A Zimbabwean minister who witnessed the death of the late commander of Zanu’s military wing, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), has dismissed reports that she killed General Josiah Magama Tongogara in 1979 in Mozambique.
According to the state-controlled Herald newspaper, Defence Minister and war veteran Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, told Tongogara’s family at the laying of wreaths at the National Heroes Acre in Harare on Tuesday to mark his 39 years of his death, that Tongogara died in a road traffic accident.
Muchinguri-Kashiri was in the same vehicle in which Tongogara died while they were preparing to return to Zimbabwe following a ceasefire agreement signed by leaders of two liberation movements – Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo of Zapu and Zanu’s Robert Mugabe – and the Rhodesian government led by Ian Douglas Smith.
She is quoted as saying that “I happened to be in the same car with him when the accident happened. There was a truck which was towing a trailer that was in front of our vehicle. The truck was in the middle of the road and heading in the same direction. As our driver was about to overtake, our vehicle was blocked by the trailer resulting in the accident that killed Cde Tongogara. I didn’t kill Tongogara.”
Social media has been on fire of late with some Zimbabweans claiming that Muchinguri-Kashiri had a hand in the death of Tongogara, who pushed for unity between the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), the military wing of Nkomo’s Zapu party, and Zanla. The late general also wanted Nkomo to lead the Patriotic Front (PF), which was supposed to contest the first general elections as a united movement for Zapu and Zanu in 1980.
Mugabe strongly opposed Nkomo’s leadership of the Patriotic Front and decided to pull Zanu out of the PF, resulting in the two contesting the 1980 general elections. Mugabe won the polls by a wide margin and incorporated Zapu in his first government before sending the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade (Gukurahundi) three years after independence to massacre thousands of Zapu supporters in an attempt to forge a one-party state in Zimbabwe.
He accused Nkomo of caching arms in order to topple his government. Nkomo dismissed the claims, noting that Mugabe killed an estimated 20,000 people, mostly Zapu supporters, in Matabeleland and Midlands regions purporting to be trying to eradicate dissidents when his mission was to form a one-party state.
Muchinguri-Kashiri noted that the late Tongogara wanted the liberation movements to unite for a better Zimbabwe.
“General Tongogara hated, without mercy, all those who he regarded as standing in the way of the liberation of millions of down-trodden Zimbabweans.”
Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years before he was toppled by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, parliamentarians and some Zimbabweans who staged a peaceful protest calling for his ouster.