared a comprehensive document giving powers to Chitepo to lead ZANU while Rev. Sithole was in detention and specifically authorising him to carry out the armed struggle. Accordingly, Chitepo organised and planned guerilla attacks and underground activities in Rhodesia from 1966 onwards. In 1972, he co- ordinated war operations with FRELIMO and opened up the North Eastern region of Zimbabwe as a new and more effective war front.
8. Chitepo is survived by his wife, Mrs Victoria Chitepo and six children—four daughters and two sons.
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COMMISSION
9. On the 31st of March 1975, His Excellency the President Dr Kenneth Kaunda, addressing the Nation on both radio and television, announced the decision of the Zambian Government to establish a Special Commission of Inquiry to study the events and circumstances leading to Chitepo’s death.
10. In this Broadcast, the President among other things said:
‘As you know, Zambia recently witnessed one of the worst criminal acts perpetrated against the people of Zimbabwe and their struggle, and against Zambia’s boundless efforts in support of that liberation struggle. This was the brutal assassination of the late Herbert Chitepo, one of the most leading nationalists in Zimbabwe.’
11. The President further said:
‘We are shocked. We are still grieved and angered. We remain bitter against the murderous act, bitter against the murderers—the enemies of Zambia and Africa. Many Zambians are to say the least, very dismayed and justifiably irritated by statements made by some Zimbabwe nationals. Some, even nationalist leaders, have shown no concern whatsoever for the assassination of Mr Chitepo. To them, Mr Chitepo has been assassinated and that must be the end. Instead of calling upon the Party and Government to track down the killers of this gallant fighter, they are either completely silent, while others virtually demand that we stop the investigation altogether and thereby shelter the assassins and their imperialist paymasters. This is really asking imperialism and racism to continue corrupting the minds of freedom fighters and to deal a heavy blow on our struggle.
‘Can we stop the investigation? I say categorically, No. We are going ahead with full strength till we find the culprits and identify the real agent bent on disrupting the armed struggle.’
12. President Kaunda further stressed:
‘It is our national and international duty to seek these agents out, expose them and bring them to book. We have a duty to investigate the cause of Mr Chitepo’s death and we intend to carry out that investigation with the thoroughness of a toothcomb. We will leave no stone unturned.’
13. Announcing the formation of the Commission itself, His Excellency the President had this to say:
‘We have nothing to hide from Zimbabweans, the OAU and the World. I have thus on behalf of the Party, Government and people of Zambia decided to establish a Special Commission of Inquiry to carry out the investigation. The Special Commission will consist of team selected from the UNIP Central Committee and Cabinet. I am also inviting some members of the OAU Liberation Committee and its Executive Secretary as well as representatives of Botswana, Zaire, Congo (Brazzaville), Malawi, Tanzania and FRELIMO, to be members of the Special Commission. Zambia Security Services will be at the disposal of the Commission in its investigation.
‘I want the Special Commission to thoroughly study the events leading up to Mr Chitepo’s death. To this end, I invite anyone, anywhere in Zambia, Zimbabwe and the rest of the world who has any evidence to help the Commission to come forward. I especially invite leaders in Zimbabwe and their compatriots in the world who feel very strongly about our actions to come to Zambia and give the Commission the facts. We will provide a full report to the OAU following the findings of the Commission.
‘As always, we in Zambia want to be completely honest about the recent events. We will be honest in the interest of the struggle we have vowed to support until victory is won in Zimbabwe.
‘At the same time, this inquiry will not interfere with the criminal proceedings through a court of law if the assassins are found. We view Mr Chitepo’s death with utmost gravity.
‘Finally, let me say that we understand the situation in Southern Africa very well. We know what we are doing. We know every step we are taking. The armed struggle in Zimbabwe has not ended, it will continue, it will be intensified unless majority rule is achieved. Smith must not be under any illusions whatever. 1975 is a year of decision.’
14. The full text of His Excellency’s address to the Nation is at Appendix 1.
COMPOSITION OF THE COMMISSION
15. The composition of the Commission was agreed between the Zambian Government and the Council of Ministers of the Ninth Extra-Ordinary Session of the Organisation of African Unity held in Dar-es-Salaam in early April, 1975. This took the form of geographical representation. On this basis, invitations were dispatched to the Heads of State of the countries which were chosen within each geographical region to send representatives to serve on the Commission. Apart from Zambia, Commissioners were invited from:
2. The Congo
3. Ivory Coast
9. OAU (Liberation Committee)
11. Sierra Leone
16. The two Zambian Commissioners were Hon. R.C. Kamanga, MCC, Chairman of the Political, Constiutional, Legal and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Central Committee of UNIP who was also the Chairman of the Commission and Hon M Mainza Chona, SC, MP, Minister of Legal Affairs and Attorney General. The Secretary of the Commission was Mr C.C Manyema. The following countries responded to the invitation to the July meeting of the Commission and sent the representatives listed under each of them respectively:
Hon. A. H. C. Sikunyana, MP, Member of the Central Committee of Botswana Democratic Party
Mr E. Legwaila, Senior State Counsel
His Excellency Ismail Seddik Ben Ismail, Ambassador
His Excellency H. J. Ratsimbazafy, Ambassador
Hon. A. E. Gadama MP, Minister without Portfolio
His Excellency Abdelaziz Jamai, Ambassador
OAU (Liberation Committee)
Lt Col, Mbita, Executive Secretary
Hon. Mr Justice S. M. F. Kutubu, Judge of the High Court
Mr S. Sufi, Charge d’Affaires
Ndugu Basheikh Mikidadi, member of the Central Committee of TANU
Ndugu J. S. Warioba, Attorney General
His Excellency Bande Larity Nyarende, Ambassador
Citoyen Malengela Sham-buyi, First Secretary
17. On the 1st and 2nd July, 1975, by Statutory Instrument Nos. 101 and 102 of 1975, we were appointed by His Excellency under the provisions of the Inquiries Act (Laws, Volume IV, Cap 181), with the following terms of reference:
1. Inquire into the events and circumstances leading to the death of the late Herbert Chitepo on the 18th of March, 1975
2. Establish the facts of and surrounding the said death.
3. Investigate and establish whether any racist or imperialist agents or counter-revolutionaries or saboteurs were directly responsible for the said death.
4. Investigate and establish the identity and the motive of the person or persons responsible for the said death.
5. Make recommendations with regard to the measures or any additional measures that ought to be taken for the security of persons engaged in any political activities aimed at the attainment of freedom and independence of the people of Zimbabwe and of any other country in Africa still under colonial or minority rule.
18. The full terms of the Commission are contained in Statutory Instrument No, 101 of 1975 and are at page vii.
SWEARING-IN CEREMONY AND RECEPTION FOR COMMISSIONERS
19. In accordance with the Inquiries Act, on Tuesday, the 1st July, 1975, the members of the Commission present were sworn in by the Hon. Chief Justice of Zambia, Mr Annel Silungwe at the High Court Building, Lusaka. These included the Commissioners from Zambia, Botswana, Libya, Malagasy, Morocco, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zaire. The Commissioners from Malawi and the OAU (Liberation Committee) were sworn in on Wednesday, the 2nd July, 1975, while the Commissioners from Somalia and from Mozambique were sworn in on Thursday, the 3rd July 1975, and on Tuesday, the 27th January, 1976, respectively.
20. On the evening of the 2nd July, 1975, His Excellency the President hosted a dinner in our honour. By coincidence, leaders of the ANC, including Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Joshua Nkomo and Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, were in Lusaka at that time and were also invited to dinner.
LANGUAGES OF THE COMMISSION
21. In view of the Commission’s composition, the three official languages of the OAU namely: Arabic, English and French were used. At the July meeting, the pattern of language usage by countries was as follows:
OAU (Liberation Committee)...........English
22. In its initial stages, the Commission was faced with the problem of inadequate interpretation and translation facilities owing to the non-arrival of interpreters and translators requested from OAU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. Alternative arrangements had to be made for interpreters and stenographers from Egypt.
23. During this initial period, the Commission’s work proceeded with the help of local interpreters and translators who were called upon at very short notice and who were unfamiliar with the simultaneous interpretation system. However, they worked hard and made it possible for the Commission to continue until a group of professional interpreters and stenographers finally arrived on the 22nd July, 1975. These did an extremely good job within a short time.
HOURS OF WORK
24. Regarding the hours of work, we decided that we would normally meet from 0900 hours to 1300 hours and from 1600 hours to 1900 hours. This schedule was not, however, strictly adhered to. Quite often we started our work at 1000 hours instead of 0900 hours, and started at 1500 hours instead of 1600 hours. As for the time of adjournment, our meetings sometimes went on until well after midnight. The Commission sat daily, except on Saturdays and Sundays. We sat on one Saturday only, the 5th July, 1975. However, this schedule did not apply to the meetings of any Committee appointed by the Commission. Quite often, Committees worked on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and during any period when the Commission was in recess.
Chitepo assassination saga deepens
FORMER Rhodesian prime minister, Ian Smith, and associates of former Zanu chairman, Herbert Chitepo, have thrown their weight behind the Zambian government’s report on the assassination of Chitepo.
The report, currently being serialised by The Standard, last week sparked fresh debate on the whodunit of the Chitepo assassination, amid government denials that top Zanu PF officials had been involved as alleged by the report.
The report of the Special International Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, commissioned by the Zambian government in 1976, lists former Zanla commander, Josiah Tongogara, current home affairs deputy minister, Rugare Gumbo, who was then the secretary for information and publicity, Henry Hamadziripi, who was then secretary for finance, as well as the then secretary for public and social welfare, Kumbirai Kangai and secretary for administration, Mukudzei Mudzi as having been responsible for the Chitepo killing.
As government rushed to give credence to reports prepared by Rhodesian agents suggesting that they had themselves assassinated Chitepo, former Rhodesian leader, Ian Smith, in turn, moved to dismiss claims by the state media that his government had claimed responsibility, saying he believed the Zambian report.
“I do recall there was a report instigated by the Kaunda government and that seems to tie up with what I think happened. The only report I know about is the Zambian government one and that seems to fit in with what happened,” said Ian Smith in an interview.
James Chifungo, the Zanu PF youth chairman during the liberation struggle in Zambia, last week dismissed suggestions by the Zanu PF information and publicity secretary, Nathan Shamuy-arira, that Chitepo had been murdered by Rhodesian agents.
Chifungo told The Standard on Thursday that Shamuyarira was the “least qualified person” to comment on the death of Chitepo because he had quit Zanu to join a splinter group called Frolizi.
“Nathan has no authority to speak about the death of Chitepo because he left Zanu in 1971 to form his own party, Frolizi, after losing the chairmanship to Chitepo”
Dismissing The Standard’s story published two weeks ago, Shamuyarira said the report’s findings were incorrect and that Chitepo had been killed by the Central Intelligence Organisation officers of the Rhodesia regime.
Chifungo said Shamuy-arira had appeared in the Zambian press in 1971 saying he had quit Zanu to form a grouping of his own. “Some of us who were in the armed struggle are still waiting for him to renounce his membership of Frolizi,” added Chifungo.
Chifungo described the Zambian report as accurate in that it reflected the events which occurred in the liberation struggle when top Zanu leaders broke into factions based on tribal lines.
Chifungo who was the provincial youth chairman for the Copperbelt province between 1964 and 1975, boasts of recruiting to the liberation struggle, many guerrillas some of whom are now late such as William Ndangana, Ernest Kadungure, James Gwaku, Felix Santana Mupunga and Noel Mukono.
He claimed to have worked closely with the late Chitepo and some black businessmen in Zambia, to mobilise moral support and resources for the armed struggle.
An intelligence officer with Zipra, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisals, agreed with the contents of the Zambian report on the assassination of Herbert Chitepo and exonerated Smith’s agents.
He said Zanu PF was capable of committing these kind of horrendous acts. “I saw how they brutally murdered John Mataure, Made Kurozva and 20 other people during the tribal clashes,” he said.
He denied claims that Rhodesian spies had a hand in Chitepo’s assassination saying tribal clashes within Zanu had created the atmosphere for the assassination.
“The bomb originated from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and passed through Rex Nhongo and Robson Manyika’s hands,” he explained.
Josiah Tongogara, Rugare Gumbo, Henry Hamadziripi, Kumbirai Kangai, Mukudzei Mudzi named in 1975 report into Chitepo's murder
Stardard Staff Writer
Top Zanu commanders from the Dare Rechimurenga and the Zanla High Command killed former Zanu chairman, Herbert Chitepo, in Zambia in 1975, a special report by a Zambian commission into the late leader's mysterious death reveals. This is the first time that the report has been made public since the lawyer-cum-politician's assasination 26 years ago. Chitepo died when a car bomb planted under the driver's seat in his VW Beetle detonated as he was trying to reverse the car from the garage at his Zambian house. The Standard this week reveals for the first time the contents of the report. The report puts paid to claims from within Mr Mugabe's party that Chitepo had been killed by agents of the Ian Smith regime. The late chairman's widow, Victoria Chitepo, is on record as saying it was common knowledge that the leader was killed by fellow party members.
The Report of the Special International Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, which was commissioned by former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda, in Lusaka, 1976, cites the late Zanla commander, Josiah Tongogara; current deputy minister of home affairs, Rugare Gumbo, who was secretary for information and publicity; Henry Hamadziripi, secretary for finance; Kumbirai Kangai, secretary for public and social welfare; and Mukudzei Mudzi, secretary for administration as the people responsible for assassinating the Dare chairman, Chitepo.
The report said the late chairman was a victim of a tribal power struggle within the party. Said the report, in the possession of The Standard: "The members of Dare and the High Command decided on March 1975 to kill Chitepo for reasons already stated. On that day, Dauramanzi and Mpunzarima were sent to collect a bomb from Rex Nhongo. They returned on Monday 17 March when Chimurenga handed the bomb to Sadat Kufamazuba for safe keeping until midnight when Chimurenga, Rudo, Short and Sadat planted the bomb on the driver's seat of Chitepo's car. The four men were acting under the directions of Tongogara. On the same night, Tongogara sent Robson Manyika to Chitepo's house to go and check whether Chimurenga, Rudo and Short had carried out the mission. Manyika said he did all this and reported back to Tongogara. This account is consistent with the corroborative evidence of the members of Dare and the High Command before the Commission and with their demeanour when they appeared before us."
The report continues: "The members of Dare and the High Command could all therefore be indicated as principals to the murder of Chitepo because jointly and severally they actively desired to bring this about and did in fact bring it about. Although only one individual may have completed the final act to consummate the crime and though some may not have been present as in the case of Hamadziripi and Chigowe, who claim to have been in Malawi at the material time, they could all be charged for Chitepo's murder."
The report says members of the High Command who gave evidence admitted that on hearing rumours some of them were to be arrested, scattered and ran away from Zambia instead of being eager to assist Zambian Police. "So the whole evidence both circumstantial, as well as direct with regard to the Chitepo assassination, points inevitably and clearly to his colleagues in the Dare and the High Command, especially Tongogara, Chigowe, Mudzi, Gumbo, Kangai and Hamadziripi," says the report.
The commission was chaired by Reuben Chitandika Kamanga and Mathias Mainza Chona, both Zambians, representatives of African countries from Botswana, Congo, Ivory Coast, Libya, Malagasy, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania and Zaire. Its terms of reference was to inquire into the events and circumstances leading to death of Chitepo on 18 March 1975. It was to investigate and establish "whether any racists or imperialists agents, or any racists or counter-revolutionaries or saboteurs were directly responsible for the said death." It was to investigate and establish the identity and the motive of the person or persons responsible for the said death. The commission was tasked to: "Make recommendations with regard to the measures or any additional measures that ought to be taken for the security of persons engaged in any political activities aimed at the attainment of freedom and independence of the people of Zimbabwe and any other country in Africa still under colonial or minority rule."
Said Kaunda on Zambian national radio on 31 March 1975: "We are shocked. We are still grieved and angered. We remain bitter against the murderous act, bitter against the murderers - the enemies of Zambia and Africa. Many Zambians are, to say the least, very dismayed and justifiably irritated by statements made by some Zimbabwe nationals, some, even nationalist leaders, have shown no concern whatsoever for the assassination of Mr Chitepo. To them, Mr Chitepo has been assassinated and that must be the end. Instead of calling upon the party and government to track down the killers of this gallant fighter, they are either completely silent, while others virtually demand that we stop the investigation altogether and thereby shelter the assassins."
Twenty-fours years later, Kaunda was still bitter as he told The Standard in 1999 when he came to visit the grave of the late vice president, Joshua Nkomo: "Chitepo was a committed leader. And some day we will talk about how he died. It is one blot in the history, a sad reflection of the whole liberation of this region. Some of the Zanla leadership left Zambia soon after the burial. I didn't expect them to leave immediately...this was their death. It was our death too, and it required all of us to work together on it," said Kaunda.
At the Review Conference of September 1973, the following were elected to the Dare: Herbert Chitepo - chairman (Manyika); Mukudzei Mudzi - administrative secretary (Karanga); Noel Mukono - secretary for external affairs (Manyika); Kumbirai Kangai - secretary for labour, social services and welfare (Karanga); Rugare Gumbo - secretary for information and publicity (Karanga); John Mataure -political commissar (Manyika); Henry Hamadziripi - secretary for finance (Karanga); Josiah Tongogara - chief of defence (Karanga). Apart from being an astute politician, Chitepo made history by becoming the first black advocate in southern Africa.
EXCLUSIVE - The Standard will, from next week, serialise the Report of the Special International Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo which was commissioned by former Zambian president, Kenneth Kaunda. The report is the most authoritative account into events surrounding the cold-blooded murder of the former nationalist leader. Standard editor, Mark Chavunduka, said yesterday that not a single sentence of the entire report will be edited out.
Zimbabwe Standard, 15 July
Colleagues killed my husband – Chitepo
Victoria Chitepo, widow of the late national hero, Herbert Chitepo, has for the first time publicly acknowledged that her husband was killed by his associates in the liberation war. Chitepo was commenting on contents of The Story of my Life, a book written by the late vice-president, Joshua Nkomo. The book has never been readily available in Zimbabwe and was only briefly serialised in The Herald. In the book, Nkomo alleges that Chitepo was killed by his colleagues.
The serialisation of Nkomo’s book, highly critical of President Mugabe, in the state-owned newspapers was prematurely brought to an end two weeks ago. In an interview with The Standard on Thursday, Chitepo said she did not want to make a big issue out of her husband’s death but confirmed he was murdered by his liberation war comrades. Chitepo, who was the Zanu PF chairman, was killed by a car bomb in Zambia in 1975. Ever since, Zanu PF officials have consistently blamed Rhodesian security agents for Chitepo’s death.
A report produced by a commission of inquiry into Chitepo’s death has never been made public in Zimbabwe. The inquiry was instituted by the Zambian government at the height of the liberation war. Commenting on the late vice-president Joshua Nkomo’s statement that Chitepo was killed by his allies, the national hero’s widow said it was public knowledge that her husband’s murderers had gone scot free. In his controversial book, Nkomo said Chitepo was murdered by his colleagues in the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla). Wrote Nkomo: "From Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia were . . . Herbert Chitepo, who became a brilliant lawyer - having been my friend, he later became my great adversary, until he was murdered by his own associates in Zambia in 1975."
His widow confirmed Nkomo’s version of events: "I don’t have anything new to add to this issue. What has been said by Nkomo is not new. It is public knowledge and I cannot add anything new. The people who killed my husband have never been held accountable for their action. So talking about it will not open a new chapter. In fact, your paper has done very well to highlight this issue and to question why the people who killed my husband are still free men."
It is widely believed that Chitepo was murdered in the course of a power struggle by close Zanu PF allies. Soon after his death, the Kenneth Kaunda-led Zambian government detained the Zanla leadership over Chitepo’s death after they had aroused suspicion by leaving Zambia soon after Chitepo’s burial. In an interview with The Standard in 1999, when visiting Nkomo’s grave, Kaunda said the actions of the Zanla leadership on the aftermath of Chitepo’s death had caused suspicion. He expressed surprise that the Zanla leadership had not bothered to investigate Chitepo’s death.
"Chitepo was a committed leader. And some day we will talk about how he died. It is one blot in the history, a sad reflection of the whole liberation of this region. Some of the Zanla leadership left Zambia soon after the burial. I didn’t expect them to leave immediately...this was their death. It was our death too, and it required all of us to work together on it," said Kaunda. Although Kaunda refused to name the Zanla leaders who had made the suspiciously early departure, he alluded to problems within Zanla forces which had led to "some sad developments".
Institute for war & peace reporting
Mugabe Still Fears Chitepo’s Legacy
President remains anxious to counter claims that he benefitted from the death of Zimbabwe’s Nelson Mandela.
By Trevor Grundy in London (Africa Reports: Zimbabwe Elections No 16, 17-Mar-05)
Thirty years ago on the morning of March 18, Herbert Chitepo - leader of the Rhodesian liberation movement ZANU - was assassinated when a bomb planted in his Volkswagen Beetle exploded outside his home in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
The murder of Chitepo - whose remains were found inside the car, which was blown onto the roof of his house by the force of the blast - happened during one of the darkest periods of Zimbabwean liberation politics, when a comparatively unknown ZANU militant, Robert Mugabe, was trying to topple the incumbent 51-year-old leader.
Following Chitepo’s death, there was extensive bloodletting between ZANU’s ethnic and ideological factions. Mugabe emerged as Chitepo’s successor, and he went on to become prime minister and then president of independent Zimbabwe – posts that Chitepo would perhaps have filled had he lived.
The question of who killed Chitepo has never faded away in Zimbabwe, and is whispered incessantly in the beer halls and village courtyards.
There has been no closure on the death of Zimbabwe’s lost leader, and while it is dangerous to ask about it, even today’s schoolchildren take the risk, as Dr Terence Ranger, an expert on Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and a retired professor of race relations at Oxford University, told IWPR.
“Last time I spoke to secondary schoolchildren in Zimbabwe, the headmaster rather foolishly said that I could answer any questions about history,” he said. “A dozen hands shot up. They all wanted to know who killed Chitepo.”
The ordinary public, historians and opposition politicians would also like to know who was responsible for the murder of Chitepo, Rhodesia’s first black barrister who served for a while as the first African Director of Public Prosecutions in British-ruled Tanganyika.
Some claim that they know the answer.
David Martin, an Africa correspondent for the UK’s Observer, claimed in his book “The Chitepo Assassination” that the murder was arranged by Rhodesian prime minister Ian Smith, Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda and South African president John Vorster. They are said to have seen Chitepo and his militancy as an obstacle to their Machiavellian ruses and he therefore had to be removed.
Martin said a Scotsman was recruited by agents of Ian Smith in Salisbury, now Harare, to carry bomb parts into Zambia and blow Chitepo away. Martin said he had written the book to “rest the spirits that have remained disturbed for a decade”.
But Martin’s claim is dismissed by many others, including Chitepo’s widow, Victoria.
In July 2001, and after 16 years of silence, Victoria claimed that her husband’s murder was an internal ZANU job, and demanded unsuccessfully that his killers be brought to justice. Her plea followed statements by Kaunda that Chitepo’s ZANU opponents, not Rhodesian agents, were responsible for the killing.
Veteran nationalist James Chikerema, who with Chitepo was one of the founding members of ZAPU liberation movement before ZANU split away, has another theory about his death.
“ I knew Chitepo for years. He was murdered by [Josiah] Tongogara and the Karanga mafia,” he said.
Tongogara was the commander of ZANU’s guerrilla forces in exile at a time of dangerously high ethnic tensions within the movement, between Chitepo’s Manyika clan of the larger tribal Shona grouping, and Tongogara’s Karanga clan.
“I saw Tongogara soon after Chitepo had been killed,” said Chikerema. “We were at State House [in Lusaka] on that morning of March 18. I said to him, ‘You are a murderer. You will never get away with this.’ Then I reached for my gun but the Zambian police got hold of me and stopped me. There would have been a shoot out there and then.”
Asked how Tongogara reacted to this, Chikerema said, “He was frightened. He looked sheepish and guilty.”
However, until the day he died in a mysterious car crash on Boxing Day 1979, Tongogara - long seen as a charismatic alternative to Mugabe as leader of Zimbabwe - always denied involvement in the murder.
No autopsy results or photographs of Tongogara’s body were ever released, leading to further speculation . A CIA briefing two days later described Tongogara as a potential political rival to Mugabe because of his “ambition, popularity and decisive style”. On the same day, the US embassy in Zambia issued a statement saying, “Almost no one in Lusaka accepts Mugabe's assurance that Tongogara died accidentally. When [our] ambassador told the Soviet ambassador the news, the [latter] immediately charged 'inside job'.”
The stories and the theories about the assassination of Chitepo, regarded by many ZANU fighters as their Nelson Mandela, whirl around to this day and have the complexity of an Agatha Christie mystery.
While there are some who believe Mugabe himself had Chitepo killed, Chikerema doubts this. Nevertheless, the murder shaped contemporary Zimbabwe and allowed Mugabe to move from being a background player to leader. It is he, who by force of personality, has shaped Zimbabwe over the past 25 years and no one will ever know how the nation might have fared under President Herbert Chitepo.
Mugabe, anxious to eradicate all accusations that he benefitted from the death of Chitepo, has introduced a widely criticised “patriotic history” in all Zimbabwe’s schools, colleges and universities designed to prove that there was total ZANU unity under Mugabe’s inspired leadership during the 1972-79 struggle for freedom. Loyal “historians” have been hired to write a torrent of books and articles proving that divisions among black nationalists were always created by outsiders.
But Mugabe still fears Chitepo’s enduring legacy, just as he fears that of Tongogara. Indeed, Mark Chavunduka, editor of the independent Standard, was arrested and tortured in 2001 for writing that Mugabe was haunted by Tongogara’s ghost.
Throughout Mashonaland there is a legend that when Chitepo’s remains were brought from Lusaka and reburied at Heroes Acre, on the outskirts of Harare, a white bird flew at the face of Mugabe, who ducked and cried out in fear. And throughout Chitepo’s home province, Manicaland, in the Eastern Highlands, the people dismiss the official version that Smith’s white agents murdered their most famous son.
In the villages of Manicaland, songs are still being sung calling on Chitepo to rise from the grave and lead Zimbabwe.
The remains of the dead Chitepo and Tongogara today lie close to each other in Heroes Acre, the full stories of their mysterious deaths untold. And, ironically, Mugabe may join them there one day.
Author and broadcaster Trevor Grundy worked in Lusaka in 1975 for the Financial Times and the BBC and was the first reporter at the scene of the assassination of Herbert Chitepo on March 18, 1975.
- Beaver Shaw
- Nairobi, Kenya
- I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011
- ► 2011 (10)
- ► 2010 (50)
02/08 - 02/15
- INTERVIEW WITH REX NHONGO
- HERBET CHITEPO ASSASSINATION
- THE MAG MACHINE GUN
- THE TRUSTY OLD FN RIFLE
- THE RPD MACHINE GUN
- AK 47 ASSAULT RIFLE
- ROLE OF AIRPOWER IN RHODESIAN BUSH WAR
- Why was it not in his interest at the time?
- JAMES CHIKAREMA
- THE SELOUS SCOUTS
- SPONSORSHIP TO TERRS DURING RHODESIAN WAR
- ALLAN SAVORY
- ▼ 02/08 - 02/15 (13)
- ► 2008 (276)