HARARE – A terrible bitterness still fills the heart of Munyaradzi Muusha, brother to murdered Rutendo, the wife of the late spokesperson for Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party, Learnmore Judah Jongwe.
The quiet ambiance of a cemetery in Masvingo, where Rutendo’s remains are interred, and the white lilies and roses laid for her there, does nothing to soften Munyaradzi’s anger and sadness on the 11th anniversary of his sister’s tragic, violent death at the age of 23, at the hands of Jongwe.
The former MDC spokesperson was arrested in July 2002 and charged with murdering his wife.
Jongwe admitted stabbing his wife Rutendo during a domestic row but denied intending to kill her.
He reportedly tried to commit suicide after his wife’s death but was eventually persuaded to give himself up to the police.
At Harare’s Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, his body was found on October 24, 2002 in his cell. It was reported that he suspected his wife of infidelity and during a row, stabbed her eight times with a kitchen knife.
The Muusha family accuse Jongwe’s lawyer Jonathan Samkange of cooking up the infidelity story in Jongwe’s defence.
Rutendo’s bitter brother accused the former MDC spin doctor of being an unfaithful husband who regularly assaulted his wife and was a well-known kerb-crawler in the city.
Rutendo was a final-year law student at the University of Zimbabwe, where she met Jongwe while he was also studying law. Jongwe was a student leader at the UZ.
At the time of Rutendo’s death, the couple had a 10-month-old child, Tawana.
Former student leaders who worked with Jongwe at the UZ, led by Daniel Molokele, last Thursday held a memorial service honouring the late MDC spokesperson in Johannesburg, South Africa, stirring bitter animosities among Rutendo’s people, delighting many others who admired Jongwe, flouting her family’s sternest tradition, and rocking the Muusha family to its foundations.
Chamisa was instrumental in the formation of the Friends of Learnmore Jongwe Trust whose first act was to set up and unveil his tombstone.
The Trust, whose directors include Jongwe’s former university friends — Pedzisai Ruhanya, Takura Zhangazha, Molokele and Charlton Hwende — says among other aims it seeks to “identify and further the interests of the late Jongwe”, “quantify and preserve the contribution of the late Jongwe” and to provide a welfare facility for his family.
The Muusha family was engaged for this year’s memorial, but snubbed the event.
Rutendo’s brother told the Daily News on Sunday that attempts by the student leaders to immortalise Jongwe had revived bitter memories of his sister’s gruesome murder.
“For the Jongwe family, nothing is wrong with remembering your loved one,” Munyaradzi told the Daily News on Sunday.
“To his fans, it’s important you know who you look up to. Reality is, the guy was a psychopath, though hard, but reality is what we have to face at the end of the day. Him and his lawyer cooked a sick story to try get them out of problems. It’s sad his die-hard fans bought it, no surprise though.”
Jongwe’s lawyer Jonathan Samkange, maintains to this day that Jongwe walked into a Harare law firm and found his wife engaged in sexual conference with another man, an allegation Munyaradzi strenuously denies.
Samkange told the Daily News on Sunday that he was retained as Jongwe’s legal counsel following his arrest by the late MDC spokesperson’s friends, including opposition National Constitutional Assembly leader Lovemore Madhuku.
Samkange said he had to rush back home from the UK to prepare Jongwe’s defence.
According to Samkange’s version of events, Jongwe’s mother had come to visit the young couple in Harare from her Zhombe rural home. On the fateful day, Jongwe had driven home with his wife during lunch hour.
He expected her to remain home with the mother, but she insisted on going to Muswe and Associates, a law firm in Harare.
According to Samkange, Rutendo took ages to return home, prompting Jongwe to follow her to the law firm.
“Jongwe walked into the lawyer’s office and found her having sex,” Samkange said.
“He was shocked and rushed back into the car and drove away.”
“At night,” said Samkange, “Jongwe confronted the wife and she told him ‘He is a better man than you and you ought to be doing what he was doing.’ In a fit of rage, he stood up and stabbed her. That is how it is,” Samkange said.
After stabbing his wife, Jongwe drove to his Zhombe rural home while police cast a dragnet around the country, looking for him.
Samkange said doctors did a sloppy job on the wife, and could have saved her.
“There was sufficient provocation, his manhood was challenged,” the top lawyer said.
“Most men would go berserk. I could see a court convicting him of culpable homicide not murder.”
Samkange said he arranged Jongwe’s safe passage back to Harare after he had fled to his rural home after the murder.
Samkange said he spoke to Jongwe at 11am and advised him to be at his Avondale home the following morning.
After getting assurances, Samkange met with the investigating police officer, Inspector Muchemwa, and advised him to dismantle roadblocks that had been put up; to allow Jongwe to get back to Harare without incident.
Samkange met with the investigating officer at Mereki — a barbecue area in Harare’s working class suburb of Warren Park.
“At 6:45am the following day, Jongwe arrived at my home and we drove to the police station,” Samkange said.
“From there onwards, he never had discussions with other people.”
But Rutendo’s brother refutes Samkange’s assertions and insisted Jongwe had all the intentions to kill his sister.
“People should know that this guy they loved dearly was a psychopath,” Munyaradzi said.
“I’m sure Rutendo is not the only person he murdered, guess she marked the end to it.
“All those close to Rutendo know about his abusiveness, the beatings, pushing her out of a moving car, threats of ending both lives etc.
“She wanted a divorce and that’s exactly what makes psychopaths snap, and like most cases that’s how it ends — break up with me and I will kill you, then myself.
“Well, you knew him in politics, but only in politics, sadly that was his other side, monster at home. There are others out there like him, all over the world, who rely on their societal status to get away with it.”
A distraught Munyaradzi added: “My mum raised my sister well. Tell the world the truth, they
deserve the truth please.”
Samkange said there was need to probe Jongwe’s suspicious death in remand prison, which other observers believe was an assassination. An independent pathologist concluded he died of excessive intake of chloroquine tablets.
“Did the prison doctor administer those drugs?” Samkange asked.
“The hospital was there and operating. How did that happen? How did tablets get into cells? All food is searched. So how did those tablets go in? Who smuggled them and why was that person allowed to smuggle them in? What was the motive of that person?”
He said it was unfortunate the Jongwe family did not make a formal complaint with police for a full probe into the circumstances surrounding his death.
“That I could do on their instruction but I could not initiate it myself,” Samkange told the Daily News on Sunday.
Describing Jongwe as a man dedicated to his wife, Samkange said: “He loved his wife very much. Even when he died he had his wife’s picture. That is what hurt him most, the betrayal.”
Samkange said he refused to accept Jongwe’s vehicle as settlement for his lawyer’s fees.
“As far as I am concerned, it was national service,” he said. “Jongwe was an intelligent young man. I was thoroughly impressed by that young man. It was a loss to Africa as a whole. It’s very unfair to say he was a bad person. He had a good cause.”
But this it is apparently proving difficult to sell to the grieving family.