Political feuding within ZANU-PF before and after independence in Zimbabwe have led to the loss of lives of top politicians, businessmen and pro-democracy activists, mostly in road accidents believed to have been orchestrated by ZANU-PF leader himself – Robert Mugabe.
Commenting on last week’s accident of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that claimed the life of his wife Susan on the spot, former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Tom MacDonald said: “I am sceptical about any motor vehicle accident in Zimbabwe involving an opposition figure. President Mugabe has a history of strange car accidents when someone lo and behold dies – its sort of his MO of how he gets rid of people he doesn’t like. So when I hear that Tsvangirai was involved in an accident, it gives me a pause.”
This is the best description of how culpable the Mugabe regime has been over the years from the infancy of the party itself up to as recent as December 2008. Below is a chronicle of the politically motivated road accidents.
Herbert Chitepo (1975) – He died in a car bomb blast in Lusaka on March 18 1975. His bodyguard also died in the massive blast that sent part of the car on top of his house roof and uprooted a tree next door. Hours later, one of his neighbours also died from injuries sustained in the explosion. The bomb was planted in Chitepo’s Volkswagen Beetle the night before. An inquiry into the explosion, commissioned by the then Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda revealed that Ken Fowler the then head of CIO in Rhodesia masterminded the assassination, but planted evidence to link ZANU members to the job.
It remains a mystery as to who killed Chitepo, but there are theories that it was an “inside job.”
Josiah Tongogara (1979) – He was commander of the ZANLA guerrilla army. He attended the Lancaster House conference negotiations which led to independence in 1980 and ended the white minority rule. Many expected him to be the first Zimbabwean President with Mugabe as Prime Minister. He was also linked to the death of Hebert Chitepo in Zambia in 1975. He differed with Mugabe over a government of unity with Joshua Nkomo and his ZAPU. Just six days after the Lancaster House agreement, Mugabe announced the tragic death of Tongogara between Maputo and Chimoio on his way to Zimbabwe.
His vehicle rammed into a stationery army truck, which was by the side of the road.
However theories of his death point at Tongogara as a political rivalry of Mugabe because of his “ambition, popularity and decisive style”. At the time of his death the US embassy in Zambia issued a statement to the effect that, “Almost no one in Lusaka accepts Mugabe’s assurance that Tongogara died accidentally. The Soviet government where a lot of guerrilla support was coming from also believed it was an “inside job”. One of the ZANU cadres, Enos Nkala wrote a book about the assassination, but he said it will only be published after his death. Ian Smith, in his memoirs insisted that Tongogara’s “own people” killed him and he had actually said it at Lancaster that Tongogara was under threat. Smith says he got a report from his commissioner of police that Tongogara was assassinated – there were three wounds on his upper torso consistent with gunshot wounds.
William Ndangana (1989) – Although he had some differences on cabinet appointment with Mugabe on tribal lines – him being Ndau from the east and Mugabe being Korekore from the West, he is said to have been mistakenly killed. Rumours that filtered soon after his death were that the idea was to kill Edgar Tekere who had defected from ZANU-PF to form Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM). During that fatal day, Tekere was supposed to travel from Harare to Mutare, but as luck would have it he decided to postpone his journey to evening. Ndangana travelled that afternoon and the army truck saw a Mercedes Benz coming and concluded it was Tekere’s and they went for him. As a Manyika he was linked to the opposition ZUM as well.
Sydney Malunga (1994) – He was a ZANU-PF parliamentarian from Bulawayo and a celebrated critic of Robert Mugabe. The driver of the car he was travelling in the city of Bulawayo tried to avoid “a black dog” that unexpectedly popped into the road. The car hit a street pole and overturned killing the MP.
Chris Ushewekunze (1995) – At his funeral, the brother Herbert was quoted as saying, “Now that you are killing and burying everyone, who shall be left to bury you when you die.” Apparently these remarks were directed at Robert Mugabe. Ushewekunze who was a cabinet minister at the time of his death had differed with Mugabe on economic policies.
He died in a car crash at Suri Suri, some 110 kilometres (Bulawayo-Harare road) south west of the capital, Harare.
Witness Rukarwa (1995) – He was governor for Mashonaland West who also succumbed to a car crash. His death in a mysterious accident was linked to feuding within ZANU-PF and many believed it was the workings of ZANU-PF and its people.
Zororo Duri (1996) – He was told not to contest for the chairmanship of ZANU-PF Manicaland province against Kumbirai Kangai, but he went ahead and won. In saving Kangai of the shame, Mugabe fakely appointed Duri to the post of ambassador to Cuba and was killed at the very same spot, the very same way that Ndangana crashed near Rusape along Mutare-Harare road after he had packed his bags.
Peter Pamire (1997) – The businessman’s 4×4 Mitsubishi Pajero rolled in Borrowdale suburb of Harare while on his way from the airport and killed him instantly. Allegations were that he was seeing the First Lady Grace behind Mugabe’s back. New evidence from the master-minders (CIO) of the assassination point at him being shot and lost control of the vehicle. Instead a metal rod was put on the track of the bullet to suggest that he died of injuries incurred in the accident.
Moven Mahachi (2001) – Mahachi who was the minister of defence at the time of his death died on May 26 2001 when his Land Rover (Defender) veered off the road in Nyanga and hit a tree. Just before his death he was quoted to have remarked: “Instead of our army in the DRC burdening the treasury for more resources, we should consider bringing them back home.” This did not go well with Mugabe who had personal interests in DRC and a personal friend to Laurent Kabila, the late DRC president. Five other people who were in the vehicle escaped with minor injuries.
Border Gezi (2001) – His official Mercedes Benz had a tyre burst along Harare-Masvingo road resulting in the driver losing control and overturned, killing the driver and the minister Gezi who was going to Masvingo on a ZANU-PF assignment. Some theories say Gezi had made his mind known that he was against farm invasions without compensation to the white farmers. It is believed the old guard of ZANU-PF was not happy with his meteoric rise to power in ZANU-PF circles. He was credited with turning around the electoral fortunes of the ruling party in the 2000 parliamentary elections.
Edison Zvobgo (2004) – The Harvard trained lawyer and long time ally of Mugabe started criticising Mugabe’s autocratic rule in the early 1990’s. In 1996, he survived a car accident along Harare-Masvingo road. Both his legs were broken. Soon after the accident he was dropped from cabinet and this accident was considered suspicious by many. He had described the sweeping media laws as, “the most serious assault on our constitutional liberties since independence. He refused to campaign for Mugabe in 2002, but did not endorse Tsvangirai and his MDC.
Winston Changara (2007) – The long time bodyguard of Robert Mugabe was accused of meddling in the private affairs of the first family, especially Grace. It all started when Grace refused to go with him on a trip abroad alleging sexual overtures from the assistant commissioner bodyguard. Grace wanted to do away with him because she had seen him to potentially spill the beans about the First lady’s infidelity.
He was demoted and never saw the first family again and while serving elsewhere in the police force he was involved in a car accident. He died a bitter man and for sure he spilled many secrets of the First Family. Mysterious consecutive deaths of many brigadiers who were linked to the 2007 coup plot for Mugabe entrenched perceptions that car accidents had become the ruling party’s favourite method of eliminating dissenting views.
Elliot Manyika (2008) – He had taken in the shoes of Border Gezi and he died the very same way on his way to Gwanda. ZANU-PF insiders say the old guard was not happy with his rise in the party and government and they decided to eliminate him. At his funeral at Heroes Acre, his brother, is said to have told Mugabe in the face that he was very sure that the younger brother had been killed by his party’s colleagues. Several other pro-democracy activists have had brushes with the accident scenarios. These include Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutamabara, Tendai Biti, Welshman Ncube, Lovemeore Madhuku, Christopher Giwa and several others of low ranking political profiles. This has consolidated allegations that ZANU-PF is bloody’ (ZANU-PF ndeyeropa) in vernacular. The people of Zimbabwe will never forgive Mugabe for the loss of Susan Tsvangirai whether his hands are clean, this is because of the array of accidents that were experienced in the past.