Felex Share and Tendai Rupapa
KING George Barracks, which houses the Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force of Zimbabwe headquarters, was yesterday officially renamed Josiah Magama Tongogara at a ceremony presided over by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The ceremony was the first of a series of events the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces will preside over.
The President is expected to preside over the unveiling ceremonies for the National Defence University (renamed Alfred Nikita Mangena), Headquarters 3 Infantry Brigade (renamed Herbert Chitepo and Flyde Air Force Base (Jason Ziyaphapha Moyo).
All army barracks have been renamed after national heroes as Government moves to redress the colonial nomenclature of key military cantonments by venerating Zimbabwe’s former freedom fighters.
KGV1 Barracks —built around 1972— were named after Albert Fredricks George, former King of the United Kingdom and dominions of the Commonwealth.
He was the Commander-in-Chief when the Rhodesian Army was established.
President Mnangagwa first inspected a guard of honour before unveiling the plaque and delivering his key note address.
The event was also marked by a 21-gun salute to honour the late General Tongogara, a military strategist who was the Zanla chief of defence.
Gen Tongogara died in a car accident on December 26, 1979.
Speakers spoke highly of Gen Tongogara, who was also member of the Dare reChimurenga and Zanla High Command.
They narrated how Gen Tongo had provided unparalleled leadership to the armed struggle for the emancipation of the people.
The Tongogara family, led by his widow Angeline and several children, was present to witness the momentous occasion.
Mrs Tongogara said her husband had led from the front during the liberation struggle although he did not live to see the fruits of his sacrifice.
“This makes this honour deeply meaningful to the family and the nation,” she said.
“Words are not enough to tell you how grateful we are for this recognition that will continue to recognise and teach the values of the liberation struggle through this honour bestowed on its commander. As Zimbabweans, we hold our heads high with pride in our nation and its Government and in our Defence Forces who guard this legacy.”
Defence, Security and War Veterans’ Minister Cde Kembo Mohadi said the renaming exercise was long overdue.
“This is an occasion that breaks the shackles that have been tying us to the colonial past,” he said.
“He was my Commander and I knew this gentleman and his family long back before some of you knew him. We were together in Zambia when I joined the struggle in 1971. We worked together. As someone who was in the intelligence side of Zapu, he used to come to Zimbabwe House and give me some tasks to do. I am saying this today and have never told this to anyone. He did not know that there was Zapu and there was Zanu, he was above party politics. This is the man we are giving these Barracks today. I am not going to tell you the missions that he used to send me to do.”
He added: “This is one of the most important days of my life and standing before you as a Minister of Defence, Security and War Veterans, I feel I am home because I am part of this family. I have long been in the wilderness and today I feel I am home with my own.”
A member of the Zipra High Command, Cde Ambrose Mutunhiri said: “I am actually excited. At least this is something that has been missing in recognition of some of our great military leaders. The history of Zimbabwe without mentioning some of the people who have been mentioned here, General Tongo included, is incomplete. I am grateful.”
The ceremony was attended by Cabinet Ministers, traditional leaders, service chiefs, freedom fighters and members of the Tongogara Foundation.