Tongogara film on cards

Itai Mushekwe



US-based Zimbabwean filmmaker, Michael Chinyamurindi is set to produce a feature film that pays tribute to the late veteran nationalist Josiah Magama

Tongogara, Independent Xtra can reveal.


Chinyamurindi this week disclosed from his California base that he is partnering with Tichafa Tongogara, a journalist and film-maker based in New York who is the son of the late national liberation war hero to produce the film.


“The Tongogara project is headed by Tichafa Tongogara,” said Chinyamurindi. “Although our production companies negotiated a deal which would give me first option at portraying the lead, Tichafa in New York would be able to give you current production updates and progress.


“By the time I was ten years old I’d been heavily politicised by events and local nationalists. From the day I understood who Magama was, and this is as I entered my teens, I was enthralled by the man’s courage, his altruism, mannerisms and his capabilities as a military strategist.”


Chinyamurindi added the movie script must be well structured and executed so as to awaken the nation from the current “delusionary” political slumber bewildering it.


“Today we lack genuine heroes, if not only for our youth then for the nation. I believe a well-structured and well-executed script would wake us from the delusionary political slumber that seems to have paralysed us. Magama is the ultimate Zimbabwean hero. Seeing how one man’s committed vision produced an army of conscripts, a disciplined guerilla force and finally a victory, which he or his family have yet to enjoy. Now, that’s a Zimbabwean film I want to do.”


Tongogara’s son, who is the script master minder could not be reached for comment.


However, Chinyamurindi reiterated that both the motion picture storyline and project preparations are at an “advanced” stage, with adequate funding remaining the major challenge.


Asked why he had decided to produce a Tongogara film ahead of the head of state President Robert Mugabe, the filmmaker retorted: “Sounds like a tricky CIO question to me. First, you could ask me the same about my other hero’s Hamadziripi, Eddie Sithole, Washington Malianga, Chitepo, Tangwena, Jiri, Safiriyo, Gumboreshumba and so on the obvious answer is ‘to everything and everyone there is a season’ and this is Magama’s time.”


The filmmaker has featured in Hollywood blockbusters such as Jurassic Park and renowned American soaps, which include West Wing and The Young and the Restless.


Josiah Tongogara was born 67 years ago and has numerous streets named after him countrywide. He was the commander of the guerilla army Zanla, and was at the Lancaster House conference that led to Zimbabwe’s Independence and the end of white minority rule. Many expected him to be the first president of a free Zimbabwe, with Mugabe, head of Zanla’s political wing, Zanu, as prime minister.


At the Lancaster House agreement, Tongogara was a crucial “moderating” force, according to Lord Carrington, the then British foreign secretary, who chaired the talks. By then, Tongogara was openly favouring unity between Zanu and the late vice-president, Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu.


Six days after the Lancaster House agreement was signed, Mugabe, on the Voice of Zimbabwe radio station, conveyed “an extremely sad message” to “all the fighting people of Zimbabwe”: the 41-year-old Tongogara was dead, killed in a car accident in Mozambique on Christmas Day in 1979.


Zanu released an undertaker’s statement saying his injuries were consistent with a road accident, but no autopsy results or pictures have been released. A CIA intelligence briefing of December 28, 1979 said Tongogara was a potential political rival to Mugabe because of his ambition, popularity and his decisive style. Today many believe the charismatic Zanla commander was terminated in a fierce inside purge by his liberation colleagues who remain unnamed.