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  • Writer's pictureNigel Wakeham

Memories of Herbert Chitepo

Memories of Herbert Chitepo
Memories of Herbert Chitepo

Memories of Herbert Chitepo

The day that I arrived in Zambia in 1970 I went to supper with one of the partners in the firm who had been born in the then Southern Rhodesia. He was opposed to the Smith regime who were governing Southern Rhodesia and was an active supporter of ZANU, one of the opposition movements who were based in Lusaka. Herbert Chitepo who was External Chairman of ZANU at the time was at the supper and we subsequently became good friends.

Through Herbert I became acquainted with some of the other members of ZANU who were based in Lusaka such as Noel Mukono, Simpson Mutambanengwe and Washington Malianga and was soon involved in various activities to support the party. I was a very keen photographer at the time, and we built and equipped a darkroom in the garden of my house where I processed films sent back by the front-line fighters in Southern Rhodesia (and from training camps in Tanzania) and printed photos for use in the party newsletter and other publicity purposes. I put together a photographic exhibition for ZANU for an OAU conference (in I think 1971) and helped make, for the same conference, what was probably the first Zimbabwean flag (not the one in use now) that had been designed by Ndabaningi Sithole who was head of the party but in jail in Rhodesia.

At Christmas 1970, I drove down to the eastern highlands of Southern Rhodesia to assist with a Christmas party for the women and children of the Tangwena people who the Smith regime were trying to move off their land (most of the men had crossed the border into Mozambique). There I met the Tangwena chief, Rekayi and I was asked to return the next year to take photos of the villages that had been destroyed by the regime.

When I returned at Easter 1971, I stopped in Salisbury (now Harare) where Herbert had asked me to deliver a letter to Edson Sithole (an important figure in ZANU who had just been released from detention). This was achieved after a lot of clandestine meetings, the exchange of passwords, etc and Edson, a very impressive figure, breaking his curfew order. Noel had also asked me to buy some maps of the north-eastern border areas of the country at the government map shop (which I did with great trepidation as these were very sensitive areas) and to try and take some photos of one of the army barracks in the city (which again I did, though not very well as I could not get very close without raising suspicion).

I travelled on to the eastern highlands, met up with Chief Rekayi and was taken to visit some of the villages that had been burned down. The land was I believe, wanted by one of Smith’s supporters to grow tea on and the army had built roads into the area to make access to the villages easier. They had then proceeded to destroy many small villages and isolated houses. I took a lot of photographs of these, and some were subsequently published in a Swedish newspaper as propaganda against the Smith regime (unfortunately I no longer have copies). It later transpired that the driver of the land-rover that took us around the villages was a spy for the regime and he informed them that someone from Zambia had been taking photos. Fortunately, he did not know my real name, only a nickname that must have greatly puzzled Smith’s intelligence services!

I continued doing photographic and publicity work for the party and the photo of Herbert at the top of this post was one of several taken by me at my house in 1974 (It was later used by the Zimbabwean government, who obviously had no idea of who took it, on a stamp in 2005!). However, inter-ethnic divisions and rivalries in the party were making Herbert more and more stressed and depressed (and made my activities impossible to continue) and his visits to see me became more infrequent although he still came occasionally to relax and have a few beers. I was however devastated when he was killed (by a landmine under his car). He was a great guy; very intelligent and very charismatic and I would like to think that Zimbabwe would have turned out rather better than it has if he had become president.


Architecture in Developing Countries: A Resource

The design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health in rural areas of the developing world.

Nigel Wakeham is an architect who lived for 23 years in Southern and West Africa and the SW Pacific working on education, health and other projects. He has since worked for over 20 years as a consultant for national governments and agencies such as the World Bank, DFID, ADB and AfDB on the implementation of the construction components of education and health projects in many countries in the developing world.​

​The objective of this website will be to provide the benefit of more than 45 years of experience of working in developing countries to architects and other construction professionals involved in the design and construction of appropriate, low-cost buildings for education and health. It will provide reference material from the projects that Nigel has worked on and technical information on the design, construction and maintenance of educational and health facilities and other relevant topics and these will be added to from time to time.

I am happy to be contacted by anyone requiring further information on any of the projects or resources referred to in this website or by anyone wishing to discuss work possibilities.


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