The Sunday Mail
Below we publish the speech by His Excellency the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde E.D Mnangagwa, on the occasion of the renaming of the Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade.
It is with a deep sense of pride, humility and honour that I stand before you today to preside over this very important occasion of unveiling and renaming of 3 Infantry Brigade Barracks after the late Zanu chairman, Comrade Hebert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo.
Today’s ceremony is a continuation of Government’s decision to honour and recognise our departed heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle, beyond having them lie at the National Heroes Shrine. It is encouraging to note that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) has taken the lead in imprinting the memories of our departed heroes into our living history through the renaming of its various military cantonments after the country’s leading icons and liberators.
The renaming of our institutions after some of these leading military strategists par excellence and Pan-African revolutionaries will go a long way in preserving the country’s history, which we must bequeath to future generations. This process has without doubt set in motion our long-standing desire to rewrite our own history, which promotes our Zimbabwean values and celebrates our heroes. The renaming exercise is a demonstration of the uttermost respect and deep appreciation of the important roles played by our heroes who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Zimbabwe from colonial bondage.
Today’s renaming ceremony is the third such event, following similar renaming ceremonies for the now Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks, formerly King George VI Barracks, and Alfred Nikita Mangena Barracks, formerly Zimbabwe National Defence University, in December 2017 and March 2018, respectively.
The next to be renamed is the Flyde Airforce Base after the late Comrade Jason Ziyapapa Moyo. This will be followed by numerous renaming ceremonies for the rest of the military cantonments by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Command Element.
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen;
No serious reflections into our contemporary trajectories, history and politics can go without mention of immense influence, charisma and contribution of the late Comrade Hebert Wiltshire Chitepo. He was arguably one of the towering figures in the history of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
The man we honour today, Comrade Chitepo, was not only academically gifted and eminent but was also selfless, patriotic, dedicated and dutiful to the execution of the war. He was the first black citizen in Southern Rhodesia to become a barrister. Furthermore, he became Tanganyika’s, now Tanzania’s, first African Director of Public Prosecutions.
The late Cde Chitepo used his legal prowess to articulate legal issues, give legal advice and defend other African nationalists in courts that were geared to frustrate and derail the execution of the liberation struggle. Today’s Zimbabwe is indeed a product of the ideals and imaginations liberators and Pan Africans like the late Cde Chitepo, who sought to advance justice, dreams and the hope associated with a free country with socialistic convictions characterised by democratic values and equitable distribution of resources such as land.
I urge us all to learn from the life of the late Cde Chitepo, who inspite of being a lawyer by profession, chose to use his legal expertise to advance the cause for national liberation. Let us therefore as Zimbabweans in whatever profession or trade, use our skills, expertise, knowledge and abilities for the good of our nation. Let us ask ourselves what we can do for our country and how we can best serve our country and its people. The task to rebuild our country and propel national economic development and transformation is ours together.
Comrade Chitepo was born at Bonda Mission on 5 June 1923 and attended St David’s Bonda Mission School and St Augustine’s Mission School in Penhalonga for his primary and secondary education. He later moved to St Adam’s College in Natal, South Africa, where he qualified as a teacher in 1945. It was there that he met his wife, Mrs Victoria Mahamba Sithole-Chitepo, whom he married in 1955.
After teaching for a year, Comrade Chitepo embarked on further studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Fort Hare University College in 1949. He was qualified as a Barrister-at-Law. He was a research assistant at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Comrade Chitepo was the first African in Southern Rhodesia to qualify as a barrister.
In 1954, the late Comrade Chitepo became Rhodesia’s first black lawyer and upon his return to the then Rhodesia during the same year 1954, he practised as a lawyer and defended African nationalists such as Ndabaningi Sithole in court. In 1961, he served as legal adviser to the late Father Zimbabwe, Comrade Joshua Nkomo, founder of the Zimbabwe Peoples Union (Zapu), at the Southern Rhodesia Constitutional Conference in London.
During the same year, he was also appointed to the Board of Governors of Bernard Mzeki College. While Comrade Chitepo was a key figure in the nationalist activities, the Southern Rhodesia government failed to get sufficient grounds to detain him as he was never conceited about his involvement in such activities and by then, he was a man of international repute.
The late Comrade Chitepo embarked on the fight against arrogance, political intolerance and gross oppression that was deeply rooted in the white minority rule in Rhodesia in 1954. In the process, Comrade Chitepo assumed a national character, which has been an inspiration to many and will continue to echo for years to come, because of his intelligence, bravery, heroism and selfless sacrifice. He stood by the nation through thick and thin in his quest for freedom of all Zimbabweans.
The late nationalist was unflinching and unwavering in his dedication to see freedom for all people. Following the banning of Zapu in May 1962, Comrade Chitepo was persuaded to go into voluntary exile to escape possible detention. He became Tanganyika’s first African Director of Public Prosecutions and was chairman of Zanu upon its formation in 1963. In January 1966, he resigned from his job in Tanganyika and moved to Zambia to concentrate on the armed struggle.
Comrade Chitepo toured the world canvassing support for Zanu and for the enforcement of total economic sanctions for Rhodesia. His friendly disposition and warm personality made him very effective and earned Zanu international recognition and respect. Comrade Herbert Chitepo, together with the military supremo Comrade Josiah Magama Tongogara, planned successful military guerrilla attacks and underground activities in Rhodesia. In 1972, he coordinated war operations with Frelimo and opened up the North Eastern Region of Zimbabwe as a new and effective war front.
Comrade Herbert Chitepo died on 18 March 1975 in Lusaka, Zambia, in a car bomb explosion. He and Silas Shamiso, one of his bodyguards, were killed instantly, while Kufamadzuba (Cde Shadaki), his other bodyguard, was injured.
The late Cde Chitepo was indeed a visionary whose passion for freedom and self-determination made him a leading character in the liberation struggle. He displayed true resistance and resilience against numerous raids from Rhodesia and exhibited his consistent and persistent inspirational and daring initiative, combined with his undaunted willpower, weakened the superiority of the Rhodesian Security Forces and eventually destroyed the mighty sword of the enemy. Because of the principle that inspired him, memories of Comrade Chitepo should also inspire us all to remain rooted in the noble founding principles of the liberation struggle.
Ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends;
While today’s programme only focuses on formally renaming what has hitherto been known as Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade Barracks to Hebert Chitepo Barracks, we should also never ever forget the role played by the rest of the gallant sons and daughters of the soil who fought in the war of our liberation.
The selection of the late founding chairman of ZANU, Comrade Chitepo and a few others, after whom the military cantonments have been renamed, is not meant to obliterate the role played by the rest of the liberation war fighters, war collaborators, detainees and the progressive people of this country during the armed liberation struggle. It is a humble recognition of their outstanding services to the revolution that put them a cut above the rest. It is also a symbolic gesture for the many unsung heroes and heroines of our struggle, who lie in unmarked graves both at home and on foreign lands.
The introduction of public lectures by ZDF, on the history of the liberation struggle, will go a long way towards inculcating a shared understanding of the arduous road we travelled and the dangerous pitfalls which characterised the journey to independence. It is my hope that the re-kindled recognition and knowledge of our country’s history will inform, inspire and motivate us as we craft strategies for a better future. “We can’t change the past, but we can shape our tomorrow”.
The renaming of this cantonment to Hebert Chitepo Barracks also resonates well with the successes that have been scored by Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade since Independence. The Brigade was formed from mostly members of the Zanla and Zipra forces who fought fierce protracted battles to dislodge the colonial rule and was among the first Brigades which were mobilised to carry out offensive operations against Renamo during the Mozambican Campaign.
Its location was key to the ZDF operation in Mozambique. It was also among the first brigades to be deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during Operation Sovereign Legitimacy in August 1998.
Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade fought many battles in the DRC and managed to subdue the enemy. Apart from these major campaigns, the Brigade also participated in peace support operations, among them, Somalia and Angola. In all these operations, Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade successfully raised the Zimbabwean flag high; the latest of these operations was Operation Restore Legacy conducted between 13 November and 18 December 2017.
The Brigade should thus always stand guided by this principle of defending our land and territorial integrity even with our blood.
May the attributes and traits of the late Hebert Chitepo such as boldness, unfailing devotion, commitment, patriotism and loyalty forever permeate through all men and woman who pass through these barracks. May these barracks stand as a landmark to the entire nation and Manicaland Province in particular and as a celebration of the life and memory of the late Cde Chitepo.
Today we remember our late hero, allow me to equally celebrate the national heroine, Amai Victoria Chitepo, who was always a steadying, supportive figure and mother as well as a veteran of the struggle, in her own right.
In concluding, may I extend my sincere gratitude to the family and relatives of the late Comrade Hebert Wiltshire Pfumaindini Chitepo for allowing the nation to recognise and honour him in this fashion.
God Bless you all !
I thank you!