Tongogaras ghost returns

josiah_tongogaraHARARE The ghost of slain former ZANLA commander Josiah Tongogara (Pictured) came back to haunt Zanu (PF) last week as a pressure group launched a campaign to revisit the circumstances under which the firebrand army supremo perished in a mysterious car crash 30 years ago this month.

As the Zanu (PF) annual congress got underway in Harare, advocacy group Zimbabwe Democracy Now reopened the debate on Tongogaras controversial death on 26 December 1979.

Zimbabwe Democracy New (ZDN) ran full-page advertisements in all the major independent newspapers, calling for an enquiry into the death 30 years ago of Comrade Tongo as Tongogara was affectionately known by his colleagues who led the military wing of ZANU during the guerrilla war that brought President Robert Mugabe to power.

The advertisement also appeared in Fridays edition of South Africas Mail & Guardian newspaper.

Tongogara was killed in an alleged car accident on Boxing Day 1979 and was buried at the Heroes Acre in Harare without a full post-mortem.

Zimbabwe Democracy Now spokeswoman Ethel Moyo said there was widespread suspicion of foul play.

If you asked 100 Zimbabweans for their view on the death of General Tongogara, I predict at least 90 would say he was murdered, she said.

It is no secret that, in 1979, Tongogara was the most popular man in Zimbabwe and he overshadowed Robert Mugabe, she said.

He was also opposed to Mugabes plan of setting up a one-party state once in power and banning all opposition.

Tongogara was born in 1938 and grew up on the farm owned by late Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith whose army he would eventually meet in battle.

Many expected him to be the first president of Zimbabwe, with Robert Mugabe, head of Zanla’s political wing, ZANU, as prime minister.

Several theories have been put forward on the possible cause of Tongogaras death.

The United States Central Intelligence Agency said Tongogara could have been killed by Mugabe who regarded him as a potential political rival due to his ambition, popularity and decisive style.

Ian Smith also insisted in his memoirs that Tongogara’s “own people” killed him and that he had disclosed at Lancaster House 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 British South African Police (now Zimbabwe Republic Police) said photographs of Tongogara’s body showed three wounds, consistent with gunshots to his upper torso.

The official undertaker’s statement was not a formal autopsy report and as such was dismissed by all but the Zanu (PF).

Another theory is that he was killed by the Rhodesian SAS.

The call for an inquiry into Tongogaras death was timely as it came at a time when power struggles threatened to split Zanu (PF) into various factions.

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