Zanu PF founder member and veteran nationalist Edgar Tekere has died. He was 74.
A former Zanu PF secretary-general, Tekere died at Murambi Garden Clinic in Mutare around 1:30pm on Tuesday, after a long battle with cancer.
A family spokesperson, Dr Ibbo Mandaza, said Tekere succumbed to prostate cancer.
“He had prostate cancer which had now gone into the spine. He was put into the intensive care unit at Murambi Garden Clinic,” said Mandaza.
Tekere, one of the heroes of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and a fierce critic of President Robert Mugabe, was last year admitted at St Anne’s Hospital and Avenues Clinic in Harare.
He was discharged on November 11 last year, although he remained under observation.
Tekere’s death is set to divide Zanu PF over his hero status as some viewed him as a godfather while others regarded him as a problem child.
He ruffled the feathers of President Mugabe, whom he stood against in the 1990 elections on a Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum) ticket, and had on several occasions openly declared the ageing leader had overstayed his welcome.
Tekere endorsed the candidature of Simba Makoni in the 2008 harmonised elections and was the guest of honour at the MDC-T’s 10th anniversary celebrations in Mutare in 2009.
In one of the interviews with NewsDay Editor Brian Mangwende at St Anne’s Hospital, Tekere urged the two MDC formations to close ranks and fight President Mugabe as a united front.
“I urge (MDC-T leader Morgan) Tsvangirai and (MDC leader Arthur) Mutambara to work together for the good of the nation. The two parties need to reunite and fight (President) Mugabe. They will never defeat him if they are not united. I know that man (President Mugabe),” Tekere said.
In another memorable interview, Tekere said the Heroes’ Acre was no longer reputable and he would not want to be interred there upon his death. This, Tekere said, was because undeserving individuals were lying at the national shrine.
“It’s now confusing us,” Tekere said. “It throws me into a quandary because they (President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF) have rendered that place so disreputable. It’s a national shrine. It must be inclusive, but they sit down exclusively to decide. The place should be for national luminaries, not only those that went to war.”
At one time Tekere said he would not like to be buried at the national shrine where people would “speechify over my dead body” and where he said lay “thieves and crooks”.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, who is Tekere’s nephew, said to many people Tekere would be viewed as a hero because of the contributions he made in liberating the country, although he said some of his colleagues in Zanu PF may not view him as such because he failed to toe the party line “more often than not”.
Mutasa grew up with Tekere, and the two attended school together at St Faith Mission in Rusape. He said of Tekere:
“He was an excellent footballer and motorcyclist. He could ride the motorbike like hell.”
Politically, said Mutasa, Tekere had very strong opinions and stood firm on matters of principle.
“He was a very strong supporter of Zanu before it was Zanu PF, and as a result he went through a lot of problems. He was in the Youth League around 1959 until the formation of Zanu. He attended the first Zanu congress in 1964 as a member of the Youth League,” Mutasa said.
“He had many jobs in Harare, but remained committed to the struggle for independence. By the time when the Unilateral Declaration of Independence was made (in November 1965), Tekere had already been detained at Sikhombela and Harare Central Remand Prison. He also served time at HwaHwa Prison.
“When he was released (in 1974), he, together with President Mugabe, escaped through Nyafaru Farm (in Nyanga) to Mozambique (in 1975), assisted by Chief Rekayi Tangwena.
“During the war period, when Zanu reorganised he was the third-highest ranking official in the party after (President) Mugabe and (Simon) Muzenda.
“He worked with the fighters during the struggle and came back (just before Independence in 1980) to establish the first government of Zimbabwe.”
However, Mutasa said, Tekere “did things that displeased the party” and was expelled resulting in him forming Zum.
“Because he was regarded as one of our own, especially by people from Manicaland, the party leadership was engaged to readmit him into the party, but against everyone’s expectations he published a book which had nothing else but criticism of our President,” he said.
“We couldn’t understand why he had written that rubbish and many people lost faith in him. We are, however, very sorry that he has died, and as individuals I hope we will do everything to give him a good send-off.”
He said despite their differences, he respected Tekere.
Tekere personally invited Bob Marley to perform at Zimbabwe’s Independence celebrations. Marley’s music was an inspiration to many freedom fighters during the Second Chimurenga.
Tekere was expelled from Zanu PF in 1988, after criticising the rise in corruption and President Mugabe’s efforts to turn Zimbabwe into a one-
He, however, remained popular in and outside Zanu PF and was visited by a number of politicians last year while in hospital, among them Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu and Youth Development minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
Mandaza said funeral arrangements had not yet been made because members of the family were still to congregate.
Mourners are gathered at No 9 Alexander Road in Bordevale, Mutare.