Recapture of Chifombo by High Command
- According to Tongogara’s evidence, after the incidents of the 9th to the 10th December, 1975, the DARE decided that the situation should be normalised. A meeting was held at which all the eight members were present. It examined the situation and found that John Mataure was guilty of ‘conniving at the actions of the rebels.’ According to Tongogara, some of the charges made against Mataure were –
(a) that rebels got the Land-Rover from Mataure which they used to convey Ndangana and others to Chifombo.
(b) that when the rebels came to Lusaka on the 30th November, 1974, three of them slept at Mataure’s house;
(c) that Mataure drove the rebels to Tongogara’s house on the 9th December, 1974, where sporadic shootings occured.
For these reasons, it was decided that Mataure should be isolated from the public and he was consequently taken to a ZANU camp near Lusaka.
- There was conflicting evidence among ZANU leaders as to when orders were given for Mataure to be ‘isolated.’ Tongogara said it was a decision of DARE, while Kangai said it was after the Committee of Three had interviewed him that the order was passed. However, the fact of his enforced isolation at the ZANU farm was not in dispute before the Commission.
- According to the evidence of some witness, Mataure was tied to a tree at his farm and tortured for several days by ZANU members.
- A committee of three, consisting of Chitepo, Kangai and Gumbo was set up to investigate the circumstances of the uprising. This committee sat and carried out interviews, but, according to the evidence of Kangai, it never concluded its proceedings and never produced a report.
- Another important decision taken by the DARE and the High Command was the recapture of Chifombo from the rebels. In aid of this strategy, it was decided to expedite the arrival of the re-inforcement from the OAU which had been applied for in November, 1974, but which had not yet arrived owing to some delay.
- On the 19th December, the reinforcement arrived. It was decided that Chifombo should be recaptured and that the whole operation should be led by Josiah Tongogara himself, as Chief of Defence. Badza and others who were ambushed on their way to FRELIMO camp told Tongogara of the numerical strength of Chifombo and how the sentries were posted.
- According to Tongogara and other witnesses, Chifombo was recaptured without resistance or casualty but accounts of the take-over varied materially. Some witnesses before the Commision said that 45 cadres died after the take-over of the Camp by Tongogara. According to the evidence, Dakarai Badza, Nephew Ndanga and others were killed.
- After the recapture of Chifombo, Tongogara sent a message to his colleagues proposing a meeting of the Chimurenga General Council. At the same time, he dispatched a rescue team to the Front where it was believed Ndangana, Chimurenga, Dauramanzi, Tungamirai and others would be executed on the 9th January, 1975. The rescue team saved them but according to reports, they had already gone through indescribable tortures. Others had escaped to FRELIMO camps.
Chimurenga General Council at Chifombo
- On Tuesday, the 21st January, 1975, the following members of DARE arrived at Chifombo for the Chimurenga General Council meetings:
(a) Herbert Chitepo
(b) Henry Hamadziripi
(c) Rugare Gumbo
(d) Kumbirai Kangai
(e) Josiah Tongogara
Mumudzei Mudzi was in Lusaka while Noel Mukono was out of the country; Mataure was already in detention. Both the DARE and the High Command held a series of meetings preparatory to the trials. Chitepo himself was Chairman of the Chimurenga General Council which commended sittings in the afternoon of Wednesday the 22nd of January, 1975.
- Chitepo opened the meeting and, according to witnesses before the Commission, Tongogara then took the floor and read out the charges against those involved in the rebellion and the following persons were named:
(a) Officers in the DARE
(i) Noel Mukono
(ii) John Mataure
(iii) Herbert Chitepo (a suspect ‘but no evidence at the moment’)
(b) Members of the Chimurenga General Council
(i) Simpson Mutambanengwe
(ii) Joseph Masangomai
(iii) Basil Chimbodza
(iv) Godfrey Chiguvare
(vi) Sekai Holland
(vii) Richard Hove
(c) Officers in the Field
(i) Dakarai Badza
(ii) Thomas Nhari
(iii) Ceasar Molife
(iv) Nephew Ndanga
(v) Cephas Tichatonga
(vi) Peter Sheba
(vii) Sam Chandawa and others.
(d) Officers in the Province
(i) Cornellius Sanyanga
(e) Officers in the District
(i) Nelson Dzirini
(ii) Mrs Hove
(iii) Mrs Masangomai
(f) Officers of the Branches
(i) Stanley Parirewa
(ii) Edgar Madekurozwa
- On Thursday the 23rd January, John Mataure, a leading suspect was brought to the meeting under guard, and the following allegations were levelled against him –
(a) that he had organised a group which came to Lusaka to abduct people;
(b) that when the Nhari group asked him for transport, he told them to go to Ndangana. When they asked for a Land-Rover from Ndangana, he gave them and later he was kidnapped;
(c) that when he and Tongogara were meeting with the Nhari group under the direction of DARE, the rebel group were saluting him and not Tongogara;
(d) that on the day when the Nhari group went to Tongogara’s house after kidnapping his family, they were driven there by Mataure; and
(e) that he was seen with Dziruni and others who belong to the Manyika tribe which meant that be was involved in organising people tribally and regionally.
- According to the witnesses, Mataure tried to answer all allegations as follows:
(a) He denied having organised the rebellion or co-operated with the rebel group. He admitted that he had contacts with the group with the knowledge of DARE and that he reported to DARE the contacts he had had with the group.
(b) With regard to the kidnapping of Ndanganas, Mataure said the Nhari group came to him and asked him for transport but he told them that he was not in charge of transport and that, in any case, they belonged to the military wing and their Commander was Ndangana who was present in Lusaka; they could go and ask anything from him. It was only the next day that he too learned that Ndangana and other were kidnapped.
(c) Concerning the allegation that he took the rebel group to Tongogara’s house, he said that he found people his house holding guns and they ordered him into a room together with Chiwota and Kangai. He was told that he was under arrest. Later he was ‘ordered to drive his own car at gunpoint and there were some people and they said, ‘We are going to Tongogara’s place because you have been appointed by DARE to be mediators in this affair and now that DARE refused our demands and you no longer want to see us, we want you to go to the front for the meeting. We are going to take everybody there. First of all we want tou two.’ They drove to Tongogara’s place. Mataure told the Chifombo meeting that Tongogara shouted that night saying, ‘So you are involved in this thing? You are leading them here?’ But Mataure explained that it was at gun-point.
(d) Concerning other allegations, such as organising people on tribal basis, Mataure denied this and said that he was only carrying out his duty as a Political Commisar, but if his activities were misunderstood, he asked for forgiveness.
- Charges were read similarly against all the accused who appeared before the Chimurenga General Council and even those who did not appear had their charges read in absentia. In the words of Tongogara, those convited before this tribunal received death sentences. Convicted persons were said to have been sentenced to ‘go home’, a euphemistic term meaning sentences to die. Tongogara also stated that John Mataure was one of those who died at the hands of the Party.
- Persons sentenced to ‘go home’ were later found buried in mass graves at Chifombo and its environs. According to the evidence, when these bodies were exumed after Chitepo’s death, their hands and/or feet were tied, showing a system.
- In Chigowe’s own words before the Commission, whoever was found ‘zig-zagging’ and becoming a ‘stumbling block’ in the Party, should suffer at the hands of the Party. According to him, the Party had taken a ‘vow’ in this direction, which was permanent and irrevocable and so the executions at Chifombo were clearly in keeping with the Party’s ‘vow’.
- Tongogara also admitted that specific members of the Party were sentenced to death in their absence at Chifombo. These included Simpson Mutambanengwe, Sanyanga, Santana, Mukono, Malianga and Madekurozwa, who were mostly Manyikas.
The Kidnapping of Madekurozwa
- The rebellion had been contained and the cadres had been neutralised. A vicious witch-hunt characterised the period following the abortive rebellion; real and imagined participants were rounded up by Karanga elements for retributive justice.
- As it came out in evidence, there was a bloody revenge by Karanga elements who were then convinced beyond doubt that the rebellion was Manyika-inspired. They believed that the Manyikas out to eliminate them and usurp their positions. This was not to be, and as a result, sustained kidnappings, mass trials and executions followed.
- As already related, on or about the 16th December, 1974, John Mataure was arrested after being suspended from the DARE for his alleged involvement in the Nhari rebellion.
- On the 17th January, 1975, Joseph Masangomai, Richard Hove and Chimbodza were abducted at No. 64 Fir Road, Lilanda, on the pretext that they were going to attend a meeting at a ZANu camp near Lusaka. In the end they found themselves at Chifombo where they were to appear before the Chimurenga General Council which had been called to investigate the causes of the rebellion. Masangomai and Hove were only saved because their wives reported the disappearance of their husbands to the police and the OAU Representative in Lusaka.
- On the 7th February, 1975, Edgar Madekurozwa was abducted outside Chitepo’s house at No. 150 Muramba Road, Chilenje South, Lusaka, while ZANu members were being addressed there by the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, former ZANU President.
- Edgar Madekurozwa had been sentenced to death in his absence for complicity in the ill-fated plans of the rebels and also for refusing to surrender the two machine guns left at his house by Badza and others. He was battered to death and buried in a shallow grave near Lusaka. According to the evidence, he was kidnapped by Chigowe and his group. Chigowe had been waiting in a parked Land Rover at Chitepo’s house for the purpose.
Chigowe confirmed in his evidence to the Commission that he saw Madekurozwa at midnight on the day Rev. Sithole was addressing a meeting at Chitepo’s house. He insisted, however, that though he had (a few days before) spent a night with Chitepo at Madekurozwa’s house in order to see Madekurozwa, he never said or did anything to Madekurozwa on seeing him at midnight that day outside Chitepo’s house. According to one witness who gave very positive evidence to the Commission on this incident, Madekurozwa was grabbed, forced into a car and and driven along Leopard’s Hill Road by Chigowe and other named persons. A shallow grave was dug in the bush and after that Chigowe hit Madekurozwa on the head with a pick three times; he died and they buried him there. The witness said that he was the person who led the Zambia police to the spot and identifed the shallow grave where Madekurozwa had been buried.
- On the 8th February, 1975, a ZANU military cadre, Chikati, was abducted at the Lusaka International Airport while escorting an African National Council delegation.
- What particularly happened to Nhari himself is not quite clear. According to Tongogara, when Nhari was recaptured at Petauke, he was handed over to him personally for and on behalf of the ZANU Party by the Zambian Authorities on the 7th February 1975. Tongogara in turn took Nhari to Chifombo and left him there. This was after the Chimurenga General Council meetings at Chifombo at which Nhari had been sentenced to death in his absence for leading the rebellion. It is believed that Nhari was killed.
- Simpson Mutambanengwe fled Zambia to escape a suspected kidnapping and went to Malawi. Noel Mukono, Secretary for External Affairs in the DARE, was also on the run as he was a wanted person.
- Rumours to the effect that Chitepo himself had been kidnapped were rampant in Lusaka about this time, after his brief disappearance from Lusaka. Later, it was learnt that he had gone to attend the Chimurenga General Council at Chifombo. According to the evidence of Remba, Chitepo looked really rough when he surfaced. He told Remba that he had neither nor eaten nor drunk anything from the time he was away.
Composition of DARE and High Command Before and After the Rebellion
- After the review Conference of 1973, there following were appointed to the new High Command:
(a) Josiah Tongogara, Chief of Defence- Karanga (SE)
(b) William Ndangana, Chief of Operations- Manyika (NE)
(c) Mayor Hurimbo, Political Commissar- Zezulu (NE)
(d) Cleris Chigowe, Chief of Intelligence- Karanga (SE)
(e) Robson Manyika, Chief Camp Commander (all camps) – Zezulu (NE)
(f) Joseph Chimurenga, Field Commander (Botswana Border) – Shangana (SE)
(g) Rex Nhongo, Field Commander – Luangwa to Ebira) – Zezulu (NE)
(h) Sheba Gava, Field Commander – Karanga (SE)
(i) Justin Chauke, Chief of Logistics – Shangana (SE)
It can be seen from the composition of this High Command that five were from the South – East (SE) and four from the North East (NE) .
- As a result of the events which took place in December, 1974, the DARE (after the Chimurenga General Council meeting at Chifombo) approved the nomination of additional members to the above High Command. The members were:
(a) E. Hondo, Military Attachè (SE)
(b) D. Machingaura, Camps Political Commisar (SE)
(c) C. Chimedza, Provincial Political Commissar (SE)
(d) J. Tungamirai, Provincial Political Commissar (SE)
(e) D. Moyo, Provincial Political Commissar (SE)
(f) J. Nyikadzinashe, Camps Security and Intelligence (SE)
(g) E. Seke, Provincial Security and Intelligence (SE)
(h) S. Chinomaropa, Provincial Security and Intelligence (SE)
(i) P. Mpunzarima, Provincial Security and Intelligence (SE)
(j) C. Dauramanzi, Deputy Logistics and Supplies Officer (SE)
- As can be observed, all the additional nominated members came from the South-East Region. By this time, all the members of DARE (with the exception of Chitepo) were from the South-East Region. The entire composition of the High Command clearly shows a regional bias on the part of the DARE and High Command.
Stay tuned for next Friday’s installment – Chapter 6 – Chitepo a Captive.
Source: Special Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Whiltshire Chitepo, published in Lusaka in March 1976 by the government of Zambia.
[6:18 PM, 9/15/2022] Simbai (US): Week 6: CHITEPO A CAPTIVE
Chitepo and His Bodyguards
- One of the concomitant results of the Nhari uprising was the decision taken by the DARE to provide its members with bodyguards. Mukudzei Mudzi, Kangai and Chigowe were assigned the function of allocating bodyguards. With the exception of Kangai and Hamadziripi, who, for reasons of lack of private transport facilities decided not to avail themselves of this privilege, the rest of the members of DARE were provided with guards.
- Chitepo was by then under a heavy cloud. As already stated, after the Nhari rebellion and the kidnappings, strong measures were taken by the DARE and the High Command against the Nhari group and their many suspected supporters. Some were sentenced to death and others disciplined by suspension or expulsion from the Party. Some of these were not only Manyikas, but were also very close friends of Chitepo while others were actually relatives of his. Moreover, there was evidence of his having assisted the Nhari group though to a very small extent. He was also accused by other groups of favouring people from his own tribal group. After Chitepo was implicated at Chifombo, though not found guilty, many of the militants did not trust him. They believed that he still had links with those who had suffered punishment.
- On the other hand, members of his own tribal group and his personal friends felt that he was condoning and even justifying gross injustice on his main supporters to please his enemies. They accused him of cowardice because he could not defend them and was even used to assist in capturing some of them. They were therefore shying away from him. Consequently, Chitepo was virtually a lone man after Chifombo.
- Chitepo had three bodyguards, namely: Silas Shamiso, Sadati Kufamazuba, and Alec Dovi. Shamiso had been captured by the the Nhari group at Chifombo but was later rescued. Sadat had stayed at Tongogara’s house before he went to live with Chitepo. At Tongogara’s house, Sadat had learnt all about the Nhari rebellion and the degree of involvement of various persons, including Chitepo himself. All three bodyguards stayed with Chitepo at No. 150 Muramba Road, Chilenje South. At that time up to the morning of 18th March, 1975. Both Shamiso and Sadat had full military training including sabotage. Dovi, on the other hand had had only rudimentary training. Sadat was not only a bodyguard but also worked as a clerk – receptionist at the Liberation Centre in Lusaka. Dovi was Chitepo’s cook.
- Another striking feature about these bodyguards was that while Tongogara and other members of the DARE knew their guards well, even knowing their respective homes in Zimbabwe, Chitepo, neither knew his guards nor did he know their real names.
- Chitepo knew that his bodyguards were simply spies for his colleagues in the DARE. Not unnaturally, therefore, Chitepo did not want these bodyguards around him and frequently referred to them as a ‘burden’ and ‘dirt’. According to the evidence, Chitepo wanted to divest himself of these guards, but he was powerless. He had become virtually impotent.
- The Commission found from evidence that these guards played the role of spies on Chitepo rather than guarding him in the true sense of the word. They assiduously stuck on to him, watched his movements and even listened to his private conversations with friends and relatives and seldom allowed him to go anywhere alone. Chitepo had become a ‘captive’ in the hands of his colleagues in the DARE.
- Sometime prior to his death, Chitepo was observed by friends close to him and those who knew him intimately, to be laboring under stress of a kind that made him behave unusually strange. They could not understand how a man of such stable character and balanced judgement could stoop to doing things at quite a variance with his avowed and acknowledged principles.
- Those of the witnesses before the Commission who were in a position to judge the man, such as Remba, Zengeni, Sanyanga, Mutambanengwe, Richard Hove and Chikerema (to name but a few) concluded that he was no better than a captive, a hostage, and a virtual prisoner in the hands of his colleagues in DARE. He was frightened and behaved irrationally, quite altogether unlike himself. In short, Chitepo lived in a cloud of perpetual fear and seemed to have become a victim of self- incriminations, that is, a sense of corroding remorse for having acted against his better judgment; something grave enough to cause a disintegration of the man’s personality.
- In a number of ways, according to witnesses, he might have lost his thinking. His fellow Manyikas (like Sanyanga, Dziruni and Mutambanengwe) mistrusted him, for it appeared to them that Chitepo was aiding and abetting their adversaries, the Karangas, in kidnapping and disposing of them.
- Instances of this are the covering-up statements about the disappearances of Party members such as Madekurozwa and Mataure, whom he knew to have been killed. When asked by the Zambian Authorities about these people, Chitepo assured them that they were all alive and well.
- There were also the trials at Chifombo (over which Chitepo presided) of people who had taken part in the mutiny or been a party to it. Some of these were summarily sentenced to death and others arbitrarily punished.
- It was hard for them to believe that a man like Chitepo could have gone to such lengths in the absence of duress or coercion.
Chitepo’s Trip to Malawi
- On the 4th March, 1975, Chitepo went on a trip to Malawi. He was accompanied by Hamadziripi and Chigowe (Secretary for Finance and ZANU Security Chief, respectively). According to the evidence of Hamadziripi, DARE took the decision and Tongogara, who was in Dar- es-Salaam at that time, gave approval. Chitepo told some witnesses that he had gone to Malawi to arrange for his mother-in-law to travel from South Africa to meet his family in Malawi, but he informed the Malawi Authorities that he was seeking help in the matter of food and other essential materials needed at the Front.
- In reality, as subsequently became clear, Chigowe, had gone to act as ‘bodyguard’ to Chitepo, who at this time had become a virtual prisoner. The link in the chain of guards on Chitepo did not break. Normally, he moved with his bodyguards, Shamiso and Sadat. Whenever Chitepo went to State House in Lusaka, for instance, he left his normal bodyguards behind, and Gumbo and/or Kangai took their place.
- When Chitepo, Hamadziripi and Chigowe arrived in Malawi on the 4th March, 1975, Hamadziripi was detained at Blantyre Airport by customs officials, while Chitepo and Chigowe proceeded to hotel lodgings at the Shire Highlands Hotel. When they later got in touch with the Airport, they learned that Hamadziripi was in Police custody at Police Headquarters, Zomba.
- In Malawi, Chitepo got in touch with a Blantyre businessman of Zimbabwe origin (a Karanga and brother-in-law of Simpson Mutambanengwe), arranged a meeting with him at the hotel.
- They had discussions about the state of the Party in Lusaka, and Chitepo expressed a desire to see Mutambanengwe, a member of the Chimurenga General Council and ex-member of the DARE, who had fled Zambia and sought asylum in Malawi. They were, however prevented from continuing their dicussion by Chigowe’s entry.
- An opportunity to talk to Mutambanengwe was made possible when Chigowe wanted medical treatment for stomach trouble. The businessman offered to take him to a private doctor in Blantyre. On the way, the businessman managed to extract revealing information from Chigowe about the state of affairs in the ZANU Party in Lusaka. Meanwhile, Chitepo was afforded a chance to talk to Mutambanengwe.
- Chigowe pressed the businessman to disclose the whereabouts of Mutambanengwe. This aroused the suspicion of the businessman and led him to conclude that all was not well in ZANU.
- While waiting to see the doctor the businessman got out of Chigowe the names of the people whom the Party (meaning Chigowe himself and other Karanga leaders in the DARE) was out to eliminate by death. Chigowe wrote the names on a piece of paper which he tore from a magazine he found in the waiting room. Chitepo’s name appeared prominently followed by names of other Manyikas. The following were the names on the list, which was later handed to the Malawi Police:
The only non-Manyika name on the list was that of Mrs Sekai Holland who lives with their husband in Australia. Mrs Sekai Holland is Zimbabwean and was a representative of ZANU in Australia. Her crime, according to the evidence was that she was neutral in the struggle between the Manyikas and the Karangas for the control of ZANU. According to evidence, she has been accused by Hamadziripi of failing to support him in his secret bid of the Chairmanship of the DARE at the 1973 Biennial Review Conference.
- The police in Blantyre acted on information received and arrested both Chitepo and Chigowe. Chitepo was subsequently released but Chigowe remained in custody. When Chitepo was released, the Malawi Authorities told him that he was lucky to be alive in the company of the friends who had gone to Malawi with him- Chigowe and Hamadziripi.
- After the arrest of Chigowe, Chitepo held a second and more lengthy interview with Mutambanengwe.
- When Chigowe was shown a photostat copy of the list of names by the Commission, and asked whether he wrote them, he replied, “That writing seems to be mine, but the name Chitepo was not there.” Although Chitepo’s name was in his handwriting, Chigowe disclaimed authorship. According to Chigowe, he had written down the names of persons who were found by the Party to be involved in the Nhari Rebellion. He denied telling the businessman that the Party had decided to eliminate them.
- The businessman was impressive in his evidence, but the Commission noted a great deal of prevarication on the part of Chigowe regarding the list. The Commission is satisfied that Chigowe wrote the names in question in the circumstances described by the businessman and for the reasons ascribed to Chigowe. Chigowe had gone to Malawi in fact armed, according to the businessman. It was also alleged by some witnesses that Hamadziripi was also armed but this was not confirmed by the Malawi Authorities.
- Chigowe had told the businessman that he was on a mission in Malawi to secure the surrender to ZANU of Mutambanengwe by the Malawi Government. Failing that, he would shoot him on sight. The other alternatives were to send a death squad from Lusaka to eliminate him or arrange with the FRELIMO comrades in Mozambique to kidnap him.
- As related earlier, after the businessman and Chigowe had left to see the doctor, Chitepo was able to have a private talk with Mutambanengwe without interference by Chigowe. Mutambanengwe was left with the impression, after the meeting with Chitepo, that the latter had undergone a change in behavior that was altogether unlike him. He concluded that Chitepo was not a free man.
- Before leaving Malawi for Lusaka on the 8th March, 1975, Chitepo left the following note (in his own handwriting) with the Malawi Authorities, advising against the release of his colleagues held in custody (Chigowe and Hamadziripi):
Dear Mr Muwalo,
After a very useful meeting which you so kindly arranged and considering all the developments, it is my view that the longer the two are held the more chance there is of rectifying so many things which are wrong in the party. They are we believe engaged in a diabolical scheme which could wreck the struggle.
- On Chitepo’s return to Lusaka, the DARE and High Command were shocked to hear of the arrest of Hamadziripi and Chigowe and suspected that Chitepo had betrayed his colleagues to the Malawi Authorities. Chitepo was therefore forced to send a special letter of appeal to the Life President of Malawi, urging the release of these same men, a thing quite inconsistent (not to say contradictory) with his previous conduct in the matter.
- After the trip, Chitepo became more solicitous about his personal safety and security. In his special meetings and interviews with people like Sanyanga and Mark Chona, and eventually with the Zambian President himself, a note of personal fear ran throughout.
- His Excellency the President, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, had offered him protection of which Chitepo promised to avail himself should it become imperative. However, even at the last moment and in imminent peril to his life, Chitepo could not make up his mind.
Source: Special Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Whiltshire Chitepo, published in Lusaka in March 1976 by the government of Zambia.
Stay tuned for next Friday’s installment – Week 7 – The Death of Chitepo.