Rekayi Tangwena
Rekayi Tangwena.jpg
Image Via Colnect
BornRekayi Tangwena
DiedJune 11, 1984(1984-06-11)
Liberation war hero.
Notable workAssisting both Robert Mugabe & Edgar Tekere to immediately flee Zimbabwe after 12 years as political prisoners to Mozambique & jumpstart the Chimurenga Struggle.
Political partyZimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front
ChildrenJohn Tangwena, Elijah Tangwena

Chief Rekayi Tangwena is one of Zimbabwe's iconic heroes of the liberation struggle and figure of resistance. He helped Robert Mugabe cross into neighbouring Mozambique undetected by the Rhodesian Forces. The Tangwena people also have a documented history of friction with colonial authorities in which at one point they had 500 cattle impounded by the Ian Smith government. He was a member of the 1980 Senate.

Personal Details

Born: 1910. (Sometimes Tawangwena)
He would become chief of the Tangwena people in 1966. [1] Marriage: He was married to two women, Mai Karongo who was said to have been a spirit medium, and had two children. And Mai Elijah, his father's younger wife, who he married when his father died. He had one child with her. [2] Death: Chief Rekayi Tangwena died on 11 June 1984 and was awarded national hero status and laid to rest at National Heroes Acre.

School / Education

Did not go to school. Left home in 1919, to work on a mine in Penhalonga.


He worked in Mutare (Brown's Hotel), Salisbury (Meikles Hotel, Grand Hotel, and Radio House), and Bulawayo (Grand Hotel, Victoria Hotel), then as engineer's assistant on the railway. Rturned home permanently on 3 April 1963.
Tangwena's rift with the colonial authorities started as soon as he was made chief. He went to the District Office to inform the Native Commissioner that he was now the Chief of the Tangwena people but he was informed that it was not possible since the Tangwena people were squatters on a farm owned by William Hanmer, he was also informed that the Tangwena people were actually registered labourers. [1] On several occasions Tangwena refused to be evicted from his ancestral lands even in light of an eviction order from the Ministry of Home Affairs. After having been taken to court for refusing to be moved off the land, Tangwena won the ruling and was allowed to live on the land but the Rhodesians resorted to intimidatory tactics. The authorities crafted a dubious piece of legislation which allowed them to evict Tangwena and his people from their land. It was on 18 September 1969 that the Tangwena were evicted from the land in a violent manner in which some of the Tangwena people were beaten by the Rhodesian Police. [1]
Rekayi Tangwena also led a demonstration against the colonial authorities at Nyanga Police station despite the brutality that had earlier been exhibited by the police when they were evicted.
Eventually, Rekayi Tangwena joined the trek into Mozambique to join the liberation struggle. Tangwena is most celebrated for his role in helping liberation heroes such as Robert Mugabe and Edgar Tekere crossing into Mozambique. [3] Robert Mugabe is said to have stayed at the Tangwena homestead for a while before he was smuggled into Mozambique. [4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Chakamwe Chakamwe Remembering the heroic fight of Chief Tangwena, The Patriot, Published: October 30, 2014, Retrieved: July 27, 2015
  2. [Diana Mitchell, African Nationalist Leaders in Zimbabwe: Who’s Who 1980], "African Nationalist Leaders in Zimbabwe: Who’s Who 1980, (Cannon Press, Salisbury, 1980), Retrieved: 16 November 2020
  3. Fortious Nhambura Mbuya Tangwena a true heroine, The Herald, Published: May 8, 2013, Retrieved: July 27, 2015
  4. Tichaona Zindoga 40 years on: Retracing the President Mugabe's journey into Mozambique, The Herald, Published: 4 April 2015, Retrieved: 29 July 2015