APARTHEID era spy Philip Conjwayo has died. He was 81.
A close relative told Southern Eye yesterday that Conjwayo died at Harare Central Hospital on Tuesday after a long battle with prostate cancer.
Mourners are gathered at 75 Malvin Road in Waterfalls, Harare.
A family spokesperson, who declined to be named, said Conjwayo would be buried at Granville Cemetery in Harare on a date yet to be agreed. Conjwayo was arrested together with Kevin Woods and Michael Smith in 1988 over a car bombing targeting members of the African National Congress (ANC). They were convicted of murder and spying for the apartheid South African government.
The three were sentenced to death for the murder of a driver, Obed Mwanza in the bombing.
Mwanza had been hired to drive a car carrying a bomb to a house occupied by exiled ANC officials in Trenance, Bulawayo, in January 1988.
The bomb prematurely detonated killing Mwanza and injuring several ANC members.
Conjwayo, Woods and Smith were sentenced to death by the High Court in November 1988, but their sentences were later commuted to life in prison by the Supreme Court.
They were released on humanitarian grounds from Harare Central Prison on July 1 2006 where they had been moved in 2005 having spent 19 years at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. After their release, Conjwayo chose to remain in Zimbabwe while Woods and Smith were declared prohibited immigrants and immediately driven to Beitbridge border post en route to South Africa.
The National Party (NP) government granted Woods, Smith and Conjwayo South African citizenship in 1994 just six days before the country’s first democratic elections.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki later explained that the objective of the NP government to grant them citizenship was to oblige the incoming ANC government to intervene on behalf of the three men.
The release of Conjwayo, Woods and Smith became a source of contention between the South African government and the Zimbabwean government. Late President Nelson Mandela failed to persuade the Zimbabwe government to release the three during a State visit in 1997. Mbeki also failed to secure their release.
Conjwayo, Woods and Smith were all former members of the Rhodesian intelligence and security forces and were recruited by the South African intelligence service after 1980 to carry out destabilisation activities in Zimbabwe.
They were also charged at the time with bombing several other ANC bases in Zimbabwe on behalf of their apartheid paymasters.
Zimbabwe was an important area of operation for the ANC in the 1980s hence the apartheid government and its surrogates attacked ANC houses and people in the country.
In May 1987, Tsitsi Chiliza, a Zimbabwean citizen married to an ANC member was killed by a booby-trapped television set intended for current South African President Jacob Zuma. The ANC office in Harare was also hit by a rocket.
Conjwayo is survived by a wife and a daughter. His three sons are all deceased.