JOSIAH MAGAMA TONGOGARA Zimbabwe Military Commander, ZANLA. Chief of Defence, DARE ReChimurenga (ZANU War Council)
General Josiah Magama Tongogara was a visionary who dedicated his life towards the establishment of a nation free of discrimination and oppression on the basis of skin colour. Born 4 February 1938 in what was then Rhodesia, General Tongogara was a bright student who was denied entry into secondary school based on one of many pretexts which were often used by the oppressive white minority administration to deny intelligent young black people a higher education. The system was designed in such a way that only a few children of Africa descent could proceed up the educational structures in order for the white minority to limit opportunities through limiting access to knowledge. The unjust system hit home, spurring him into action, awakening his political consciousness. Distraught, yet determined, General Tongogara, crossed the border to Zambia where he later became instrumental, along with other Zimbabweans, in assisting Kenneth Kaunda in becoming the first president of an independent Zambia.
Chief of Defence, DARE
JOSIAH MAGAMA TONGOGARA
Josiah Magama Tongogara was born in Selukwe in 1938. He obtained his primary education, up to Standard VI, at an Anglican mission school.
He went to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) in 1960 and studied book-keeping. He
became secretary of Chainama Golf Club in 1961. When he suspected that his brother Percy, who was drowned in the Kafue river, had been the victim of political
foul play Tongogara left his employment and became a militant nationalist.
He travelled extensively throughout the Middle East, the Far East and Eastern Europe, studying politics and training himself as a military leader1 In 1972 he
became military commander of ZANLA. He also headed the 18-man military high command, providing liaison between the political leaders in Lusaka and the
soldiers in the field.
He escorted Gerald Hawksworth from Mocambique to Tanzania after the latter had been captured by guerrillas in 1973.
During the Lusaka discussions of December 1974 he stood out firmly against detente, maintaining that the military struggle must be continued. Despite a great
deal of internecine fighting between the various tribal elements of ZANLA he managed to remain in control.
Following the death of Herbert Chitepo in March 1975 Tongogara was detained by the Zambian Government. He was held in Kabwe maximum security prison for over a year, being brought to trial in Lusaka on 21 April 1976 for the alleged murder of Chitepo. On
20 October he was acquitted and released in time to attend the Geneva Conference.
Although in prison at the time, he was a signatory to the agreement which set up ZIPA in May 1976.2
Tongogara is Chief of Defence of DARE ReChimurenga (Supreme Council of ZANU) and
commander-in-chief of ZIPA.
He is a tough, clear—thinking man with positive ideas on political development. He greatly admired Patrice Lumumba and Mao-Tse-tung and there is little doubt
that he is a committed Marxist3 So intense is his political commitment that he carries a radio with him wherever he goes for fear of missing important news items from
Peking and other Communist stations.
Tongogara is married with three children (Rangarirayi, Hondo and Bvumai). His wife, Angelina, is a midwife. For relaxation he likes to watch soccer and Kung Fu films. When he comes in from the bush he likes to “wind down with draughts and cards”.
1 According to a report in the Daily Telegraph (12 April 1976) he is a close friend
of Mocambique’s President Machel, with whom he underwent military
training in China. It is also stated that he fought alongside Machel at one time
in the Tete province of Mocambique.
2 ‘ZlPA was formed out of the ZANU armed force, ZANLA,‘and the ZAPU
guerrillas’ (writes Claudette Monteiro in African Development 1233). ‘The
ZANLA forces were by far the larger section ofthe armed forces, and they
never agreed to the ceasefire under ‘detente’ with South Africa; this brought
about some conflicts within ZANU and ZANLA. ZANU seemed to be a party
to the ceasefire, but ZANLA did not want it. This caused some thinking
among ZANLA cadres which led them to join up with the ZAPU cadres…’
Claudette Monteiro goes on to say that ‘trouble erupted earlier this year
(1976) when the political leaderships of both ZAPU and ZANU were
excluded from the camps. This was resented by sections of the cadres… who
gave their allegiance first and foremost to Nkomo or Sithole or whoever and
were prepared to fight purely on that basis.’