Josiah Tungamirai

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Josiah Tungamirai

The late Air Marshall Josiah Tungamirai was a Zimbabwean military leader and politician who rose to fame in the Zimbabwe African National Union party during the Second Chimurenga war. He served as the Air Marshal of the Airforce of Zimbabwe and was buried at the National Heroes Acre in Harare. He passed away on 25 August 2005.[1]

Tungamirai was born Thomas Mberikwazvo on October 8, 1948 in Gutu, Masvingo Province, to a peasant family.[1]

Early Education

He did his primary education at Mutero Mission in Gutu, Masvingo Province between 1957 and 1964, and proceeded to Chikwingwizha Seminary for his Ordinary Level education.[2] He spent two years at the Harare (Salisbury) Polytechnic before completing his Advanced Level studies in Physics and Mathematics in 1970.[2] Although he had distinguished himself as a brilliant student, Thomas Mberikwazvo’s education was interrupted by the need to join the liberation struggle. Later, Tungamirai graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and a Master of Arts in War Studies from the University of Zimbabwe after independence.[2]

Early Political Life and Military Training

Tungamirai's political activism began in 1969 when he joined the liberation struggle.[2] He left Zimbabwe for Tanzania via Botswana and Zambia. In Tanzania, he received basic military training at Ituli-Chitunya in Mbeya Region and went on to get advanced training in guerrilla strategy and tactics as well as revolutionary warfare at Mugagao-Iringa Region.[2]

In 1971, Tungamirai with 14 others travelled from Tanzania to reinforce a group of 45 comrades deployed as logistics cadres to transport war materials to the North Eastern war zone.[2] Appointed to the post of Political Commissar in 1971, Tungamirai was among the first three cadres to enter Rhodesia on reconnaissance in 1972. His first military operations took him to Dande and Mt Darwin areas where he offered political education to the people on “Sparrow Warfare” — a massive recruitment and training of liberation war forces.[2]

Tungamirai rose with the ranks and on September 2, 1972 was promoted to the rank of General Staff and also appointed Sectoral Security Officer for Chamumba sector. In 1973, he was promoted to Deputy Provincial Field Logistics Officer for the Mozambique -Malawi-Zimbabwe Province, internally known as the North East Province.[2]

Again in 1973, he was appointed Provincial Political Commissar for the Zimbabwe- Zambia province and later took charge of MMZ province in the same capacity.[3] Operating from “Chomuka sector” a military base in Chesa area, Tungamirai led the first military attack in the Mt Darwin area on November 9, 1973. In 1975, he became a member of the Chimurenga High Command as Deputy Political Commissar.[3]

Guerrilla Leader

In 1976, Tungamirai went to Chimoio in Mozambique and operated as an attaché to the East Central Province, giving education and guidance to combatants. In January, 1977, he was promoted to the post of Zanla Chief of Personnel and in September of the same year he was appointed Zanla’s Chief Political Commissar to spearhead the armed revolutionary struggle.[2]

At the height of the liberation struggle between 1977 and 1978, Tungamirai operated in the Mutare operation zone dedicating most of his time to plan battles and campaigns as well as imparting political education to provincial sectoral detachments and intelligence teams. He was one of the chief architects of the following key guerrilla operations and battles fought during the liberation struggle:

  1. Capture of Hanks-worth in Chesa area (January 1973);
  2. First Attack on Mount Darwin (January 1973);
  3. Mutare Attack (1978); Invasion from the East (February–March 1978);
  4. Attack on Electricity Supply Station in Coventry/Lytton Roads (February 1979); #Attack on the Main Fuel depot in Salisbury (Harare) in 1979;
  5. Destruction of the Kariba-Harare Electricity Pylons (1979).[2]

Lancaster House Conference

Tungamirai was party of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) entourage that took part in the historic Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 which subsequently brought the country's independence. He was invited to work as Special Military Advisor to the late Josiah Tongogara, who was the Chief of Defence.[2] He was instrumental in the implementation of the ceasefire soon after the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement. He led the second group of Zanla forces returning to Zimbabwe.[2]

Working in the High Command

In 1980 after the attainment of independence, Tungamirai was appointed to work in the Zimbabwe Joint High Command which was instrumental in merging the the two guerrilla movements (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army ZANLA and the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army ZIPRA) to form a unified Zimbabwe National Army.

On attestation into the army in September 1980, Tungamirai was commissioned Major General and appointed Chief of Staff (General) in April 1981. In December 1982, Tungamirai was transferred to the Air Force of Zimbabwe to fill the post of Chief of Staff in the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.[2] He went on to train as a pilot and qualified in October 1984 with 31 other Air Force of Zimbabwe pilots who were awarded wings by President Robert Mugabe at Thornhill Air Base.[2]

Achievements after Independence

The year 1984 was one of double awards as he also attained a B A Honours Degree in History from the University of Zimbabwe. Tungamirai was promoted to the rank of Air Marshal and appointed Commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe in January 1986. He was further promoted to the rank of Air Chief Marshal in June 1992, a rank which he held until his retirement in August the same year.[2][2]

In recognition of his distinguished and meritorious service to Zimbabwe, especially in the military and political spheres, Air Chief Marshal Tungamirai was awarded the Grand Commander of the Zimbabwe Order of Merit (GCZM) by President Mugabe.

He held directorships in several companies, which include Climax Investments, Bindura Nickel Corporation, BLC Company, Cardiff Estate and Havana Tobacco Company.[4]

In the year 2000, he was appointed a non-constituency Member of Parliament and as Minister of State for Indigenisation and Empowerment in 2004.[4]

In February 2004, Retired Air Chief Marshal Tungamirai was elected Member of Parliament for Gutu North Constituency, after brushing a token challenge from the Movement for Democratic Change candidate by a margin of 20 699 votes to 7 291. This was in a by-election that was held to fill the seat left vacant following the passing on of Vice President Simon Muzenda.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 , Josiah Tungamirai, "Evi", retrieved:03 Dec 2014"
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 , Cde Tungamirai The Embodiment of Patriotism, "The Herald", published:22 July 2014,retrieved:03 Dec 2014"
  3. 3.0 3.1 , Tungamirai dies in South Africa, "New Zimbabwe", published:11 Dec 2009 ,retrieved:3 Dec 2014"
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 , Zimbabwe robbed of a great Strategist, published:29 Aug 2005,retrieved:3 Dec 2014"