The Sunday Mail
Late Zanla Chief of Defence General Josiah Tongogara lived way ahead of his time as he had drawn up the post-Independence architecture of Zimbabwe’s national defence five months before the start of the Lancaster House talks in London, it has emerged.
This is contained in handwritten notes and diagrams dated June 15, 1979 that The Sunday Mail has exclusively dug out from the late General’s archives.
Gen Tongogara died on December 26, 1979 in a car accident in Mozambique.
The notes and diagrams which Gen Tongogara penned show that he was already thinking of post-Independence Zimbabwe, despite the fact that the Lancaster House talks only started in October 1979.
In the diagrams, he wrote about what he called the “Coordinating Council”, which comprised Zapu and Zanu.
This Council, which seemed to borrow ideas from the Military Commission in China, comprised the top political leaders in Zapu and Zanu and the senior military commanders under Zipra and Zanla.
One of the veterans of the liberation struggle, who rose through the ranks to become a provincial commander, assisted The Sunday Mail in interpreting the notes and diagrams.
The war veteran, who chose to speak on condition of anonymity, said the Coordinating Council had the responsibility of looking at the broader national security issues ranging from physical, economic, political and cultural security, among other issues.
“It’s not a surprise that Cde Tongogara would borrow from the Chinese model because, as you know, in early 1966, he went for military training at Nanking Academy in China. This Military Commission where he got the model is still in existence in China today.
“What is even more exciting is that, as we speak, we have the National Security Council which has the same responsibilities as those suggested under Cde Tongogara’s notes and diagrams.
“Again on his notes and diagrams, there is the Defence Council whose responsibilities and structure resemble that of the present-day National Joint Operating Command.
“So, the structures that Cde Tongogara drew five months before the Lancaster House talks started are being used in present-day Zimbabwe and are the ones underpinning the country’s stability.”
The date on which the notes and diagrams were drawn up shows that Cde Tongogara was eight months ahead of the first general election in March 1980 and nine months ahead of Independence in April 1980.
He was also a whole year ahead of integration of the fighting forces as this started in earnest around June 1980.
“If you look closely at the notes and diagrams, you can see that Cde Tongo was thinking of the coming together of Zapu and Zanu under the Patriotic Front way back in 1979. As you know, this only happened in 1987 under the Unity Accord.
“It’s clear that he had already sensed that the unitary structure would harmonise the two forces following clashes between Zipra and Zanla forces at Nachingweya and Mgagao during the liberation struggle. What is even more telling is that from 1983 up to 1987, the two forces clashed, leading to the Unity Accord.
“One can easily conclude that Cde Tongogara’s strategy drew lessons from a bitter history but also foresaw the danger of this bitter history repeating itself as what went on to happen between 1983 and 1987.
“By coming up with the notes and diagrams, Cde Tongogara was thinking beyond his call as a soldier. This man of ‘iron’ was also showing that he was a philosopher, a thinker and a statesman in nation-building. He was not thinking with the trigger, but was looking ahead not only to build a nation but a crown, a sceptre and to defend it.
“It’s as if he knew that on December 26 1979, he wouldn’t be available to see the process through. It’s as if he knew that the process would proceed without him, except the process proceeding with him as his plans guided the whole process.
“For someone who had commanded forces that had clashed with Zipra to overcome that history of hostility, it’s just amazing. His stature gets enhanced a thousand times considering that he was a mere Standard Six chap. Many degreed comrades couldn’t see what he saw.”
Asked where Cde Tongogara got these traits, the war veteran stunned this writer saying: “After all, in terms of ancestry, Cde Tongogara traced his roots to South Africa. No wonder why he was always national in outlook. He was never caught up in the regional or tribal clashes during the liberation struggle.
“Remember, with those South African roots, he stayed in Zimbabwe and then went to Zambia. Zimbabwe was too small for him; that’s why he never got himself involved in regional or tribal politics.”