Chitepo and my moustache

HARARE - Until I was well into my 70s, I had kept a well-tended moustache.

A few women found it intriguing: what was I trying to hide under that bush?

Most men thought I desired to achieve a military-style demeanour. For me, it just meant that people did not take me for granted.

Others speculated on the presence of a personality deficiency which I wished to camouflage with that bushy monster, although I doubted that anybody would describe it as a “handlebar”.

Herbert Chitepo, who I met at a function in Lusaka in 1975, decided it made me look like  someone “from security.”

He did not mean it kindly. By the look on his face, it seemed to frighten the hell out of him. Only after I had reminded him that we had met in Harare township in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, years ago, did he relax.

Still, even as he talked about the country and its future, I still had the impression that he was uneasy. He was then the leader of the political party, Zanu, which was waging a war of liberation against the Ian Smith regime.

You can imagine my shock when, a few weeks later, he was killed in a bomb blast under his car at his house in a suburb of Lusaka.

I was then in Ndola, but drove down to Lusaka to attend the funeral.

Only later did I begin to actively speculate on who could have committed this dastardly deed.

Years after our independence and the death of 20 000 people in Gukurahundi, I began to speculate on how everything would have panned out if Chitepo had not been killed in that blast.

As leader of the party of the largest nationalist movement in the country, he would have taken over the government, wouldn’t he?

This first-ever African advocate in Southern Rhodesia had proved to be a brilliant lawyer, scaring the pants off the white lawyers with whom he duelled in court.

I personally remembered his use of the words “ipsisima verba” in his defence of Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the then burgeoning black nationalist movement, in a Salisbury court.

In other political quarters in the country, there was speculation of a different kind: if Josiah Magama Tongogara had not died in a road accident in Mozambique, virtually on the eve of independence, would he have featured in the leadership stakes?

He was, after all, the supremo of the Zanla guerilla forces and they had done most of the fighting which had led to the victory against the illegal regime.

Seriously, all this speculation is impotent.

Independence was achieved, finally, and the racists, whose resistance had cost the lives of 40 000 people, had quit the fight for good.

What I believe ought to have happened after independence was the acceptance of our victory against racism and our determination to fulfil the promises made to the people — a better, richer life under the supervision of their own people — good, nationalist and generous people who would ensure prosperity for the country and its people.

But this was not to be: we can’t go into the horrible events that followed April 18, 1980.

But we must all have learnt useful lessons from the disasters.

The economy, particularly, has suffered  almost irreparable damage.

People in leadership today refuse to accept responsibility for the failure of turning our independence into a booming, meaningful and successful adventure into the land of milk and honey.

Both Chitepo and Tongogara must be turning in their graves at Heroes’ Acre.

Comments (6)

After the death of Herbert Chitepo in Zambia, some ZANLA members were arrested or taken in by the police. Who were they and why were they taken . What happened to the matter?

Comrade Gobachev - 15 August 2014

If Chitepo had survived Bob would not have been President and Gukurahundi would never had happened. If Tongo had survived, Nkomo would have ruled Zimbabwe and not Bob. Tongo would have been very powerful in running the State as Defence Minister. Bob pamwe aiva Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dunga - 15 August 2014

Dai chitepo asina kufa dai tisina nhamo yatinayo iyi pamusaka pekamwe kaharahwa .

chokwadi - 15 August 2014

"DAI" KUFUNGA KWE-BENZI!!...dai Chitepo asina kufa; dai Tongo asina kufa; dai De-Mbare yakahwina pa-Black Rhinos; dai Nkomo akatonga Zim; dai takaramba tiri muRhodesia; dai....

ZVOKWADI - 18 August 2014

''DAI''is just a natural,normal wish.It is downright idiocy to denigrate those expressing regrets. We would not bestow national heroism to the dead if the word ''DAI'' should was for fools. It's generally believed that Zimbabwe might have been a better country under Chitepo or Tongogara's leadership.This should provoke our president into action to correct his mistakes rather than deny naked responsibility.


Nonsense! What does your moustache have to do with all this? Are you confessing that after meeting Chitepo with your frightening moustache which he suspected to be from security--you know somthing about the bomb? That moustache was worn by the Special Branch of Rhodesian Security forces. How come you had the liberty to wear it across borders at a time strange events were happening? To say the least,Saidi, this is Shameful!

shame - 19 August 2014

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