The former head of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Happyton Bonyongwe wrote on his working relationship with the late former President Robert Mugabe.
Bonyongwe narrated how he met the late national hero in 1977 in Nachingwea, Tanzania, where he was undergoing training as a guerilla fighter with the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA).
Years later, in 1998, he was selected to serve on the President’s Department. He wrote:
In hindsight, however, I now consider myself to have been most fortunate to have been selected and appointed to the President’s Department in 1998.
I was to work with Mugabe on a daily basis, first as the Deputy Director-General, and later as Director-General. I was to become Mugabe’s longest-serving director-general of intelligence.
My job was to brief him on security matters, and as educated and knowledgeable as the man was, I have never met such a good listener.
I was not surprised to discover that Ken Flower, the late founding Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) also recorded in his book, Serving Secretly, that of the Prime Ministers he served, Mugabe was the best in patiently listening to the reports and briefings which he was given.
Being a good listener is the rarest quality in a leader. This trait is probably what served the man well and goes toward explaining his staying power in politics.
Those who knew him well will even recall that, although he was served by many aides, he would, especially in the early years, take his own notes in important meetings, giving him the ability to address issues raised effectively.
He also had a sharp mind which could store and quickly process a lot of information.
I shall forever be grateful for his confidence and the support he gave to the intelligence community when I was director-general.
I thank him also for the honour he bestowed on his intelligence and security service, the CIO, each year. He never missed a single graduation ceremony.
His commitment to duty in this regard was unparalleled. It was on such occasions that he dazzled us by his intelligence and academic prowess.
His performance ensured that we remained in no doubt that he was the leader of the Zimbabwean intelligence and new officers became aware that they were joining a noblest and intellectually postured and primed profession.