The passing on of Retired Air Chief Marshal Josiah Tungamirai robbed the nation of an astute veteran guerrilla leader and military strategist. Cde Tungamirai, then Member of Parliament for Gutu North, member of the Zanu-PF Politburo and Minister of State for Indigenisation and Empowerment in the Office of the President and Cabinet, died on August 25, 2005, in South Africa while receiving treatment.
He was 57.
Cde Tungamirai was born Thomas Mberikwazvo on October 8, 1948 in Gutu, Masvingo Province, to a peasant family that encouraged hard work as an ethic. He did his primary education at Mutero Mission in Gutu between 1957 and 1964, and proceeded to Chikwingwizha Seminary for his Ordinary Level education. He spent two years at the Harare (Salisbury) Polytechnic before completing his Advanced Level studies in Physics and Mathematics in 1970. Although he had distinguished himself as a brilliant student, Thomas Mberikwazvo’s education was interrupted by the need to join the liberation struggle. Later, Cde Josiah Tungamirai graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and a Master of Arts in War Studies from the University of Zimbabwe after independence.
Cde Tungamirai’s active involvement in politics dates back to December 1969, when he joined the liberation struggle. Later he reminisced, “. . . because of oppression, suppression and exploitation, I decided to go and join the war of liberation . . .” He left Zimbabwe for Tanzania via Botswana and Zambia. In Tanzania, he received basic military training at Ituli-Chitunya in Mbeya Region and went on to get advanced training in guerrilla strategy and tactics as well as revolutionary warfare at Mugagao-Iringa Region. In 1971, Cde Tungamirai with 14 others travelled from Tanzania to reinforce a group of 45 comrades deployed as logistics cadres to transport war materials to the North Eastern war zone. Appointed to the post of Political Commissar in 1971, Cde Tungamirai was among the first three cadres to enter Rhodesia on reconnaissance in 1972. His first military operations took him to Dande and Mt Darwin areas where he offered political education to the people on “Sparrow Warfare” — a massive recruitment and training of liberation war forces.
On September 2, 1972, Cde Tungamirai was promoted to the rank of General Staff and also appointed Sectoral Security Officer for Chamumba sector. In 1973, he was promoted to Deputy Provincial Field Logistics Officer for the Mozambique -Malawi-Zimbabwe Province, internally known as the North East Province.
That same year he was appointed Provincial Political Commissar for the Zimbabwe- Zambia province and later took charge of MMZ province in the same capacity. Operating from “Chomuka sector” a military base in Chesa area, Cde Tungamirai led the first military attack in the Mt Darwin area on November 9, 1973. In 1975, he became a member of the Chimurenga High Command as Deputy Political Commissar. In 1976, Cde Tungamirai went to Chimoio in Mozambique and operated as an attaché to the East Central Province, giving education and guidance to combatants. In January, 1977, he was promoted to the post of Zanla Chief of Personnel and in September of the same year he was appointed Zanla’s Chief Political Commissar to spearhead the armed revolutionary struggle.
In 1978, Cde Tungamirai operated in the Mutare operation zone dedicating most of his time to plan battles and campaigns as well as imparting political education to provincial sectoral detachments and intelligence teams. Cde Tungamirai was one of the chief architects of the following key guerrilla operations and battles fought during the liberation struggle: Capture of Hanks-worth in Chesa area (January 1973); First Attack on Mount Darwin (January 1973); Mutare Attack (1978); Invasion from the East (February-March 1978); Attack on Electricity Supply Station in Coventry/Lytton Roads (February 1979); Attack on the Main Fuel depot in Salisbury (Harare) in 1979; and the Destruction of the Kariba-Harare Electricity Pylons (1979).
In September 1979, Cde Tungamirai was recalled from operations to join the Zanu delegation to the Lancaster House Talks as Special Military Advisor to the late Josiah Magama Tongogara, who was the Chief of Defence. He was instrumental in the implementation of the ceasefire soon after the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement. He led the second group of Zanla forces returning to Zimbabwe.
At Independence in 1980, Cde Tungamirai was appointed a member of the Zimbabwe Joint High Command and played an active and commendable role in the crucial task of integrating the hitherto belligerent forces of Zanla and Zipra on one side and the Rhodesian Army on the other, to form one national force, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). On attestation into the army in September 1980, Cde Tungamirai was commissioned Major General and appointed Chief of Staff (General) in April 1981. In December 1982, Cde Tungamirai was transferred to the Air Force of Zimbabwe to fill the post of Chief of Staff in the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.
He worked tirelessly to address the racial imbalance which existed in the Air Force at that time. He went on to train as a pilot and qualified in October 1984 with 31 other Air Force of Zimbabwe pilots who were awarded wings by President R. G. Mugabe at Thornhill Air Base.
The year 1984 was one of double awards as he also attained a B A Honours Degree in History from the University of Zimbabwe.
Cde Tungamirai was promoted to the rank of Air Marshal and appointed Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe in January 1986. He was further promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal in June 1992, a rank which he held until his retirement in August the same year. Upon retirement in June 1992, he left behind a professional, loyal, well-groomed modern and efficient Air Force. In recognition of his distinguished and meritorious service to Zimbabwe, especially in the military and political spheres, Air Chief Marshal Tungamirai was awarded the Grand Commander of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit (GCZM) by President Mugabe.
In the same month, he was awarded the Gold Star Medal for distinguished and dedicated service to the Air Force of Zimbabwe. As an ardent scholar and practitioner, Retired Air Chief Marshal Tungamirai went on to graduate with a Masters Degree in War and Strategic Studies in August 1987 from the University of Zimbabwe.
As a member of the ruling party, Zanu-PF Cde Tungamirai articulated the wishes of the majority of Zimbabweans with unflinching resolve.
Cde Josia Tungamirai was unanimously declared a national hero in recognition of his contribution to the liberation and development of the country.
In his condolence message, President Mugabe said in the late Cde Josia Tungamirai, Zimbabwe had lost an embodiment of patriotism, discipline, loyalty and one whose life was, for the better part, dedicated to the liberation war and the development of an independent Zimbabwe.
Source — A Guide to the Heroes Acre.