Who killed Edson Sithole?

EDITOR - In October 1975 African Nationalist leader Dr Edson Sithole was abducted and killed.

The late Dr Edson Sithole

The late Dr Edson Sithole

The perpetrators were never identified.

The decade of the 1970’s in Zimbabwe was a fascinating era of fantasy, duplicity and intrigue that would not have been out of place in any James Bond 007 novel by Ian Fleming. The National Press Club, the Quill Club, was awash with international journalists who themselves could easily have jumped out of any Graham Greene storyline.

I recall as if it was yesterday entering the Ambassador Hotel in down-town Harare on a balmy Wednesday evening 15 October 1975. I was heading for the Quill Club situated on the hotel’s first floor. On the landing halfway up the staircase I bumped into advocate Edson Sithole, who was accompanied by his secretary Miriam Mhlanga. We exchanged greetings.

Only a few months earlier he had attended the Victoria Falls talks as a member of Bishop Muzorewa’s African National Council’s negotiating team. The talks were part of a “détente” policy instigated by South Africa’s Prime Minister B J Vorster,  aimed at forcing Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith to talk with the Frontline States and all of the warring nationalist parties.

I remember questioning Sithole as to who was in the club. He replied that there was only a ‘spook.’ The word ‘spook’ was used to describe a Central Intelligence Operative. That was my last conversation with him. Minutes later he was abducted with his secretary as he exited the hotel. He was never seen again.

As I entered the ‘Quill’ there was just one person facing the bar and whispering down the telephone. As he heard me enter he abruptly finished the conversation and turned around. The face and benign smile were very familiar; it was Special Branch officer Pat Keyser.

Machiavellian behaviour and factionalism were rife amongst the African Nationalists. There was growing disunity within the African National Council, a trend Sithole actively encouraged. In June 1975 he had circulated a report that Joshua Nkomo ‘had done a secret deal’ with Ian Smith. Later the report was proven to be true and Sithole publicly supported Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s expulsion of Joshua Nkomo from the ANC.

Did Smith and Nkomo cut a deal to rid themselves of this troublesome nationalist? Subsequently when I put the question to Pat Keyser the benign smile metamorphosed into a chilling gargoyle-like grin – and he enquired about my health.

At Independence in 1980 Keyser was recruited by South Africa’s Military Intelligence and became a key player in setting up the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) formed to destabilise majority rule in that country. Now as I fast forward to 2015: I can’t help wondering about the state of Pat Keyser’s health.
– MIKE ROOK (Former Quill Club Vice Chairman), Surrey UK

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Post published in: Letters to the Editor