Edgar Tekere, the third-ranking official in Zimbabwe's ruling party, who was responsible for the death of a white farmer a year ago, confirmed today that he has been fired.
Rumors that Tekere had been removed from his post as secretary general of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union had cirulated for days.
Mugabe had ousted Tekere, 44 , form the Cabinet, where he was minister of manpower, planning and development, in January, a month after he was acquitted of a murder charge on a technicality. Until now, however, Tekere still ranked behing only Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Simon Muzenda within the party, which technically outranks the government.
The sacking of the leader of the radical wing of the party removes a thorm in the sides of the minority white community and the Patriotic Front party of Mugabe's coalition partner, Joshua Nkomo.
Tekere has frequently demanded that the process of change be quikcened and that white control of the economy be curtailed.
A longtime enemy of Nkomo, Tekere called for him to be "crushed." His anti-Nkomo remarks last November during the murder trial wwere followed by serious tribal violence between former guerrilla factions loyal to Mugabe and Nkomo.
Mugabe's latest firing of Tekere demonstratives avew that the prime minister is in firm control of his government, party and military. Tekere was at one time popular with the guerrilla forces and the masses and was regarded as a potential successor.
Yesterday, Mugabe gave a similar demonstration of his authority as he appointed a white leader of the former Rhodesian army, Gen. Alexander Maclean, to be supreme commander of the country's military forces.
Late last month Mugabe signaled Tekere's imminent downfall in an angry speech to party members in which he criticized "those who are complaining that the revolution was not continuing and yet they are the most immoral and laziest in the party."
Mugabe did not attach a name to the criticism but it came just a few days after Tekere said the party had "weakened" and "the revolution could move into a state of decay." Party officials, speaking privately, have frequently charged that Tekere has a serious drinking problem, and does not work hard or keep regular office hours -- matters Mugabe in known to be a stickler about.
The circumstances of Tekere's demise were unusual since he was sacked at a Central Committee meeting July 31 but neither the government nor the party made any announcement.
Although refusing to comment publicly, government officials privately confirmed that Tekere wsa no longer secretary general and had also been removed from the key Central Committee. Ther were no details on a successor. One official said the vote of the two dozen Central Committee members was unanimous, but a further move to expel Tekere from the party was turned down.
After a party meeting today at the University of Zimbabwe, Tekere told reporters, "I am no longer secretary general. I am a taskman, that's all. I do the tasks. I belong to the grass roots from whence I came and from where I still belong."
The demoted party official charged in addressing students that "tribalism, nepotism and corruption" were rife but then added: "I came in a Jaguar and we call this revolution."
Tekere, the son of an Anglican priest, was a close friend of Mugabe until the killing of the farmer, after which the prime minister began to distance himself. Tekere had led his bodyguards in an attack on a farm just outside Salisbury one day after a shooting incident during a party which he had attended there. The farmer, William Adams, was killed at close range.
The then minister and his men were acquitted in a split verdict based on a law passed by the former white regime -- designed to underpin actions of security forces during the country's guerrilla war -- which has now been rescinded.
Last April Tekere told the Kenyan Daily Nation newspaper: "I don't regret [the killing].In fact, I'm proud of it."