Murder in Lusaka …in memory of Cde Chitepo


FORTY-two years ago on the morning of March 18 1975, Cde Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo, who was the Chairman of ZANU, was killed after a bomb planted underneath his pale blue Volkswagen Beetle exploded outside his home in Lusaka.
Cde Chitepo, who was in the company of his body guard, Silas Shamiso, was leaving for a meeting with the former president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, that morning, according to Gift Mambipiri of Jesuit Communications.
Theories as to who was behind the unfortunate demise were propagated, but the question of the day still remains: “Who planted the bomb that killed Cde Chitepo?”
Was it a covert operation aimed at disrupting the war and was Smith’s Government the villain?
Was the Zambian Government involved in the murder as many in ZANU suggested?
Was Cde Chitepo a victim of regional feuding within ZANU between the Karanga and the Manyika as the Zambian Government posited?
In her book, The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo, Luise White, Professor of History at the University of Florida, claims there have been four confessions and at least as many accusations about who was responsible.
White opines there are no clear indications of who killed Cde Chitepo despite the appointment of the Chitepo Commission of Inquiry by the Zambian Government on March 31 1975.
Ten years after the nationalist’s assassination, David Martin and Phyllis Johnson penned the book The Chitepo Assassination which seeks to proffer answers to the question: ‘Who killed Cde Chitepo?’
The writers, backed by evidence obtained from interviews with former Rhodesian intelligence officers, pin the death of Cde Chitepo on the Rhodesian Government.
Ian Robert Bruce Sutherland, a Zambian farmer who had been doing reconnaissance for Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) for about six years, and Hugh Hinds are named as the perpetrators of the assassination.
In his biographical account, The Legend of the Selous Scouts, Lt Col Ronald Reid-Daly, Officer Commanding Selous Scouts Regiment, Rhodesian Security Forces, clearly states that the Rhodesian CIO, under the leadership of Ken Flower, masterminded the assassination of Cde Chitepo, subsequently planting documentary evidence blaming ZANU members.
“The decision by Ken Flower…to assassinate Herbert Chitepo, head of the ZANU War Council, now showed how badly Flower has misread the ZANU/ZANLA situation.
“The death of Chitepo purged ZANU of its many dissenting factions and a new and highly successful leader emerged.
“Robert Mugabe gave ZANLA the means to consolidate its efforts by providing ZANLA with an indispensable factor – unity.”
Cde Chitepo, who had been identified by the Rhodesians as the brains behind the military strategy and the execution of the guerilla war, according to Martin and Johnson, became a target of the Rhodesian CIO since 1969.
“They identified the ‘brains’ behind the looming escalation of the war as the same man they held responsible for the new strategy in the north-east – Herbert Chitepo,” writes Martin and Johnson.
Peter Stiff’s book See You In November details the Rhodesian CIO’s plan to kill Chitepo and how Alan Brice and his team of Hugh ‘Chuck’ Hind and Ian Sutherland carried out the assassination.
The assassin, born Hugh Hind, later earned the nickname ‘Chuck’ and was recruited by the Rhodesian CIO.
He served in the British army and became a member of the elite British Special Air Services (SAS).
He later joined the WatchGuard International, a military organisation known to offer services for military surveys, advice and training of close security guards for heads of states.
He became an expert in explosives during his military service.
His first visit to southern Africa was in 1967 when Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda wanted the services of WatchGuard International to train his bodyguards and a paramilitary force at a special police camp in Kafue Gorge in Zambia.
In December 1973, Hind entered Rhodesia and was resident at 9 Sandrise corner 3rd Street and Montague Avenue.
Towards the end of 1974, the plan to assassinate Chitepo was approved by E.J. Ricky May, a senior Rhodesian CIO.
The killing of Chitepo was described by a former senior Rhodesian intelligence officer as: “Our most successful operation of the war.
“It went off exactly as planned.”
However, the repercussions of Chitepo’s murder and particularly the Zambian response, had far-reaching effects.
In an interview with The Patriot, Professor Simbi Mubako, who was at that time a lecturer of Law Studies at the University of Zambia, said Zambia responded by accusing the freedom fighters of having killed Chitepo.
“Zambia was tired of the war, hence preferred peace talks but Cde Chitepo was determined to continue fighting,” notes Prof Mubako.
The Zambian Government set up a ‘Special International Commission on the Assassination of Herbert Chitepo’ chaired by Reuben Kamanga.
And only 10 days after the tragedy, the Zambian Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Milner announced that, ‘quite’ a number of ZANU members had been detained.
Milner went on to ban all Zimbabwe nationalist movements based in Zambia, including ZANU, ZAPU and FROLIZI.
Chifombo, ZANLA’s only rear base camp inside Zambia was stormed and taken over by the Zambian army.
A total of 1 300 freedom fighters, including refugees, were detained.
In his memoir Serving Secretly (John Murray, 1987), CIO director Ken Flower told how he flew to Lusaka to tell one of Kaunda’s lawyers investigating the assassination that Tongogara was not responsible for Chitepo’s death.
It was a strange intervention considering that at that time Tongogara was branded white Rhodesias’ number one enemy.
Flower told the Zambians: “Your precious findings are not worth the paper they are printed on.
“Tongogara had nothing to do with Chitepo’s death.”
The charges were later thrown out for lack of evidence.
But Dr Masipula Stihole, author of Struggles within the Struggle was ‘convinced’ the Karangas killed Cde Chitepo.
However, Professor Mubako swiftly dismissed him, highlighting he was nowhere close to the happenings in Zambia at that time, hence he knew nothing.
“Sithole had no basis, he was not in Zambia at that time.
“He was just someone who supported his brother Ndabaningi Sithole.”
With many theories surrounding the death of Cde Chitepo, the one that he was killed by the CIO is convincing — by the Rhodesians’ own admission.


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