November 6, 2009
Jongwe does not deserve to be honouredAbigail Mphisa
HAVING been out there in the bundu for a couple of weeks, one does, to an extent, get used to not knowing what is happening out there in the world.Our radio stations are not much use since all they dish out is a diet of “The President, Head of State and Government, who is also the Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces”. So it was that someone brought copies of The Standard and The Zimbabwean that were a few days old. Hungry for news from the outside world, I combed through every page.
It was then that I came across articles about the late Learnmore Judah Jongwe, who died seven years ago, aged just twenty-eight. He died in his Chikurubi remand cell allegedly from an overdose of chloroquine tablets, while awaiting trial for the murder of his wife, Rutendo Muusha. She was a mere twenty-three years old. This was a truly tragic affair.
As MDC spokesperson Jongwe was impressive. I was quite mesmerised by his debating skills prior to the 2000 and 2002 elections when he took on seasoned Zanu-PF stalwarts on television. It was clear the young man was cut out to scale greater heights on the political ladder.
Needless to say there was general sympathy for Jongwe from his colleagues and friends and many a man who did not even know him. It was reported that the row that had led to Muusha’s murder had arisen from the fact that Jongwe had caught her read-handed while having sex with some lawyer at his offices.
On the one hand, prominent Harare lawyer Jonathan Samkange who had been retained by Jongwe broke the story that Ms Muusha, upon being confronted about the events at the lawyer’s offices, had responded that he (Jongwe), was nowhere nearly as good as the lawyer. At that juncture, Jongwe could not contain his rage hence the stabbing. Interestingly, while Samkange happily drags Ms Muusha’s name through the mud, he has not named the lawyer whom she supposedly had sex with.
Seven years later Samkange shamelessly continues to repeat the story.
On the other hand, Ms Muusha’s family and friends argued that it was in fact the MDC spokesperson who was unfaithful, insanely jealousy and abusive, and who oftentimes beat his wife. One friend said she had been shocked by Muusha’s decision to marry Jongwe, given the fact that he was abusive even before they tied the knot. Yet another friend alleged that the reason they started a family before Ms Muusha completed her studies was due to the fact that Jongwe was so possessive that he feared she might fall for someone else since he had left the university. It was further revealed that Rutendo was in the process of divorcing him following years of abuse.
He had allegedly vowed that if she dared leave him he would kill her.
Fast forward to seven years later. The story that prompted this article has to do with the fact that Jongwe’s colleagues, former student leaders Daniel Molecule, Charlton Whande, Takura Zhangazha and Pedzisai Ruhanya launched a foundation in honour of their late colleague. I must confess I have never met the four but happen to be aware of the fact that they are all human rights activists. I have come across quite a number of their articles and have generally been impressed by their understanding of issues pertaining to human rights.
One Blessing Vava of ZINASU also wrote a glowing article about Jongwe in an obituary carried by The Standard. It was as if he was writing about some martyr. Significantly, he made no mention of the fact that Jongwe brutally murdered his defenceless wife. Instead, as if to imply that Rutendo Muusha’s life was worthless, he is arguing that an enquiry should be made into Jongwe’s death as the student body suspects foul play – a view shared by Jonathan Samkange. Vava also fails to mention the fact that it was reported that Jongwe had in fact tried to take his life soon after murdering his wife.
Here is what I find illogical. Admittedly, countless lives have been lost at the hands of our government and Zanu-PF. However, in the case of Jongwe, they already had him exactly where they wanted him, without any effort on their part – prison. Why kill him when all they needed to do was push for a murder in place of a culpable homicide trial? That way he could be sentenced to death.
Besides, even in the event of a culpable homicide trial, our thoroughly compromised judiciary could have been instructed to sentence him to a lengthy prison term. Anyway, even if the student body feels justified that there ought to be a commission of inquiry into Jongwe’s death, it is disingenuous and insensitive to pretend that Jongwe was an honourable individual.
Having been out of reach of papers and the internet for a couple of weeks, I am not privy to the exact statement issued by the former student leaders to justify the establishment of a foundation to honour their fallen friend. I can only guess that in their myopic eyes he was a role model, indeed a hero of sorts.
I am neither relative nor friend of the Muusha family. I did not know Rutendo either. However, I found this gesture on the part of the four quite unpalatable, disgusting and hugely insulting to those who lost a loved one in Rutendo, a lawyer in the making and a mother of a ten month old baby. She still had her whole life ahead of her.
By venerating and immortalising Jongwe the former student leaders are telling the nation that Rutendo’s murder was justified. Jonathan Samkange is in fact quoted by the Zimbabwean saying, “There was sufficient provocation. Most men would go berserk…”
This is being said of someone who can no longer speak for herself. There is no evidence whatsoever that the infidelity story on the part of Rutendo is even remotely factual as the source is the very man who was going to be paid to ensure that Jongwe went scot-free. Even if it were true, a real man would have simply taken her back to her people. Jongwe’s behaviour has no place in a civilised society.
As if murdering her was not sufficiently evil and uncalled for, her family has to put up with their loved one’s memory being soiled mercilessly over and over again when she is not here to defend herself. Where is the dignity of these people?
If infidelity and insults about lack of sexual prowess justifies murder, would there be any men left on this planet? There are countless stories of men who go to the extent of taking girlfriends to their homes and asking their wives to vacate the matrimonial bed. Shamelessly adulterous men are plentiful in our midst and many justify their behaviour by highlighting their wives’ inadequacies, real or imagined. Yet they continue to walk the face of the earth. One does get sick and tired of the view that an unfaithful wife deserves to be murdered.
If Jongwe deserved all the accolades that he got and is still getting seven years after his death, why could he not control his anger? Surely anger management is one of the hallmarks of worthy leadership? Vava, Ruhanya, Molokele, Zhangazha and Hwende need to take a step back and ask themselves how they would feel if Rutendo had been their sister.
Would they extol the virtues of their sister’s murderer?
My admiration for Jongwe evaporated into thin air when news broke that he had stabbed his wife eight times with a kitchen knife. In place of admiration I was engulfed with a deep sense of sorrow and revulsion. As I finished reading the article about the setting up of a Learnmore Jongwe Foundation, I took a look at the photo of my daughter who turned 23 a few months back. She has dreams, a lot of them. So had Rutendo. My heart bleeds for her mother and the rest of her family. It is difficult to imagine how any family is expected to deal with such senseless insensitivity after having lost a loved one so full of promise.
Jonathan Samkange is further quoted; “He loved his wife very much. Even when he died, he had his wife’s picture. This is what hurt him most, the betrayal…It (his death) was a loss to Africa as a whole”.
So, Africa should grieve over a murderer who died following an overdose of pills? Having studied a fair amount of psychology, I do not accept that being insanely jealous to the point of “if I cannot have you then no one will” can be remotely interpreted as love. That is pure claptrap. If he had truly loved her, he would have simply let her go and then looked for a virtuous woman in her place. It is as simple as that.
As a matter of fact, I also feel sorry for Jongwe’s family. It could not have been easy for them either. However, to Ruhanya, Vava, Molokele, Hwende and Zhangazha, I say you lost the plot, completely. What kind of human rights activists would seek to venerate someone who violated the most important right of all – the right to life?
You have written countless articles denouncing Zanu-PF for its failure to respect human rights. It is patently hypocritical that you fail to appreciate that Rutendo Muusha’s rights were violated and a ten month old baby was needlessly deprived of her mother. Nothing could ever justify honouring one who unnecessarily took a life.
I am struggling to imagine how you will explain it to your children. Will you perhaps say, “Learnmore was a role model because he bequeathed the following to the people of Zimbabwe…” and then go silent on the issue of Rutendo or you will add a caveat, “but he butchered his wife with a kitchen knife”.
With all due respect to you gentlemen, what kind of society chooses a wife killer as one of its role models? Are we that desperate?