MARCH is celebrated as women’s month, but it also carries a terrible chapter in Zimbabwe’s history.
Born in Nyanga, Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo who rose to become one of Zimbabwe’s intelligent and finest son of the soil was assassinated in a car bomb at his home in Lusaka by Rhodesians on March 18 1975.
His crime was spearheading the liberation war in order to get rid of the white menace in Zimbabwe.
He wanted revolution.
Below is an abridged speech he delivered in Australia as ZANU Chairman in 1974 to raise support and funding for the party.
A few months later, he was assassinated.
I COME from Zimbabwe.
This small territory of some one hundred and fifty thousand square miles, set in central Africa, landlocked and occupied by a small white minority of some two hundred and thirty thousand is known by the name of Rhodesia.
We, the Africans do not like it to be called Rhodesia.
Rhodesia is the name that was given to it following the ‘occupation’ of our land by troops commanded by a man known as Cecil John Rhodes in 1890.
The country was named after him.
Cecil John Rhodes was probably the richest and the most ambitious of all empire builders known to British imperial history.
The establishment of the country by the white people was really as a commercial enterprise.
The company that established it was known as the British South Africa Company, whose chairman was Cecil Rhodes.
Its purpose was to exploit the mineral, the land and animal resources of our territory.
And the history of Zimbabwe by the white settlers ever since, has been to exploit, not only the natural resources of the country, but the people.
In fact, the people were looked upon as an exploitable natural resource.
Those of you who read history might have read a description given by Arnold Toynbee on the definition of the word ‘native’.
I am called a ‘native’ by white people in Zimbabwe.
Toynbee says: “When we, Europeans, call people natives, we take away anything from them; anything that suggests that they are human beings.
They are to us like the forest which the western man fells down.
Or, the big game that he shoots down.
They have no tenure of land.
Their tenure of land is as precarious as that of the animals that they find.
What shall we, the lords of creation, the white people, do with the natives we find?
Shall we treat them as vermin to be exterminated or shall we treat them as hewers of wood and drawers of water?
There is no other alternative.”
This quotation indicates the sort of mental outlook that those who settled in our country have had about us.
We were a natural resource for exploitation, the same as the grass, the gold mines, the minerals underground!
When they arrived at what is now called Salisbury on September 12 1890, they hoisted the Union Jack and set up an administration.
Then they started parceling out the land of Zimbabwe amongst themselves.
Each one was given large tracts of land.
Those who wanted more were allowed to buy it for as little as a shilling an acre.
With it of course went the people who were living on the land.
So that, a man who had lived on a piece of land, cultivated, built his home and reared his cattle, and goats and sheep in the same piece of land suddenly woke up to be told by a European who had come from afar: “No, you are a tenant now.
“You are a squatter.
“You must now pay rent to me.
“If you don’t pay rent to me, you must work for me as a kind of payment for continued residence in my plot.
“You are now in effect my chattel.”
Our forefathers rose up in rebellion.
It was called the war of Chimurenga.
They fought gallantly with bows and arrows, but they were faced against maxim guns.
They were defeated.
But our forefathers continued to look upon the land as theirs and prepared for the day to wrest it back into their control.
And as time went on, in 1923, the British Government granted the less than 100 000 white people who then lived in Zimbabwe, internal self government.
They got a parliament of 30 white men, a prime minister and a cabinet.
That body of people then set about using the newly acquired power of internal self-government to build up a massive armoury of laws of discrimination, suppression and exploitation.
Trade unionism was prohibited.
Africans were required to carry passes.
The Land Apportionment Act was introduced in 1931 that prohibited Africans to own this land or that land, that they must own only that land.
The land that was chosen for African was obviously that which the white people did not want because it wasn’t good.
So, you get a situation today in which in actual fact the so-called 50 percent of the land that is reserved for the now six million African people is actually the poorest, the most barren and the most disease infected.
That is the position today.
Obviously you must appreciate that if there is any group of people in the country who are affected and hurt and injured more than any other group on land issues, it is the peasant.
Revolution has been about land everywhere in the world.
It is about land because land is the thing on which you live.
You build your house on it; you get your food from it.
Life is sustained on the land, and without it you are really facing death.
That is what revolution is about.
It is for that reason that our people – the Zimbabwean African people for years have thought … back in the early 50s … there was a chance for progression in Zimbabwe towards independence, self-government and towards majority rule.
If there was more and more representation of African people, you eventually got parity.
Later, you got a majority of Africans and gradually you reached independence.
That’s what happened in India, that’s what happened in Burma, that’s what happened in Ghana, that’s what happened in Tanzania.
That’s what happened everywhere in Africa, but it didn’t happen in Zimbabwe.
Back in the 50s, we thought it could also happen.
So, we built up our national organisations; Zimbabwe African Congress in the early 50s.
It was banned and the leaders arrested and detained.
We thought well, we might try again.
We set up the National Democratic Party.
It too was banned and the leaders arrested and detained.
Some of them are still there today as I am speaking!
They have been 10 years in jail without trial.
And others have been released and taken back again because they would never give up the struggle.
We created another one, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union.
Within a year, that too was banned.
It became clear to some of us really, the road to independence via constitutional discussion and agreement was not open.
The whites would imprison, detain, proscribe, ban and banish anybody who dared to shout in the street in favour of justice.
It was clear we were facing a situation of assault.
We thought: “No!
“The time has come to change tactics.
“We will have to confront the regime.
“We can no longer beg it to talk to us.
“We must now confront it!”
So, in 1963, the Zimbabwe African National Union of which I am the Chairman, was created on the very slogan of confrontation.
It was called direct confrontation.
Very shortly after its establishment, massive attempts of confronting the regime by violent action, with stones and sticks, with hands and matches took place.
As a result, our president, Ndabaningi Sithole was arrested and charged.
I happened to have been a lawyer and I went and defended him on those charges.
It was alleged then that he had been responsible for all the violence that had been taking place in the eastern and southern districts of Zimbabwe, because he had advocated it.
Even before the case was over, the party was banned.
Some of us who happened to be outside the country continued the struggle.
We felt the time had come to strengthen the form of confrontation, to sharpen the weapons of resistance.
We acquired weapons … modern weapons.
In November 1965, the white settlers, in an attempt to get complete and unlimited freedom to exploit and oppress our people, declared what is now commonly known as UDI.
Nothing angered us more.
We retaliated by the Sinoia Battle early in 1966, by battles at Hartley etcetera.
We didn’t really make much progress in those battles.
We got a lot of press publicity, but we didn’t really make much progress.
We realised before very long why we hadn’t made much progress.
It was because there had not been a complete hug between the freedom fighters and the masses of the people in Zimbabwe.
And, it is for that reason that during the period that followed, we concentrated on a regime of political education of the masses to get them to appreciate the goals that the struggle was aiming at.
To be fired by the new vision of a new Zimbabwe and to participate in its realisation and to realise that the realisation of the new Zimbabwe, the new vision that we tried to sell, which we tried to inspire in their hearts could only be achieved by struggles which involved life and death.
And by 1972 we were able to commence operations which have been able to go on successfully.
Those of you who have had access to the news media, will have heard of continuous reports of incidents of the attacks, particularly in the north, north-east and eastern parts of Zimbabwe.
What is the form of that struggle?
We realise that what we are dealing with is not simply racism, but imperialistic exploitation.
The white people who are in Zimbabwe are largely of the post-Second World War generation.
They left Europe after the war, to seek greater opportunities, to seek more fortunes, greater status in society which they couldn’t get in their own countries.
It is our determination in the attacks that we have embarked on, to remove that whole structure of society based on corruption, on privilege, on exploitation backed not only by the Rhodesians themselves, but backed by huge international capital.
Zimbabwe’s situation, the settlers there, can and truly should be looked upon really as the immediate local agents of a huge international capitalistic maneouver to control and continue to exploit the resources of Zimbabwe.
We are just a natural resource, to be exploited for the benefit of these big companies.
The companies are the biggest influences in America and in various other countries.
If these companies are threatened by the indigenous people, you will no doubt find that their countries will send troops to go and save their so-called properties in these areas.
They want to use the resident white minority as their immediate agents for carrying out their exploitation on their behalf.
I say this because I think it is very important for us to appreciate that the struggle we are engaged with is not simply against the immediate European settlers by themselves.
In the background is a whole lot of other people; South Africans, the Portuguese, the British, the French, the Germans, the Americans.
They are all part of the exploiting machine.
That is what we are fighting against.
The last eight months, the area to the north and north-east and east of Zimbabwe has become a battleground.
It is an area which we intend to continue to expand into other areas of confrontation.
But, in that area, white people have found it impossible to feel safe.
And, I can tell you quite definitely it is our intention that nobody in Zimbabwe will ever feel safe either in any form in property, in economic privilege in anything, until the ultimate goal is won.
What is the ultimate goal?
The ultimate goal is majority rule.
The ultimate goal in economic terms is the abolition of the system of exploitation.
That means, we don’t merely seek a so-called rough change in society in Zimbabwe.
We are seeking what we describe as a systemic change.
We want to change the whole system.
We want revolution.
By revolution, we understand a turning of the wheel.
We want an entirely new society based on no exploitation, true equality and true justice for all.
It is this vision which our people have been fired with … so fired with that vision they have been prepared to take up arms to fight against the regime that oppresses them, to establish a new Zimbabwe, a new country, a new justice, a new economic system, a new society.