The late Zanu PF politburo member, Solomon “Rex Nhongo” Mujuru, played a crucial role in President Robert Mugabe’s ascent to the leadership of Zanu in the 1970s.
Mujuru, who died yesterday night at his Beatrice farm, was one of the architects of the country’s liberation struggle which he led from the front.
Archival information shows that during the Liberation War, Mujuru, with the late Josiah Magama Tongogara, headed the Zanla forces, the military wing of Zanu, when President Mugabe had been jailed for 10 years between 1964 and 1974. Mugabe and Edgar Tekere, with the help of Chief Rekayi Tangwena, their medium, later slipped into Mozambique after their immediate release from jail with the active support of Mujuru.
Mujuru begged guerrillas, most of whom had never met Mugabe, to accept him as their leader. As a result Mujuru earned the tag King Maker in Zanu and according to his close associates, Mugabe remained indebted to him.
When Zimbabwe attained Independence in 1980 after a fierce liberation struggle, Mujuru played an instrumental role in the integration of Zanla, Zipra and Rhodesian forces into the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).
Mujuru took over the command of the ZNA in 1980 and retired 10 years later to go into business and politics. He became an influential member of the politburo and the central committee.
Controversy also dogged the colourful former guerrilla leader. Speculation was high that he owned several farms in violation of the government’s one-man-one-farm policy.
In the mid-1990s, Mujuru clashed with Emmerson Mnangagwa, long considered Mugabe’s favoured heir, when Solomon bid to buy into the multi-billion dollar Zimasco, a chrome mining and smelting concern in Zimbabwe’s Midlands Province.
Since then, Mujuru and Mnangagwa have been at crossroads which led to them leading opposing factions in Zanu PF. The factions are locked in a bitter fight of attrition to succeed the ailing and ageing Mugabe.
The late Mujuru wanted his wife, Vice-President Joice Mujuru, to succeed Mugabe, while Mnangagwa faction is pushing for the Defence minister to take over from the 87-year-old veteran nationalist.
It is generally thought that Mujuru had a tremendous amount of influence on who leads Zanu PF and the country. There was media speculation that he would be backing Simba Makoni. Makoni was a candidate in the March 2008 presidential election.
However, the speculation was false and Mujuru never endorsed Makoni, who later formed his own party, named Mavambo, Kusile, Dawn, meaning “The Beginning of a New Dawn”.
Mujuru and his wife were among the Zanu PF party members subject to personal sanctions imposed by the United States.
According to the book African Nationalist Leaders in Rhodesia Who’s Who co-authored by Robert Cary and Diana Mitchell, during the detention of Tongogara between 1975 and 1976, Mujuru acted as commander-in-chief of Zanu forces.
At one time he was reported missing, together with a Badza – one of the leading commanders. His position as a military leader during the liberation struggle was fiercely contested by the late Ndabiningi Sithole, the late Joshua Nkomo and the late Bishop Abel Muzorewa.
The book claimed that it was reported from Maputo in February 1977 that Mujuru had been arrested by the Mozambique authorities and later released.