Freeman Razemba, Harare Bureau
Minister of Defence and War Veterans Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri has dismissed rumours that she was involved in the death of late Zimbabwe National Liberation Army (Zanla) commander General Josiah Magama Tongogara or that there was a hidden hand in the road traffic accident that claimed his life on December 26, 1979 in Mozambique.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri was in the same vehicle with Gen Tongogara when he died in the accident, which occurred in Massinga District, Inhambane Province in Mozambique.
The claim that Gen Tongogara was killed by fellow party members was escalated by the CIA through a briefing on December 28, 1979, and Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith who wrote in his memoirs that “Tongogara’s own people killed him”.
Social media platforms have lately also been awash with the claims against Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri.
Speaking at the 2018 annual commemoration of Cde Tongogara’s death at the National Heroes’ Acre yesterday, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri broke down as she narrated how the accident occurred.
“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,” said the Defence Minister.
“As our driver was about to overtake, our vehicle was blocked by the trailer resulting with the accident that killed Cde Tongogara. I didn’t kill Tongogara,” she said.
She said history has been distorted for long and hence the need to set the record straight on the circumstances.
“General Tongogara hated, without mercy, all those who he regarded as standing in the way of the liberation of the millions down-trodden Zimbabweans. However, the question that will remain in the minds of many Zimbabwean present and future generations is who is this dreaded, fearless, great commander General Josiah Magama Tongogara?” she said.
“General Josiah Magama Tongogara, affectionately known as General Tongo during the Second Chimurenga, commanded Zanla, the military wing of the nationalist-oriented Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) party. He was also part of the Dare ReChimurenga and the High Command which directed the liberation struggle against the brutal and callous Ian Smith colonial regime,” she said.
“As I alluded earlier on, the general was involved in a fatal car accident which claimed his life on the 26th of December 1979 soon after the Lancaster House Agreement which gave birth to independent Zimbabwe,” she said.
Cde Tongogara was born in Shurugwi on February 4, 1938.
The minister said Cde Tongogara stood solidly by what he believed was right and never deviated from principle, in support of the leadership.
She said he was one of the Zanu cadres who strongly pushed for unity of the two liberation forces of Zipra and Zanla.
Acting Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Lieutenant-General Edzayi Chimonyo also poured his heart out on the great loss Zimbabwe suffered as a result of the death of General Tongo.
He said he was the first person to open the door of the vehicle the general was travelling in.
“General Tongogara was a fearless, courageous, tough and firm but humane commander. His passing on at the dawn of Zimbabwe’s Independence was a great loss to Zimbabwe. As we gather here at this annual commemoration, we should take inspiration from his selfless sacrifice for the independence of this great country,” said Lt-Gen Chimonyo.
“General Josiah Magama Tongogara will forever be remembered in the annals of our history as a great commander, unifier and strategist par excellence. We will always remember his great works and use lessons of the past in respect of his immense contribution to the struggle for our Independence to shape the future,” Lt-Gen Chimonyo said.
Cde Tongogara’s widow, Angeline, her children and grandchildren, relatives and friends laid wreaths at the tomb of the national hero who has major roads in Harare and Bulawayo named after him.
The former KGVI Barracks were also recently renamed in his honour.