Chief Rekayi Tangwena is one of Zimbabwe's iconic heroes of the liberation struggle and figure of resistance. One of the most critical moments in Tangwena's life was when 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 Regime

Rekayi Tangwena
Rekayi Tangwena.jpg
Image Via Colnect
Born Rekayi Tangwena
Died June 11, 1984
Nationality Zimbabwe
Liberation war hero.
Political party Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front
Children John Tangwena, Elijah Tangwena



Rekayi Tangwena was born in 1910 in then Rhodesia. He would become chief of the Tangwena people in 1966.[1] He was married to two women, Mai Karongo who was said to have been a spirit medium and Mai Elijah.[2]

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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 the September 18, 1969 that the Tangwena were evicted from the land in a violent manner in which some of the Tangwena people were beaten up 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 on been exhibited by the police when they evicted the Tangwena people from their lands. 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]


Chief Rekayi Tangwena died on June 11, 1984 and was deservedly awarded national heroe status and laid to rest at the National Heroes Acre.


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  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
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  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: April 4, 2015, Retrieved: July 29, 2015