MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has said the late Learnmore Jongwe (insert) was a democratic struggle stalwart and an oasis of love and humility.

Chamisa pays tribute to Learnmore Jongwe who died on this day in 2002

Jongwe admitted to stabbing his wife during a domestic row but denied intending to kill her. He was due to go on trial in the Harare High Court on 25 November 2002, but was found dead in the prison where he was awaiting trial.

By Nancy Samuriwo

MDC Alliance president Nelson Chamisa says his party and its members will never forget the contribution the party’s founding spokesperson Learnmore Jongwe made to opposition politics in Zimbabwe.

Jongwe, a key founder of the opposition MDC then led by Morgan Tsvangirai, was found dead on 24 October 2002 at Harare’s Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison where he was being held over a murder charge.

Aged 28 at the time, Jongwe had been in custody since July thatbyear when he was arrested following the stabbing death of his wife, Rutendo, then 23, over infidelity accusations.

Jongwe was Kuwadzana MP at the time of his death, and one of the youngest lawmakers in the country after the MDC had swooped seats from Zanu PF in the 2000 Parliamentary elections, just a year after the party’s formation.

Chamisa later succeeded the late Jongwe as the party’s youth assembly leader as well as the Kuwadzana MP. Chamisa also became the MDC spokesperson at one period along his way to the party Presidency which he assumed in 2018 shortly before Tsvangirai’s death

Writing on social media on Sunday morning, Chamisa hailed Jongwe as a trendsetter.

“We will never ever forget! Struggle is the language of the oppressed. We’re the voice of the voiceless.The struggle continues.We fight for freedom, peace and real change,” said Chamisa.

Born in rural Zhombe to peasant parents, Jongwe rose to become a voracious student leader at the University of Zimbabwe in the mid-1990s where he studied law. His death shattered many youngsters’ dreams and led to the MDC being portrayed on State media as a violent party.

This was after Jongwe admitted to stabbing his wife during a domestic row but denied intending to kill her. He was due to go on trial in the Harare High Court on 25 November 2002, but was found dead in the prison where he was awaiting trial.

The then police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said Jongwe died shortly after an attack of vomiting and that cellmates had tried to render first aid.

Chamisa has previously described Jongwe as a great tutor in the country’s modern political history.

“This is a sad day in the history of our political life,” Chamisa said. “As his name suggested, we drew a lot of lessons from him as we learnt the ups and downs of public life.

“We also learn to serve our country despite coming from a humble background.

Learnmore Jongwe died on 24 October 2002 at Harare’s Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison where he was being held over a murder charge.

“His life also teaches us how tragedy can change both fate and destiny and more importantly we learn that we must always stand still despite the challenges of life.”

Chamisa described Jongwe as a “giant in intellect” and a “constitution of charisma”. He said Jongwe was a democratic struggle stalwart and an oasis of love and humility.

“Today is the day that Learnmore Judah Jongwe was born. Continue to Rest in Peace Mukoma Judah, your short illustrious life inspired a generation. We shall complete the change,” he added.

Members of the opposition party believe Jongwe was murdered, but there has never been proof to back that up, with other reports saying he committed suicide.

Before studying law at the University of Zimbabwe, Jongwe had attended school in Zhombe and Lower Gweru. A very brave and eloquent students leader, Jongwe joined the MDC when it was formed in September 1999 and his energy earned him the attention of allies and foes alike.

The Jongwe home lies at the heart of Samambwa Village, on the northern parts of Zhombe, where the local chief, Samuel Samambwa, is a close ally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

In all past elections, Zanu-PF has been winning resoundingly in Zhombe wards, and the current MP is Edmore Samambwa, a Zanu-PF youth league member.

The Samambwa community survives on artisinal mining of gold, communal farming and an irrigation project led by locals with support from the Agriculture Ministry.

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