This orbituary was written in 2009 during my time as the ZINASU National Spokesperson and published by nehandaradion.comObituary: In memory of Learnmore Judah Jongwe, 1974-2002
By Blessing Vava
On the 22nd of October 2009, the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) will mark the 7th anniversary on the death of one of our illustrious sons and leader Learnmore Judah Jongwe (pictured) who passed away on the 22nd of October 2002 in a prison cell at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.
At the time of his death he was serving as the Member of Parliament Kuwadzana constituency and Spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The Movement for Democratic Change President Morgan Tsvangirai blamed Robert Mugabes government for Jongwes death. He said ZANU PF wanted to eliminate as many opposition MPs as possible to create a big enough majority for the ruling ZANU PF party to change the constitution. He was in government custody and, without any explanation of the circumstances [of his death], they are accountable, Mr. Tsvangirai said.
As ZINASU, we are firmly convinced that he was killed by the state while in detention. We remember his revolutionary and unwavering commitment and contribution to the students movement and the nation at large. Jongwe was neither a hawk nor a dove, but a person who dealt with difficult situations in a creative way.
He was remarkably bright and brave; relentless in his fight for justice; unsparing in his criticism of those, even within his own party, who had become a threat to social justice. There can be no denial of Jongwe’s stature as one of the most luminary and inspirational youthful figures of the emergent generation of Zimbabwe’s leaders.
The tremor of disbelief, anger and outrage which shook the country following his murder testifies to the importance of his leadership and the deep significance of his life. Learnmore was born in Samambwa village in Zhombe on the 28TH of April 1974. He did his Advanced Levels at Lower Gwelo Mission from 1993-94 before enrolling at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) in 1995.He was elected the UZ Student Representative Council (SRC) President in 1996.
In July that same year he led numerous demonstrations at the institution and was later suspended together with his vice president, classmate and friend Daniel Molokela. The students were reinstated after a few weeks.
As the leader of the UZ SRC, Jongwe was instrumental in the revival of the national students mother body (ZINASU). In March 1997 Jongwe was elected the National President of ZINASU with other luminaries, who included Daniel Molokela as the vice president, Charlton Hwende Secretary General and Job Sikhala, Information and Publicity secretary.
From 1997, he served the students union with passion and commitment, such that ZINASU became a force to reckon within the countrys political landscape. During the 1998 food riots, Jongwe led countywide students protests against the rising cost of living in the country. Jongwe served as ZINASU President from 1997-1999, and was succeeded by Hopewell Gumbo.
At that moment, there were growing seeds of discontentment amongst Zimbabweans because of Mugabes misrule. Together with the working class movement, and the poor masses, the students union played a critical role in the formation of an alternative political force, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Several comrades from the students union including Tafadzwa Musekiwa,Job Sikhala, Nelson Chamisa went on to grab very influential posts during the newly formed party. Learnmore became the first National Chairperson of the MDC Youth Assembly, and was later succeeded by former Nelson Chamisa who at the time of the formation of the MDC, was at that time the secretary general of ZINASU.
Jongwe later became the Spokesperson of the party, a position he held until the time of his death. As spokesperson of the party, he became a darling of the press because of his eloquence, articulacy and clarity as he debated, defended or when articulating the policies of the party. In one of the televised current affairs debate sessions he outshined and disgraced Sunday Mail columnist and ZANU PF apologist, Tafataona Mahoso.
His favourite school subject was history; his favourite activities debating and volleyball.
Jongwe was also a devouted christian being an Adventist, he was neither a drinker nor a smoker.
Jongwe was unique in one further respect. Unlike any other leader of the emerging movement, he had a solid urban and rural base. He was a leader of such popular standing in where he came to be regarded increasingly as a unifying figure both rural and urban areas.
His impeccable credentials as ZINASU leader and his charismatic appeal to the alienated youth, gave the MDC credibility among the countrys most disgruntled, volatile constituents. Without him, it has become hard to sell to disadvantaged and oppressed groups any kind of apparent compromise
It is one of the saddest ironies of our time that many of the greatest of student and youth leaders, and indeed many of the brightest beacons of hope for the future, have been assassinated in their prime.
For all Zimbabweans, for all the struggling masses in our world, Learnmore Jongwe’s death, like that of so many other young visionaries killed in the first act of the struggle for democracy Batanai Hadzizi, Christopher Giwa, Lameck Chemvura, Gift Tandare Better Chokururama, Tonderai Ndira, Godfrey Kauzani, Cain Nyeve, Tichaona Chiminya, Talent Mabika, Trymore Midzi- will be more painful if the work for which he laid down his life is not carried forward.
A close friend to the late Learnmore Jongwe, and one of the pioneers of the Learnmore Jongwe Trust, Earnerst Mudzengi said that the death of Jongwe was a painful episode in history. What happened seven years ago was a painful episode in history, we lost a cadre who will be difficult to replace and whose qualities, character and strength would be difficult to get.
Jongwe left behind a daughter, Tawana, now doing grade two. As part of this years commemorations ZINASU and the Friends of Learnmore Jongwe Trust will hold a quill talk in Harare were various speakers who include his friends, family members former student leaders and the current crop of student leadership will address.
As ZINASU, we demand that an independent commission of inquiry be established to look into the death of Jongwe and other comrades, nationalists who died under unclear circumstances. The list includes Batanai Hadzizi, Christopher Giwa, Hebert Chitepo,Eddison Sithole, Rashiwe Guzha and Josiah Magama Tongogara to mention just but a few.We want to remember Jongwe for the light he shed that others might see; for the life he shared so selflessly; and for the vision, the wisdom, the dedication, and compassion he dispensed so generously.
He will be remembered as the husband, father, brother, friend, and comrade that he was. We want to remember him for the cause that he espoused, which turned into his own life’s quest for a humanity liberated from the stranglehold of tyranny, fear, hatred, prejudice, ignorance, and rapaciousness.
Rest in Eternal Peace
(Zimbabwe National Students Union)