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Thursday, 21 June 2007


VESTA SITHOLE-PART 1: 'My role as a political activist'


Itayi Garande 28.APR.07
TalkZimbabwe will start a campaign today to tell the stories of those freedom fighters who have been forgotten, ignored, or unappreciated by the Zanu PF government. Many fighters who were instrumental in bringing an end to white-minority rule in Zimbabwe are either ignored or their stories not told.

We will start our campaign with Vesta Sithole, the wife of the late liberation fighter and the founder of ZANU, Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole.

We are publishing daily excerpts from a book she released entitled, "My Life With An Unsung Hero". A review of the book is available in our 'Book Reviews' section and a link to the ordering website.


I can safely say my role as a political activist began at Mpilo Hospital. By this time, I already had a strong belief that we as Africans should be our own leaders. I was still naïve in my understanding of how we could achieve this, but I knew that I wanted to be part of it. I started attending political meetings at various homes and party offices with friends like Evelyn Kawonza, who had helped me to settle in at the nursing school by adopting me as her younger sister/friend. My other activist friends at the hospital were Florence Nemapare and Tsungirai Shiri.

Whenever there was a meeting we would inform each other and attend. We had to attend these meetings secretly because the hospital authorities did not allow us to take part in political activities – we were supposed to be civil servants. I had already heard of the existence of political parties such as the African National Council and the National Democratic Party, both of which were led by Joshua Nkomo but were both later banned. I never belonged to either of these parties. The first political party I joined was the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU). I remember recruiters from the party coming to Mpilo Hospital to tell us about the party. It was at Mpilo that I met influential members of ZAPU, among them Jason Ziyapapa Moyo, George Silundika, Dumiso Dabengwa, Henry Hamadziripi and, of course, Joshua Nkomo himself. Nkomo later called Father Zimbabwe, was the leader of ZAPU. When I was told that ZAPU was going to form a government in exile, I knew there were many people who worked and supported the party who would run the office. I was determined to be one of them.

I had been at Mpilo Hospital for nearly a year when Dr. Samuel Parirenyatwa was killed in an alleged train accident. Dr. Parirenyatwa was the vice president of ZAPU, and very active. He was a respected medical doctor and admired by political activists like me. There were rumours that people were going to vote for him to take over from Mr. Nkomo as the leader of ZAPU.

Police brought Dr. Parirenyatwa’s remains to Mpilo hospital in the metal box in which they customarily transported accident victims. The word of his death went round the hospital very quickly. My colleague, Tatini Ndondo, who I was working with that night and I, went down to the mortuary to see the late ZAPU leader. I personally saw Mr. Nkomo and his colleagues where the late Dr. Parirenyatwa was lying stretched out on a table. From what I remember, Mr. Nkomo looked very devastated, tired and angry. He seemed shocked that Dr. Parirenyatwa was dead. Ndondo and I left the mortuary as Mr. Nkomo was talking to a policeman who was standing near Dr. Parirenyatwa’s body.

In 1962, I also had the opportunity to nurse a high-profile member of ZAPU – George Nyandoro. Mr Nyandoro was an executive member of ZAPU, but I did not know what position he held. I knew that Mr. Nyandoro and James Chikerema founded the African National Council (ANC), and invited Mr. Nkomo to lead them. Mr Nyandoro was brought to Mpilo Hospital from Khami prison, where he had been incarcerated for political reasons. He was suffering from a slipped disc. He was on complete bed rest with weights tied to his legs, as the doctors were trying to straighten the disc. I was one of several nurses responsible for his care. Because he was a political prisoner at Khami, Mr. Nyandoro had a guard by his bedside round the clock. During one of my shift he told me he hated the way he was being treated. He decided to go on a hunger strike, refusing to eat food in protest against the way that he was being treated. He also did not like the food, which he complained was not well-cooked. My colleagues and I would smuggle food from our dining room to feed him. I felt good doing that. Later they found out that he had tuberculosis of the spine. He was sent to the United Kingdom for treatment, and survived.



VESTA SITHOLE-PART 2: Journey to, and life in, Tanganyika

Excerpts from Vesta Sithole's book entitled, "My Life With An Unsung Hero". A review of the book is available in our 'Book Reviews' section and a link to the ordering website.


On several occasions, ZAPU had organized successful demonstrations during which people marched and sang revolutionary songs. However, the white Rhodesian government became frightened by the large turnouts, and decided to silence them by declaring ZAPU unlawful in 1963. … were very saddened by this event. We had grown accustomed to attending political meetings and other party activities.

One day in 1963, Mr. Hamadziripi and Mr. Ziyapapa Moyo approached me and asked me to consider going to Tanganyika (later called Tanzania) to help form a ZAPU government in exile. I cannot tell you how excited I was. I said, “What!” I could not believe that I could leave the country and be elsewhere in the country. I told them I had no passport. How could I possibly travel? “That should not be your worry, Vesta,” Mr. Hamadziripi replied. “Do you want to go or not?” “Of course I want to go,” I said. …. I used to listen to listen to Radio Tanganyika, which beamed from Dar-Es-Salaam. I looked forward to hearing the voice of Zebedia Gamanya, ZAPU’s representative in Tanganyika encouraging people to defy the oppression by the “settlers’ government,” as he called it. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to get away.

Mr Hamadziripi … told me to keep my trip a secret. Every girl and boy who was recruited was told the same thing – it was a secret. … All this was exciting to me. It was a journey to adventure.

… we boarded a local bus at Mbare Musika Bus Terminus to Chirundu at the border of Southern Rhodesia-Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). It took us the whole day to get there. … I started to wonder how we would cross the long and very wide Zambezi River. I… knew it was infested with crocodiles and hippos, and that the area was hot and full of mosquitos that caused malaria.

Night came, and between 10 and 11 p.m., we walked to the riverbanks.

I had been in Dar-Es-Salaam only one month when I started hearing rumors of a split in ZAPU. The rumor was that a splinter group from ZAPU was planning to launch a new party inside Southern Rhodesia. The leadership of ZAPU had begun to disagree on how to liberate the country and where the party should be based. Those wanting to form a new party did not want to form a government in exile. … Why another party? I did not understand the politics involved. My dreams seemed shattered. … All I wanted to do was work in a ZAPU government in exile. They told me that Joshua Nkomo had preferred to form a government in exile, and that is why we were recruited work in the ZAPU offices outside the country. I did not see anything wrong with that. On the other hand I was told that then-National ZAPU chairman Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, along with like-minded others, felt they had to have an active political party inside the country.

Reverend Sithole … was my former teacher at Chikore Mission, so I already knew him. Evelyn told me that Reverend Sithole had just returned from China where he had negotiated some weapons of war that we needed to win back our country. She told me the Chinese were willing to help us by training our people in the methods and discipline of guerrilla warfare. President Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika also supported the idea of the Chinese training our people. From what I was told, President Nyerere had told Mr. Nkomo that it was a bad idea to have a government in exile, and urged him to also return to Southern Rhodesia. Reverend Sithole had visited China at a time when it was not very popular with developed nations in the West. Reverend Sithole … thought it was the best opportunity to get what he needed for the liberation of Southern Rhodesia. Reverend Sithole and his colleagues decided to back to Southern Rhodesia to form the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU).

This party was formed in 1963 with a more aggressive course of action to be taken against the Rhodesian Front regime, which was led by Ian Smith. ZAPU continued operating in Tanganyika under Mr. Nkomo. However, since the party had been banned inside the country, it did not use the name ZAPU, but instead operated as the People’s Caretaker Council (PCC). The leadership and everything also remained the same; the new name was just a disguise for the party.

The formation of a new party did not go well with some ZAPU members. Violence erupted between the two parties inside Southern Rhodesia and outside in Tanganyika. … Groups fought each other rather than fighting the common enemy – the Rhodesian front.

With the new party now formed in Rhodesia, those who left ZAPU for ZANU found themselves stranded with no money to live on, due to lack of party funding. Meanwhile, those who remained with ZAPU continued to be taken care of by ZAPU. We found ourselves in the ZANU camp.

At that time, Mr. Chitepo was working as the director of public prosecution, a senior post in the Tanganyika government. His wife Victoria Chitepo … came to the International Hotel where we were staying, looking for a fellow countrywoman with nursing experience to take care of her coming baby. I fit the criteria very well …

While living with the Chitepo family I met Sally Mugabe, the wife of then-ZANU secretary general Robert Mugabe. Mrs Mugabe was also expecting her first child … This was my first time meeting Robert Mugabe at the hospital where his wife was.

My troubles began when I fell sick … diagnosed with tuberculosis. … Mrs Chitepo told me she could not have me back at her home because she feared my disease might affect her young children. I now had a problem of finding a place to live.

Among my experiences, homelessness is a very painful memory. … Mr Mugabe returned from Ghana, where he had accompanied his wife and their son. Finding me sick and homeless, he told me I was going to be sent back to Southern Rhodesia because the party had no money to look after me. He showed no sympathy at all. I did not like the idea of going back home without having achieved anything I had left home for. … It seemed my world had just come to an end.



VESTA SITHOLE-PART 3: ZANU formation, training and recruitment

Excerpts from Vesta Sithole's book entitled, "My Life With An Unsung Hero". A review of the book is available in our 'Book Reviews' section and a link to the ordering website.

The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) was formed in 1963 by Reverend Sithole; his colleagues Leopold Takawira, Enos Nkala, Edgar Tekere; and others in Rhodesia. Robert Mugabe was out of the country when the … formation of the party was announced. He was back in the country for the ZANU congress. Reverend Sithole had left Tanzania for Rhodesia, specifically for this reason, after splitting from ZAPU. Reverend Sithole was was elected president in 1964 at a Congress held in Gwelo (now Gweru), where hundreds of people representing their respective provinces were present. Robert Mugabe also contested the position of party president for ZANU, but lost. Reverend Sithole then appointed him the party’s secretary general. From the beginning, Reverend Sithole had a vision for a free Zimbabwe. He believed the best way to achieve this was by armed struggle, rather than the roundtable discussions or conferences many advocated. He felt there was no other option, since Ian Smith was opposed to roundtable talks. Word had already been circulating that Mr. Smith wanted to free Rhodesia from British control, in what would become known as the Unilateral Declaration of Independence. So in what he termed “The Clarion Call,” Reverend Sithole called on the black population of Rhodesia – especially ZANU supporters and sympathizers – to be prepared to take up arms when Mr. Smith made the UDI.

By the time Mr. Smith made his Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Rhodesia in November 1965, all the nationalist leaders were locked up.

In his book African Nationalism …; Reverend Sithole questioned the practice of Marxism/Leninism/Maoism were Africa’s way of life, hence he posed this question: “Whither Africa – East or West?” He wrote that “Africa is not, and she cannot be, and she should not, and she must not be, any country’s prize. The two hundred and sixty million people of Africa cannot be expected to play the role of furthering either capitalism or communism. They are there first and foremost to further their own interests.”

I must say during my stay in Tanzani, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia, I experienced real freedom. I visited different hotels, beaches, and nightclubs without anyone asking, “what are you doing here?” The whites I met in these countries were friendly people who saw me as a person and did not segregate me at all. I later abandoned my belief in Marxism/Leninism/Maoism. I was wiser, and always remembered Reverend Sithole’s question of “Whither Africa – East or West”.

Early cadres to train in China – 1966

In 1966, Herbert Chitepo, national chairman; Noel Mukono, secretary for defense; and John Mataure, the chief of staff, came and asked Jackson and me to look after four men they were preparing to send to China. They did not want anyone to know we were keeping them. Again, “it was a secret,” familiar words to me by now. The men were going to undergo military training in China and upon their return, start training our own guerrillas at the bases being opened in Mbeya, Tanzania. … The four men were William Ndangana; Felix Mpunga, nicknamed “Santana;” Benard Mutumwa; and a businessman from Zambia who I only remember by his last name, Mushonga. These men were brought to our home in the middle of the night. They stayed for two months and did not set foot outside our yard, which was concealed by a wall and gate, until their travel documents and arrangements were ready. Mr. Mukono took them to Dar-Es-Salaam International Airport and they left for China.

Mr. Mpunga and the other three men remained in China for six months, where they were training to be guerrilla trainers or instructors. Mr. Mpunga complained that they were kept like prisoners at their training camp in Beijing. They were not allowed to go places without an escort. All that time, Mr. Mukono, Mr. Mataure, Mr. Chitepo and a few others, … got permission to open up bases in Tanzania through the Liberation Committee. ZANU was given bases in Mbeya and Mgagava in Iringa, and ZAPU was given Morogoro to start with. Nachigweya, in the South of Tanzani, was opened much later as a transit camp into Mozambique. In the beginning the official training camp of ZANU was in Chunya-Mbeya.

Sadly, Felix … Mpunga died in a car accident in Harare, shortly after independence. [He is] buried at Warren Hills Cemetery in Harare. He, like so many others did not have the privilege to be buried at the National Heroes Acre. … Mr Mpunga was instrumental in establishing bases inside and outside the country. He trained thousands of our young fighters and I am sure many will continue to remember him and the good work he did. I do.

Bernard Mutumwa … served as ZANU’s representative in Cairo, Egypt, and the Middle East. He died in Cairo after independence. I have heard no mention of his name and contributions to the liberation of Zimbabwe.

Mr. Mpunga, Mr. Ndangana and Mr. Mataure were the ones who also trained most ZANLA guerrillas who fought the first armed battle in Sinoia, now known as the “Sinoia battle,” in the annals of ZANU. I do not understand why the names of those who fought a gallant battle with the Rhodesian air and ground forces are not mentioned. They should be at Heroes Acre. I still want the answer to that.

ZANU recruitment

Mr. Mukono and Mr. Mataure … told me how difficult it was to get volunteers to come and train as soldiers … My colleagues … would … grab the man, cover him with a sack or blanket, and drag him to the waiting truck.

These men would be driven to the Tanzanian border, blindfolded or covered in sack or blanket. After crossing the border, the recruiters would calm the captives down and assure them they were not in danger. They would then talk to the men and ask them to join the party. The captives would agree because they would not have any choice. I had no contact with them after that.

… it was difficult to get volunteers in those years to join the struggle. People preferred to sit in bars and drink their brains out rather than go to die for their country. This is why the party resorted to kidnapping potential fighters. The men my colleagues targeted showed potential to become good freedom fighters, but earlier attempts to recruit them by persuasion had failed. It did not matter which party one belonged to. The job was to liberate our country – our Zimbabwe.



VESTA SITHOLE PART 4: ZANU infighting, Chitepo dies, birth of PF

Excerpts from Vesta Sithole's book entitled, "My Life With An Unsung Hero". A review of the book is available in our 'Book Reviews' section and a link to the ordering website.

It is my belief that ZANU’s power struggles seriously began when the DARE re Chimurenga in Zambia called for a Congress in 1973 to hold elections. This was breaking the protocol, since ZANU was not supposed to hold elections outside the country while the leaders were in prison. … As President, Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole had written to Herbert Chitepo, requesting he ensure that the positions of members elected at the 1964 National Congress in Gwelo not be contested at the conference in Zambia. In other words, the positions of people such as Mr. Chitepo (the national chairman); Noel Mukono (the defense secretary); and Henry Hamadziripi (the treasury general) were not supposed to be contested. Despite Reverend Sithole’s request, conference delegates proceeded with the elections as scheduled and new leaders were chosen.

From this conference, Josiah Tongogara was elected secretary of defense, replacing Mr. Mukono. Some members – including Nathan Shamuyarira, who by this time had lost his position as secretary for external affairs – even ran for the post of national chairman, held by Mr. Chitepo, but failed to win the votes.

What I noticed of the new leaders is that they were mostly from the southern part of the country – they were Karangas. The people from the eastern part had dominated the scene up to now. … I would like to mention here that since the formation of ZANU, people from Manicaland spearheaded the struggle for liberation. For example, the Crocodile Gang was composed of people from Manicaland; the Sinoia Battle was spearheaded by people from Manicaland; the first cadres to go to China were people from Manicaland; and the opening of war zones inside Rhodesia was done by the leadership of people from Manicaland. When ZANLA forces began gaining ground inside the country, the Karangas wanted to be part of the struggle. Then the likes of Mr. Hamadziripi began to recruit people from Fort Victoria to come and take up leadership positions in the party. When Reverend Sithole broke off from ZAPU, people like James Chikerema and George Nyandoro remained with ZAPU. As a result the Zezuru people, who were the minority group in the party, were also divided. Most Karangas and Manyikas went to ZANU. The Karangas are the most populous tribe in the country and they began scheming how to get to the top of the party.

In December 1974, after the rebellion, Mr. Chitepo came to Dar-Es-Salaam for a conference organised by the OAU Liberation Committee. … I asked if he knew whether Mr. Mataure was still alive and, if so, where he was being held. He could not answer me straight. He said, “Yes! John is still alive but in detention at Chifombo camp.” I told him there were rumors in Dar-Es-Salaam that Mr. Tongogara had killed Mr. Mataure for helping the rebels when they came to Lusaka and for kidnapping his (Mr. Tongogara’s) wife and children. Mr. Chitepo looked at me and I could see a very troubled man at that time. “Vesta,” he said to me, “every political organization has its own problems.” He said, “I am sure we will be able to solve this one.” … I knew there and then that things were not going on well in the party. … This was my last time to see and talk with Mr. Chitepo while he was alive. It was not too long after our conversation that I heard of his death.

In 1966, Mr. Chitepo had resigned his post as director of public prosecution in the Tanzanian government and went to live in Zambia, where he was to direct the armed struggle. Victoria Chitepo and the children left Dar-Es-Salaam and went to live in Arusha in the northern part of Tanzania, near Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mr. Chitepo was the most senior and respected person outside Rhodesia who could direct the liberation struggle on which the ZANU party had embarked. He had been elected national chairman of ZANU at a Congress in Gwelo in 1964. In Dar-Es-Salaam, he’d had everything he wanted. He had a good home, good cars and was a very important man, in the community and in his profession. But he left Dar-Es-Salaam to live at 150 Muranda Road, Chilenje South, in an African Township in Lusaka. This was a very small house without a bathroom inside. He had to share the bathroom with his bodyguards. He went from a king to a jack. He did not mind. Despite his importance, Mr. Chitepo was a very simple man.

… fellow Manyikas were in hiding in fear of being killed. … I was told that Dr. Edgar Madekurozwa, the ZANU district council member in Lusaka was caught unawares, kidnapped, killed and buried in a shallow grave. … My friend, Sekai Holland – a member of Chimurenga General Council, a ZANU representative in Australia and also a Karanga – was also being hunted down because she was close to Mr Chitepo. Sekai and her husband, an Australian, had managed to raise financial and material support for the party from that country. … The Zambian government buried Mr. chitepo as a hero. There was a gun salute and the army carried out the ritual for fallen heroes. Mr. Chitepo did not die as a ZANU/PF member, as he is being portrayed today. He was in the ZANu led by Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole. … Chitepo had refused top accept Mr. Mugabe as the leader of ZANU, when he had [sneakily] come to sign the Unity Accord from prison [at Smith’s request]. Emphasis added by TalkZimbabwe.com

… the Zambian government arrested most of the ZANU High Command leaders of the Karanga group or DARE, … based in Lusaka. Those arrested … included Kumbirai Kangai, Mukudzei Mudzi, Henry Hamadziripi, Rugare Gumbo, William Ndangana… Other members … managed to escape. These included Rex Nhongo (retired commander Mujuru of the Zimbabwe National Army)… and others. Mr. Tongogara … also managed to escape from Zambia to Mozambique, where he was arrested.

“Members of DARE, Mudzi, Kangai, Gumbo and Tongogara, were with Chitepo right up to the Monday evening previous to the Tuesday morning of his death.”

With his team, Mr. chitepo was able to wage the first armed battle in Rhodesia on April 28, 1966 at Sinoia (now Chinhoyi), against the well-trained Rhodesian Army, which had helicopters and sophisticated weapons. This battle is known in ZANU military annals as the Battle of Sinoia. It was the first direct confrontation with the enemy forces and fuel for our motto: “We are our own liberators.” A new chapter in the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe was opened forever. Every member of ZANU was proud to belong to this party.

Geneva Conference 1976-1977 / Birth of Patriotic Front

In November 1976 the British called another conference, this time in Geneva…

Despite the formation of the ANC, which had absorbed all the political parties, invitations to attend the Geveva conference were sent to individual nationalist leaders, namely, Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, and Joshua Nkomo. Robert Mugabe also received an invitation, even though he had not been head of a party. … this conference essentially dissolved the ANC. Reverend Sithole did not like what was going on, but there was not enough time to seek clarification from President Nyerere or President Kaunda. Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe’s delegation [which became the PF] included most of the people who had been arrested in Zambia for the death of Mr. Chitepo. Emphasis added by TalkZimbabwe.com

… the conference was a flop because delegates could not agree upon an agenda for negotiations.



VESTA SITHOLE PART 5: Lancaster House Conference, Zimbabwe independence
Excerpts from Vesta Sithole's book entitled, "My Life With An Unsung Hero". A review of the book is available in our 'Book Reviews' section and a link to the ordering website.

Zimbabwe Rhodesia – along with its new prime minister, Bishop Abel Muzorewa – was not recognized by the international world as an independent state. As a result the sanctions were not lifted and the war continued. More and more civilians were dying. The British issued fresh invitations to Prime Minister Bishop Muzorewa and the Patriotic Front to participate in yet another constitutional conference at Lancaster House in London. The British this time had decided to eliminate holding direct talks with Ian Smith or Reverend Sithole. As stated in Mr. Smith’s The Great Betrayal,, the British recognized Bishop Muzorewa as prime minister and invited him in that capacity, but they found him to be weak and they felt they could twist him to their own liking. This is exactly what they did.

As the leader of ZANU, Reverend Sithole kept us informed about what was going on regarding the Internal Settlement and the negotiations surrounding it. In one ZANU meeting, Reverend Sithole told us he did not want us to go to the conference, but was persuaded by the Smith regime to go. … Reverend Sithole told me that going to the Lancaster House Conference was going to be the end of Bishop Muzorewa’s government..

After three months, an agreement was reached at the Lancaster House Conference. Bishop Muzorewa agreed to have another set of elections and to relinquish his position as prime minister while the British governor came to supervise the election. The Patriotic Front and the front-line states felt victorious because they had managed to dismantle the Internal Agreement. This meant that Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo did not have to negotiate with Reverend Sithole directly; rather, they would be negotiating with a weak Bishop Muzorewa. … I know for sure Reverend Sithole was not amused by Bishop Muzorewa.

Besides criticicsm by Mr. Mugabe’s patriotic Front that Reverend Sithole had sold out by signing the Internal Settlement, the constitution agreed on by the Patriotic Front and Bishop Muzorewa at the Lancaster Conference appeared very similar to that reached in the Internal Settlement. The only major difference I saw was that under the Lancaster House Conference agreement, the British government was going to take over.

After returning from the Lancaster House Conference, Mr. Mugabe announced that he was forging his own course and would contest the election as ZANU/PF and not the Patriotic Front. The announcement caught many of us by surprise, including Mr. Nkomo, who later issued a statement in the media, indicating that he had no idea of Mr. Mugabe’s new position. Everyone had assumed Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Nkomo would contest as a team, since the two had continued working together since the Geneva Conference, as desired by the front-line states. … Mr Mugabe made this announcement just as final preparations were being made for the election. Initially, Mr. Mugabe had tried to contest using the party name ZANU … so as not to lose the support of the fighters who were on his side, because they refused to use any other name than ZANU. … If Mr. Mugabe had used any other name, definitely ZANLA would not have supported him. … ZANU was registered under its original leader Ndabaningi Sithole. … The matter went to court and it was declared that ZANU is registered under Ndabaningi Sithole. As a result, Mr. Mugabe had to add a PF to his ZANU, and registered his party as ZANU/PF. That is how the ZANU/PF party came to be called by that name to this day. Mr. Nkomo contested as ZAPU/PF.

On January 27, 1980, Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU/PF party won the new election.

… our party lost in part due to the confusion caused by Mr. Mugabe’s decision to name his party ZANU/PF. … What also caused confusion was the fact that the symbols of ZANU and ZANU/PF were similar. Because of this many supporters of Reverend SIthole believed ZANU votes were simply handed over to Mr. Mugabe by the British governor to appease fighters who had threatened to go back to the bush if they had lost the election. There was so much intimidation in the rural areas that internal parties could not go and campaign there. … Most people in the rural areas were voting for ZANU because they did not know the Patriotic Front. Yet, many suspect that all those votes were credited to ZANU/PF.

Lord Soames ignored the complaints of intimidation, and the voting abuses went unchecked.

So in April 1980, Mr. Mugabe was sworn in as prime minister of independent Zimbabwe. He did not extend an invitation to Reverend Sithole to be part of his government. Reverend Sithole was not even invited to the independence celebrations held in the country.

In his book, The Great Betrayal, Smith admits to having numerous meetings with Mr. mugabe, whom he says sought advice from him. … it raises the question of why Mr. Mugabe accused Reverend Sithole of selling out by talking to Mr. Smith when Mr. Mugabe himself did exactly the same thing many times over…



VESTA SITHOLE PART 6: Troubles in Zimbabwe, death of Reverend Sithole

The final of six excerpts from Vesta Sithole's book entitled, "My Life With An Unsung Hero". A review of the book is available in our 'Book Reviews' section and a link to the ordering website. TalkZimbabwe hopes that this book will inspire readers and enthusiasts to find out more about Reverend Sithole and his wife whose undying commitment to Zimbabwe's independence has been downplayed by the brutal Zanu PF regime, and Robert Mugabe specifically.

NOTE: The excerpts published here only tell a small fraction of the story. The book has some shocking news and revelations that will help you understand the life and times of Reverend Sithole and his wife Vesta, and the path to Zimbabwe's independence.

After the election that brought Mr. Mugabe to power, ZANU moved to a smaller office. Some party workers were laid off and told to look for jobs elsewhere. … I applied for a secretarial job being advertised at University of Zimbabwe. I got the job. … However, things changed soon thereafter. One day … Professor Kamba called me to his office. … Then he told me some government officials had approached him and told him they did not want me to work in that office. My temper flared.

Reverend Sithole … In 1982 … survived an assassination attempt by soldiers from the Tongogara transit camp at Chisumbanje … This was also confirmed by Samson Maphosa, a member of ZANU who shut the door in the face of a soldier who tried to come into the room where Reverend Sithole was … Nobody was arrested for the assassination attempt. Some of the soldiers involved in the incident told me they had been ordered to get rid of Reverend Sithole, because he continued to claim ZANU leadership. (The reason some of these soldiers confide in me is because I knew them from Dar-Es-Salaam.)

There were many other attempts on Reverend Sithole’s life before he decided to leave the country in 1983. His decision lande both of us first in Britain, and later in the United States, as asylees. I joined him after a year and half.

Despite thousands of miles away from Zimbabwe, Reverend Sithole’s life was still in danger in Britain, where people masquerading as refugees from Mugabe’s regime, were sent to our home to spy on us. One of them was Christopher Sakala, a former member of UANC. We later found out he was connected to Emmerson Mnangagwa, … Mugabe’s minister of security. … We [had] accommodated Sakala in our house. Emphasis added. Mr Sakala had been slowly poisoning Reverend Sithole through his food.

After this incident with Mr. Sakala and seeing various Zimbabweans by our gate – which was close to a bus stand – we realized our safety in London was not guaranteed. … Reverend Sithole and I applied for political asylum in order to get jobs as well as the protection of the United States government. … Reverend Sithole kept himself busy in the United States by writing books. He also taught in the African Studies Department at Howard University. He wrote and published two books: The Secret of American Success - Africa’s Great Hope\ , and Hammer and Sickle over Africa. (These great books are not being sold in Zimbabwe.)

By the time we left Zimbabwe, Mr. Mnangagwa was already head of the CIO. We knew that the Fifth Brigade … which was trained in North Korea, was very cruel and answerable only to Mr. Mugabe. … Reverend Sithole … wrote numerous letters to Mr. Mugabe, urging him to stop the genocide.

I cannot say Reverend Sithole or I were surprised when we heard in 1987 that Mr. Nkomo had agreed to join ZANU/PF under the Unity Peace Accord, negotiated by the British. … Reverend Sithole did not like the fact that Joshua Nkomo agreed to the Unity Accord, especially after Mr. Mugabe abandoned him before the 1980 elections.

… Reverend Sitholen was never happy about being away from Zimbabwe. … In the wake of the fall of Communism, the Zimbabwe government issued a general amnesty to allow all expatriates to return home. … we started preparing to go back home. We booked our flight for February 1, 1992.

Life in Zimbabwe

Reverend Sithole and I returned to a tremendous welcome from family members, supporters and sympathizers. … Some were even crying with joy. Reverend Sithole was in a jovial mood; he was always at his best when he was home with his people.

I was surprised at the number of homeless people in Harare. I saw people sleeping in the streets of downtown, on the pavement and under bridges. Some of these people asked my husband if he could find them a place to live.

Reverend Sithole and I embarked on commercial farming at our 650-acre Chulu farm, located 20 kilometres outside Harare. … we had to buy a lot of farm items on credit. We kept 30 head of dairy cattle; pigs – 50 sows and two bulls, and more than 2,000 chickens. Our farm was very productive by any standard.

When my husband took these people in, we had to construct two more water tanks. We also had to build public toilets with running water. It was a big job. … When we first bought our farm in 1979, it included a dilapidated school, which we used to educate children up to grade three. We decided to revive the school by building new classrooms and putting up a newblock of toilets for boys and girls. We wrote to the government informing it of the school and asking for teachers. After officials examined the school, the government provided 12 teachers and paid their salaries.

After six months … the government came and disrupted our lives. … an army helicopter dropped leaflets at our farm, warning people … to leave the place or else they would be forced to leave by the police. … Dumiso Dabengwa, the minister of home affairs at the time, held a press conference and told journalist that, “the police presence at Chulu Farm was to ensure that unruly elements did not infiltrate the farm.” He ordered the police to seal the farm – now declared State land … Men and women were beaten and their properties destroyed. … army bulldozers pulled down homes. Thousand of people who had once owned homes were now homeless again. They camped alongside Amalinda Road outside the farm.

Kumbirai Kangai was the minister of agriculture at that time, and the man behind the acquisition bill drafted to acquire Chulu farm. The government ministers gave false testimonies that Chulu Farm was a healt hazard, and claimed there were not toilets and drinking water. Dr. Timothy Stamps, the minister of health at the time, visited the farm … and found that the allegations were not true.

We were devastated , … as we had put all our savings into developing the farm, and we were making a living from it. … Mr. Mugabe wanted to show Reverend Sithole that he had power over him.

Treason charges

The treason charges filed against my husband came as a surprise to both of us. At about 2 a.m. on October 14, 1995, I heard noises at the gate of our home in Waterfalls. It was the police forcing their way into our yard. Our security guards were beaten for not opening the gate. One later died from the wounds. The police came to the door of the main house, shouting, “Sithole, open the door. It is police.”

In my desperate attempt to find legal representation for my husband, I was lucky enough to be referred to a vibrant young human rights lawyer named Tendai Biti, a partner of Honey & Blanckenberg Law Firm.

When my husband was arrested, his status as a member of parliament was revoked immediately, and all his benefits, including his salary, allowances and medical aid, were terminated. He could not get money from anywhere, as they had previously denied him the war veteran’s compensation they were giving to others who had fought in the liberation war. As Reverend Sithole’s wife, I was also denied the war veteran’s compensation.

Mr Biti gave me … documents. I was flabbergasted by what I saw. These documents – originals stolen from CIO headquarters and printed on government-letterhead paper – revealed a plot organized by the CIO against Reverend Sithole and his family. The plot dated back to 1991 before we retuned from America. … This is only a part of the lengthy documents we received and which were dated 10 Jan, 1991.

Nevertheless, Reverend Sithole was found guilty.

The Death of a hero

At about 5 a.m., I was awakened by the phone ringing in the nearby kitchen. A few minutes later, Mrs. Kuretu came down from her bedroom.She told me to get dressed, that we were going to the hospital because my husband was having a difficulty breathing. I started to shake, and developed a stomachache. I knew something was very wrong. … I was met by nurse who grabbed my hand and said, “Sorry Mrs. Sithole,” I could not hold myself. I wanted them to take me where my husband was. I wanted to know what happened.

Just as we were prepapring to bury Reverend Sithole, we received the news that the politburo had decided against conferring Reverend Sithole the status of a national hero.

Thank you, Ndimyake



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