When Minister of Lands and Agriculture Kumbirai Kangai left the court after charges of corruption involving about $228.4 million were levelled against him, he looked quite relaxed and even told reporters he was not going to resign over some allegations.
But the following day, Harare was abuzz with rumours that he had committed suicide. The rumours were so rife that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation carried three reports on television and two on radio that he was alive.
The Herald even carried a picture of Kangai and his family on March 24 saying Kangai was alive and well. Harare is known as a rumour city but what sparks these rumours? In Kangai’s case, he had failed to appear in court to surrender his travel documents on time.
And when they were surrendered it was his wife who did so. Surely this was enough to spark rumours. But according to the media monitoring project when Kangai was given the opportunity to prove that he was alive, he said something that should have raised eyebrows.
He said the rumours were being spread by a “powerful institution, whose motive is to destroy me politically. No individual can spread the rumour to that extent.” No one bothered to ask what institution Kangai might have been talking about.
As the sole survivor of the original dare of ZANU-PF and having been detained and tortured after being accused of being involved in the assassination of Herbert Chitepo in 1975, it came as a shock to anyone who knows Kangai’s history that he had committed suicide.
In fact those who know the history of ZANU-PF were saying if at all he had drank any poison it must have been forced upon him. The rumours of Kangai’s suicide, a day after appearing in court, brought back memories of the late Maurice Nyagumbo.
He allegedly committed suicide by drinking some pesticide after being named in the Willowgate car scandal. When the hearings on the scandal opened and it transpired that Nyagumbo had probably not benefited at all, or at least not as much as his colleagues, some of whom are now back in government, this seemed to confirm rumours that Nyagumbo, who had spent more than 27 years in detention, had probably not committed suicide.
Outspoken former ZANU-PF secretary general, Edgar Tekere even refused to accept that the old man had committed suicide. And of course the media did not mentioned this precedent when they reported on Kangai’s being alive.