Political assassinations

By Given Mutinta

In the early 1990s Zambia successfully transitioned from being a one-party state to multi-party democracy.

The change enabled the citizenry to have more say on how the country should be run and increased competition for political leadership. As conventional wisdom holds, every good thing has its price!

Shortly post-democracy, we had some political assassinations that will always haunt our history. The assassinations were mainly attributed to battles around power within the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), and conflicts due to corruption.

The list of major political assassinations includes:

1. Baldwin Nkumbula who died in a car accident on August 27, 1995 when the mercedes benz he was driving overturned on the way to Ndola from Kitwe. Chiluba’s son, Castro, was a passenger in the vehicle and survived the crash with injuries;

2. Ronald Penza was shot dead on November 6, 1998. The act was carried out in front of his wife in his Lusaka house by two veiled men that were part of the ‘hexa-man team’;

3. Major Wezi Kaunda was lethally shot in the driveway of his home in Lusaka on November 4, 1999;

4. Paul Tembo was shot dead on July 6, 2001 in front of his family hours before he was to testify against government;

5. Anderson Mazoka argued that he was poisoned and he eventually died on May 24, 2006 and some media houses laughed him to his death; and

6. Mukelabai Mukelabai was found dead on July 8, 2011 after three days in a room in South Africa.

It is therefore indisputable that post-democracy politics are characterized with murder of political figures. Largely, they are assassinated for political reasons to provide positive advantages to some politicians or political parties.

However, what is astounding is that most of the political assassinations investigations do not yield resounding and convincing results.

This shows the extreme and clandestine nature of these operations. There are no written or recorded assassination instructions for fear of incrimination.  In addition, the decisions seem to be reached at the area where an act is planned to take place.

The reason of employing such techniques is usually to limit the decisions and instructions to very few people. Ideally, it is recommended that only one person should be involved and no report should be made. However, the act should be properly covered by ordinary news services, whose broadcast is accessible to all affected.

The techniques employed differ in relation to whether the subject is unaware of his danger, aware but unguarded, or guarded.

An assassination in which the subject is unaware is termed ‘simple’. Those where the subject is aware but unguarded is termed ‘chase’ and those where the victim is guarded is termed ‘guarded’.

If the assassin is to die along with the subject, the act is termed ‘lost’. If the assassin is to escape, the act is termed ‘safe’ and no compromise should exist here such as the assassin falling alive into enemy hands.

The plan used is required to make an act appear as an accident or natural causes as much as possible.


If such concealment is desirable the operation is termed ‘secret’. If concealment is unimportant, the act is termed ‘open’.

Usually, an assassin is a skilled clandestine agent. He should be strong-minded, brave, sharp, quick-witted, and bodily active.

It is recommended that the assassin be temporary in the area. He should have an outright minimum of interaction with the rest of the organization and his directives should be given verbally by one person, only! His safe withdrawal after the act is extremely important, but contact should be as limited as possible.

It is suggested that the person delivering instructions also conduct withdrawal or covering action necessary.

In ‘lost’ assassination, the assassin must be a devotee of some kind. Politics and revenge are the main motives. A devotee must be handled with great care. He must not know the characters of the other members of the organization, for although it is planned that he dies in the act, something may go wrong.

When the decision to assassinate has been reached, the strategies of the operation must be designed, based upon an estimate of the situation.

The initial estimates are meant to expose gaps in information and may suggest a need for special apparatus that must be procured.

When all vital data has been gathered, an effective calculated plan can be organized. All planning must be mental; no papers should ever cover evidence of the operation.

Such plans must be amended frequently to meet changes in the strategic situation. The crucial point of assassination is that death of the subject must be entirely certain! However, some strategies flop because the plans do not give this matter proper consideration.

There are numerous techniques used to carry out an act including accidents, drugs, weapons, manual, firearms and explosives.

It is very important that when a person decides to pursue high-ranking political leadership, he or she should always be aware of how ‘dirty’ or dangerous politicians can be.

It is vital that politicians invest in their own political protection by employing bodyguards with special schooling in the circumstances resulting from around politicians.

Politicians should also capitalize in their family protection at home and while traveling, in high-risk areas and on-site security

It is to be irresponsible and irrational today to become a prominent politician without seeking political protection or security.

Evil finds root in a society when good citizens fold arms and watch things get messed up.  Never should we allow political assassinations to be part of our culture. They are a threat to democracy and development.

As a devout country, we should not perceive political posts as jobs to the political leaders but as for service to the people and nation.

Political leadership should be a means of creating empowering environment favourable for development and not about killing to stay in power.

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