LIKE many of his contemporaries, Kembo Dugishi Campbell Mohadi – who hails from Mtetengwe area 40 kilometres west of Beitbridge border town along the Bulawayo highway — belongs to a generation which went to the liberation struggle.
They were a generation initially admired by many for their selfless sacrifice, courage and determination to free their people and country from colonial rule at personal risk before they came to power where they lost their way, collectively becoming villains.
The late former president Robert Mugabe symbolises how some nationalists, corrupted by power and material comfort, eventually fell from grace to grass; ending their careers in disgrace.
Enjoying the trappings of office, the new ruling elites became arrogant, corrupt and incompetent, running down the country to ruin and rubble amid rampant abuse of power and self-aggrandisement.
But Mohadi’s dramatic story is not that simple and straightforward. It has interesting and gripping twists and turns, a combination of heroics, torture, endurance, controversy and ignominy.
Mohadi survived the perils of war, Rhodesian jails, torture under Mugabe and even the deadly White City bombing in 2018, only to lose his moral compass and be brought down — after being caught pants down — by a harem of women, including a young promising lady Abigail Muleya who received accolades for her ambition and fortitude from former United States president Barrack Obama when she went to America in 2014 under the coveted Young African Leaders Initiative, now known as the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
Obama made special mention of Abigail, when he addressed the 300 fellows attending a summit in Washington DC — a dream launchpad for any ambitious young person.
“One young woman from rural Zimbabwe took a five-hour bus ride, then another six-hour bus ride, then another seven-hour bus ride, a two-day journey, just to get her interview,” Obama said.
However, Abigail’s dream has now come down crushing around her after her sex scandal with Mohadi that cost the vice-president his job and mostly likely his lover’s marriage.
Abigail was now married and worked for Mohadi as part of the intelligence service, hardly the sort of job Obama would have imagined for the bright and gritty young lady whose name has now been sullied.
Ironically, Mohadi has a daughter named Abigail (Muleya) who is older than his girlfriend Abigail Muleya.
The Mohadis are Muleyas; one of the main autochthonous ethnic clans in the Limpopo Valley.
His first wife whom he divorced before getting into a short-lived marriage to Juliet Mutavhatsindi, in a nasty fallout which left him on a slippery slope to disgrace, was Tambudzani Muleya whom he wanted to crush with an axe in the heat of the moment during the messy divorce.
Having been born in 1941 in Beitbridge, Thusi — as Zapu and Zipra comrades called Mohadi — joined the struggle in Zambia in the early 1970s when he was already in his late 20s.
He received military training in Zambia and intelligence drills from the KGB in Russia.
Former vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko, who was part of the illustrious generation of Zipra wartime commanders that included Dumiso Dabengwa, Akim Ndlovu and Ambrose Mutunhiri, among others, said in 2014 when he was campaigning to replace the late vice-president John Nkomo they had trained Mohadi.
“Out of the 15 freedom fighters that formed Zipra only me and Brigadier-General Mutinhiri survive (in Zanu PF). We trained Thusi (Cde Kembo Mohadi) and he had an officer rank. Every military man knows once you are a general you are always a general,” he said.
Former Zipra commander Barbatone Irvine Sibona, in an article last year he said was meant to debunk the myth that Zanla guerrillas had bombed the Salisbury fuel tanks in December 1978, said Mohadi was one of Zipra’s urban warfare intelligence operators in the mid-1970s.
“Two of our cadres who had been in urban centres were Colonel Mandu and Colonel (now VP) Mohadi who went to Bulawayo,” Sibona said.
During their urban operations, Mohadi was caught by the Rhodesians and detained in Khami Prison until Independence in 1980.
Like many other Zipra cadres, Mohadi spent the early years of independence, initially as member of a cooperative in Beitbridge before starting to dodge police and living on the run from the security forces, and the Gukurahundi killing machine that later massacred over 20 000 civilians in the Midlands and south-western Zimbabwe.
He was not part of Zimbabwe’s first parliament.
Mohadi was working with former Zipra cadres in a Beitbridge cooperative. They had sunk their demobilisation money into a supermarket and exhausted their funds before the building was even completed.
The cooperative later applied for ZW$10 000 from Standard Chartered Bank in Beitbridge. The bank had agreed to stock the supermarket if the building was completed.
Mohadi was then sent in 1985 by the Beitbridge cooperative to Harare to see Judith Todd, the daughter of former Rhodesian federation prime minister Garfield Todd, who ran Zimbabwe Project Trust, a humanitarian organisation connected to the Roman Catholic Church. The project had previously rejected their application for funds.
Mohadi had not seen the letters rejecting their application as he was arrested, detained and tortured after the killing of Zanu PF Beitbridge senator Moven Ndlovu on 9 November 1984, allegedly by dissidents.
As a senior Zipra cadre in the area, Mohadi’s name was dragged into it in the subsequent political mudslinging that led to an outbreak of serious violence in Beitbridge.
In her gripping book, Through the Darkness: A Life in Zimbabwe, a chronicle of the arrest of Zapu leaders, Zipra commanders and the Gukurahundi genocide, Todd says Mohadi was brave and humble in the face of adversity.
When he met her to look for money for the cooperative, throughout the whole meeting he did not even tell her he was then an MP. At the end of the meeting in August 1985, Mohadi properly introduced himself, saying: “I’m one of the new boys in parliament”.
“What!” Todd asked in utter disbelief. “Are you a Member of Parliament for Beitbridge?,” she asked. “Yes,” he said as he put his hand of his pocket to shake her hand: “Kembo Mohadi”.
Todd described Mohadi as a “tall, thin and elegant man” with a “nondescript voice” during the time.
After the meeting, Mohadi told Todd that he would be back in Harare in a fortnight to confront Nkala over the killing and suffering of people in his constituency.
“Mohadi told me he hoped to be back in Harare within a fortnight. I asked why, as parliament had risen (in recess) for two months. He said there was a lot of suffering in Beitbridge and he wanted to see Home Affairs minister senator (Enos) Nkala on behalf of his constituents,” Todd says.
“I was constantly amazed by the sheer, naked courage of those who seemed most under threat. I accompanied Mohadi to the lift, and he mentioned he might be in a bit of trouble when he returned to Bulawayo en route Beitbridge.”
Todd – who discloses she was raped by retired Brigadier-General Agrippa Mutambara when she went to complain to him and the then army commander, the late retired General Solomon Mujuru, about Gukurahundi – says little did she know that 20 years later she would lose her Zimbabwean citizenship, passport and the substance of her life under Mohadi’s watch as Home Affairs minister.
After their Harare meeting, as Todd feared, Mohadi was arrested again when he got to Bulawayo. Todd frantically searched for Mohadi and other arrested Zapu leaders, but in vain. She was to later meet him at her Bulawayo home after his release in December 1985 during a visit with Isaac Nyathi, a Zapu MP for Bulili-Mangwe.
“Mohadi had been released on 20 December 1985. Despite the fact that he was an MP for Beitbridge, he received water treatment (waterboarding – torture through water drowning techniques) at Stops Camps (a Bulawayo police torture chamber in the 1980s),” Todd says.
“He was handcuffed, naked on the floor, hands behind his back. Prisoners carried pails of water, with which they drenched the hood over his head, partially drowning him. Eventually, he was taken to Beitbridge, from where, he thought, he was released in error. He was formally released by the police on 6 December and signed out, but then put in the witness area of the Beitbridge police camp. He believed he was meant to disappear at that stage, but someone had seen him and alerted his wife, who found him and got lawyers to kick up a fuss.
“Mohadi told me this had been quite a common procedure. The prisoner was signed out and subsequently taken away and killed, ‘disappeared’.”
In the midst of the massacres, this was easily possible. Zapu leaders and Zipra commanders, including Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku, had been arrested. Nkomo had survived an assassination plot at his Pelandaba (No.6) home in Bulawayo and fled the country.
MPs were not spared. Akim Ndlovu had been expelled and outspoken legislator Jini Ntuta shot dead at point blank range.
Zapu properties and archives had been seized. The government is still refusing to return them up to this day. The bloodbath was escalating.
So Mohadi had everything to fear. Before all that, Mohadi had seen the political storm’s dark clouds gathering on the horizon.
Ahead of the 1985 general elections – Zimbabwe’s most violent poll in history – Mugabe announced Zanu PF would be represented by a militant and overzealous party cadre, John Mbedzi, who had defected from Zapu, while Joshua Nkomo said Mohadi would be the Zapu candidate.
A loud and violent candidate versus a quiet and gritty rival.
At the time, Mbedzi was out of jail on bail for violating the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act, kidnapping, illegal use of a firearm and conspiring to obstruct the course of justice.
By selecting Mbedzi, Mugabe had drawn the battle lines for the elections: it was going to a brutal and cut-throat affair. For Mbedzi, like Enos Nkala and Mark Dube, were the main agitators for Gukurahundi in Matabeleland South province.
Mbedzi was infamous for introducing plastic torture (lighting plastic and dripping it on the victim to burn them alive).
In his cruel exploits, Mbedzi was encouraged by Zanu PF extremist campaigners for Gukurahundi like Maurice Nyagumbo, Nathan Shamuyarira, Sydney Sekeramayi, Frederick Shava and Emmerson Mnangagwa, now President, and, of course, Mugabe himself, among others.
The core of the top Zanu PF leadership at the time actively incited and supported Gukurahundi, which was approved by the party’s central committee meeting on 31 December 1982.
Eddison Zvobgo, a senior Zanu PF maverick, told the late Zapu stalwart Cephas Msipa after the critical meeting that the resolution was simple and clear: “Let’s massacre the Ndebeles!”.
Despite the overwhelming violence, Zapu won all seats in Matabeleland provinces. Mohadi routed Mbedzi, Nkala was overrun by Naison Ndlovu and Dube was also buried in the election.
However, Mugabe rescued Nkala through a Kariba by-election and appointed him Home Affairs minister.
But Mohadi did not take his arrest and torture lying down.
He sued Nkala – a feared political firebrand at the time – and three named Central Intelligence Organisations (CIO) officers and was awarded damages.
Typically Mugabe, then prime minister and power drunk, publicly announced his government would disregard the court order. “The state won’t pay damages (to Mohadi); it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money,” Mugabe said.
Mohadi continued to be hunted by security forces and his comrades say for months he actually lived in a train on the run. He would move between Harare and Bulawayo on endless trips to evade arrest and torture.
“Mohadi warned me that Minister Nkala was very angry. He had actually said to him that he knew who was behind the whole thing: Todd’s daughter… Nkala then said he was going to fix me,” Todd writes.
After that, Todd wrote to Nkala, saying she was not involved in the litigation as she had been in the Netherlands at the time, although she saw nothing wrong with having driven Mohadi to the airport at one point.
When the 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu and Zapu came to end the killings, Mohadi remained MP until he was appointed deputy Education minister, Home Affairs minister, State Security minister, briefly Defence, War Veterans and Security in 2017 and then vice-president until 1 March 2021 when he resigned amid a sleazy sex scandal involving several women.
From Biblical times, sex scandals have brought down powerful men; from kings, royals, generals, politicians to celebrities.
The long history of powerful men knocked to the ground by women suggests that there is an inextricable link between power, money, influence, masculinity, and infidelity.
One such story recorded in the scriptures is that of King David, Bathsheba, a stunning beauty, and her husband Uriah.
Giving examples of Biblical records of great men knocked down by sex scandals would not be intriguing and relevant unless linked to contemporary events and examples.
On 5 June 1963, British secretary of war John Profumo resigned after confessing that he had lied to the House of Commons about sleeping with Christine Keeler, a prostitute.
The scandal did not affect him alone, but threatened to bring down prime minister Harold Macmillan’s government.
Former United States president Bill Clinton was plagued by the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal during his reign.
Famous boxer Mike Tyson and Hip Hop Hall of Fame superstar 2Pac, the greatest rapper of all time to many and actor, were convicted of rape.
The late US basketball star Kobe Bryant was entangled in criminal assault charges, later dropped. Golf legend Tiger Woods also had his own sex shame.
Former CIA director-general David Petraeus is also part of the list of powerful men who have been brought down by very well-publicised sex scandals. Donald Trump, ex-president of the United States, was hit by sex sleaze.
The Me Too movement, with variations of related local or international names, a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment where people publicise allegations of sex crimes, left a trail of casualties in the US where many high-profile people and celebrities fell.
This makes managing sex abuse scandals a challenge for many contemporary institutions, including government, civil society, churches, schools and youth groups.
Some religious bodies, however, already have considerable experience in managing scandals – their sacred texts are full of dramatic stories that have shocked and challenged them over many centuries.
The story of David and Bathsheba, for example, combines three themes central to the sex scandals: sexual exploitation, abuse of power and attempted cover-ups.
In Zimbabwe, politicians, corporate executives and other high-profile public figures have been hit by sex scandals.
One of the most well-publicised sexual ignominies was that of Bulawayo Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube – a trenchant Mugabe critic – who resigned in shame on 11 September 2007 after being silenced through a politically motivated intelligence operation.
Mohadi is the latest casualty. He was exposed through an intelligence operation, also politically motivated. The CIO was behind Mohadi’s downfall, of course triggered by sex adventures. Although he tried to deny it, the evidence was overwhelming.
After surviving Rhodesian capture and jails, arrest and torture under Mugabe, living on a train for months being hounded by his political tormentors – who ironically included Mnangagwa – and the deadly White City bombing in 2018, Mohadi, an otherwise brave freedom fighter, was easily knocked down by women; reminding people of the Achilles’ heel of most powerful men: sex.