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Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo

lawyer , politician

Herbert Witshire Hamandishe Chitepo was a professional lawyer and politician. He was the president of the Zimbabwe African National Union liberation war movement in the then Rhodesia. He died on 18 March in 1975 in Lusaka Zambia, after a bomb set to kill him in his car went off. His killers are not known with some blaming the Smith lef Rhodesian government while others blame the infighting that was in Zanu during the period.

Background

Chitepo was born in Watsomba village in the Inyanga District of Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe on 15 June 1923. His family came from the Manyika clan (Samanyika) of the Shona people.

Education

Chitepo began his primary education at St David's Mission in Bonda. Thereafter, he proceeded to St Augustine Penhalonga where he received his secondary education. In 1943, Chitepo left for South Africa where he enrolled at Adams College in Natal to train as a primary school teacher. After completing his program, he returned to Rhodesia where he taught at St Augustine's Penhalonga before going back again to South Africa to further his studies.

He attended Fort Hare University in South Africa between 1947 and 1949 where he graduated with a Barchelor of Arts degree. Thereafter he left for London where he was attached to the School of Oriental and African Studies and he worked as research assistant. He then studied Law at King's College becoming and barrister in 1954.

Career

In 1960, he joined the National Democratic Party (NDP). After NDP was banned in 1961, he joined the newly formed Zimbabwe African People's Union. In June 1962, he left Rhodesia for Tanzania where he was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions. In July 1963, Chitepo was fired from the Zapu party due to his criticism of the latter's policies.

He then swiftly joined ZANU at its formation in 1963 together with Ndabaningi Sithole. He was appointed National Chairman. In 1965, he moved to Lusaka where he directed the recruitment, training and deployment of guerrillas.In 1973, he was elected Chairman of the War Council, which was also known as Dare ReChimurenga.

Achievements

  • Chitepo was the first black citizen of Rhodesia to become a barrister.

Views

Quotations: “I could go into the whole theories of discrimination in legislation, in residency, in economic opportunities, in education. I could go into that, but I will restrict myself to the question of land because I think this is very basic. To us, the essence of exploitation, the essence of white domination, is domination over land. That is the real issue”.

Personality

Chitepo was also a strong critic of the détente exercise launched in 1974 by Zambia's President Kenneth Kaunda and South Africa's Prime Minister, John Vorster. He argued it was not the time to talk to diehard whites in Salisbury, basing his argument on the propitious conditions for revolution signalled by the coup d'etat in Portugal and the imminent independence of Mozambique that year.

Physical Characteristics : He was from the Black Race

  • “Dr Vernon Mwaanga: "Herbert Chitepo came to see me at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and told me that he felt threatened by certain elements within Zanu in Zambia. That they wanted to take away his life. It was 1975. I remember I met him on a Thursday. He asked for an appointment to come and see me. I granted him the appointment. He felt that he was not safe because some of his comrades were after his life according to what he told me. So I said to him, well, we can give you protection. I can ring the commissioner of police now to give you protection. He said to me, let me see how this night passes. Tomorrow morning, I will call you or I will come and see you to say whether I need the protection or not. That was a Thursday afternoon. I said if you do please make sure you let me know so that we give you the protection right away.

    Rtd. Brig. Gen. Kazembe: "It had to be somebody who knows his movements. Someone who knows the right time to set the bomb. That person had to be an internal person. It’s not an easy thing to set up that kind of a bomb.... That one was the job of an insider. That was an insider that one. That’s all I can tell you for now....That tragedy made us ever more alert and even the way we viewed the liberation movements changed. We heightened security. But like I said, it could be infiltration by the Rhodesian Special Branch."

    I reported this meeting to President Kaunda and he said why didn’t you offer him police protection and I said I offered him protection but he said he wants to get back to me the following day. The following day was a Friday. I was at Parliament because our Parliament meets in the morning on Friday. I got a call from my permanent secretary that Herbert Chitepo had been killed."”

Connections

He was married, and had children

spouse:
Victoria Fikile Chitepo
Victoria Fikile Chitepo - spouse of Herbert Chitepo

offspring:
Kule Zvenyika chitepo, Nomusa Chitepo, Zanele Chitepo, Dr. Thokozile Chitepo

friend:
Ndabaningi Sithole - Zimbabwean
Ndabaningi Sithole - friend of Herbert Chitepo

Politics

His political views are seen from his works. He established a private law firm in Salisbury, and used his legal expertise to lobby for reforms on the Land Apportionment Act. He was eventually admitted as an Advocate at the High Court in 1954. From around 1957, Chitepo had become visibly pan-African as he defended Africans who were arrested for breaking laws such as the Land Apportionment Act.