The passing away of George Rutanhire (68), prompts us to reflect on where we came from and where we are going to. Somewhere in the Game of Thrones, it is mentioned that it is not the business of the lion to concern itself with opinions of the sheep. Rutanhire, as we affectionately knew him, was, during my time, the lion and one of the most respected commanders and members of the General Staff.
A tribute by Justice Benjamin Paradza
Even the late General Vitalis Zvinavashe (alias Fox Corner/ Sheba Gava), who succeeded Solomon “Rex Nhongo” Mujuru and preceded Constantino Chiwenga as defence forces commander, saluted Rutanhire.
In the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army command structure, the General Staff was immediately below the High Command, after which were the Detachment Commanders (commonly known as the D level) and then the various junior ranks. The real operational commanders were in the General Staff and the D level. Rutanhire was the most senior of the General Staff.
As director of the commissariat, he reported to and saluted only members of the High Command who, with some notable exceptions, were not always among us. So, in an army of over 30 000, he saluted not more than 30 men in the Central Committee and the High Command.
That is how high-ranking Rutanhire was. What was striking about Rutanhire was his humility, awareness and acceptance of his personal limitations. Cognisant of his shortcomings, he surrounded himself with comrades like me who had more formal education than he did, to help him effectively execute his tasks as director.
At his command, we wrote and prepared the commissariat lectures used for the training of comrades. I was deployed to Manicaland to conduct research into the situation there and report back.
Through such research projects, Rutanhire was able to brief the High Command on how the struggle had progressed.
Rutanhire and his wife Susan were in the thick of it all and fortunately survived the war. He used to talk about how he and a handful of other combatants outwitted the Rhodesian forces in 1972, when they abducted a group of students from St Alberts Mission in Mount Darwin.
He was one of those who ignited the war in the north-eastern Tete Province, together with comrades Wilfred Mhanda, Webster Gwauya and others, when the likes of Robert Mugabe and all these guys who falsely claim to have fought in the war were either languishing in prison or too young to prosecute the struggle.
Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere is one of those who literally must have been in nappies then.
In recent times, apart from his ill-conceived and unnecessary dig at Mai Mujuru, with which I respectfully disagreed, we had heard nothing about Rutanhire. It was as if he was attacking National People’s Party leader Joice Mujuru in an attempt to attract the attention of Zanu PF after they had neglected him for years. When bad guys take over, they sideline the good ones.
Rutanhire was one of the good and genuine war veterans, who was overwhelmingly neglected by vultures and opportunists who never fought the battles that he did. To his widow, Susan, I express my sincere condolences. You and Rutanhire are not at all party to what they have done to our country.
May your goodness, Rutanhire, and your soul rest in eternal peace knowing you played your part without seeking personal gain. I certainly would be there in person to pay you my last respects, if only I was not exiled by the same people that we sacrificed our lives for, who have turned out to be nothing but thugs and thieves. When good men die, the evil will rejoice.
You genuinely earned your status as a national hero and you do not need the approbation of charlatans who, by conferring that title on you, seek to bask in your reflected glory.
Justice Benjamin Paradza is an exiled Judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe and President of ZUNDE. www.zunde.org; email@example.com, @zundezim