A. Events and Circumstances of Chitepo’s Death
- In our first term of reference, we were required to inquire into the events and circumstances leading to the death of the late Herbert Chitepo on the 18th March, 1975.
- From the evidence, it is clear that there existed a state of bitter struggle and conflict in ZANU, particularly in its Executive, the DARE, especially after the introduction of Biennial Review Conferences at which members of DARE were elected. The all-consuming passion for power was pursued to the extent that the objective of Zimbabwe’s liberation was submerged beneath the weight of personal and tribal ambitions. The Commission found abundant evidence of tribal and regional manifestations in ZANU, both in the Military High Command and the DARE itself.
- It is clear from the evidence and other material facts at the disposal of the Commission, that Chitepo was regarded as an obstacle or a ‘stumbling-block’ in the pathway to individual and collective ambitions of the Karanga elements in the DARE.
- The permanent removal of Chitepo from the scene by death was an obvious sequel to the intense and persistent struggle for power and deep-rooted fears that prevailed within the Party, particularly in the DARE.
- The Commission found that there was a division between the military and political leadership within ZANU which led to a crisis of confidence. In their secret bid for ultimate power and control of ZANU, the Military High Command wanted the leadership of the Party to be militarized.
- The Commission has found that adequate grounds existed to support the grievances and contentions of the fighting cadres in the frontline. No attempt was made by the Military High Command or the DARE to ameliorate the hard conditions to which the cadres were subjected. The members of DARE never visited the war zone, and appear not to have taken any real interest in the welfare of the cadres against spies and other enemy agents in the ranks of the fighting forces. The Commission found further that there was lack of integrity and honesty among the ZANU leadership.
- The Commission found that after the abortive ‘Nhari Rebellion’, and particularly after the Chifombo trials over which he presided, Chitepo became a suspect and was virtually a captive in the hands of his colleagues in DARE.
- It is clear from the evidence that those found guilty including John Mataure and the Nhari group, were executed on the orders of Tongogara and the High Command and with the knowledge and connivance of Chitepo and the Karanga members of DARE. Those connected but who were not at Chifombo Chimurenga General Council, like Mukono, Mutambanengwe, Madekurozwa, Santana and Mpini were sentenced to death and were to be executed whenever they were found. Most of these were Manyikas like Chitepo and were very close to him.
- The charge or belief held by the Karanga elements against the Manyikas, that the latter had instigated or organized the ‘Nhari Rebellion’ appears to the Commission to have been unfounded. There was no tenable evidence before the Commission that the Manyika master-minded the mutiny as the Karangas maintained, beyond trifling incidents that could be immediately dismissed for want of substance. At worst, the Manyika merely understood the grievances of the Nhari group and sympathized with the young men. They preferred a reconciliation rather than confrontation with the attackers.
- ZANU lacked a well institutionalized machinery for regulating and controlling its affairs. This resulted in irregular and criminal acts by the DARE and the High Command. It also accounted for much confusion in the Party, bordering on a state of anarchy.
- Much as it was expedient to offer a wide scope to the Zimbabwe nationalists in their militant struggle for independence with minimum interference in the domestic or internal affairs of the Party organization, the necessary pre-requisite of ensuring that the freedom fighters prosecute their aims and conduct themselves in Zambia within the bounds of propriety and legality was not strictly observed by the Zambian Authorities. This latitude allowed by the host country far exceeded these lines, and it is apparent that the Government of Zambia did not keep a watchful eye on all the activities of the liberation movements operating within their territory. The Government assumed that liberation movements had their own intra-party machinery for disciplinary and orientation purposes. ZANU, for instance, was regarded as a sort of Government – in – exile, hence the non-interference in the conduct of its internal affairs.
- In the matter of the security of Zimbabwe nationals in the political activity of freeing their country, the Zambian Government could be said to have done all that could be possibly done in the circumstances. Sufficient security measures were taken wherever there were freedom fighters, including the Liberation Centre itself, the Headquarters of all liberation movements in Lusaka.
- The Commission found that it was impossible for a front line or host country to protect every full-time freedom fighter. The only real protection that a man in the liberation struggle enjoys is unity and understanding among his own colleagues.
- The Zambian Government relied and acted on the assurance of ZANU and of Chitepo in particular and took it for granted that nothing untoward was done to the guilty nor was any form of illegality perpetrated. In fact, this turned out not to have been the case. For example, after handing over Nhari and his colleagues to ZANU on this understanding, instead of adopting the proper disciplinary measures as was expected, ZANU summarily condemned them and put them to death. Many mass executions of this kind took place following the Nhari revolt.
- Since the Zambian Government was not represented in the camps of freedom fighters, it lacked information as to what was being planned by any liberation movement or by ZANU’s DARE or Military High Command. As there was a sharp tribal division between Manyikas and Karangas, the Authorities could not distinguish between rumors and reliable information.
- Whenever the police had concrete information, they took prompt action to prevent any irregularity against established law. At one time, for example, the Police, on receiving information, wanted to intervene at an indoor meeting between Tongogara and Mataure on the one hand and the Nhari group on the other; they also acted promptly and rescued people who had been kidnapped by the Nhari group. They only hesitated where firm assurances were given by the DARE that nothing untoward or irregular would take place. No acts of violence were permitted by the Zambian Authorities and strict surveillance was kept on the illicit use, possession and display of arms by the freedom fighters. Beyond this, the freedom fighters were left to manage and direct their own affairs in the conduct of the struggle.
B. Facts of and Surrounding Chitepo’s Death
- In our second term of reference, we were required to establish the facts of and surrounding Chitepo’s Death.
248, The facts of and surrounding Chitepo’s death were very clear to the Commission. The conduct of the members of DARE before and after; Chitepo’s death as summarized below is particularly revealing:
(a) They had put Chitepo in virtual custody of the cadres who were suspicious of and hostile to him but who were loyal to the Karanga members of DARE.
(b) They never left Chitepo alone; they had to arrange for some of them to travel with him to Malawi, and whenever he visited State House in Lusaka, he was usually accompanied.
(c) The members of DARE and the High Command were very indignant when Chitepo returned to Lusaka leaving his two colleagues (Hamadziripi and Chigowe) in the custody of the Malawi Authorities. Also, the fact that Chitepo sometimes had meeting with Zambian officials unaccompanied, coupled with rumors of imminent arrests of ex-ZANU leaders ultimately led the members of DARE and the High Command to plan his assassination.
(d) Members of DARE, Mudzi, Kangai, Gumbo and Tongogara were with Chitepo right up to the Monday evening previous to the Tuesday morning of his death.
(e) The statements of Sadat Kufamazuba to the Police and the evidence of Robson Manyika (which the Commission accepted) clearly show how the planting of the bomb on to Chitepo’s car was masterminded by Tongogara and carried out by Joseph Chimurenga, Rudo, Short, Sadat and others on Monday night under the directions of Tongogara himself.
(f) The Commission had evidence of how, at No. 150 Muramba Road, an explosion occurred at about 0800 hours on the morning of Tuesday the 18th March, 1975. Chitepo’s body and that Shamiso were found near Chitepo’s wrecked VW Saloon car No. EY7077, a Zambian boy Sambwa Chaya, who was playing at No. 148 Muramba Road, died as a result of the injuries while another bodyguard of Chitepo, Sadat Kufamazuba was treated for injuries sustained as a result of the explosion. The explosion occurred when Chitepo was reversing the car to go to work.
(g) The behavioral appearance of the members of DARE at the scene of the incident did not show that they were mournful. They did not go near the bodies and they issued a well drafted press statement on that very day just as if they had known what was going to happen.
(h) On hearing rumors that some were to be arrested, members of the High Command literally ran away from Zambia instead of being eager to stay to explain and assist the Zambian Police.
- The Commission found no substance in the allegations made against the Zambian Government by the ex-ZANU leadership that, by arresting them, the Government was sabotaging the Zimbabwean revolution and wanted to destroy ZANU as a Party. Indeed, the material evidence at the disposal of the Commission points to the contrary. The Government detained and arrested the ZANU leaders only after receiving information indicating their apparent involvement in, and in order to fully investigate, the criminal activities perpetrated on Zambian soil. The Zambian Government could not (even if they had wanted to) turn a blind eye to the murder of such a prominent person as Chitepo, committed in broad daylight in a crowded residential area.
Source: Special Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo, published in Lusaka in March 1976 by the Government of Zambia.