THE Tongogara family hoped the late Michael Tongogara would be accorded provincial hero status and delayed burying him until late afternoon last Saturday, it emerged yesterday.
BY JENNIFER DUBE
The elder brother to the late liberation war icon and Zanla chief of defence, Josiah Magama Tongogara succumbed to hypertension at his Mt Darwin smallholder farm two weeks ago.
In an interview with The Standard early this year, Michael, who was based in Zambia during the liberation war, said he took care of Tongogara’s children while his brother was at the war front.
Michael also accommodated liberation fighters at his home in Zambia and said he remained an active Zanu PF member at 75, the age at which he died.
“We usually bury our deceased relatives around 2pm but we delayed burying Mike until well after 4pm on Saturday, as we waited for communication from the party,” a family source said.
“The family, together with many mourners in Mt Darwin, thought he would be given a provincial hero status, especially because his farm remained the centre of Zanu PF activities until his death.”
The source said the family now believed that Zanu PF bigwigs were punishing the Tongo family owing to liberation war differences they had with the late Josiah.
“This whole thing goes back into history, especially the Nhari and Vashandi rebellions which were thwarted by the late Tongo,” the source said. “Some of the people who supported these rebellions are among today’s ruling elite and they continue fighting Tongo from his grave by neglecting his family.”
Another relative also said due to divisions, some family members had gone behind the back of others to lobby Zanu PF officials against according Michael recognition.
He said the involvement of some family members in activities of other parties could also have worsened matters.
Josiah Tongogara’s young bro-ther, Joshua, is an MDC-T member. The MDC-T party last year pulled out of an event to commemorate the late liberation hero’s life which they were organising with Joshua after Zanu PF politicised the event.
Some people have said if Zanu PF can issue statements about the death of some officials’ nieces and grandmothers whose contribution to the country was unknown; the death of a Tongo family member should have attracted the party’s attention.
“The Tongogara family deserves support because of the contribution they made in the liberation of the country,” MDC-T organising secretary Nelson Chamisa said. “The Tongo family is part of what are called heroic families because of the country’s liberation icons who came from these families.”
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo yesterday maintained that his party had not been informed about Michael’s death.
“Who did you say died?,” Gumbo asked. “We know nothing about it. We were not told about it so I cannot comment.” Ironically, Gumbo hails from Midlands, the province where Josiah and Michael were born and raised, in Shurugwi district. Most of the Tongogara family still resides in Midlands, but Michael had been resettled in Mt Darwin’s Chesa area in the 1980s.
Michael died a bitter man. He complained that Zanu PF and Tongo’s former comrades in arms had neglected the family left behind by the Zanla chief who died in a mysterious accident on December 26 1979, a few months before independence.
zanu pf cannot assist everyone — Mutasa
The Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Zanu PF Secretary for Administration, Didymus Mutasa said the Tongo family was not the only one which participated in the liberation struggle.
“The province recommends people for hero status to the politburo and in this case, that did not happen,” Mutasa said. “Everybody, you included, expects assistance at a funeral but Zanu PF cannot assist everyone.
“What is so special about Tongogara’s family asking for assistance? Is he the only one who went to war? How come you are not writing anything about the many bereaved families of other liberation fighters?”