Josiah Tongogara
Josiah Tongogara, ZANLA
The Late Gen. Josiah Magama Tongogara
Native nameJosiah Tongogara
(1938-02-04)February 4, 1938
DiedDecember 26, 1979(1979-12-26) (aged 41)
Cause of deathCar Accident
Body discovered26 December 1979 in Mozambique
Resting placeReburied at National Heroes Acre, Harare
ResidenceOld Marimba Park Suburb
Other namesMagama, General Tongo
OccupationRevolutionary, Politician, Military Leader
Years active1960s to 26 December 1979
EraSecond Chimurenga, Rhodesian Era
EmployerZimbabwe African National Union,
OrganizationZimbabwe African National Liberation Army
Known forLeading the Army
Notable workLeading the ZANLA Forces
Home townShurugwi
SuccessorSolomon Mujuru
Political partyZimbabwe African National Union
Opponent(s)Rhodesian Front Party
ChildrenNyaradzo Tongogara

Josiah Tongogara referred to as General Tongo during the Second Chimurenga, was the man who commanded the guerrilla movement ZANLA, a military wing of the nationalist oriented Zimbabwe African National Union party. Tongogara was also part of the Dare ReChimurenga and the High Command which directed the liberation struggle against Ian Smith's government. In December 2017, King George VI Barracks and the Airforce Headquarters in Harare were changed to Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks, in honour of the late liberation struggle ZANLA commander.

Personal Details

Josiah Magama Tongogara was born in Selukwe on 4 February 1938. He was involved in a fatal car accident which claimed his life on 26 December 1979 soon after the Lancaster House Agreement which gave birth to independent Zimbabwe. He was married to Angeline and the two had four children though Tongogara is said to have sired many children with guerrilla fighters during the liberation struggle.


According to his eldest brother Michael, Josiah sired 10 children with seven women. Michael Tongogara insisted that none of the seven women, including Angeline, was ever traditionally or legally married to him.

With Angeline, he sired: Hondo (born 1969), Tichafa, Bvumai and Nyaradzo. His other children are: Conrad (born 1963) who is the eldest of all Tongogara’s children, Sukai, Simba, Tichaitora, Annie and Granger. Simon Muzenda helped to write supporting affidavits to enable Tongogara’s children to get birth certificates as he knew them and their mothers.[1] However it is not clear if Sukai is indeed his daughter as his wife Angeline claimed in an article published by The Herald on 21 March 2013 that she was Michael's child.[2]

Early life

Tongagara grew up residing in Shurugwi, on a farm which was owned by Ian Smith's parents. [3] Tongogara's parents were employed at this farm and subsequently Tongogara became also an employee on that same farm. He was educated up to standard six and after failing to be enrolled for his secondary education, he left the country for Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia) in 1960. [3]

In Northern Rhodesia, Tongogara studied book-keeping and after completing his studies, he was employed the following year as a secretary at a golf club known as Chainama. [4]

Political career

It was believed that the death of Percy, Tongogara's brother influenced him to join the nationalist movements becoming a politician-cum-military genius. Percy drowned in the Kafue River and Tongogara believed that this was a result of political foul play.[4]

Tongogara began his revolutionary activities in 1963 in Zambia working in ZANU PF's youth wing awaiting to be sent to China to receive military training. [5] After completing his training, he led the first group of people to undergo military training in China in 1966.[5]

In the Zanu PF elections of 1973, he was elected to be the leader of the High Command deposing Herbert Chitepo. This was viewed as major step by the Karangas to ouster the Manyika in Zanu PF's supreme structures. It was then that Tongogara subsequently became the commander of ZANLA. The following year, Tongogara stood firmly opposing the December 1974 peace talks engineered by the then president of Zambia Kenneth Kaunda which was meant to bring to an end the liberation struggle leading to the attainment of independence as a result of negotiations. [4]

In April 1975, Tongogara was arrested and detained in Zambia after Herbert Chitepo who was ZANU Chairman was assassinated in March. The Zambian government strongly believed that Chitepo had been killed by members within his party. Several theories were propounded to account for Chitepo's death. Whilst in prison, he signed the agreement which was forwarding the formation of a joint military force, the Zimbabwe People's Army (ZIPA) which was to be composed of guerrillas from ZANLA and the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), which was the military wing of ZAPU. ref name="CR"/> In 1976, Tongogara was acquitted and he managed to attend the Geneva Conference which was held in the same year.

Tongagara also attended the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 which brought to an end the liberation struggle. During the negotiations, he played a mediating role and Lord Carrington who was chairing the conference acknowledged the pivotal role which Tongogara played. [3] At one time he managed to calm Robert Mugabe after he told Carrington to go to hell when he was making demands on behalf of the Smith regime which seemed to be dubious and trivial in as far as Mugabe was concerned. [3] It was reported that Tongogara was favouring the idea of fostering unity between ZANU PF and Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) but alas his stance is said to have led to his death. Tongogara was said to have held secret meetings with Joshua Nkomo who was the president of ZAPU in a bid to broker a deal with him. [3]

Mysterious Death

Tongogara's grave at the National Heroes Acre in Harare

The death of Tongagara is shrouded in mystery. Many theories have been put forward to explain the events which led his demise. Several versions have been narrated whose events are inconsistent and this has been used to illustrate that there was something more to Tongogara's death. Tongagara is said to have died on 23 December 1979 and the announcement of his death was made on 26 December. [1] It was also reported that it took two more days before Tongogara’s cadaver was taken to the mortuary.[3]

Mugabe was allegedly pin pointed to have engineered the death of Tongogara on the premise that Tongogara was his main threat to his ascendancy as the first president of an independent Zimbabwe. [3] In 2001, reports circulated stating that Mugabe was being haunted by Tongagara’s ghost which however was reported to torment him in the presidential and or state house. [3] Edgar Tekere however distanced Mugabe as having anything to do with the death of Tongogara. His explanation was that Tongogara had defied the orders of Samora Macheal who was then president of Mozambique who had warned guerrillas not to travel at night. [6]

Kumbirai Kangai who was a member of the High Command during the liberation struggle explained that, the accident which claimed the life of a well decorated military leader and strategist occurred around 9 am in Inhambani Province in Mozambique. [1] Contrary to this, Tekere argued that Tongogara died on his way to Chimoio from Maputo.[6] Kangai stated that the propeller shaft of the Land Cruiser, Tongogara’s vehicle broke, and the vehicle veered off the road, hitting an anthill and Tongogara died instantly. [6] Josiah Tungamirai who was once the Chief Air Marshal of the Air Force of Zimbabwe gave another version of the story highlighting that the accident happened at night and Tongogara's vehicle collided head on with a military vehicle which was carelessly abandoned without warning signs. [1]

In 2002, Oppah Muchinguri who was Tongogara's secretary also gave another version of how Tongogara died. She explained that the accident occurred at a place which was 5 km away from the spot where all those who were in the car had earlier had a combined breakfast and lunch. [1] By implication, the accident occurred in the afternoon. Muchinguri also explained that the vehicle they were inside swiped a trailer of a truck which they were trying to overtake, and then it veered from the road, rolling and subsequently turning more than one. [1]

Smith was also of the view that Tongogara was murdered by members of his party because he was viewed as a potential threat to Mugabe. A former detective of the British South African Police member of the Law and Order Section who claimed to have seen the pictures of Tongogara highlighted that the body had three gunshot wounds implying that his accident was staged.[7] However a pathologist who was working at Mashfords Funeral Home who attended to Tongogara's body dismissed that the body had gun shot wounds. [7] Rather he attributed that the injuries on the body were congruent to injuries of a car accident.

Tongogara's children also highlighted that the images they saw depicted a burnt body.[1] It was also reported that pictures of the body of Tongogara were displayed at the Midlands Hotel in Gweru in a hotel which was formerly owned by Patrick Kombayi. [1] Kombayi was reported to be one of the first people to be on the scene where the accident which claimed Tongogara's life on the basis that he was one of his closest friends. The pictures were not ascertained to have been of Tongogara.

In 2012, Angelina expressed her bitterness regarding the manner in which Zanu PF had handled the case of her husband. She demanded to be taken to the scene where this fatal accident occurred. [8] In her statement, she opined that she was not allowed to view the body of her late husband, she was reprimanded by Tungamirayi after she had only seen the face of her father. [8]

In June 2018, ZAPU president and former cabinet minister Dumiso Dabengwa said that he believed Tongogara was killed by his own colleagues because he spoke out against former President Robert Mugabe. Said Dabengwa:

He had almost openly said it. That he believed (late Vice President Joshua) Nkomo was a natural leader and had the focus while Mugabe would only be good as an administrator maybe secretary general of the Patriotic Front. Unfortunately, he said it out in informal discussions with other people. He said it would be a total disaster and told me he was not saying it to please anyone but that is what he believed.

He was angry when it was decided that the issue would be settled when we arrive home from London (during Lancaster House negotiations). He wanted the issue settled there because all stakeholders including the military were represented.[9]

In December 2018, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri narrated the details of Tongogara's death for the first time on camera, saying that nothing sinister had happened. She also said that the story had been distorted. She said she had tried to write a book but it had been taken away from her by the former president, Robert Mugabe, in the presence of former security chiefs, Josiah Tungamirai and Vitalis Zvinavashe.

Oppah Muchinguri narrates death of Josiah Tongogara in 2018 memorial

The Tongogara Legacy Foundation

It was launched in 2012 in remembrance of the life the ZANLA military commander. The Mugabe led ZANU PF was implicated as having played an important part in funding the legacy. This came in the wake of amidst reports which stated that Angelina met the then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai seeking assistance claiming that she was struggling to make ends meets as the government was casting a blind eye on her family.[10] In December 2012, the then chairman of the legacy, Dr. Simbi Mubako appealed to the government to turn 26 December into Josiah Magama Tongogara Day.[11] This was however brushed aside.

As part recognising the role of Tongogara in bringing a free, Zimbabwe, it was proposed that the King George Army Barracks in Harare be renamed to Josiah Tongarara Barracks. This was said by some government officials who presided over a memorial service held in honor of the later national hero at the Zimbabwe National Army Headquarters in Harare.

Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks

In December 2017, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Emmerson Mnangagwa presided over the renaming of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) KG VI barracks to Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks. The renaming was done in honour and recognition of the role played by the late commander of ZANLA during the war of liberation.

Other people

For an anecdote, see Thompson Kumbirai Tsodzo


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Tongogara had 10 kids with 7 women, Nehanda Radio, Published: January 8, 2013, Retrieved: December 29, 2021 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NR" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Tongo’s family distances itself from Sukai, The Herald, Published: March 21, 2013, Retrieved: December 29, 2021
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Mark Olden, Did Mugabe kill Tongogara?, "New Zimbabwe", published:8 Apr 2004,retrieved: 27 June 2014"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Robert Cary and Diana Mitchell, Josiah Magama Tongogara, "Colonial Relic", published:1977,retrieved:27 June 2014"
  5. 5.0 5.1 , Josiah Magama Tongogara, "ZANU PF":,retrieved:27 June 2014"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Torby Chimhashu, Tekere absolves Mugabe of Tongogara's killing, "New Zimbabwe", published:11 Dec 2009,retrieved:27 June 2014"
  7. 7.0 7.1 , Josiah Magama Tongogara 100 Greatest Zimbabweans, "100 Greatest Zimbabweans":,retrieved: 27 June 2014"
  8. 8.0 8.1 Who killed my husband, Josiah Tongogara?, "The ZimDiaspora", published:31 Dec 2012,retrieved:27 June 2014"
  9. Tongo murdered for saying Mugabe would be ‘total disaster’ for Zim; Dabengwa New Zimbabwe, Published:21 June 2018, Retrieved: 22 June 2018
  10. Lance Guma, Zimbabwe: Widow of Josiah Tongogara Living in Poverty, "SW Radio", published:21 Jun 2012,retrieved:27 June 2014"
  11. , Zimbabwe:Tongogara Foundation request controversial and untenable‏, "The Zimbabwean Situation", published:8 Jan 2013,retrieved: 27 June 2014"