This is a digitised version of an article from The National Observer. The original article was written by The Political Editor and published on December 28, 1979, Front Page.
ZANLA commander Josiah Tongogara was killed by his own forces in Mozambique on Monday, Mr David Mukome, outgoing UANC Minister of Foreign Affairs, claimed today. He said information he had received from reliable sources in Maputo was that Tongogara’s body was already in a mortuary before the terrorist commanders flew to Salisbury on Wednesday.
It should’ve been significant from the outset that something was suspect when Rex Nhongo, the deputy ZANLA commander and not Tongogara led the terrorist commanders to help with the ceasefire arrangements, said Mr Mukome.
The truth was that Rex Nhongo was appointed leader of the ZANLA commanders in place of Tongogara because the latter was already dead. But the death had not yet been announced because the whole business had not yet been stage-managed.
Mr Mukome said it should also have been significant that Nhongo was apoointed the lead the ZANLA commander team without it being made known whether Tongogara had resigned or had been demoted.
Mr Mukome’s source said Tongogara was killed by ZANU forces who were dissatisfied with the settlement and ceasefire agreements, alleging that it was a sellout of the fighting forces who found nothing in it for themselves.
He said the Chimoio area where the accident was purported to have taken place never had a road as such, but a winding track which, following the attached and bombings by the Rhodesian forces, became quite unusable.
It was, therefore, unthinkable that a man of Tongogara’s experience and knowledge of the area would have chosen to even attempt to drive in the area at all, the source said.
Mr Mukome added that Tongogara’s death would deal yet another blow to the Victoria province, which already had its most prominent politicians locked up in Mozambique, and Tongogara has been pressing Robert Mugabe unsuccessfully for their release.
Reacting to the demonstrations at Salisbury Airport on Wednesday in favour of the Patriotic Front, Mr Mukome said thousands had gone there out of curiosity and nothing else.
He said the arrival of the PF commanders or that of the rest of the PF leadership in the near future, would only be a week’s wonder and thereafter, the Patriotic Front could be trusted to resort to their old political tactics of intimidation.
“The untimely death in suspicious circumstances of Mr Tongogara, who demonstrated at Lancaster House his genuine dedication to a settlement of this country’s problems, may be the clearest manifestation yet that there may now be a trojan horse in our midst”, he said.
Call on all Zimbabweans to remain calm, the outgoing Foreign Minister said: “Our eyes are many and permanently alert. Our ability to maintain stability stands proven, resources aplenty and, above all, strength is inexhaustible.
“Now that a sizable portion of the Patriotic Front is on our home ground, we wait impatiently to clobber them at the polls, and what we did in April we intend to repeat in February or March Next Year.”
“It is inconsequential to the UANC whether the PF fights the election as one entity or separately, their political fate, jointly or singly, is the same – annihilation at the polls.”
Asked what the arrival of the Patriotic Front Leadership would mean to the country, Mr Mukome said it meant that the internal settlement which was initiated by Bishop Muzorewa had now been augmented by at least some sections of the PF.
“Those PF members who would continue to refuse to come home would now answer to the description of the external groups,” he said.
He described as that it had taken 12 months for the PF to see what Bishop Muzorewa had already seen – that once majority rule had been conceded to by the whites, there was absolutely no further need for hostilities to be continued.
He said: “If one looks back at the 12 month period since the March 3 agreement which the PF rejected, one sees that all the PF achieved in that time was the killing, maiming and torturing of innocent peasant farmers (blacks) and thousands of Zimbabweans would be alive and well.”
Mr Mukome said the demonstrators at the airport who chanted anti-Muzorewa slogans conveniently forgot that if it had not been for Bishop Muzorewa, there would not have been a Lancaster House agreement, and without such an agreement, there would not have been any return of those same commanders whom they welcomed so enthusiastically.
Asked whether he thought the movement of the PF forces inside Rhodesia to their assembly points would go ahead smoothly, he said he feared the ZANLA forces would find it difficult to believe that Tongogara’s death was accidental.
“This difficulty will be instrumental in determining whether they will go to the assembly points or not, and the reluctance on the part of ZANLA forces to go to the assembly points will not exactly be bad news to the commanders who are secretly in favour of the continuation of the hostilities,” he said.
He added that he believed the death of Tongogara would also shatter the morale of ZANU (Mugabe) supporters inside Rhodesia, who would not realise that all was not well in the party they supported.
Mr Mukome said the PF problems were not restricted to the fighting within the Mugabe camp, but to the entire PF as a whole.