Following rants by Zanu PF chairperson and Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri regarding a book she claimed to have written on the death of Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) commander Josiah Magama Tongogara, it is critical that Zimbabweans move on from the death of Tongogara as it has become a blame-game and the scoring of petty political points, completely disregarding the feelings of the Tongogara family.
Guest column: Roy Muroyi
The question on every Zimbabwean’s mind is why Muchinguri had to wait all this long to start making statements on the death of Zimbabwe’s most decorated general.
The truth pertaining to the death of Tongogara may never come out.
What we have witnessed from Zanu PF over the years is a dangerous distortion of history to suit certain individuals’ agendas.
Forming part of the Zimbabwe question today is that peace-loving Zimbabweans should, in fact, zero in on the legacy of Tongogara and his contribution to the national discourse had he been alive today.
The man himself was somewhat a mixture of brilliance and ne’er-do-well.
He was a military genius and a unifying figure between the Zanla and Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (Zipra) camps.
In her book Re-living the Past, Fay Chung gives Tongogara credit for ensuring that the Lancaster House agreement was signed as former President Robert Mugabe and the entire Zanu top brass wanted to move away from the talks.
Chung further makes mention of the South to South Entente; Tongogara favoured a unification of Zapu and Zanu under the Patriotic Front, with then Zapu leader, the late Joshua Nkomo. leading the two former revolutionary groups.
The death of Tongogara was the final nail leading to the collapse of the then unity talks between Zanu and Zapu, with Zanu declaring they would be running for elections alone.
Many have argued that the real reason why Tongogara favoured a Nkomo presidency was probably because that Nkomo came from the southern part (Matabeleland) of the country, just like Tongogara, who came from the Midlands province, also in the southern part of the country.
Tribalism characterised Zimbabwe’s liberation war. Historian Sabelo Gatsheni Ndlovu, examining the complex politics of inclusion and exclusion dating back to the days of the liberation struggle, makes mention of this notion.
Tongogara himself was fingered by the late James Chikerema as the ring leader of a notorious group known as the “Karanga mafia”.
This group was to be arrested at the funeral of Zanu chairman Hebert Chitepo, as it was accused of murdering Chitepo by the Zambian authorities.
Some believe the reason why Chitepo was murdered was for his continued strained relations with Tongogara.
Chitepo was also accused of passing on punishments that were not detrimental enough to the Nhari rebels.
Tongogara had believed Chitepo was sympathetic to this group of rebels, because they were his homeboys from Manicaland.
The Nhari Rebellion also exposes Tongogara as a very dangerous and ruthless man who forced Chitepo to sign death warrants for over 200 young men who had revolted against inadequate food supplies on the war front, lack of proper weapons as well as the abuse of women by the Zanu top brass.
Chung makes mention of the fact that one of the grievances the youthful soldiers had, was the abuse of women by Tongogara himself.
Tongogara is said to have taken Thomas Nhari’s wife before sending him to the war front so he could be killed there; just like the biblical David and Uriah story.
Former Zimbabwe Unity Movement leader Edgar Tekere is also thrown into the jinx of things, arguing in his book A Life Time of Struggle that, in fact, Tongogara had the welfare of his soldiers at heart, citing an incident that happened when they travelled to a base and found soldiers smoking marijuana.
Tekere says Tongogara allowed them to smoke, arguing they needed to enjoy a bit as the war was stressful.
The demise of Tongogara at a time when they expected him to lead Zimbabweans into a new and liberated Zimbabwe that he had immensely contributed to its liberation, has been regarded by many as rather unfortunate.
The situation Zimbabwe finds herself in today, the majority believe, would have been different had Tongogara been alive.
This is so because of his love for unity and a desire to share the gains of the revolution with comrades from Zapu, which Mugabe and the ruling party Zanu PF dismally failed to do because of their hunger for power.
According to Chung, it was clear to all that Tongogara was going to play second fiddle to none and, as such, according to the nature of the war, Tongogara had become a threat to a lot of people’s positions.
Unification with Zapu would mean a number of the Zanla top brass would have had to relinquish their newly-found positions to Zipra comrades and so it would mean doom for those in the top echelons within Zanu PF.
High morale, high discipline!
Roy Muroyi is a pro-democracy promoter, a strong activist, who believes in youth emancipation in all facets of governance. He writes in his own capacity.