The Sunday Mail
President Mugabe last week warned Rugare Gumbo that he faced arrest for treason following revelations that he threatened to get Zimbabwe’s leader assassinated if he did not leave office and let Vice President Joice Mujuru in.
Zanu-PF Politburo members, shocked by the revelations, revealed yesterday that President Mugabe had pointedly told Cde Gumbo that he was a hypocrite who spoke of the need for unity while seeking to eliminate the leadership.
Our investigations show that Cde Gumbo sought to re-enact his failed bloody 1978 coup against Zanu’s external leadership. That attempt saw Cde Gumbo and others abducting and intending to kill Cdes Edgar Tekere and Herbert Ushewokunze by throwing them into a deep ravine. Ironically, it was General Solomon Mujuru who stopped that coup, though Cde Ushewokunze was injured and lived out his remaining years with a serious head wound. Historians yesterday told of Cde Gumbo’s latest blood-curdling plans, which have seen him suspended from Zanu-PF for the next five years and could well mark the end of his political career.
“The President said to him, ‘Madyira (Gumbo’s totem) maakuda kuti tisunganefuti here?’ Those were his words,” said a shocked Politburo member.
He explained: “That shows several things that demonstrate that what he (Cde Gumbo) has done is as treasonous as he did during the war. When he was arrested during the war it was a treasonous act punishable by death and he was not executed because Mozambique would not allow that. But the fact is that it was treasonous as now. He has absolutely learnt nothing and he is at it again.
“He has been treasonous not only because he is denying the will of the people but also by contemplating to do what he sought to do. That contemplation alone is what lawyers are calling treason,” said the source.
The source added that it was “quite chilling” to hear the Head of State and Government saying Cde Gumbo was a counter-revolutionary.
“That statement highlighted that once a mupanduki (rebel), always a mupanduki.”
The official said that after Cde Gumbo tried to appeal for unity, President Mugabe labelled him “absolutely hypocritical”.
“Hypocrisy seems to be an enduring character flaw in Gumbo and that is why President Mugabe said what you are saying is absolute nonsense.”
The damning revelations rocked many of Cde Gumbo’s close associates, and by the time he was ordered to leave the Politburo counsels, he cut an isolated figure.
“There were intense discussions and what his punishment would be, and when it was decided that he be suspended he took his papers and left the room because he had ceased to be a member of the party.”
Other sources see the latest revelations as a continuation of a violent streak in Gumbo. A respected historian yesterday told of how Gumbo’s lust for power had seen him in repeated confrontations with, and contempt for, General Josiah Tongogara, whom he always called uneducated. On at least one occasion, Gen Tongogara and Gumbo had to be restrained from engaging in fist cuffs.
“This was after Gumbo had even challenged Cde (Herbert) Chitepo. Cde Tongo reached a point where he sought a sabbatical to go to school and President Mugabe said, ‘No, no, Cde Tongo, look at the stage where we are with the liberation struggle. You cannot leave now to further your education at such a critical juncture’,” said the historian.
This was in 1977 when Zanla forces were on the verge of overrunning Ian Smith’s army and after that year’s Zanu Congress in Chimoio, Western-aligned infiltrators were seeking to undermine the struggle.
Another historian who has extensively researched the Second Chimurenga said: “Rugare has always been anti-leadership and anti-authority and he seeks to replace them with himself.
“He will use anyone and any means to achieve his aim of getting one over the President. Like before, this rebellion has all the hallmarks of British and American involvement.
The historian spoke of Anglo-American involvement in the three coup attempts in the decisive stages of the liberation struggle: the Nhari-Badza rebellion (1974/75), the Dzinashe Machingura rebellion (1976), and the 1978 rebellion by Gumbo, Mukudzei, Joseph Chimurenga, Henry Hamadziripi and Augustine Chihuri. The rebellions also took place against the background of talks initiated by Britain and America: during the détente (1974/1975), Geneva Conference (1976) and the Malta 1978 talks, which also extended to Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. Gumbo’s rebellion occurred when Cdes Mugabe, Tongogara, Simon Muzenda and Kumbirai Kangai were in Malta. Leaders in Mozambique at that particular time were Cdes Solomon Mujuru, Ushewokunze and Edgar Tekere.
Cde Gumbo along with his conspirator comrades Hamadziripi and Joseph Chimurenga were also in Mozambique.
“They then decided that it was an opportune time to rebel. Actually it was a coup d’état against external leaders of the party that sought to turn the leadership and attain the reins of the liberation movement,” said the historian.
Gumbo and his conspirators targeted three persons: “One was Rex Nhongo (Gen Mujuru) because they knew that until they accounted for him, they would not be able to control the Zanla camps. The camps were a symbol of authority and whoever controlled them had power. Second was Edgar Tekere and third was Herbert Ushewokunze who was a medical doctor but a firebrand revolutionary.
“The group had to enlist the support of the Mozambique’s President (Cde Samora Machel) because Mozambique was the host and any success depended on the support of the hosts. So Rugare Gumbo wrote a letter to President Machel outlining three points: one, how dissatisfied he was with the leadership; two, to announce the decision to topple the leadership and replace it with a new one — which meant themselves; and three, to seek support from the Mozambican government and the Frelimo party.
“The letter was addressed to President Machel through an aide called Fernandes and was written on three foolscap papers and personally signed by Rugare Gumbo.”
This, the historian said, was a military coup and would have been an act of treason had the liberation movement been a government. The next step was chilling. They captured Cdes Tekere and Ushewokunze and took them to a jungle and tortured them. They fractured Cde Ushewokunze’s skull.
“Indeed he took that fracture to the grave: each time he tilted his head, that fracture would show. Thank God it was not deep enough but the whole episode underlined the readiness to unleash violence against fellow comrades to attain self-objectives.”
More was to come.
“They were subjected to physical abuse and much worse they were put on the brink of a ravine and the idea was to through them to their deaths.
“Thank God, Rex Nhongo’s military response was just in the nick of time. The two were saved,” recounted the historian.
Gen Mujuru mobilised forces to neutralise the rebellion, leading to the rebels’ arrest. According to the account, when the leadership came back from the talks an emergency meeting to deal with the coup attempt was convened. It was strongly suggested that Gumbo and company be executed, but their necks were spared – ironically by Cde Mugabe’s intervention.
Continued the historian, “Two factors were at play: one, the President’s Catholic sensibility; and secondly, the fact that the new man in charge of security, namely Emmerson Mnangagwa who had been personally invited by the President, had himself survived the gallows.
“Mnangagwa’s argument was, ‘I cannot support the very means that almost cost my life’. Because of that, instead of the firing squad, the offenders were thrown in a dungeon, which was a deep pit, and they were fed in this dungeon for the remainder of 1978 and 1979.”
Rather than rehabilitate Gumbo, this played into the machinations of the British and Americans on the eve of the 1980 elections. The British moved to divide the nationalist movement and in particular weaken Zanu. Lord Soames, the governor tasked to run the elections and with power to determine who could and could not participate in the polls, set the release of political prisoners as a precondition for Zanu’s participation. Zanu complied and sent its man responsible for welfare, Cde Kangai, to Mozambique to oversee the release of white prisoners into the hands of the Red Cross, and bring Gumbo and others back into the fold and to convince them that what had happened during the war was water under the bridge.
Gumbo was said to be “the most obdurate” and was to remain in Mozambique while others came back home.
“Something interesting also happened. Lord Soames proposed that Rugare Gumbo and other rebels had to come back into the country first before Cde Mugabe, hoping the rebels would attract crowds and eat into the support of Zanu. Zanu rejected that and the compromise was that Cde Mugabe and the rebels come almost at the same time,” the historian said. Zanu was to make another offer for reconciliation with the rebels. The now retired Air Vice Marshall Henry Muchena was the “runner”, reporting to Dominic Guveya Chinenge (now Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Gen Constantine Chiwenga), and Kenny Ridzai who was the deputy to Gen Vitalis Zvinavashe; who reported to Gen Josiah Tungamirai who in turn reported to Cde Simon Muzenda.
“The rebel group was first domiciled at Skyline Motel where they were debriefed by the Rhodesian security services and later they were secured houses in Southerton, which was then an upmarket residential area. They were guests of Rhodesian intelligence,” the historian said.
“Negotiations with Zanu took place at Monomotapa Hotel and the talks were slow and frustrating until the day before the end of negotiations. There was an announcement (in the Rhodesian media) that the rebels had joined different political parties.
“Joseph Chimurenga joined Muzorewa’s party; Gumbo went to Zanu-Ndonga and Chihuri joined PF-Zapu. The decision to join the other parties scuttled the meeting and Zanu called off the talks — and then the campaigns started.”
After the elections which President Mugabe and Zanu won resoundingly, the rebels took different turns. Machingura went to study in Germany, while Gumbo joined — with Zanu’s help — Hwange Colliery Company. Chihuri joined the police force in Mutare while others were absorbed in Government. It was the then Vice President Muzenda who pleaded with President Mugabe to readmit Gumbo and company in the 1990s.
He said, “Nhai President tosvikepi vana ava vari in the cold?”
And even after being readmitted, Gumbo’s rebellious streak would not be tamed.
“People thought that he had learnt enough from history. He hasn’t: in fact this is a replay of the 1978 scenario,” the historian concluded.