Zambia police, assassination of Herbert Chitepo and persecution of Andrew Banda

By Lucky Mulusa, MP.

On the morning of 19 March 1975, my father shook me out of my deep sleep to buy the newspapers for the day from the neighbouring Chifubu township. We lived in Kawama township in Ndola. The previous night, we went to bed late after hours of intermittently listening to Zambia Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, Voice of America, and the propagandist Chichewa Service from SABC. The occasion of the moment was that just after 8 am on 18 March 1975, an explosion had shattered the morning routine in Chilenje South at House No. 150 Muramba road instantly killing the prolific freedom fighter, Herbert Chitepo and his bodyguard, Silas.

According to a book by David Martin and Phyllis Johnson (1985), the repercussions of Chitepos’s murder, and particularly the Zambian response, have had far-reaching effects, some of which persist to this day (1985: 60). Zambia responded by protecting its image. The protection was in form of accusing the freedom fighters of having killed Chitepo. In particular, the Zambian government through its police blamed the Karangas within the freedom fighters and Tongogara in particular, of Chitepo’s death. Members of this tribe and Tongogara himself suffered persecution from the Zambian security agencies. A total of 1300 freedom fighters including the general staff from ZANU PF were locked.

The Zambian government spent so much money in ensuring that the wrong people were incarcerated. Kaunda went as far as establishing a special international commission of inquiry chaired by Reuben Kamanga. In April 1976, the Zambian government charged 23 members of ZANU PF ‘for jointly and severally…actively desiring to bring about Mr Chitepo’s death, and in fact for bring it about.’ The chargers were later thrown out. The killer, Hugh ‘Chuck’ Hind, who had earlier been brought to Zambia by Kaunda as a member the team that established and trained the paramilitary force, was allowed to roam the streets of Lusaka freely and thereby committing more atrocities against the freedom fighters. He died in a road accident on 28 January 1977 on the Chirundu road while on a mission to eliminate more freedom fighters.

Herbert Chitepo had been a CIO (Southern Rhodesian Central Intelligence Office) target since 1969 when he was identified as the “brains” behind the review in military strategy and the conduct of the guerrilla war. Going to Eastern Province, the PF have recognised Andrew Banda as the brain in the halting of PF’s advance in the province. Andrew is an extremely experienced and lethal politician. He is better on your side than on the other side. He blends in with the poor as if he has never tasted life of the affluent. Recently on a campaign trail with him in the rural outskirts of Mkaika, villagers’ faces glowed with affection that would make one think the whole province is one family whose father is RB and the first born son being Andrew. When Andrew was attacked, the Zambian police response was to allow the attackers to go free and instead persecute Andrew as the perpetrator of violence despite the fact that the attackers took Andrew to the police in a terrible state after beating him.

The previous evening, Andrew’s attackers had been reported to the police for assaulting the PF’s candidate’s elder brother, Michael Phiri. Despite knowing the attackers, the police turned a blind eye as the attackers were serving the ruling party’s interest and there was an assignment pending – an attack on the uncle to PF candidate, Ambassador Joe Mwale, Andrew Banda, Hon. Mushili Malama, and myself. We sensed danger after visiting Michael Phiri and quickly convinced an otherwise stubborn, old man, Ambassador Joe Mwale, to leave town. We escorted him out of danger in under 20 minutes.

The attack on our team perpetuated by the PF was a sad and a very annoying affair. Firstly, it was facilitated by fellow MPs and Ministers in charge of the PF campaign. Secondly, it was allowed to happen by the Police who knew that there were violent people in the PF camp who had been reported to them for assault, but they were allowed to roam free most probably on the instructions of the PF candidate and the ministers in the PF campaign team. The attack was a surprise and spontaneous event. We never anticipated it. We had been accredited the previous day by the ECZ to carry out electoral monitoring on behalf of the MMD. Campaigns had ended and there was no need for confrontation – it was voting day.

When the assailers attacked us, they abducted Andrew Banda who did not put up a fight at all. When they tried to abduct me, I punched my way out of the attack and escaped with a punch on the eye which I sustained when I mistakenly thought I could negotiate with the leader of the assailants. Andrew was badly assaulted. The assailants were a hastily assembled group of hungry youths who did not even know each other. Because they were not in uniform to tell each other apart and because the attack had no organised formation, the assailants hungry to spill blood ended up hacking each other and when they were done, they surprisingly jumped back into the same vehicle they had come with while assisting the injured. They then assaulted Andrew all the way to the police station while questioning each other on how they sustained injuries against an un armed group of two people one of whom was secured at the inception of the attack. Annoyed and embarrassed, they dumped Andrew’s badly injured body at the Container Police Station in Katete and made false statements claiming that they had been attacked by Andrew (alone) and that he caused all the injuries.

They proceeded to take the badly injured youths to the hospital while Andrew in his state got thrown into the cells. It was important for the police to do this – as it had to be consistent with the mandate from the politicians on sight. The target was Andrew and either way, he had to taste police cells and eventually the court.

What Andrew is going through is similar to what Tongogara went through. Saving the interest of the principal is paramount for the police. In Tongogara’s case, the killers could roam the streets and it was ok as what mattered was the reputation of the principal.

The prosecution of Tongogara was halted after the authorities’ lies could not be sustained in a court of law. The persecution of Andrew is going nowhere as it is stupid, frivolous and out rightly ridiculous!

Police! Do your job professionally and do not listen to misplaced politicians. Zambians deserve your protection and not persecution.

Lucky Mulusa, MP.

Solwezi Central.

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