Learnmore Jongwe was the first spokesman for the Zimbabwean Movement for Democratic Change Party and Member of Parliament for Kuwadzana.

He was young (28) already well known as the MDC spokesperson and student activist. He had been Chairman of the SRC at University and then threw his weight behind the drive for a new constitution, after that he joined the MDC and became the MP for Kuwadzana and a member of our National Executive.

He had an incisive mind and quick wit which made him a popular figure with the media. A trained lawyer, he quit his job to become a full time employee of the MDC so that he could maximize his contribution. He was a key player in the Youth Assembly and a good public
speaker. In the debates in the National Executive he could be relied upon to stand clearly for principle - even when it was unpopular. He will be sorely missed.

What happened - we will never know unless someone inside the system spills the beans. But the facts point to him being poisoned in some way while in the hands of the CIO. Why kill him when he was about to go to court on a murder charge and was probably going to face the gallows? That is a mystery, a revenge killing? Fear as to what might come out in the court? Whatever the
reason, like the senseless killing of Steve Biko in South Africa, we have lost a very talented young Zimbabwean who was poised to make a significant contribution to the life of his country.

The funeral was well attended - several thousand people, mostly young and angry. The sight of them pouring into the stadium where it was held roaring "hondo, hondo" (war, war) was disturbing if you want to see a peaceful transfer of power in Zimbabwe. These young people were angry - very angry and the police (after tear gassing the mourners again at the funeral parlor) wisely stayed away from the venue.(C) ZimbabweSituation

The Zimbabwe Leanmore Jongwe wanted

THIS week has been a very sentimental one for me. I was remembering the tragic and rather untimely death of one of the most influential young people in the history of Zimbabwe ever.

This week I was in deep mourning but also somewhat, celebrating the life and times of the late Learnmore Judah Jongwe. The late young national hero died under mysterious circumstances at the Harare Remand Prison on 22nd October 2002. This was after his indefinite detention in the aftermath of the tragic murder of his wife, Rutendo, under very acrimonious circumstances.

I had the privilege of being one of the last people to see him alive. I had visited him and spoken to him in his very last afternoon in this planet. This was to be the end of a political friendship and rivalry that I had shared and cherished with him for several years.

I first met Jongwe in March 1995 when we were both admitted at the faculty of law at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). I was his classmate and peer until his graduation day ceremony, when I had the honour of sitting next to him during the entire academic ritual in August 1999.

But I must confess that I have a very limited number of memories of Jongwe as my classmate. The Jongwe I knew most was a politician. During our stay at college, we had a lot of political experiences together. Suffice for me to say that I served as his Vice President both at the levels of the UZ Students Union and Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU).

Jongwe is obviously one of the brightest political prospects ever to emerge from the ranks of the Zimbabwean students movement. He was a naturallly born leader. He was a very talented, intelligent and ambitious young man. He was also very articulate, an orator extra-ordinaire who had a very lyrical voice.

His clarity of purpose, vision and direction so much belied his tender age. It is obvious that at the time of his sad death, he had achieved much more than many people double or even treble his age would have ever dreamt of achieving in their entire long lives.

In fact until his untimely death, many political observers in Zimbabwe easily regarded him as far ahead of his peers. But perhaps, he was even peerless.

It was thus no surprise that during his four-year tenure as a law student at the University of Zimbabwe, Jongwe rose through the ranks of the student leadership with such ease.

He was first elected as an executive member of the Zimbabwe Law Students Association at the end of his first year. Towards the end of his second year, he was elected overwhelmingly as the President of the entire university student union.

At the beginning of his third year, he was also elected as the first-ever national President of the revived ZINASU. During his final year at law school, he also served as the Sub-warden of the university’s most luxurious hall of residence, the New Hall.

Shortly after he left the university, he got a good job as a Professional Assistant in what was then regarded as the biggest firm of legal practitioners in Zimbabwe, Gill Gerrans and Godlontons.

Outside legal practice, Jongwe’s political career continued to flourish. In October 1999, he was among the founding members of the nation’s main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). As a result, he was duly elected as the first ever Youth Chairperson of the MDC in the interim leadership of the party.

The high level of his popularity was affirmed when the MDC held its first ever People’s Congress. During the subsequent elections for a substantive leadership, he was overwhelmingly elected as the new MDC Secretary for Information and Publicity. It was after he assumed this venerated role as the MDC’s public face and spokes-person that the world at large started to notice his brilliant political acumen.

As if it was not enough, Jongwe’s ever growing reputation was further enhanced during the controversial June 2000 Parliamentary elections. The young man earned more kudos for himself when he successfully vied for a seat in the fifth Parliament of the country. He was overwhelmingly elected as the Member of Parliament for Kuwadzana, a high-density suburb in Harare.

But for me, as a person who had shared a lot of intimate political experiences with him during his illustrious days as a student leader, it did not come much as a big surprise. I had always expected a lot from him. I was thus only pleased to note that he had already begun to realize his full potential as a prospective source of future national leadership for Zimbabwe.

But as we all know, Jongwe never lived to realize his fullest potential. Tragically, death dealt him its cruel blow just as his political career was beginning to take off. In fact, it was just when many were beginning to tout him as a potential successor to Morgan Tsvangirai.

Indeed, many thought that Jongwe was a President in waiting, not only at an MDC level but also at a national level. It is therefore doubtless that had he lived long enough, he would have managed to storm into the corridors of power at the State House itself.

As such, Jongwe did not only represent the future of MDC, his party but also that of Zimbabwe as a nation at large.

So when he died, I can dare say that his death did not only rob his family of a breadwinner, his party of a charismatic leader, but also the nation, was robbed of a potential national leader and statesman.

Having said that, I wish to suggest that Jongwe did not go down to his grave with the future of Zimbabwe. He may have died but his dreams for a new Zimbabwe did not die with him. They in fact, remain with us today, as his legacy for our posterity.

Jongwe dreamt of and hoped to see a Zimbabwe that was the complete apposite of what we see today. The Zimbabwe he wanted is still not here with us. It remains elusive, like a desert mirage, hiding somewhere in our future.

The Zimbabwe he wanted was completely different from the Zimbabwe that the likes of Mugabe have led us unto, today. The Zimbabwe he wanted was a new country with a new political culture founded on the premises of freedom, tolerance, integrity and self-respect.

He always dreamt that one day there would be a new Zimbabwe that would celebrate plurality, diversity and all-inclusiveness as the foundation of the entire nation human fabric.

He always envisioned a new Zimbabwe that would be bereft of the retrogressive politics of hatred, violence, cronyism and patronage. He always aspired for a new Zimbabwe that would seek to promote and sustain all efforts of individual and national human endeavor on the basis of diligence and excellence.

The Zimbabwe he wanted would have to be a completely new one. It would be a Zimbabwe that would be like the Biblical Canaan, flowing with rivers of justice and dripping with the milk and honey of peace and democracy.

I therefore appeal to all Zimbabweans, whether at home or in the Diaspora. More so even to the youths and students, to strive to continue with his legacy.

The Jongwe legacy is a lifelong quest for a full transition towards a truly peaceful and democratic Zimbabwe. We owe this not only to Jongwe but our own posterity. History will judge us harshly if we fail to rise up to this crucial but inevitable challenge for our generation.

Let us therefore do whatever we can, in our very own personal way and make our contributions towards the birth of the new nation. I mean, the new Zimbabwe we all want to have.

No matter how discouraging the situation in Zimbabwe might seem today, let us not allow ourselves to wallow in the murky waters of political despair. Let us not agonise but seek to organize ourselves.

Let us all rise up and join forces in the on-going struggle for a new Zimbabwe. And as Jongwe would have loved it, let us all seek to fight for our country until final victory. “Vincere caritate!” We all have no excuse because whether we like it or not, the struggle remains our birthright - danielmolokela@yahoo.com
Daniel Molokela is the National Co-ordinator of the Peace and Democracy Project Johannesburg, South Africa.