Silence of the Lambs: The Angeline Tongogara story
By Tanonoka Joseph Whande
It is very disturbing how ZANU-PF cowers victims of its violence and political intransigence. Since independence, I have noticed spouses of fallen heroes getting on with their lives without any idea of how their husbands or wives died.
Starting with my own relative, I still cannot stomach the congeniality of Mbuya Angeline Tongogara amid all the doubts, ill-treatment and neglect at the hands of Robert Mugabe and his party. Her husband, Josiah Tongogara, liberated Zimbabwe, not Robert Mugabe.
Mbuya Tongogara smiles and exudes that facial expression that says “we are here today and we are fine”. She, however, gracefully carried a national burden of not talking openly and freely about the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death. She wished to carry out her husband’s hopes and yet I and many others knew she was in pain.
She hid her displeasure well mostly because she did not expect anything from the labour she and her husband gave to the emancipation of Zimbabwe. She was very warm and showed no sign of either doubt or bitterness at independence.
The fact that Mrs Tongogara had later to approach political leaders, particularly Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, for help after Mugabe and ZANU-PF snubbed her tells us how much ZANU-PF is so much of a temporary political home. Tongogara’s children were assisted by some catholic priests.
Discarded by those who used and murdered her husband, she went looking for help and that move caused a stir within Mugabe’s party, government and even the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
“There are true heroes out there but they are languishing in poverty,” Oppah Muchinguri, who was Josiah Tongogara’s secretary, told a memorial service of war veterans in February. “You sacrificed your lives and brought the country independence. It is now almost 30 years of independence but it is painful that you have nothing to show at all.”
In spite of it all, Mbuya Tongogara never tried to hint as to how her husband died or who killed her. Muchinguri, on her part, deludes herself into thinking she is safe and that she is at home in ZANU-PF. She is not safe at all and she must understand that. She knows ZANU-PF better than most and would be foolish to think this party of murderers is the same one that was formed in Gweru in 1963.
She would be naïve to think that this party that has protected her since Tongogara’s demise is the same one that will protect her today. All she has to do is look at who is calling the shots in the party today and if they have any allegiance to what happened before and after independence.
Allegiances have changed and thugs long took over ZANU-PF and soon someone is going to sacrifice Muchinguri because nothing grips Zimbabweans more than the death of Tongogara and the men at the helm of the Gukurahundi Massacre. Things are changing fast and Oppah better be aware that ZANU-PF died when her then boss Tongogara died.
By her own admission, Zanu (PF) is now full of crooks. “I will not hesitate to expose these crooks who are fattening their pockets and amassing a lot of wealth at the expense of true liberators of this country who have nothing to show for their sacrifice,” said an emotional Muchinguri.
She could start by telling us how Tongogara was killed and by who.
My advice to Oppa is to run before it is too late because the real ZANU-PF no longer exists and that is why she herself is overshadowed by the likes of Joseph Chinotimba, Phillip Chiyangwa and Jabulani Sibanda, political thugs who don’t know where Mozambique is located but who masquerade as nationalists. They are successfully benefitting from ZANU-PF’s lawlessness because ZANU-PF died at independence.
Like Muchinguri herself, everyone who has lost a spouse in suspicious car accidents or circumstances never talks. In March 2009, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife Susan died after an alleged car accident on the Harare-Masvingo highway. The so-called accident had all the hallmarks of ZANU-PF’s style of getting rid of its troublesome “sons”.
Morgan Tsvangirai was himself injured but survived. He, however, surprised and angered many when he pre-empted police investigations and announced that his wife had died in a car accident. To this day, the long promised police investigation report on Susan Tsvangirai’s death has never been made public.
Many widows and widowers of Zimbabwe’s freedom fighters have been left to languish in abject destitution while those who hijacked the revolution long after independence are sitting at the apex of Zimbabwe. Mbuya Tongogara has never accused anyone in ZANU-PF of killing her husband and that, I suspect, is what has kept her alive to this day.
We all know she, like Oppah Muchinguri, knows more than most of us how or who killed her husband. To her, what she and her husband went through to liberate Zimbabwe is of more importance now. She has always considered national interest, unlike people like Oppah Muchinguri who keep the secrets of Tongogara’s death for political expedience.
Some were relatively “lucky”, like Mrs Victoria Chitepo, wife of Herbert Chitepo, the late ZANU-Pf national Chairman who was blown up in his car while in exile in Zambia. Chitepo’s death was widely covered and at independence, his wife was named to Mugabe’s cabinet.
She is not known to have accused anyone in ZANU-PF of murdering her husband although investigations by Zambian authorities hinted that Chitepo might have been killed by his colleagues in the party. She has lived a relatively comfortable life, at least to the outside viewer.
The list of those who perished in suspicious circumstances, especially freak car “accidents” like Tongogara is long. Some of these include outspoken parliamentarian Sydney Malunga, William Ndangana, Paul Gunda, one time Defence Minister Moven Mahachi, Border Gezi, Elliot Manyika and others.
The common thread in all these so-called accidents is that there might be mumblings immediately following the deaths but then things quieten down and we hear no more about it in spite of the many unanswered questions. Since independence none of these mysterious deaths have ever been satisfactorily explained to the public.
In the end, the families of the deceased someone end up not being able to do anything about it, whether by choice, coercion or intimidation.
How cruel can we get?
The heart of the matter is that ZANU-PF cannot be allowed to continue with such shenanigans in which people lose their lives because of a difference in opinion.
Right from the start, it should have been ZANU-PF’s mandate to protect the people and to uphold the rule of law instead of competeing with thugs in murder and abuse of our compatriots.
The fact that the people of Zimbabwe gave ZANU-PF support before, during and after independence was an act of trust and faith which ZANU-PF went on to betray. ZANU-PF should come clean and remove any lingering doubts about its complicity in these unfortunate deaths.
When people do not have sufficient information or when information is withheld from them, they tend to speculate as they look for some explanation. We have been subjected to this culture of madness for over thirty years and it is mandatory that those who consider themselves to be custodians of people’s aspirations in ZANU-PF turn things around.
ZANU-PF owes the people of Zimbabwe a lot, not the other way round. A few weeks ago, Solomon Mujuru, a former general and husband to current vice president Joice Mujuru, died in a mysterious fire at his farm outside Harare.
Mujuru, whose support of Mugabe was critical to his leadership at independence, was quickly declared a national hero and what was left of his burned body was hurriedly buried, again, pre-empting police and any forensic investigations.
As usual, many questions were raised and discrepancies pronounced yet Mugabe, in his eulogy, said it was an accident although police investigations were said to be in progress at that time.
A few days after Mujuru’s death, Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister and Secretary General of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Tsvangirai, told thousands of his party supporters Sunday that Mujuru’s death had “ZANU-PF fingerprints” on it.
“ZANU-PF will invest in violence, they will invest in arms,” he told the rally. “Now they have a new tactic of roasting people. That is the ZANU-PF we know, those are the ZANU-PF fingerprints. That’s the ZANU-PF DNA.”
While some might have died through genuine accidents, it is necessary to be transparent not only for goodness sake but to assure citizens that our nation is not being run by organised criminals masquerading as a political party. The culture of the ordinary in Zimbabwe militates against ZANU-PF’s behaviour.
ZANU-PF must cleanse itself and find its way back to the people.