29 October 2002

Thousands bid Jongwe farewell

Thousands of MDC supporters yesterday defied police teargas and marched through the streets of Harare to attend a service for Learnmore Jongwe, the Kuwadzana MP and former MDC spokesman, at the City Sports Centre after his body was collected from a funeral parlour. More than 25 000 people lined the streets of Kuwadzana as they bade farewell to the 28-year-old politician on his way to be buried today at Samambwa village in Zhombe. The riot police fired teargas into the crowd which included the Jongwe family and other families collecting their relatives' bodies at a city funeral parlour. Eyewitnesses said there appeared to have been no provocation for the police action. People fleeing the tear smoke took refuge in a chapel at the parlour as the riot police pursued them. The riot police used their batons to beat up the mourners, but only stopped after the MDC youths retaliated with stones. The police then retreated, monitoring the proceedings from a distance. The crowd sang songs accusing President Mugabe of killing Jongwe.

They made a brief stop near the Zanu PF headquarters along Rotten Row. Zanu PF workers in the building waved clinched fists in response. The marchers displayed placards reading Jongwe was killed we know it, You killed Jongwe, we know it and Jongwe was murdered, Jongwe is our hero. Others wept openly, accusing the courts of repeatedly denying Jongwe bail so the government could kill him. At the City Sports Centre scores of people who addressed the crowd blamed the government for Jongwe's death. MDC national chairman Isaac Matongo asked the people to be ready for protests after the burial. Matongo said: 'Jongwe has been stolen by Zanu PF.' He expressed outrage at the police action of attacking the mourners. 'Where else have you seen teargas being fired at mourners?' he asked. Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), said people should demonstrate over Jongwe's death. 'We do not have to wait for another hero to be killed. Mugabe has the capacity to kill all of us and, as NCA, we want you to engage in demonstrations,' he said.

Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC president, said his party had 'lost an articulate, intelligent and brilliant young man who helped to form the MDC and this regime should be held accountable for his death'. He said the government should have been civilised enough to apologise to the Jongwe family for his death in custody. 'Jongwe was not a fugitive from justice. He handed himself to the police so that justice would take its course. The nation should know that Jongwe represents more than 150 dead MDC supporters and 50 000 displaced people who fought for democracy and justice. He should rest in peace, realising that we cherish the enormous and brilliant work that he did for this country and some of us will follow him and tell him about the struggle we are engaged in,' Tsvangirai said. He said that the MDC would do all it could to support Jongwe's mother Emilia and his 11-month-daughter Tawananyasha. The deceased's brother, Simbarashe Paul, yesterday said the family was devastated by Learnmore's death. 'As a family we are puzzled by his death because as far as we are concerned, Learnmore did not complain of any illness,' he said.

In Kuwadzana, his constituency, thousands of people lined the streets while others gathered at shopping centres to pay their last respects to the MP. Meanwhile, about 3 000 MDC supporters were left stranded at Jongwe's Ridgeview house after Kukura Kurerwa Bus Company withdrew their buses at the last minute from carrying mourners to Zhombe. Nelson Chamisa, the MDC national youth chairperson, said most bus operators refused to carry their supporters to Zhombe. They feared their vehicles could be burnt by government supporters or stopped from operating. Jongwe died in Harare Remand Prison last Tuesday while awaiting trial at the High Court for allegedly killing his wife, Rutendo, in July. (ZWNews / Daily News)

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