Forty years after the murder of Zanu Chair Cde Herbert Chitepo, a functionary in Ian Smith's colonial establishment has revealed that the same assassin eliminated Zapu's deputy chief Cde Jason Ziyapapa Moyo also attempted to kill President Mugabe.
Ex-British South Africa Police superintendent Mr Peter Stiff in an interview at his home in Johannesburg, South Africa, last week, said Alan "Taffy" Brice planted the car bomb that killed Cde Chitepo.
Brice also provided Mr Stiff with details on how he killed Cde JZ Moyo, and was stopped from detonating a bomb targeting President Mugabe at the 1979 Lancaster House talks that led to Zimbabwe's Independence the following year.
Mr Stiff said he met Brice in South Africa in 1985, and the two were to became close friends.
Brice even showed him some of the explosives that had been primed to kill President Mugabe before the mission was aborted at the last minute.
Mr Stiff – a prolific military historian – first published a book about Brice titled "See You In November" in the 1980s, but he did not name him as the assassin at the time.
He revised the book and included Brice's name and pictures after the killer of Cdes Chitepo and JZ Moyo succumbed to cancer of the oesophagus two years ago.
The 81-year-old Mr Stiff said: "I know that you hear of all these different stories about how (Cde Chitepo) was killed, but I can assure you he was killed by this guy Taffy who was of the British SAS.
"He had left the SAS, come to Rhodesia and CIO got hold of him, and he worked for them. He did things like that. He was an assassin. That's what his job was when he was in the British SAS. There are a lot of people who said it was Robert Mugabe who had him killed. But he didn't: It was nothing to do with him. It was the Rhodesian CIO and the person doing it was Alan Brice who was also known as Taffy."
He continued: "Tongogara and the others were arrested without a reason. They had been set up and so they suffered. It was done, really, by the CIO. He (Chitepo) was the chief of Zanu in Zambia and the CIO knew this. So, they wanted to kill him to break up the organisation. The idea was to disrupt everything that they could. This was how they came to the idea of assassinating him."
Cde Chitepo was killed when a car bomb detonated as he pulled out of his home in Zambia's Chilenje South township with two bodyguards – Cdes Sadat Kufamazuva and Silas Shamiso.
Cde Shamiso and a child who was playing next door were also killed, while Sadat survived.
Zambian authorities mistakenly arrested Cde Chitepo's colleagues, including General Josiah Tongogara – the commander of Zanu's military arm, Zanla – in connection with the murder.
The suspects were later acquitted, and for years the actual assassin remained unknown.
Mr Stiff said Brice was also commissioned to kill President Mugabe during the Lancaster House talks.
Brice reconnoitred the hotel where the President was staying and planted explosives along a route he used frequently in the building.
The ex-SAS man was about to detonate the explosives from a cafe across the street when he received an instruction to abort the mission. Mr Stiff said he never discovered why the plot – which would have plunged Zimbabwe into chaos – was stopped.
"I went around to (Brice's) house and we had a few beers. He was telling me about what he had been doing; all these operations. Some of them seemed a bit far-fetched: He had these explosives, which he took through customs in London.
"I know the customs and immigration in London are very tight. To get weapons or explosives through would be just about impossible. So, I told him so."
Brice explained how he disguised the explosives as canned guavas to deceive customs and immigration officers. He then showed Mr Stiff three of the cans containing the explosives.
Mr Stiff said: "When he showed me these cans of guavas (I reasoned that) nobody could just have cans like that with plastic explosives in them.
"I didn't previously know much about the Chitepo assassination. I just knew he had been killed, but not the details. It was only after I met Taffy and that was in Alberton (in South Africa) in 1985."
According to Mr Stiff's book – which is essentially Brice's first person account of his murderous activities – the assassin trained in the British SAS and operated in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Kenya.
In the 1970s, he was involved in an operation to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gadaffi.
However, the mission — organised by the British MI-6 and US' CIA – fell through after the Americans pulled out.
He relocated to Rhodesia and was in 1973 contracted by the CIO to gather intelligence on Zanu and Zapu activities in Zambia. He was also tasked with fomenting animosity between the two parties.
With fellow ex-SAS operative Hugh "Chuck" Hind and Ian Sutherland, Brice bombed the Zambian High Court and Central Post Office in Lusaka to make the authorities in that country "edgy" about hosting Zimbabwe's freedom fighters. Brice also conducted attacks on Zapu and Zanu's offices to make it look like the two were at loggerheads.
In February 1975, Brice and Hind were instructed to kill Cde Chitepo as the Rhodesians wanted to cripple Zanu following an internal rebellion led by Thomas Nhari and sponsored by CIO head Ken Flower.
In "See You In November", Jack Berry – Brice's CIO contact – says: "My superiors have been wondering whether it would be possible to kill Herbert Chitepo. We believe his early demise would create just the right climate at the moment. Besides that, he is a dangerous and important member of Zanu."
Brice says of his role in Cde JZ Moyo's assassination: "The Herbert Chitepo operation had been so successful that the CIO were reluctant to allow us to continue operating in Zambia for the time being in case we were blown. That would have carried the risk of undoing everything we had achieved. Jack Berry said at a meeting in late 1976, 'We have been wondering if we could get away with sending Jason 'JZ' Moyo a parcel bomb. 'A parcel bomb will probably work,' I mused. 'We must mail it from Francistown in Botswana. We know there is an occasional in-transit Zanu presence there'."
He goes on: "That evening, using a Reader's Digest condensed book and its carton, I made up a device using plastic explosive and ball bearings. The detonation would occur as two electrical contacts came together when the book was removed from the parcel and opened. The power source was torch batteries.
"…When the device was ready, I packed the 'book' into my suitcase with my clothing and in mid-January 1977 flew from Salisbury to Francistown. I stuck stamps on in Francistown and posted the parcel. I then flew on to Lusaka."
Contacted on Friday, Cde Chitepo's widow Cde Victoria Chitepo said she was pleased that the national hero had played a major part in Zimbabwe's Independence.
"I have never followed up to say, 'Ndiani, ndiani? Who killed Chitepo?' When you are fighting a war with the British, how would I know who of the people killed him? It is something that I try not to think about. There are whites who have written books saying they did it. That is up to them; it is not up to me. I have read one of the books, and took that information as it was."