Matabeleland was plunged into mourning as news of the death of Retired General Solomon Mujuru filtered across the region.
The NewsDay switchboard in Bulawayo was yesterday jammed with calls from people from across the region asking confirmation of the news of the passing-on of the former Zanla commander.
Former Defence minister Enos Nkala said: “He is a person I knew from the liberation struggle.
“He was the deputy Zanla commander and when Josiah Tongogara died, Mujuru took over as commander of Zanla towards independence.”
Nkala, one of the founders of Zanu PF, described Mujuru as a courageous fighter.
“I used to call him Tshaka because of his courage and good military command. His death is also similar to Tshaka’s. I hear he was burnt in his house by whom and how I don’t know. Some former colleagues in Zanu PF have gone to his house and said they will update me on what happened later in the day. That one is a hero, if he is not who would be? Can I claim to be a hero over him? Not at all! We are talking of an icon.”
Nkala said Mujuru was instrumental in “ambushing people who had thrown Edgar Tekere and (Herbert) Ushewokunze into a pit wanting to kill them as part of internal strife”.
Matabeleland South governor and former member of Zapu’s Revolutionary Council Angeline Masuku described the death of Mujuru as a huge loss to the nation.
“He is an icon of the liberation of this country,” she said. “He was not a tribalist. He was not a person who liked to talk, but when he opened his mouth, you would not help but just marvel that this is a true leader. He was a mediator, a builder who wanted things done the right way always. The death of such people as Mujuru is a serious loss to the nation. We mourn with his wife, Vice-President Joice Mujuru, and the rest of his family.”
When Bulawayo Resident minister and Zanu PF deputy secretary for information and publicity Cain Mathema was contacted for comment yesterday around 10am, he was unaware of the tragic death.
“I am hearing it from you for the first time. That is news to me. I will have to confirm that,” he said. Former Zipra intelligence supremo and Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa, a long-time friend of Mujuru, described the death of the retired general as sad.
“I have just got the news, I am actually in Harare so I will be going to his home to pay my condolences. He was a long-time friend of mine as we worked together during the liberation war when he was still at Zapu before leaving the party when it was having problems to join Zanla. Later on he worked very well in commanding Zanla following the arrest of Josiah Tongogara,” said Dabengwa.
“We worked very well after independence until the time I left government. We were close even after my departure from Zanu PF.”
Zanu PF politburo member and former Zipra commander Retired Colonel Tshinga Dube said the death came “as a shock to us all”.
“Perhaps his greatest contribution to the country outside his role in the liberation struggle was the formation of the Zimbabwe National Army after Independence. He was very instrumental in the combining of the three armies and if it was done by someone of a different character than that of Mujuru, it was going to be difficult. He was accommodative,” said Dube.
He said even during Gukurahundi, Mujuru “tried everything in his power to keep the army united”.
Zanu PF politburo member and Bulawayo political head Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said he had a good working relationship with Mujuru.
“We worked very well with Mujuru. He received his first military training with Zipra forces under Alfred Nikita Mangena. Even as the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), he worked very well with his deputy, the late Lookout Masuku,” he said.
“He was a national leader for all the people and no doubt he is a national hero. His death is a shock to us all especially after surviving all the bombings in Zambia and Maputo up to independence.”
Ndlovu said while Mujuru was commander of the ZNA, he ran a scholarship programme in partnership with Zimbabwe Distance Education College meant for army officials all over the country.