By Tendai Kamhungira
HARARE – There has been confusion over the late decorated general, Josiah Magama Tongogara’s honour, after Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa on Friday said he was unaware of the memorial, amid claims that the revolutionary party is neglecting the commander’s family.
When contacted by the Daily News for comment over the commemoration, Mutasa professed ignorance on the issue.
“I do not know about it. I am hearing it for the first time,” Mutasa said before referring further questions to the people that were present at the function held on Boxing Day.
Tongogara who led Zanla, the Zanu military wing during the liberation struggle, died on December 26, 1979 in mysterious circumstances after the ceasefire, but 33 years later, his wife and family are struggling to make ends meet.
He was appointed military commander of Zanla and chairman of the high command in 1972. In 1973 he became chief of defence in Dare reChimurenga, the Zanu Supreme Council directing execution of the war.
The event which was held at the National Heroes Acre and at King George VI Barracks in Harare was reportedly attended by some service chiefs and other government officials including light weight minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
However, with Mutasa claiming he was not aware of such an event, there is clear confusion over the respect bestowed on the iconic liberation hero.
According to a local state newspaper, Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi delivered a speech, which was read on his behalf by acting commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Perrance Shiri.
“For many Zimbabweans, particularly those that participated in the liberation struggle, the name Tongogara was synonymous with Zanla’s successful prosecution of the liberation struggle. At the inaugural commemorations held last year, His Excellency President Mugabe explicitly indicated that Cde Tongo envisioned a Zimbabwe that is free and unshackled by settler colonial racism. A Zimbabwe of equals in all spheres of human effort,” Sekeramayi said.
Prior to the commemoration, family, friends, senior Government officials and service chiefs reportedly congregated at the National Heroes Acre in Harare for the general’s memorial service.
However, several claims have been levelled against the ruling party over its neglect of the Tongogara family.
Tongogara’s wife Angeline at one point reportedly approached the then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, claiming government had neglected her.
In an interview with a local newspaper last year, Angeline poured her heart, claiming, she was not even given the opportunity to view Tongogara’s body and still had questions over how her husband died.
Unlike surviving heroes like vice President Joice Mujuru, a subordinate of Tongogara during the liberation struggle—who occupy VIP positions during state functions—Angeline jostles for seats with ordinary people.
She was a major in the army after independence and only read of her dismissal in a newspaper.
“I left the army on a very sad note. I was at home and I was called by Rex (late army general Solomon Mujuru) who asked me in his usual stammering voice whether I had read the paper. I had not seen the paper. So I later bought the Herald and it was reported that there are some soldiers that had been retired from service and were re-assigned to work at parliament. There was Cde Maseko, Cde Mahlaba, myself and a fourth person I can’t remember his name. This was done without consulting me at all,” she said.
Capitalising on the magnetic name of Tongogara, Mugabe’s Zanu PF helped the family of the liberation war icon to launch the Tongogara Legacy Foundation but Angeline wants more.
“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.
“I want a plaque to be erected there and I will tell you what to write on that plaque because ndini muridzi wemurume (because I am his wife). The history of Zimbabwe will be incomplete if people don’t know where this iconic general passed away,” Angeline said. Daily News