THE late former minister Kumbirai Kangai was buried at the Heroes’ Acre yesterday, with President Robert Mugabe revealing, for the first time, intimate details of a clash he had with leaders of neighbouring countries who accused members of his Zanu party of murdering the party’s chairman Herbert Chitepo.
REPORT BY GAMMA MUDARIKIRI
Chitepo’s death remains one of the mysteries of the liberation struggle, but Zanu PF maintains that he was killed by Rhodesian forces, an explanation Zambian officials refused to buy.
Kangai was one of senior Zanu officials accused of masterminding Chitepo’s death, leading to his arrest, which saw relations between the party and Zambia getting sour.
Mugabe said a feud between him and Kaunda emerged after the former Zambian President ordered the arrest of Zanla commander Josiah Tongogara and Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo, among others, accused of the murder of Chitepo.
“I denounced Kaunda for arresting our people,” he said.
“I made a statement on BBC and from there on I was a persona non grata. Even in Tanzania, they didn’t want to see me.”
Chitepo was assassinated in 1975 in Zambia and officials from that country insisted he was killed by his comrades, leading to a nasty fallout between Zanu and Zambia.
Shortly thereafter, Zanu was banned from Zambia.
Mugabe, however, said Chitepo was killed by the Rhodesian forces, adding that there was no reason for Zanla cadres to assassinate their colleague.
“Chitepo was killed by the Rhodesians. There were no reasons for his colleagues to kill him,” he added.
Kangai and Gumbo are said to have been released from prison after the intervention of the late Mozambican President Samora Machel, who had to negotiate with Kaunda on the basis that those whom he had detained were to attend the Geneva Conference in 1976.
Tongogara, however, had to be released later as Zambian authorities said he had a case to answer regarding Chitepo’s death.
The late academic, Masipula Sithole, insinuated that the death of Chitepo may have been an inside job, in his book Struggles within Struggle.
In apparent reference to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his party, Mugabe said the hero status was the preserve of Zanu PF and could not be bestowed on people who called for the imposition of sanctions.
“We have others who say they want to be buried at the Heroes’ Acre, but are the same people who have gone on to call sanctions on our country,” he said.
“They can build their own Heroes’ Acre. We did not deny them doing that.”
The MDC formations have called for an inclusive approach to the declaration of heroes, but Zanu PF insists it is the only authority to determine who is to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre.