Edison Sithole’s remains found
Zivisai Chagaka, Staff Reporter
THE remains of national hero, Edison Sithole, who disappeared without trace following his abduction by suspected Rhodesian forces at the height of the country’s liberation struggle could soon be exhumed for reburial following revelations of the discovery of where his body was dumped, ending more than two decades of a historic search.
Sithole was snatched, along with his young secretary, Miriam Mhlanga, outside a Harare hotel on October 15 1975 and later declared dead, but his body was never found.
According to the Fallen Heroes Trust, a group composed of mainly war veterans that has been identifying, exhuming and reburying fallen liberation war fighters, the place where the veteran politician’s body was dumped by the colonial regime’s agents is now known, but finer details will only be released after his next of kin have been informed.
Speaking during a media tour of a mass grave at Mukaradzi about 10km outside Mt Darwin, the Trust’s chief exhumer, Jimmy Motsi could only say Sithole’s body and that of his secretary were dumped in Harare province.
In a separate interview with this paper, Eddison Sithole Jr, the late firebrand politician’s son who was Zimbabwe’s highest qualified legal expert at the time, said the Sithole family was “very receptive to any information that comes our way as far as this issue is concerned”.
“But at the moment, our major focus is on recovering his remains or at least identify the way he might have been killed taking into account that there are other theories that are suggestive of the notion that he was dissolved in acid,” said Sithole Jr who was only three months old when his father disappeared.
“This name that I carry is like a curse on me — it’s like an oxymoron. First, because it has certain privileges attached to it, but these privileges are outweighed by the curse effect it carries as long as the mystery remains unsolved.”
A lawyer by profession, the late national hero obtained a BA in Law from University of London while in detention in 1962, becoming the second black person in Zimbabwe to be a lawyer after veteran nationalist and hero, Herbert Chitepo.
In 1965 he obtained a Master of Law (LLM) and later an LLD, making him the first black person in the entire southern African region to attain that qualification.
Writer and lecturer, David Martin, claimed in 1993 that Sithole and his secretary were kidnapped by Rhodesian secret services, the Rhodesian Special Branch, and disposed of by the notorious Selous Scouts using lethal injection.
His car was reportedly found by police two days later in Mutare (then Umtali) near the railway station to give credence to suggestions that he had skipped the border to join the war.In an article which appeared in the British Sunday Express newspaper on January 18 1976 quoting the Edinburgh newspaper, The Scotsman, “one witness, an African (black) soldier, sought refuge in Malawi pending a Rhodesian High Court action, which Sithole’s family is bringing for habeas corpus”.
A private investigator, hired by Sithole’s father, John Taylor, had managed to find two witnesses to the abduction and obtained two sworn affidavits indicating that two members of the Rhodesian Special Branch — DR Hart and DSO Mitchell — were involved in the abduction.
The article — which carried the heading “We saw (Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian) Smith’s men grab Sithole — Police accused of abduction” — said that one of the private investigator’s witnesses was a Catholic priest, Brother Arthur, of the Justice and Peace Commission.
Part of the article reads: [[Brother Arthur says he saw a group of men accost Dr Sithole outside Salisbury’s (now Harare) Ambassador Hotel on the evening of October 15.
He claims he heard Dr Sithole say to one of them: ‘Special Branch . . .’ Then he adds: The man produced a wallet, which he opened for Dr Sithole to see. The man spoke again and I heard Sithole say: ‘Oh no, it’s not necessary; it’s alright . . .’
Another affidavit is by an African member of the Rhodesian African Rifles who says he saw Dr Sithole getting out of a car at Nkomo Barracks (sic), the regiment’s headquarters near Salisbury. . . Mr Taylor flew this key witness out of Rhodesia on Boxing Day (1975) for safe refuge.
It was the intention that he should go to Tanzania via Malawi, but Malawian airport officials became suspicious and placed the witness and one of Mr Taylor’s assistants in custody.
On January 5, the secretary-general of (Bishop Abel) Muzorewa (faction of the) ANC (African National Council), Dr Gordon Chavunduka, flew to Blantyre (Malawi) to secure the witness’ release — and found himself in the same hotel as a senior member of the Rhodesian Special Branch, a Mr Guiness. This witness is still in Malawi awaiting the Rhodesian High Court case.
But . . . the case is now being delayed because the ANC is having difficulty raising the reward money to pay Mr Taylor. . . . an emissary has left Rhodesia on a fundraising tour, carrying documents on the case.]]
The ANC had offered a reward of R87 000 to anyone providing information disclosing Sithole’s whereabouts.
Sithole entered into politics in the early 50s when he, James Chikerema and George Nyandoro formed the City Youth League political party in the then Salisbury, now Harare. At the time of his abduction, Sithole was publicist secretary for Muzorewa’s faction of the ANC.
This reporter can also reveal that the mass grave at Mukaradzi, which is situated at a former training camp for guerrillas, Tigere Base, has been invaded by gold panners who are desecrating the place in search of the mineral.
The remains of those who perished at the place during the Rhodesian regime’s brutal campaign against freedom fighters are wasting away on the surface of the scorched earth.
Motsi said there are over a 100 people whose remains remain uncollected at the place.
The Fallen Heroes Trust national chairperson and veteran politician, George Rutanhire, called on the government to seriously look into the issue of those freedom fighters whose remains lay unburied or are in mass graves. He said it is government’s business and not of children of fallen heroes to see to it that they help the relatives of the fallen fighters in reburying them.