What actually happened to Dr. TS Parirenyatwa?

Source: What actually happened to Dr. TS Parirenyatwa?

Yesterday, I came across a report in which a former ruling ZANU PF high-ranking official Rugare Gumbo was quoted as threatening to expose the people behind the assassination of then party chairman Herbert Wiltshire Chitepo

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

He was killed by a bomb planted underneath his car in 1975, at the height of intense factional fighting within the party during Zimbabwe`s liberation struggle.

This took place at his home in Lusaka (Zambia), where some of the nationalist leaders were based at the time.

There has been wide speculation as to the people behind this heinous targeted killing – with most fingers pointing at Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who was party secretary general at the time, but harbouring fierce ambitions of taking over as the ultimate leader.

However, this is a story for another day, and it is not why I am writing this piece.

As I read Gumbo`s claims over Chitepo`s murder, another equally important name came into my mind.

Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa.

Not only was he the first black physician and medical doctor in colonial Rhodesia, but ZAPU`s first vice president after the liberation movement was formed in January 1962.

His tenure was, nonetheless, short-lived, as he was killed only seven months later on 14 August 1962.

What really happened to this promising young man – whose life was tragically cut short at the age of 35 years old, in a supposed car-train collision near Bulawayo.

The official version of evets is that Parirenyatwa and three other ZAPU officials were travelling from the capital Harare (then Salisbury) to an urgent meeting in Bulawayo called by party president Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo.

Two of the car`s occupants are said to have disembarked in Gweru (Gwelo at the time), after noticing that they were being trailed by what they suspected were police vehicles.

Parirenyatwa and the driver `Danger` Sibanda proceeded with the journey, after which they stopped at Shangani to refuel.

According to Sibanda, during the subsequent inquest into Parirenyatwa’s death, they were stopped a mile beyond Shangani and accosted by some unidentified people.

As Parirenyatwa and Sibanda approached Bulawayo, their vehicle is alleged to have collided with a speeding train – where he (Parirenyatwa) was killed immediately.

However, there are some serious discrepancies with this version of events.

For starters, based on the pathology report, Parirenyatwa only sustained head injuries from the alleged accident; with his face heavily swollen.

In fact, when his body was exhumed by his family in August 2004, there was no sign at all of any broken bones – which goes against someone killed in a collision with a humongous vehicle as a train.

The strangest thing is that the inquest into his death never questioned how it was that a person involved in an accident with a train never had a single bone broken.

Further to this, the driver (Sibanda) was not found in the car but lying unconscious on the ground some distance away – and was only found after a determined search.

How did he manage to leave the car after being hit by a locomotive such that he was found meters away on the other side of the road?

As a matter of fact, it is reported that Parirenyatwa’s car was hit from the right-hand side – which is where the driver sits.

How then did Sibanda survive, yet Parirenyatwa (who was seated on the left side) perishing immediately upon impact?

As if that was not weird enough, just as in Parirenyatwa’s case, the driver only had injuries on the face and no other signs to be expected from an accident of this magnitude.

Based on Sibanda’s own statement, the two never reached the railway road crossing – but were, instead, accosted by unknown men far from the accident scene – where they were viciously beaten up.

As it turned out, one of Parirenyatwa’s suit buttons was actually found in a farm forest away from the railway crossing.

This may suggest that this is where he was savagely manhandled and subsequently killed by his assailants.

All the facts leave us with more questions than answers as to what really happened to Dr. Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa.

I strongly believe a fresh, independent, thorough forensic investigation is imperative.

There is never a case that can disappear forever.

With the modern forensic technologies we have nowadays, so many things that were either ignored or not detected in 1962 can be unearthed today.

We owe it to his family, who deserve closure as to what really transpired on that fateful day.

There is one more question that is screaming to be addressed.

What was the motive for his killing – if indeed Parirenyatwa was assassinated?

Let us remember that he had only been in office as ZAPU vice president for a measly seven months.

Judging from his political profile, there was no way he could have been regarded as a serious enough threat by the Rhodesia regime to the point of warranting elimination.

In fact, as brutal as the colonial regime was during the liberation struggle itself, they never resorted to assassinating nationalist leaders, more so way before the war even begun.

Let us remember that this was still in 1962, when ZAPU had recently been formed, and was actually viewed as understanding and willing to negotiate with the Rhodesians.

This was the same period that Nkomo had given the thumbs up to the 1961 Rhodesia Constitution, which allowed for limited parliamentary seats to blacks.

As such, ZAPU was, at that time, viewed quite favourably by the colonial regime.

That is one reason fierce divisions were to emerge in the party leading to the formation of the splinter ZANU party in August 1963 – which was far more militaristic and wanted an armed liberation struggle.

Parirenyatwa was never a militant or radical member of ZAPU.

It, thus, does not make any sense at all that the Rhodesians would want him dead.

Who then felt threatened by Parirenyatwa?

Could this not be someone within his own ZAPU party?

Was it Nkomo himself who saw Parirenyatwa as a young blood who could actually oust him from power?

We should not forget how he (Parirenyatwa) seemed to emerge from relative obscurity and rise up the ladder of power with frightening speed.

Or, was it someone else within ZAPU who was jealous of Parirenyatwa’s phenomenal dizzying ascendancy?

Maybe we will never know.

However, what is not debatable is that there is a need for Parirenyatwa’s death to be re-investigated, and the truth finally told.

That is the only justice his family can expect.

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: mbofana.tendairuben73@gmail.com, or visit website: https://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/