. . . foiled attempt to kill Dr Joshua Nkomo
Sikhanyiso Ndlovu Special Correspondent
IN 1977 when the Smith Regime made a firm decision to assassinate Dr Joshua Nkomo in Zambia, after the shooting down of an Air Rhodesia plane in Kariba, the Selous Scouts; a secret assassination organ of the regime, assigned Selous Scout Gough to survey Dr Nkomo’s house and draw up the road map from Zambezi to Lusaka.
Gough was ideal since he was born in Zambia and had a Zambian passport.
He joined the Lusaka Golf Club which was near Dr Nkomo’s house on Nyerere Drive and President Lane which led to President Kaunda’s State House.
He monitored Dr Nkomo and Zipra movements. Back in Rhodesia at the back of Inkomo barracks, a makeshift house similar to Dr Nkomo’s Lusaka House was built for invasion practice by the Selous Scouts who would be involved in the actual attack.
The other target was the Zipra Westlands Farm Headquarters and the place we called “Works” where our Zipra fuel was stored.
Chris Gough admitted that we had 20 000 Zipra cadres. It is not true that Zimbabwe House was bombed. A spotter plane and helicopter tried and were shot down.
I happened to be there arranging to go on a visit to the Zapu schools at Victory and JZ Camps. On April 14 1979, the attacking Rhodesian Special Air Service Unit crossed the Zambezi at Kariba by boat under the command of Captain Martin Pearce guided by Antony White who had done reconnaissance of Nkomo’s house with Chris Gough.
According to the Selous Scouts report, the equipment included seven sable Land Rovers painted in Zambian colours and one special air service vehicle, heavy weapons and grenades. Our Zipra intelligence spotted them and thought that they were Zambian Land Rovers.
The Selous Scouts reported that one of their columns was to attack Zimbabwe House that night and another to attack Nkomo’s house.
Zimbabwe House was not attacked as Zipra was on guard.
During the night our military trained switch board operator, whom we called Russia, phoned and told me that he was hearing explosions at Nkomo’s house.
I did not tell him that Nkomo was not there or that Nxele and I had taken him to Jasmondene hideout which I had secured. He said Zimbabwe House was safe but Zipra forces were on the alert.
The Selous Scouts report quoted in Aeneas Chigwedere’s booklet “The Hunt for Nkomo” is a blatant lie that Zipra security details guarding Dr Nkomo’s house were asleep and the invaders easily entered the house looking for Nkomo and that they killed most of his security guards.
How could they be asleep when information had come that Nkomo’s house would be attacked and when Nkomo’s security chief Bafo Nxele and myself had taken Nkomo away to the hideout.
Nxele’s Deputy, Joseph Maphosa hid in Nkomo’s bedroom and he is the one who shot one of the invaders on the thigh and testicles and another one on the buttocks and the Selous Scouts invaders cried out loud: “Nkomo is armed let’s get out!” Outside Cde Newsreel and other comrades fought a heroic battle until the invaders ran away in Land Rovers leaving their fellow invaders dead. One of them had his brains splashed on the ground.
Before the invasion after discussions and arrangements with Dr Kaunda, then Zambian president, Dr Nkomo moved to a bigger house near Dr Kaunda’s State House and near the Zambia Air Force and army barracks. Dr Nkomo said he now felt safer than before.
In the meeting with Dr Nkomo and his security chiefs, I said “don’t trust that you will be safe as Zambia might also be threatened for protecting you.” Cde Albert Nxele Nkomo’s Chief Security agreed with me. Dr Nkomo then gave me an assignment to look for an alternative hideout and an urban camp for women’s urban battalion which was under Magdalene.
I bought premises secured with a precast wall at Kalundu after Mulungushi Hall and we moved them at 1am. One day at 5am my house caretaker and security agents at Olympia Park, Kwacha Road knocked at my bedroom door and said, “baNKomo varikwino munyumba” (Nkomo is here in the house).
I got up and found him with his security guards Albert Nxele and Joseph Maphosa and others around the house. Nkomo said, “You were right that I should have an alternative hide-out Mnakwethu Ndlovu. Dinga indawo masinya.” Nkomo at that time was in disguise, wearing a big Jacket and a big cap.
My wife, Dr Rose and children thought of my days with Dr Nkomo back home in detention at Gonakudzingwa and feared whether Kaunda wanted to detain Nkomo because Dr Nkomo and Zapu always bought properties from leaving Zambians.
Word would go around and up to the enemy, indirectly or innocently; then the premises were bombed.
His house near Kaunda’s State House was well-known to foreign journalists who had links with Ian Smith and his commander General Walls.
I decided to buy deceased estates,so I went to see Dr Kaunda’s Administrator General of Estates. I told him what I wanted, without associating it with Dr Nkomo. He gave me keys and addresses of the properties.
I got an unusual property at Jasmondene out of Great East Road after the University of Zambia. The property comprised a double storey house with an underground compartment and an empty swimming pool, and a tree with good branches to sit under at night.
The armed guerillas would hide with weapons in the empty swimming pool. Within two days Nkomo’s Chief Security rushed to me and said “Bafo” meaning Brother, “Sekuyikho lokho,” (the time has come).
Information had come from the front through Cde Thomas Ngwenya who is now retired Col Ngwenya that Nkomo and all Zapu and Zipra leadership must move out of their premises and go to hide-outs.
Luckily, I had paid a deposit to Dr Kaunda’s Administrator General and had the keys with me. I drove with Albert Nxele to Dr Nkomo’s mini State House and hid my Ford Granada in the bush near the road. Nxele went into the house to convince Umdala to vacate.
There were senior party leaders talking with Nkomo, one of whom said to Nxele that they were still busy; “LoMdala kanti uSikhanyiso lowo ufunani?” Most of them did not know my assignment in the Nkomo security arrangements,they only knew about the ZAPU Camp Schools which I directed at the Victory Camp, JZ Camp and Solwezi under camp commanders Makanyanga at JZ and Cecil at UC.
Dr Nkomo agreed to leave when told by Nxele that I was taking him to the “hide out” – Nxele collected Nkomo’s belongings, packed them in trunks and moved out leaving Joseph Maphosa to hide in Nkomo’s bedroom.
I led the convoy to the Jasmondene house hide-out. After inspection Dr Nkomo said to me, “Uhlakaniphile wena uyithole njani indawo enje?” (You are clever how did you find such a strategic place?) Dr Nkomo had to sleep there in the underground.
At 2 am we heard the bombing of Dr Nkomo’s house at “State House.” Maphosa who was in Dr Nkomo’s bedroom fired and shot some Rhodesian soldiers who ran shouting that Nkomo was armed. They started bombing the house from the roof to raze it to the ground. We removed Maphosa alive from the rubble the following morning.
Freedom fighters outside like Newsreel fought the whole night until General Walls’ Selous Scouts escaped in a jeep, one of them with brains shattered on the ground.
General Walls and his commander known as Green Leader had a Sky shout warning Kaunda and his army at State House that he would hit and destroy his State House if his soldiers intervened.
He said he only wanted Nkomo and his Zipra terrorists. At 5 am I went to Dr Nkomo and his security who already knew what had happened. At 7 a.m. we went to Nkomo’s destroyed “State House”. Oh what a pitiful war zone site that was.
The whole World press and Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation were there thinking that Nkomo was dead in the burning rubble. Alas there was Dr Nkomo, myself, Albert Nxele, Newsreel and others standing. All cameras turned on Nkomo and reporters asked, “Were you in there?” Nkomo said, “Yes.”
“How you did you escape?” Dr Nkomo said, “I turned into a cat and jumped out of a small ground little window at the back of the house.” Nxele and I were beaming in amusement.
That is the famous story of Nkomo turning into a cat to escape the bombing of his house in Lusaka.
Dr Sikhanyiso Duke Ndlovu is former director of education in Zipra Camps in Zambia, and is current Zanu-PF Central Committee and Politburo Member.