Opinion & Columnist

If General Tongo was alive

As the nation commemorates the 41st anniversary of the tragic and gruesome death of arguably the most principled, brave, and strategic leader to ever emerge from this country (together with, another towering hero Dumiso Dabengwa). Tongo died in a most suspicious road traffic accident in Mozambique, on December 26 1979, in an entourage that included the current Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri. Six days after the Lancaster House Agreement, which signalled the victory of the liberation fighters, Robert Mugabe on the Voice of Zimbabwe radio station, conveyed an “extremely sad message” to “all the fighting people of Zimbabwe”.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

The 41-year-old Tongogara was dead, killed in a car accident in Mozambique. But, the ever-suffering masses of Zimbabwe cannot help wondering just how their lives could have been like, had an astute man like General Josiah Magama Tongogara been still alive today, and had been our leader.

Of course, such a line of thinking would merely be based on conjecture, since what we know about this great man is largely based on information derived from others, rather than personal knowledge — which, in law, would be regarded as hearsay. However, we can confidently conclude that General Tongo (as he was affectionately known), was a no-nonsense person, who stood firm on high values of honesty, humility, and selfless love for fellow humankind.

Who can ever forget the determined and very believable manner in which he articulated the mission of the liberation struggle — which was not targeted at any particular ethnic grouping, especially the settler white community, but primarily aimed at destroying all racial barriers and inequalities, and establish a truly democratic State, in which all citizens would be regarded as equal, and have an equal say in the country’s trajectory, and share equitably the national cake. He also made it abundantly clear that he was not fighting so as to gain any personal glory, wealth, and power, after Zimbabwe attained independence.


Such are the true hallmarks of a leader well deserving to be entrusted with the helm of any nation, most particularly his own beloved Zimbabwe.

Needless to say, as the Shona adage goes: “Munhu akanaka haararame, kunosara mhondi nevaroyi” — loosely translated means, “those who are upright and good do not live long, but we are left with murderers and witches”.

Wow, that is why I love our local languages, as they possess meanings that sound so prophetic!

Indeed, human beings have been known for their amazing propensity to morph, over the course of time, into characteristics that no one ever saw coming — whether from bad to good, or vice versa — but, in most cases, the attributes we currently know of a person, were likely detectable in their early years.

The same applies to the crop of leaders we have — the most unfortunate, seemingly cursed. Clearly the complete opposite of the nature of General Tongo — whose only purpose in life appear to be to steal, kill, and destroy, glaringly evidenced by their insatiable thirst for looting the country’s vast national resources for their own enrichment and opulence (while, the rest of the population is abandoned to the caprices of the savagery of poverty and destitution), and at the same time, this opportunistic elite has no qualms, whatsoever, descending heavily in brutally quashing any dissenting voices…a trait worlds apart from the caring, loving, and fatherly personality of the great Tongo.

Need I repeat — “Munhu akanaka haararame, kunosara mhondi nevaroyi”, or as those who study the Holy Bible would know, the devil only comes to “steal, kill, and destroy”.

I am sure those who had a much closer knowledge of the people who, today, pride themselves as our leaders, would testify that, even during the liberation struggle — or, possibly earlier than that — there already exhibited very disturbing signs of untrustworthiness, cruelty, and corruption and, as such, nothing they are doing today, comes as any shock.

In fact, just as the rest of Zimbabweans have heard the numerous reports of General Tongo’s forthrightness, steadfastness, and uprightness, during the liberation struggle — we have also leant of the despicable, shameful, and contorted nature of some, who now occupy positions of power in the country.

Therefore, would it be conceivable that a liberation icon, who was popularly known for his uncompromising stance on ubuntu (humanity), selflessness, and bravery, could have ever tolerated the bunch of corrupt, morally bankrupt, and incompetent leaders we have today, to be anywhere near the corridors of power?

Would it have been remotely possible that, a man in the mould of General Tongo, could have looked the other way, while the people he gave his life for, were being treated like second-class citizens in the same country that he fought for?


This was probably a genuine hero, who did not fight for his own self-aggrandisement, or personal power — as opposed to some of his comrades, who proved to be nothing less than wolves in sheep’s clothing, who were never in it for the masses, but for themselves.

For these so-called “leaders”, risking their lives in a perilous war of liberation, was merely a form of personal investment plan — in preparation for their own personal benefit in an independent Zimbabwe — at the exclusion of the rest of the population.

Is it any wonder the good general was never allowed to see Zimbabwe?

A questionable accident, whose truth might never be known, maybe, only under a genuinely new dispensation, killed General Tongo.