On March 18, 1975 Herbert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo, an African Nationalist and Chairman of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), a revolutionary movement that liberated Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) from white-imperialist forces, was killed by a car bomb whilst in exile in Lusaka, Zambia.
Although his murderer remains unidentified, his life and legacy as a liberation fighter will forever be remembered. As Thomas Sankara aptly put it, “While Revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”
The pivotal role Cde Chitepo played for the liberation of Zimbabwe demonstrates his Patriotism and Nationalism.
Professional and Political career.
In 1960- He became the national council member of the National Democratic Party (NDP).
1962- Founding member of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU).
1964- National Chairman, Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).
1965- He moved to Lusaka and in the following year commenced the organisation of military incursions into Rhodesia.
1966- He urged the Commonwealth Prime Ministers to enforce total economic sanctions against Rhodesia.
1969- He undertook the planning of underground subversion inside Rhodesia and played an important part in building up African opposition to the Smith Constitutional proposals of November 1971.
1973- Elected Chairman of the Zimbabwe Revolutionary Council (the external wing of ZANU-later DARE).
He insisted that the only language the Rhodesian Prime Minister would understand was violence, “Zimbabwe was taken from us through bloodshed. Only bloodshed, a bloody Chimurenga involving four and a half million of us can restore Zimbabwe to its owners.”
Cde Chitepo was the first African in Southern Rhodesia to qualify as a Barrister and Rhodesia’s first black lawyer. He established a private law firm in Salisbury and he used his legal expertise to lobby for reforms on the Land Apportionment Act and became visibly pan-African as he defended Africans who were arrested for breaking laws such as the Land Apportionment Act.
A highly intelligent man with considerable strength of character.
Cde Chitepo was a tireless worker and leader who devoted his life for the freedom and equality of all people in Zimbabwe, and ultimately died for it. He was known as a strategic thinker and a gifted orator, and when he addressed the Sixth Pan-African Congress in Dar es Salaam in 1974, he proposed a global strategy against imperialism.
“…the basic approach, we submit, is both to give more material assistance to national liberation movements of Africa and simultaneously to launch our attack on capitalism and its manifestations on all fronts, in developing areas and in the heart of capitalism-North America and Western Europe.
Each movement, each country or each nation should shoulder the main burden of liberating itself.
By cutting off the tentacles of imperialism to the periphery we will deprive the white working class in capitalist countries of their high standards of living they have enjoyed because of the super profits that the multi-national corporations reaped in under-developed countries. It is only when the exploited working class of both black and white realise that they have a common enemy, a common oppressor and a common exploiter that they will unite and jointly seek to overthrow the capitalist system. This is our global strategy against capitalism, racism and imperialism.”
Herbert Chitepo defined his belief systems as the ideology of a new Africa independent and absolutely free from imperialism, organised on a continental scale, founded upon the conception of a united Africa, drawing its strength from modern science and technology and from the traditional African belief that the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. The central focus was and still is the decolonisation of Africa and that Africa is capable of managing his own affairs.
Ideologically he concurred with Nkrumah who saw reform as the more appropriate case for African countries. He argued that Africa had never developed the class distinctions which Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin saw in Europe and thus reform could re-establish pre-existing egalitarianism suited to a post-colonial context.
Nkrumah wrote that, “From the ancestral lines of communalism, the passage to socialism lies in reform, because the underlying principles are the same. But when this passage carries one through colonialism the reform is revolutionary since the passage from colonialism to genuine independence is an act of revolution. But because of the continuity of communalism with socialism, in communalistic society, socialism is not a revolutionary creed, but a restatement in contemporary idiom of the principles underlying communalism.”
His life and ideals will not be forgotten.
Long live the hero of Zimbabwe.
Chitepoism in our lifetime.