Edgar Zivanai Tekere, a leading figure in Zimbabwe's liberation struggle, died Tuesday at Murambi Clinic in Mutare following a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 74.
Known as Two-Boy to his fellow freedom fighters, Tekere was a founding member of ZANU and spent 10 years in Hwa Hwa Prison with the future President Robert Mugabe after being arrested by the Rhodesian colonial administration of Ian Smith. On release in 1974 Tekere and Mugabe went to Mozambique to continue the fight for black majority rule.
Tekere led ZANU in the Lancaster House talks that brought independence in 1980 - and personally invited reggae great Bob Marley to play at the official independence celebrations. Following independence Tekere became minister of manpower planning.
Tekere's tenure as minister was marred by a killing in which he was implicated.
Shortly after his appointment in August 1980, the controversial Tekere greeted then-Prime Minister Mugabe and visiting President of Mozambique Samora Machel in combat fatigues, announcing that he was going "to fight a battle."
Tekere and his bodyguards went looking for supporters of the late Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU outside Harare but, failing to find them, went onto a neighboring farm and shot white farm manager Gerald Adams. Tekere was tried with seven bodyguards, all former guerrilla fighters, but retained his government post despite the murder charge against him.
The High Court in a majority decision, found him not guilty of murder. The two assessors, overruling the judge, held that while Tekere had killed Adams, he had been acting based on an absolute conviction that Zimbabwean state security was at risk
Soon after that the outspoken Tekere became increasingly unpopular in ZANU for his denunciation of high-level corruption.
He was sacked after one year in government, but remained secretary general of the ruling party until 1988 when he was suspended for challenging President Mugabe’s desire for a one-party state. Tekere said a one-party state was not a founding principle of ZANU - by then called ZANU-PF after absorbing the rival PF-ZAPU of and experience in Africa showed it brought ”the evils of nepotism, corruption and inefficiency."
In 1990 Tekere ran against Mr. Mugabe for his new Zimbabwe Unity Movement party. He lost and dropped out of sight. In 2005 he announced he was returning to ZANU-PF but was rebuffed when he expressed his desire to run for the newly created senate.
Appointing himself “principal campaigner for Mugabe's downfall," Tekere in the bloody 2008 election endorsed former finance minister Simba Makoni.
In 2009 he was the guest of honor for the MDC formation of Prime Minister Tsvangirai in celebrations of the former opposition party’s 10th anniversary.
Tekere is survived by his wife, Pamela, and daughter Maidei.
Family spokesman Ibbo Mandaza said it would be a travesty if Tekere were not declared a national hero. “I think it’s not his decision, this is a decision to be made by the people of Zimbabwe. National hero status is a national issue, it goes beyond family it goes beyond individuals, that’s how I see it,” Mandaza said.
“One hopes that the nation honors this man, like it has honored some. It would be a travesty of history if the nation denies him a seat which he earned, a seat which was denied James Chikerema, Ndabaningi Sithole and many others like them. We hope that the nation will honor him, the National Heroes’ Acre should be a national institution.”
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said consultations are under way to see what status will be bestowed on the late Tekere. ZANU-PF controls the hero designation process.
Indiana-based Paul Razika worked with Tekere as youth chairman of his Zimbabwe Unity Movement. He said Tekere’s death is a blow to those who wanted to document Zimbabwe’s true history, as Tekere was a valuable repository of the history of the liberation era.