Tsvangirai snubs CIO boss burial
HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC yesterday boycotted the burial of Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) deputy director general Elias Kanengoni at the National Heroes Acre saying he was a star architect of political violence and a regime henchman.
Kanengoni was convicted of the near-fatal 1990 shooting of Patrick Kombayi, who at the time of his death in 2009 was the MDC Gweru provincial secretary and also Senator for Chirumanzu-Gweru.
Kombayi was an illustrious cadre during the liberation war and was part of the thousands who organised and directed Zimbabwe’s 16-year liberation war against the settler white regime.
Just after independence, he became Zimbabwe’s first black mayor when he took the reins at the Gweru Townhouse.
Kombayi, a wealthy hotel owner in the central city of Gweru, survived two assassination attempts, one masterminded by Kanengoni.
First, he survived an assassination attempt by Kanengoni during campaigning for parliamentary elections in 1990.
Kombayi ran as an opposition candidate against the late Vice President Simon Muzenda in Gweru.
He was shot in the groin by Kanengoni, who was later pardoned by President Robert Mugabe.
In 2001, a police officer drew a pistol on Kombayi but was overpowered and disarmed.
The second attack was in response to the advertisement he placed in independent newspapers calling for Mugabe’s arrest.
His advertorial taunted Mugabe to learn from ousted Yugoslav despot Slobodan PM snubs CIO boss’s burial Milosevic who had been toppled.
Zanu PF was using terror tactics to cling to power and ruined the economy through patronage and corruption, leading to shortages of fuel, electricity, medicines and essential imports, Kombayi said in the advertisement.
But it was the first gun attack by Kanengoni that left him wheel-chair-bound and disabled for life during the 1990 general election.
He was campaigning for the Gweru Central seat as a Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum) candidate when he was shot.
Kangenoni and Kizito Chivamba, a Zanu-PF youth leader were convicted of Kombayi’s attempted murder, but were both freed through a presidential clemency for mercy.
The MDC said yesterday Kanengoni was unfit to be interred at the Heroes Acre and his burial there desecrated the national shrine.
“We do not recognise him as a hero,” MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said.
“What he did to the people of Zimbabwe is unforgivable and unforgettable. He is one of the people who pumped seven bullets into Patrick Kombayi, a defenceless civilian during elections.
“So he was actually a promoter, an active participant of election violence, and the MDC cannot honour such people.
“We want heroes who in their lifetime were respecting people of Zimbabwe. The National Heroes Acre is not a place for assassins and murderers. It is a place for patriots.”
Meanwhile, Vice President Joice Mujuru told hundreds of people at the Heroes Acre yesterday to be tolerant of each other notwithstanding political differences.
Mugabe was away at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa which coincided with the 50th anniversary of the bloc. He is believed to have returned home yesterday.
Mujuru, widely regarded as a moderate in Zanu PF, told the bumper crowd, which was largely composed of soldiers in army fatigues, that the country was now in an election season and must take heed of Mugabe’s clarion call for peace.
“As the nation moves towards elections, let us conduct ourselves in the same peaceful manner that we exhibited during the constitution-making process and the just-held referendum,” Mujuru said.
“I appeal to all of you to take heed of the wise counsel of the President Robert Mugabe, on the need to be tolerant, open minded and live in peace with each other despite our different political persuasions.”
While Mugabe has been preaching peace, Zimbabwe’s military and security chiefs have been sabre-rattling against Mugabe’s leading opponent in the forthcoming elections, saying they would only back leaders who fought in the liberation war against white rule.
The service chiefs have said that former opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is expected to pose the biggest challenge to Mugabe’s three decades-plus in power, did not fight in the liberation war and has branded him a traitor.
Zimbabwe’s military and security units, including the police and intelligence units, are headed by veterans of the 1970s bush war against white-run Rhodesia which ultimately led to independence from Britain in 1980.
Mugabe has pledged to win the election on a platform of seizing stakes in foreign-owned firms and transferring them into the hands of black Zimbabweans. –Gift Phiri and Fungi Kwaramba