The Zimbabwe Democracy Now (ZDN), has called for a full multi-party enquiry into the circumstances that led to death of one of the country’s most revered freedom fighters, the late General Josiah Tongogara.
Sources said Oppah Muchinguri the key witness in the car in which the veteren freedom fighter was killed in and the victim of the latest Zanu PF power stuggles in which she lost the post of Vice President to Joyce Mujuru, has vowed to give evidence to such an inquiry as a revenge on Robert Mugabe’s double standards.
ZDN chose Friday, the opening of the ZANU PF congress, to reflect on the life and sacrifice of Tongogara, whose death on the 26th December 1979 remains a mystery to this day.
Independent newspapers in Zimbabwe on Friday ran full-page advertisements calling for an enquiry into his death 30 years ago in Mozambique. Tongogara was the leader of ZANLA, the military wing of ZANU during the guerrilla war that brought Robert Mugabe to power in 1980. In the adverts ZDN calls for a parliamentary enquiry into the demise of Tongogara and another war hero, Lookout Masuku, and for flags to fly at half-mast on Boxing Day out of respect to Tongogara specifically.
ZDN spokeswoman, Ethel Moyo, said there was widespread suspicion of foul play in the way Tongogara died on Boxing Day 30 years ago. The fact that he was buried without a full post-mortem only raises more suspicions of a conspiracy to cover-up.
‘If you asked 100 Zimbabweans for their view on the death of General Tongogara, I predict at least 90 would say he was murdered. It is no secret that, in 1979, Tongogara was the most popular man in Zimbabwe and he overshadowed Robert Mugabe,’ Moyo said.
She added; ‘He was also opposed to Mugabe’s plan of setting up a one-party state once in power and banning all opposition.’
ZDN said they will also be campaigning for more to be done for the late General Lookout Masuku, another liberation war icon, who was jailed by Mugabe in the 1980’s on trumped up charges. ZDN is advocating for streets and places to be named after him.
The late General led ZIPRA, the military wing of ZAPU which was fighting Ian Smith and his Rhodesian forces from Zambia. He died on the 5th April 1986, shortly after he was released from prison.
‘By 1 March 1986, the general was so ill that he was transferred under armed guard to the Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare where he died on 5 April. Rumours persist that he was tortured in jail and then poisoned.
Masuku was denied a place at Heroes’ Acre and is buried near Bulawayo,’ ZDN said in a statement.
Moyo added that celebrations to mark the country’s 30th independence anniversary would be hollow if the truth was not revealed about the deaths of the two guerrilla leaders.
She said the issue of Tongogara and Masuku has long divided Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, but with Mugabe in control of the army, police and the feared CIO, few have been willing to voice their suspicion that he had a role in the general’s death.
The election of the new Zanu PF top four leaders from Mashonaland and Matabeleland provinces — which put Zezurus and Ndebeles in charge — has left Karangas and Manyikas mainly from Masvingo, Midlands and Manicaland regions boiling with anger.
Karangas wanted to recapture one of the positions of vice-president which was left vacant in 2003 by the late vice-president Simon Muzenda, a Karanga, but was taken over by Joice Mujuru, functionally a Zezuru.
Manyikas wanted to seize the chairmanship, arguing Ndebeles are overrepresented in the presidium to complete an ideal tribal balancing act.
The Karangas, who mainly occupy Masvingo and Midlands provinces in the south, also agree with the Manyikas that there was need for the tribal balance.
Sources in Masvingo’s top leadership said there was no tribal balance, with the Zezurus holding the top posts in the politburo, government, army, airforce and public service commission.
"People are starting to complain that only one region holds most of the power," said one top Masvingo official "Are they then saying that they are the most learned; hence others are incapable of holding top posts? We want to raise these issues and seek clarity on the party’s position."
They feel that since power fell into the hands of Mugabe, he has ignored their contribution during the liberation struggle, sidelined their leaders and promoted members of his own clan.
Sources said the latest stream of problems in Zanu PF was discussed at the party politburo meetings on Monday and Wednesday. On Monday Mugabe clarified the issue of chairmanship, saying it was not reserved for Zapu officials only, by extrapolation Ndebeles.
Before 1973, Zanu PF was mainly seen as Manyika-dominated. Zezurus had been disgruntled by lack of control and formed their own party in 1971. After the 1973 controversial Zanu PF external elections, the results were interpreted by party officials to mean a Manyika defeat and a Karanga victory. Five out of eight Dare reChimurenga members were presumably Karangas.
The situation led to vicious tribal infighting within Zanu PF which was blamed for the assassination of party chairman Herbert Chitepo in March 1975. Karangas were accused of plotting his killing and the Zanu PF Dare chief of defence Josiah Tongogara and other Karangas were arrested over it.
Prior to that in 1974, a group of militants led by Thomas Nhari had rebelled against Tongogara but were crushed in early 1975. During the months of January, February and March 1975 real and suspected rebels were rounded up to face retributive justice. Sustained kidnappings, mass trials and executions followed.
Zezurus then captured power in Zanu PF in 1977 when Mugabe became party leader until now. Additional reporting: SW Radio Africa, plus The Zimbabwe Independent