ZANU PF party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo’s lengthy suspension from the ruling party by the politburo last night, along with other allies of Vice President Joice Mujuru, all but brings to an end his long yet controversial political career in which he worked alongside the late Herbert Chitepo in Zimbabwe’s 1970s struggle for Independence.
Gumbo, the only surviving member of Zanu’s Dare re Chimurenga which planned and directed the liberation war while President Robert Mugabe and other leaders like Ndabaningi Sithole were in prison, was handed a five-year suspension by the politburo on charges of plotting to oust Mugabe.
Given his age (74, having been born in March 1940) this effectively marks the end of his controversial career. This is the third time Gumbo finds himself at the crossroads with the party he worked tirelessly to build up alongside the likes of Chitepo, the late Josiah Tongogara and the late Kumbirai Kangai, among others.
Gumbo was first arrested by the Zambian government after the assassination of Chitepo along with Tongogara and other Dare members on suspicion of assassinating Chitepo.
He was also later arrested and imprisoned in Mozambique along with other members dubbed the Vashandi group who were resisting the elevation of Mugabe to party president to replace of Sithole who had fallen out of favour allegedly for renouncing the armed struggle, among other charges.
He was only released in 1979 on the eve of the elections that lead to Independence on the insistence of the British as one of the pre-conditions for the holding of the elections that led to Independence in 1980.
He contested the elections on a Zanu Ndonga ticket — the party led by Sithole.After Mugabe’s victory, Gumbo was frozen out and remained in the political wilderness for many years in which he worked in the corporate sector. He was later rehabilitated by Mugabe and given ministerial positions at the turn of the millennium, including as Minister of Economic Development in 2005 and later Agriculture minister in 2007. He also served in the party central committee and politburo leading to his appointment to the spokesperson portfolio.
While he has previously picked up the pieces, it is highly unlikely that he will recover from his political setback this time given that he will be 79 years old at the expiry of his suspension in 2019.
Gumbo’s departure all but marks the collapse of Mujuru’s own designs for the presidency as he was her most brave fighter in the party, defending her at crucial periods when she was under siege.