ANGELINE Tongogara, the widow of former Zanla commander General Josiah Magama Tongogara, has demanded that she be driven to the scene of the accident where her husband died mysteriously 33 years ago, saying the circumstances surrounding his death were still haunting her.
Angeline told the State-owned Sunday Mail newspaper over weekend she was still in the dark over the cause of the accident and was bitter over the way President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government had handled her husband’s death.
“I was just told he was involved in an accident. His usual driver, the one I knew, didn’t go with him on this day. He went with another driver. His secretary was Oppah Muchinguri (now Zanu PF women’s league secretary) and she was in the same car with him when the accident happened. I was told that he was the only one who had died.
“As the wife of Cde Tongo and as the mother of his four children, my request is that: ‘Please, please can you arrange for me to go and see where my husband died?’ As long as I am alive, it still troubles me,” she said.
She also claimed she was not afforded an opportunity to carry out a full body viewing of her husband’s corpse nor was she invited to witness the exhumation and reburial of his remains at the National Heroes’ Acre in 1981.
“I removed the cloth starting from the head and I saw the wounds, but as I was about to pull away the cloth so I could see the whole body, Josiah Tungamirai came and said: ‘Why are you letting her touch this body?’ I was injected and I passed out. I don’t know what happened from there. When I woke up, I was now at the President (Robert Mugabe)’s house.”
General Tongo, as the late Zanla commander was affectionately known, died on the spot after his vehicle crashed in Mozambique on December 26, 1979 as most war cadres were heading home after a ceasefire had been declared.
Since then, several theories have emerged over cause of his death with some pointing to assassination by his party rivals.
A United States Central Intelligence Agency intelligence briefing of December 28, 1979 said: “Tongogara was a potential political rival to Mugabe because of his
. . . ambition, popularity and decisive style. On the same day, the US embassy in Zambia reported: Almost no one in Lusaka accepts Mugabe’s assurance that Tongogara died accidentally. When the ambassador told the Soviet ambassador the news, the surprised Soviet immediately charged ‘inside job’.”
Former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith also insisted in his memoirs that Tongogara’s “own people” killed him, and that he had disclosed at the Lancaster House talks in London earlier that year that Tongogara was under threat.
“I made a point of discussing his death with our police commissioner and head of Special Branch, and both assured me that Tongogara had been assassinated,” Smith wrote.
A former detective in the Law and Order section of the now defunct BSA Police (replaced by the Zimbabwe Republic Police) saw photographs of Tongogara’s body.
The photographs showed three wounds, consistent with gunshot wounds, in his upper torso. The undertaker’s statement was not a formal autopsy report and as such was dismissed by all, but senior Zanu politburo members.
In spite of all these rumours, a pathologist for Mashfords Funeral Home in Zimbabwe, confirmed, in a television documentary in 1982 titled Tongo, that the theory of gunshot wounds on Tongogara’s body was false as he personally inspected the body. He confirmed that the injuries he found were consistent with road accident trauma.
Another theory is that he was killed by the Rhodesian Special Air Service commando unit.
Tungamirai, the then Zanla High Command’s political commissar, relates that on the night of the fatality, he and Tongogara had been travelling with others in two vehicles from Maputo to Chimoio.
Tungamirai, who is also now late, said he was in the front vehicle. It was dark and the roads were bad. Tungamirai’s car passed a military vehicle that had been carelessly abandoned, with no warning signs at the side of the road.
After that, he could no longer see the headlights of the following car in his rear-view mirror. Eventually he turned back, and, as he had feared, they found Tongogara’s car had struck the abandoned vehicle.
Tongogara was sitting in the front passenger seat.
Angeline joins a growing list of the families of several other former army bosses who have died under unclear circumstances and are demanding answers from government. These include families of the late General Solomon Mujuru and Zimbabwe National Army Brigadier-General Paul Armstrong Gunda, among others, whose deaths remain unexplained to date.
Mujuru’s elder brother Joel yesterday said the family was still pushing for answers over the mysterious death of General Mujuru in an inferno at his Beatrice farm in August 2011.
“We are still pushing government and we are also demanding answers from government. I can’t wait to get answers on what exactly happened to him,” said Mujuru.
Justice and Legal Affairs deputy minister Obert Gutu said: “There is need for transparency and openness in the unfortunate deaths of these people. It is surprising that she (Angeline Tongogara) has not been taken to the scene of the accident, it raises more questions than answers on what really happened to the late liberation icon. She should have been the first to be taken to the scene as the widow of the late Tongo.”
Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa said although he had heard about Angeline’s disgruntlement, he was not in a position to comment on the matter.
Pressed further, Mutasa said: “I have heard that she is complaining, but I can’t comment because I don’t have information yet. I can only comment if I get all the details on what exactly she said.”
Rangarirai Gunda, the widow of the late Brigadier-General Gunda, was recently quoted saying she would not be silenced in her quest for answers about the death in 2007 of her husband in a mysterious train crash. Zimbabwe Mail
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