The Herald, 11 June, 1984

A fierce opponent of colonial domination, liberator and chief, Senator Rekayi Tangwena (74), died early yesterday morning after a short illness.

Chief Tangwena of Nyanga, who persistently and courageously fought against the RF regime and refused to succumb, like other chiefs to the discriminatory Land Apportionment Act at the height of the liberation war, died at Mutare General Hospital. A hospital spokesman said he died of a stroke. The leader of the Tangwena people collapsed at Troutbeck Inn, Nyanga, on Friday, and was rushed to the local hospital. He was transferred to Mutare, where he died. He is survived by two wives and several children.

The chief first hit newspaper headlines in 1967 when he appeared before a Nyanga periodical court for contravening the Land Apportionment Act.

He had strongly resisted efforts by the Rhodesians to remove him and his people from Gaeresi Ranch in Nyanga, a ranch which was in a white-designated area. The leader of the Senate and personal friend of the chief, Senator Joseph Culverwell, said yesterday that he was profoundly shocked by the chief’s death.

“He was the epitome of the struggle against the colonial regime, All the people in Zimbabwe and abroad who were associated with the struggle have an undying admiration for the stand he took against the Smith regime.

“In the Senate, he was greatly respected for being the symbol of the anti-colonialist and anti-Smith struggle. He was a personal friend. And I can speak on behalf of all the senators and myself that he will be greatly missed. He was one of the outstanding symbolical representatives of the true Chimurenga in this country,” Senator Culverwell said.

The Speaker of the House of Assembly, Cde Didymus Mutasa, said Chief Tangwena was a strong man who fought for justice in Zimbabwe.


Declared a national hero, Chief Tangwena is the symbol of resistance and courage. On 4 April 1975, he successfully accompanied former President Mugabe and Cde Edgar Tekere into Mozambique to take charge of the liberation struggle.

It is good to stand resolutely for what you believe in or in defence of what belongs to you even in the face of adversity. The late Chief Tangwena was resolute in defence of his homeland.

It was unfortunate that he passed away before the land reform programme had started.

A good leader leads from the front and is not afraid of the consequences. The late Chief Tangwena was a great leader who stood up for his people even at the expense of his own safety as he was harassed by the colonialists.

Everyone is responsible for their own legacy. We are responsible for the kind of legacy or what we want to be remembered for when we eventually die. Chief Tangwena left a lasting legacy, which he shaped throughout his life through his actions. It is up to the people of Zimbabwe to ensure that his legacy is properly maintained, for future generations.

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