Bishop Abel Muzorewa in Lusaka
- As already stated, on the 8th March, 1975, Chitepo returned to Lusaka alone without his two colleagues, namely Hamadziripi and Chigowe. Immediately on arrival, he reported to the DARE about the events in Malawi following their trip there on the 4th March, 1975.
- In his interview with His Excellency President Kaunda on Sunday the 16th March, 1975 (two days before he was killed), Chitepo told him that the situation in ZANU had got out of control and that his life (Chitepo’s) was in danger. He told the President that he was being followed closely by his colleagues.
- The President, according to the evidence, asked Chitepo a direct question on who was the greatest threat to his life. In answer, Chitepo named Chigowe, Tongogara and Hamadzirpi (Karangas), as the greatest threat to his life. Chitepo again availed himself of this opportunity and earnestly solicited the intervention of President Kaunda in requesting the Malawi Government to release Chigowe and Hamadziripi.
- On Monday the 17th March, 1975, Bishop Abel Muzorewa arrived in Lusaka, from Zimbabwe. He was met at the International Airport by Chitepo, Chikerema and other ANC members. Together they drove to State House, where they had a preliminary meeting up to about 1700 hours that day. Bishop Muzorewa had come to Lusaka, among other things, to make a special broadcast on Radio Zambia.
- At the State House meeting, according to the evidence of Chikerema, Chitepo was flanked by his former ZANU colleagues in DARE who were virtually telling him what to say. He did not express any independent views even where the occasion demanded it. Chitepo’s loss of character was clearly noticeable at this meeting. According to the evidence, the bishop said to Chitepo, ‘Why can’t you speak your mind directly?’
- Having worked out an agenda for a series of meetings to be held with the bishop the next day, the meeting adjourned. Relating what happened following the adjournment, Tongogara said, ‘We all left. Mudzi left in the Chairman’s car. Gumbo, Kangai and myself left in Gumbo’s car. We all went to the Chairman’s place in Chilenje South. We got there and had a consultative meeting. Since we were going to have e meeting at 2:30 we wanted to get down some points. It did not take us long. Between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. the meeting was over. So, we all left and left the Chairman there. That was the last time we saw the Chairman.’
- This is supported by the evidence of Gumbo, Kangai and Mudzi. Chitepo was left in his house together with his bodyguards, Shamiso, Sadat and Dovi. Not long after his colleagues had left, Chitepo went out together with Sadat in Chitepo’s Volkswagon Saloon Car, Registration No. EY 7077, leaving both Shamiso and Dovi behind. The time was after 2000 hours. He visited two places that night; first he went to Remba’s house and then to Lorry’s house. Sadat, who accompanied Chitepo on this occasion said that at both houses, he (Sadat) remained in the car. He added that they returned home at about 2100 hours.
- Chitepo parked his car in the car port of his house, locked the gate and went to bed. Sadat also went to bed. The evidence before the Commission is that Chitepo did not go out again that night; so, all seemed to have been quiet in Chitepo’s house for the rest of the night.
Planting of the Bomb
- After initial difficulties, the Commission got concrete evidence as to how the bomb was planted on to Chitepo’s car. The decision to kill Chitepo was taken by the High Command under the Chairmanship of Tongogara on Saturday the 15th March, 1975. This decision was endorsed by the members of DARE who were present in Lusaka at that time. These were Mudzi, Gumbo, Kangai and Tongogara. These often met without Chitepo after the events of December, 1974.
- The return of Chitepo from Malawi alone, the arrest of Hamadziripi and Chigowe, the possibility of Chitepo having met Mutambanengwe in Malawi, Chitepo’s meetings with Zambian Government Officials without any of his colleagues being present and the report of imminent arrest of ex-ZANU leaders (Tongogara said that on the 15th March he heard that he and other ex ZANU leaders were going to be arrested by the Zambian Authorities) were the immediate reasons for the decision to kill Chitepo. The High Command and DARE also feared that Chitepo would reveal the mass executions of suspects which took place before, during and after the Chimurenga General Council at Chifombo.
- After the decision to kill Chitepo had been taken by the High Command and the DARE, two men were sent to a ZANU Croat cane on the 15th March, 1975, ‘to bring a “‘parcel” from Rex Nhongo’ The two were Charles Dauramanzi and Patrick Mpunzarima. They returned on Monday, the 17th March, 1975, with the ‘parcel’. On this day, Tongogara gave Chimurenga, Rudo and Short ‘a special mission’. In his statement to the police, Sadat said that while he was at the Liberation Centre Chimurenga gave him a parcel containing an unconnected bomb at 1600 hours on Monday the 17th March, 1975. Chimurenga told Sadat that the parcel contained a bomb which was to be used to kill Chitepo and warned that if Sadat revealed anything before the mission was accomplished Sadat would be killed.
. 196. When he got to Chitepo’s house, Sadat hid the bomb in the Kitchen. Later that night, after he and Chitepo had returned from visit to the houses of Remba and Lorry, Sadat woke up, and, using another key, unlocked the gate to enable Chimurenga to enter any time that night.
- When Chimurenga knocked at his window, Sadat woke up and handed the bomb to Chimurenga. He saw Chimurenga lying under the driver’s side of the vehicle. Chimurenga told Sadat that the bomb would explode after driving for 90 meters and that Sadat should come out after a distance of 45 meters. While closing the gate, Sadat saw Rudo and another man who he could not identify.
- Another witness confirmed that the High Command (of which he was a member) had decided to kill Chitepo and that on Monday, the17th M arch, 1975, Manyika was instructed by Tongogara to go to Chitepo’s house that night to check whether Joseph Chimurenga, Rudo and Short were going to be there. Manyika went there and saw these three men ‘busy on the car’. He reported back to Tongogara but did not inform the Zambian Authorities or Chitepo. He feared that he might himself be killed if he reported the matter.
- In his evidence to the Commission, Chimurenga confirmed that he had been given a special mission to commence at 1600 hours on 17th March, 1975, together with Rudo and Short. The special mission involved the use of explosive chemicals, though he emphasized that the mission had nothing to do with the death of Chitepo. He vehemently denied being involved in any way or taking any part in the death of Chitepo. Chimurenga, however, admitted that the meeting of the High Command on the 23rd March, 1975, although it lasted the whole day, did not discuss who or what could have killed Chitepo. All the members of the High Command knew how Chitepo had died. He told the Commission that even he (Chimurenge) ‘knew that ‘it was Chitepo’s political colleagues who were responsible for Chitepo’s death. He outlined the motive as being Chitepo’s suspected involvement in the Nhari uprising, the arrest of Hamadzinpi and Chigowe, and the rumored arrest of ex ZAN U leaders. What he denied, however, was personal involvement in Chitepo’s death and he was indignant about some people who were placing responsibility for Chitepo’s death on him.
Chitepo Killed in Bomb Blast
- On Tuesday morning, the 18th March, 1975, at about 0800 hours, Chitepo entered his car and while reversing it, an explosion occurred which killed him and his bodyguard Shamiso, who was sitting beside him. A Zambian boy, Sambwa Chaya, who was playing at the adjacent house, also died as a result of the injuries he suffered from the explosion.
- After the bomb incident at Chitepo’s house, the house was sealed off from the public. An investigating team of bomb disposal officers led by Sandford Mwenda, visited the scene. They found that extensive damage was caused by the explosion. Windows of nearby houses, including those of Chitepo’s house were shattered. The explosion caused a crater of about 20 cm deep and 35 cm wide.
- In his evidence before the Commission, Mwenda said that when they got to the place, they found two bodies which were identified as those of Chitepo and Shamiso. Sadat had already been taken to hospital by the police. As a result of the explosion, Chitepo was thrown to the rear of his VW car and killed. Shamiso was thrown to the left side of the car and was also killed.
- In his findings, Mwenda outlined the damage to Chitepo’s car as follows:
(a) The right front wheel, wheel-drum, axle, steering rod, and the rod connecting the steering box with the wheel-drum were damaged.
(b) The steering rod had pop marks on the right side facing the right wheel fender
(c) The front axle had some pop marks on the side facing the explosion.
(d) The boot cover was ripped off and had pop marks in the right upper part next to the refueling point above the right fender.
(e) The fuel tank was punctured immediately below the refueling tube.
(f) The ventilator panel had pop marks on the right side immediately above the right fender.
(g) The right wheel fender was completely destroyed.
(h) The roof was ripped off.
(i) The front part of the driver’s seat was depressed.
- On the basis of his findings, Mwenda assumed that ‘the charge or bomb was placed inside the right front wheel fender, close to the boot wall, towards the cab adjacent to the brake, accelerator and clutch pedals, and immediately below the fueling tube’. According to his findings, the bomb used to blast Chitepo’s car was an ‘improvised’ one, which could be constructed in one’s backyard and taken to the scene. He said that the bomb was ‘pre-prepared’, that is to say, it was brought to the target having been prepared elsewhere and was fixed by the use of magnets. Other possibilities were the use of rubber bands, wires or strings, but he discounted this, having regard to the nature of the charge. In his view, therefore, magnets were used to fix the charge.
- From their investigations, Mwenda and his team came to the conclusion that the explosive used in the construction of the bomb was TNT(Trinitrotuleune), a very powerful explosive. Considering the damage caused, it was concluded by the expert that the explosive used was about 1.6 kg. The charge was constructed in a brass metallic container which provided the fragmentation effect.
- According to Mwenda, the bomb was initiated (set off) by a pull release fuse incorporated with a safety fuse to provide the time delay. Other means of initiation were also taken into account by the team, such as chemical delay, mechanical time delay, lead fuse and others; but they were thought inapplicable in the circumstances.
- Finally, Mwenda in his concluding statement to the Commission said, ‘The bomb in this case seems to be similar to the one that took place at the ZAPU residence here in Lusaka at Emmasdale. The construction is about the same. We feel that this could have been an inside job within the ZANU circles, considering that these people have basic knowledge in such matters.’
- According to Sub-Inspector Judah Mulomba of Zambia Police who arrived at the scene seconds after the explosion, he found three people lying on the ground. He rushed back to collect blankets from the Chilenje South Police Station, a distance of 150 meters from Chitepo’s house. When he returned and while covering the bodies, he noticed that one of the three people, Sadat was still alive and arranged for him to be taken to the hospital immediately.
- Sub-Inspector Mulomba disputed the claims made to the Commission by Dovi that Dovi had helped Sadat out of the car and that Dovi had collected blankets from Chitepo’s house to cover the bodies. To emphasize his point, Sub-Inspector Mulomba said, ‘I do not know but it sounds like he (Dovi) was trying to amuse the people here (the Commissioners). The state in which he was; he had no power to touch any- thing.’
- As to whether a person could have been in Chitepo’s car and at the same time survive, both Mulomba and Inspector Abiya Siwiti (another witness before the Commission) held the view that this was possible, taking into account the extent of the damage to the car.
- However, in the opinion of Mwenda, the bomb expert, the possibility ‘existed for Sadat to have survived the explosion if he had been in the car, since the back seat was not damaged. Mwenda argued that it was not possible for Sadat to have been standing outside the car when the explosion occurred. He said, ‘If he had been standing at the door (door of Chitepo’s house) he would have died in the same way that the Zambian child died.’ In Mwenda’s view, Sadat was protected by the two bodies of Chitepo and Shamiso in front of him. The injuries on Sadat according to Mwenda were more consistent with his having been in the car at the time of the explosion than outside it. He said, ‘Some of the pieces that hit Sadat in the stomach show that he had been in the car because most of the injuries were on his right side.’ Mr Mwenda said further, ‘My response as to whether or not Sadat was in the car is based on the analysis of the injuries he suffered.”
Stay tuned for next Friday’s installment – Chapter 8 – The Aftermath of Chitepo’s Death
Source: Special Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Whiltshire Chitepo, published in Lusaka in March 1976 by the government of Zambia.