Who killed Herbert Chitepo?
OPINION – News that more than 300 members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police including recruits are headed for a tour of former camps of ZANLA and ZIPRA guerillas in Mozambique and Zambia made interesting reading. More fascinating is the picture of a policeman with a raised fist ‘Zanu-pf style’ as he reportedly sings liberation war songs (The Zimbabwe Mail, 11/03/11).
The political tour being conducted as part of the brainwashing of people into believing that targeted sanctions on Robert Mugabe and his inner circle for rights abuses are against the country as a whole, will take the recruits to former camps of Zimbabwe’s ZANLA (Zanu-pf’s military wing) and ZIPRA (Zapu’s military wing) forces in the two countries which were bombed during the liberation war.
What if, one of the recruits asked, "Who killed Herbert Chitepo?" What would Zimbabwe’s Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri tell him or her? While the answer to that question will not be easy without causing a big controversy in Zanu-pf, it lies somewhere in the culture of impunity that continues to this day.
As the country will soon be marking the memorial of the mysterious murder of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, the first black barrister in Southern Africa, in Zambia on March 18, 1975, it is only proper and right to cast our thoughts to that tragic event which claimed the life of one of Zimbabwe’s finest sons.
Herbert Chitepo was the National Chairman of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU). He died in Lusaka when a bomb that was placed in his car detonated moments before leaving for a meeting with the former president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda that morning according to Gift Mambipiri of Jesuit Communications (jescom.co.zw).
In her book, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo, Luise White, Professor of History at the University of Florida, Gainsville says there have been four confessions and at least as many accusations about who was responsible. There are no clear indications of who killed Chitepo despite the appointment of the Chitepo Commission of inquiry by the Zambian government on 31st March 1975. A report produced by the Chona Commission has never been made public in Zimbabwe.
In an interview with the Zimbabwe Standard in July 2001, Mrs Victoria Chitepo, widow of the late national hero acknowledged that her husband was killed by his associates in the liberation war. Mrs Chitepo was commenting on contents of The Story of my Life, a book written by the late vice president, Dr Joshua Nkomo whose serialization in the state owned Herald was abruptly brought to an end.
According to the Zimbabwe Standard (15/07/01) it is widely believed that Chitepo was murdered in the course of a power struggle by close Zanu-pf allies. Ever since Zanu-pf officials have consistently blamed Rhodesian security agents for Chitepo’s death. In an interview with The Standard in 1999, when visiting Nkomo’s grave, Kaunda said the actions of the Zanla (Zanu-pf’s military wing) leadership in the aftermath of Chitepo’s death had caused suspicion. He expressed surprise that the Zanla leadership had not bothered to investigate Chitepo’s death.
As a sign that Chitepo’s family is still in pain, his daughter Thokozile last week challenged Zimbabwe women writers to document all political violence activities that happened over the years and write peace and reconciliation and articles which promote national healing and present them to politicians (Zimeye, 09/03/11).
Clifford Chitupa Mashiri is a London based political analyst and regular columnist for The Zimbabwe Mail, he can be contatcted at firstname.lastname@example.org