George Charamba Press Secretary to the President
These are the hard facts of history which cannot be wished away, or manipulated to manufacture false profiles. Or used to invent unmerited political importance, whether in the past, now or in future.
THE article, “Mugabe is ungrateful: Mujuru”, ran by NewsDay on Tuesday preposterously seeks to re-invent and re-write history in the vain hope of a hard-to-achieve political gain. Quoting a spokesperson of Joice Mujuru of the so-called Zimbabwe People First, the article, among other falsehoods, brazenly claims President Mugabe was “handpicked” by the late General Solomon Tapfumaneyi Ruzambo Mujuru, alias Cde Rex Nhongo, “to lead Zanu-PF at the height of the liberation struggle”.
It would help tremendously if the former Vice President and wife of the late General take time to brief her spokesperson factually and accurately on well known matters of history before the issuance of any statements. Those who provoke history are sure to reap grief from offended facts.
Firstly, there was no Zanu-PF “at the height of the liberation struggle”. There was only the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and its military wing, Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). “Zanu (PF)” as an acronym only emerges and comes into usage firstly just before the inaugural elections of 1980 when the late Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole challenged the party’s use of both the acronym “Zanu”, and the symbol of the Great Zimbabwe, an application which an all-white Rhodesian Bench expectedly granted. The second time the acronym comes into use, albeit with a different meaning and without brackets, is after the signing of the historic Unity Accord of 1987 which brought together the two former liberation movements, Zanu (PF) and PF Zapu. Teurairopa Nhongo, later on Joice Teurairopa Runaida Mujuru, was near and mature enough to know about both developments.
Secondly, Cde Mugabe’s formal involvement in party politics dates back to 1960 when he joined the National Democratic Party (NDP) after his recall from Ghana. He was elected its Publicity Secretary at its inaugural Congress whose proceedings he chaired. At that time Joice Runaida Mugari was a small girl of nearly five. Solomon Ruzambo Tapfumaneyi Mutusva Mujuru, the man who was later to become her husband, was still in primary school in the then Charter District, now Chikomba District.
Thereafter, Cde Mugabe played many roles and served in different capacities in NDP and its successor, Zimbabwe Africa People’s Union (ZAPU), until he was appointed Secretary General at the inaugural ZANU Congress held in Gweru on 8th August, 1963, following the split. By then, Joice Mugari was about eight years old.
Thirdly, between 1963 and 1974, Cde Mugabe was not only in active politics, but also suffered countless restrictions, detentions and imprisonment for that role. All told, he spent eleven years of his precious life incarcerated in Rhodesian prisons, on account of his nationalist activism. At the time of Cde Mugabe’s release from prison, Joice was now in Zambia, staying with the family of the late Cde Josiah Magama Tongogara, following her evacuation to that country in late 1973, after a battle in the Dotito area which claimed the life of Cde Joseph Chipembere, the commander of a group of freedom fighters who had recruited her.
The battle, and especially the death of Cde Chipembere with whom she was involved, left her traumatised and had to be evacuated to Zambia on a makeshift stretcher. In Zambia, she was put under the special care of Amai Tongogara, whose medical background was invaluable to her recovery. A handful of cadres who either survived that battle, or were involved with her evacuation to Chifombo, are still alive and ready to give testimony.
That same year, in 1974, she underwent a three-months crash military training programme at Chimbi-Chimbi in Kafue, Zambia, alongside Rugare Gumbo, her current political acolyte, late Cde Kumbirai Kangai, late Cde Richard Hove, late Cde Henry Hamadziripi, and Cde Mukudzei Mudzi, among others.
Her trainers, led by the late Cde William Ndangana, included Zanla’s pioneering unit of female fighters who had just graduated at Nachingwea, in Tanzania, and whose pass-out parade was presided over by Cde Samora Moises Machel, the first President of an independent Republic of Mozambique. This group of female fighters included Cde Susan Rutanhire, who was part of Joice’s instructors.
Fourthly, following the tragic assassination of Zanu Chairman, Cde Herbert Wiltshire Hamandishe Chitepo, by Rhodesian agents on 18th March, 1975, the Zanu leadership held a crisis meeting in Highfield, Salisbury. That meeting directed that Cde Mugabe, as Secretary General, accompanied by the late Cde Edgar Zivanai Tekere, promptly leave the country to lead the liberation struggle following the said death and the crisis that followed which threatened to derail the struggle. The decision was thus of the Party, Zanu, and was taken inside the then Rhodesia, in the interest of furthering the liberation struggle. Needless to say trained cadres who included Cde Rex Nhongo could not have been at that meeting, or in the country.
It spoke highly of the trained cadres at Mgagao, of units still in Zambia, units deployed in Mozambique and inside the country, and Zanla’s incarcerated command element, that the position which the Party had taken at Highfield inside Rhodesia, was noted, respected and echoed.
Both the Mgagao Document and subsequent pronouncements from Zambia upheld the Party position.
The Mgagao Document, with all its signatories, is there for anyone interested to see and scrutinise.
It is a fact of history that the late General Solomon Mujuru was not among the signatories of this document which echoed the Party decision anyway, having been away in Mozambique on a mission. Indeed the compliant position of the Zanla Forces fell in, and was in perfect accord with Zanu’s fighting philosophy that it is politics that lead the gun, never the other way round.
Fifthly, in 1977, Zanu held its Congress-in-exile at Chimoio in Mozambique. That Congress adopted a new leadership for the Party, but strictly on an interim basis, pending a properly constituted Zanu Congress that could only be held in a free Zimbabwe. Indeed that Congress eventually took place at Borrowdale Race Course in 1984, in a free Zimbabwe and elected Cde Mugabe President of Zanu (PF). The Chimoio Congress confirmed Cde Mugabe as President of the party-in-exile, deputised by the late Vice President, Cde Simon Vengesai Muzenda. The same Congress appointed Rex Nhongo Zanla Chief of Operations, deputising the late General Josiah Magama Tongogara, the Zanla Chief of Defence. Teurai Ropa, already betrothed to Cde Rex Nhongo, was co-opted into the National Executive Council. Later in the same year, women cadres met at Xai-Xai in Gaza, Mozambique, and elected her to the post of Secretary for Women Affairs. Above her were more senior cadres, most notably the late Cde Sheba Tavarwisa, who was already a member of the Zanla High Command, and was appointed the High Command’s Secretary for Education at the Chimoio Congress.
After Independence, President Mugabe, then as Prime Minister, appointed Teurairopa Nhongo as a minister of Government.
By her own admission, she felt ill-equipped and undeserving of the appointment, but only obliged on the insistence of Cde R.G. Mugabe who hand-held her all the way, including helping her resume her schooling within the precincts of Zimbabwe House. She has a lot to be grateful for to the man she now vilifies.
These are the hard facts of history which cannot be wished away, or manipulated to manufacture false profiles. Or used to invent unmerited political importance, whether in the past, now or in future. Equally, readers expect newspapers to know and respect facts of our history, and never to be accessories in its falsification.
This is a Press statement from Press Secretary to the President George Charamba.