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Mujuru, Zvinavashe and Tungamirai, who were leading commanders during the liberation struggle and went on to lead independent Zimbabwe’s military, are all dead.
Muchinguri added to the decades-long intrigue around Tongogara’s death by claiming Mugabe and the then Zanla chief had an altercation before the fateful trip.
“Former President Mugabe and Tongogara had an altercation over travel plans to return to Zimbabwe. Mugabe wanted Tongogara’s staff to be flown to Zimbabwe, but the General stood his ground,” the Defence minister, who served as one of Tongogara’s aides and was in the same car when he died, said.
Tongogara reportedly favoured unity between Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) and his then rival Joshua Nkomo, who was leading the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (Zapu) under the Patriotic Front (PF) banner. Zanu and Zapu were already fighting white minority rule as the Patriotic Front coalition.
The United States Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) briefing two days after Tongogara’s death also said the then rebel commander “was a potential political rival to Mugabe because of his ambition, popularity and decisive style”.
On the same day, the US embassy in Zambia reported that nobody accepted Mugabe’s version of events that Tongogara had died accidentally, including the then Soviet Union.
Tongogara’s wife has consistently said she was not allowed to view her husband’s body. Rhodesian police also claimed the body had “three wounds, consistent with gunshot wounds, to his upper torso”.
Acting Commander of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Edzai Chimonyo, who also attended the memorial and was also in the same car with Tongogara, said the late Zanla general’s gut had been ripped open on impact, adding “time will come for us to put the record straight”.
Apart from his statement after Tongogara’s death, Mugabe seemed to silently push the military supremo’s contributions and demise to the back-burner of Zimbabwean history during his 37-year-rule.
After taking over last year, President Emmerson Mnangagwa re-named the country’s biggest cantonment, KGVI Barracks in Harare, after the late national hero. newsday
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