ZANU-PF Central Committee member Cde Victoria Chitepo who died last Friday will be buried at the National Heroes Acre on Wednesday. Cde Chitepo (88), the widow of national hero and founding Zanu national chairman Advocate Herbert Chitepo, was accorded national heroine status for her colossal contribution to the country before and after Independence.
Zanu-PF secretary for Administration Cde Ignatius Chombo yesterday said Cde Chitepo’s body would be flown to her rural home in Manicaland Province today. “We sat down with the family and it requested that her body be taken to Bonda tomorrow (today) morning, where it will lie in state with relatives paying tribute to her,” he said.
“On Tuesday, the body will be taken back to Harare where it will again lie in state at the family’s Mt Pleasant home and we will lay her to rest on Wednesday morning.” Cde Chombo added: “The detailed programme is being worked on by our committees and by yesterday (Saturday), they had already begun working on it.”
In his emotional tribute at the Chitepo residence on Saturday, President Mugabe, who reassured the Chitepo family that he would stand by them, described Cde Chitepo as steadfastly loyal. He said after her husband’s assassination in 1975, Cde Chitepo remained committed to the liberation struggle and continued to work tirelessly for the party.
“Tarasikirwa naMai. Vanga vari Mai vanyerere asi vari Mai vemusangano. Ndakanzwa kuti vakanga vaita shungu yekuti vauye kumusangano wedu weCentral Committee nezuro, ndokubva zvakona vakafira mubathroom.
“I am sure every one of us here has a different story; everyone here has her own story to tell about Mai Chitepo. That story will always have an element of love, an element of her preparedness to assist, (her) charitable disposition, wanting to assist and wanting reconciliation.
“She never was quarrelsome. No, never! She was never involved in conflicts. She also always encouraged harmony in the party, dialogue in the party, and togetherness in the party.” More mourners yesterday thronged Cde Chitepo’s home to pay their condolences.
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Christopher Mushohwe described Cde Chitepo as a “mother to the Manicaland Province” who never looked back even after the death of her husband in 1975. “I heard of her death while attending the (Zanu-PF) Central Committee meeting (on Friday) and I could not believe it,” he said.
“I just went outside, and drove straight to her house to see for myself. Imagine, she wanted to attend the Zanu-PF Central Committee meeting. This shows how committed she was to the country. She would always attend even our provincial co-ordinating committee meetings. It was rare for her to miss our meetings.”
Dr Mushohwe said it was sad that Cde Chitepo passed on before the operationalisation of the Chitepo Ideological College. “When I was still a governor (of Manicaland), she would often ask me on the progress of finding land in Mutasa District to establish the college,” he said.
“She wanted to be afforded an opportunity to do projects with youths at the college. We actually discussed this on Wednesday in the Politburo and in my own opinion, it would be a befitting tribute to her if the party was to build that college to honour her.”
Politburo member and Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo said the fact that Cde Chitepo died while preparing to attend the Central Committee meeting showed she was an exceptional revolutionary committed to the struggle and development.
“Nobody showed commitment in the manner she did,” he said.
“It is a coincidence that it has happened just after the commemoration of the death of her husband Cde Herbert Chitepo on March 18. We were told by her daughter, Zanele, that she went to her husband’s grave to clean and put flowers on it, something that she never used to do. It’s like she was going there to say goodbye to him. It was somehow a premonition.”
Prof Moyo said he first met Cde Victoria Chitepo in Tanzania in 1977 when she was a chief librarian and realised that she was accessible to everyone.
Professor George Kahari, a close friend to Advocate Chitepo, said: “She was a woman of character with a lot of understanding of the meaning and significance of fighting for democracy. I worked with her in the Herbert Chitepo Association where I was a member. She did not brag about being Cde Chitepo’s wife. There is a lot that can be said about her. All I can say is she has left a legacy.”
Born on March 27, 1928 in South Africa, Cde Chitepo was a teacher by profession and married Advocate Chitepo in 1955. During the liberation struggle, inspired by her husband, she organised women to march in protest and co-ordinated care for detainees who were in prisons in places such as Marondera and Sikhombela.
At Independence she held several Ministerial positions and was a former Member of Parliament in Manicaland. Cde Chitepo was United Nations’ eminent person and special advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Mr Boutros Boutros Ghali on preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women (1994-1995).
She was appointed a member of the Commonwealth Mission to South Africa in 1993, replacing Justice Simbi Mubako. Cde Chitepo was awarded an honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Tourism and Hospitality Management degree for her contribution to national development by the Midlands State University in 2010.
Cde Chitepo is survived by four children and grandchildren. herald