Mugabe to bury old foe and critic Tekere

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe will today bury at the national Heroes Acre in Harare Edgar Tekere, his former ally, who later became his bitter political rival.

The liberation struggle hero died of prostate cancer on Tuesday at the age of 74. He will be laid to rest at the national Heroes Acre in Harare.

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Tekere and Mugabe had a turbulent love-hate relationship but maintained mutual respect, even as they engaged in a war of words in public and planned each other’s political demise behind the scenes.

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Tekere – affectionately known as “Two Boy” because of his stamina as a footballer at school – was an early ally of Mugabe. The two politicians had known each other from the early days of the liberation struggle in the National Democratic Party around 1960, Zapu and later Zanu-PF.

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They were founding members of Zanu in 1963, and both were imprisoned by the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith.

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As acknowledged by Mugabe in a condolence message this week, Tekere was one of the founding members of the broad nationalist movement in Zimbabwe, along with Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika, Maurice Nyagumbo, James Chikerema and George Nyandoro, although he was much younger.

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Tekere was in his early 20s when he was detained for the first time in March 1959, after the banning of the ANC of Southern Rhodesia a month earlier. The youngest political detainee among such senior nationalists as Nyagumbo and Stanley Parirewa, Tekere was fearless and defiant, as he continued to be throughout his life.

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To quote from his autobiography, A Lifetime of Struggle: “The reason for my arrest was that a receipt of money – some ten pounds – that I had donated to the party, had been found in a raid on the party offices. During the questioning I denied nothing, because I was proud of my activities in the party. In fact, during my arrest and questioning I gave the police something of a hard time.”

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As a consequence, Tekere spent what would otherwise have been the best years of any young man’s life in detentions, restrictions and later prison, which lasted for more than 10 years until his release in December 1974, together with Sithole, Mugabe, Nyagumbo, Enos Nkala and Washington Malianga.

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Following the assassination of Herbert Chitepo in Lusaka, Zambia, in March 1975, Tekere volunteered to accompany Mugabe to Mozambique. Some, including Nkala and Malianga, did not want to join in the war.

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Following Chitepo’s assassination Mugabe and Tekere left the country, and crossed the Eastern Highlands border, travelling through the mountains by foot, following the Gairezi river trail to Seguranza military camp in Mozambique to spearhead the armed anti-colonial struggle with the help of Samora Machel, who led Frelimo to power in Mozambique in 1975.

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In Mozambique, Mugabe and Tekere organised the war together until Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

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At the independence celebrations, Tekere – then secretary-general of Zanu and the third most powerful man in the party after Mugabe and the late Simon Muzenda – personally invited reggae legend Bob Marley to come and perform at Rufaro stadium.

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Marley’s music was an inspiration for the freedom fighters while they were in the bush fighting the war for independence. More than 100000 people attended the concert, and Marley performed the song, Zimbabwe.

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When Zanu won the 1980 elections, Tekere was appointed as minister of manpower planning in Mugabe’s first cabinet.

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Then trouble began for Tekere. His appointment as a cabinet minister was followed by a series of outspoken speeches that went far beyond government policy. Shortly after his appointment, on August 4 1980, he greeted Mugabe, who was then prime minister, and visiting Mozambique President Samora Machel in combat fatigues, announcing that he was going “to fight a battle”.

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Tekere and his bodyguards went looking for supporters of Nkomo’s Zapu, whom they feared were planning to topple the government. Failing to find Nkomo’s men, Tekere went onto a neighbouring farm and shot white farm manager Gerald Adams.

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Mugabe was fearful of Nkomo, resulting in massacres of real or perceived Zapu supporters.

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Tekere retained his government post when he went on trial together with seven bodyguards, who were all former guerilla fighters in the independence war. On December 8 1980, the high court, on a majority decision, found him not guilty of murder.

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Both assessors, overruling the judge, held that while Tekere had killed Adams, he was acting in terms of an utter conviction that state security was at risk – something many see as a major blemish to his illustrious career.

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After that Tekere went onto a slippery slope. His criticisms of Mugabe and government policies, as well as hitting out at corruption and greed within Zanu-PF circles, resulted in him being dismissed from the government on January 11 1981, a decision with which he was reported to be happy. However, he retained his position as Zanu-PF secretary-general.

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In April 1981, he was detained by Kenyan security forces to prevent him from speaking to students in Nairobi at the height of social unrest there.

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After a series of run-ins with Mugabe, Tekere was fired as secretary-general. His power in Zanu-PF declined until his expulsion in 1988, when he became a fierce opponent of Mugabe’s one-party-state policy.

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Tekere then formed the Zimbabwe Unity Movement and in the years that followed he became a vicious opponent of Mugabe.

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In A Lifetime of Struggle, written in 2007, he did not mention Mugabe as a friend.

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Tekere became associated with the MDC-T and Simba Makoni’s Mavambo, ensuring his fight with Mugabe became even more bitter.

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Today Mugabe will bury a man he liked at first but loved to hate in the end. – TimesLive