ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Margaret Dongo black and white

Welcome to Margaret Dongo‘s accomplishments page!

The following is a list and brief descriptions of Margaret Dongo’s key accomplishments as a politician and rights activist in Zimbabwe. The accomplishments include organizations and processes she either created or heavily influenced.

Margaret Dongo’s accomplishments include:

  • Liberation war
  • Zimbabwe War Veterans Association
  • Election to Parliament of Zimbabwe
  • Harare South election: The High Court challenge
  • Harare South election: Re-election victory
  • Movement of Independent Electoral Candidates (MIEC)
  • Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD)
  • The “Dongo List”
  • Supreme Court case: Margaret Dongo vs. Registrar General of Zimbabwe
  • International work
  • Recent political and human rights activism (news)

Margaret Dongo’s Role in Zimbabwe’s Liberation War

In 1975, at the age of 15, Margaret Dongo skipped secondary school and journeyed on foot to neighboring Mozambique to join guerrillas fighting to liberate Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia), from British colonial rule. After her military training, she adopted the Chimurenga (liberation war) nom de guerre Tichaona Muhondo (“The Battle will Decide”). The war culminated in independence and black majority rule in 1980.

Margaret Dongo and Zimbabwe War Veterans Association

In 1989, Margaret Dongo co-founded the National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, a national organization dedicated to promoting the rights and welfare of marginalized veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

Margaret Dongo’s Election to the Parliament of Zimbabwe

Margaret Dongo was first elected to Parliament in 1990 on a ruling Zanu PF ticket, representing Harare East constituency. In Parliament she served on several important committees, including the Parliamentary Reform Committee and Public Accounts Committee. But she distinguished herself as an uncompromising voice of the voiceless, and advocate of the rule of law, democracy, human rights, and good governance.

1995 Harare South Election: Margaret Dongo’s Landmark High Court Challenge

In 1995, Margaret Dongo had a fallout with the ruling Zanu PF leadership due to her unwavering criticism of government corruption and misrule. The party dropped her as a candidate for the Harare South parliamentary seat. Undaunted, she contested as an independent candidate and lost the election due to massive voter fraud engineered by the party to stop her from returning to parliament. Margaret Dongo challenged the fraud and asked the High Court of Zimbabwe to nullify the election result.  Justice George Leslie Smith accepted her evidence, invalidated the vote and ordered a re-election.

Harare South Election: Margaret Dongo’s Historic Victory

The Harare South re-run was held in November, 1995. Margaret Dongo overcame the full election machinery of the state and won, becoming the first independent MP in Zimbabwe.

“The battle in Harare South was important and still has a relevance to us today especially for those whose political activism was then propelled by Dongo’s victory.” – Grace Kwinjeh, political activist

Margaret Dongo and the Movement of Independent Electoral Candidates (MIEC)

In 1997, Margaret Dongo facilitated the formation of MIEC, a loose coalition of independent candidates. For many democracy activists, Margaret Dongo’s stunning victory over Zanu PF in Harare South represented a democratic breakthrough. The victory represented defiance against a universally-feared, seemingly invincible post-colonial state. Margaret Dongo now represented the hope that this state, seldom democratic, could be dismantled to build a genuine democratic one. MIEC became a forum to expand the struggle beyond Harare South and into the national arena.

Margaret Dongo and the Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD)

In December 1998, Margaret Dongo and democracy and human rights activists who had assembled under the MIEC banner formed ZUD in preparation for the 2000 parliamentary elections. Among other things, the new party espoused the rule of law, devolution of power, small government, free market economics, investment in small and medium businesses, and a free and independent media.

Margaret Dongo List

In the early 1990s, the Zimbabwean government purchased farms from white commercial farmers on a “willing buyer, willing seller” basis. Most of the farms were never used for the intended purpose of resettling landless Zimbabweans. In parliament, Margaret requested a list of the purchased farms and the use to which they were put. The list she received, which the media and activists later christened the Margaret Dongo List, revealed that the government had given the farms to Zanu PF officials, instead of landless people. The revelation highlighted the corruption which marred the initial stages of Zimbabwe’s land reform program.

Supreme Court Case: Margaret Dongo vs. Registrar General of Zimbabwe:

Prior to the case, Zimbabwe’s Guardianship of Minors Act deemed the father of marital children is their only legal guardian. All juristic acts performed on behalf of the children required  his consent. In 2006 Margaret Dongo approached the office of the Registrar General seeking to apply for a passport for her minor son. The office rejected her application, insisting that only the child’s father could sign the application.

Margaret Dongo teamed up with the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) and instituted a test case challenging the conduct of the Registrar General. They argued that Zimbabwe wrongly and unlawfully denied married women the right to help their minor children acquire passports. They argued that Guardianship of Minors Act discriminated against women on the basis of their gender and violated provisions of Zimbabwe’s constitution.

The Court ruled that both men and women who are custodians of minor children can assist those children to obtain a passport.

“This is no small victory as many women, whose memories of their experiences in this regard still cause them to grow goose bumps can testify. The beast of gender discrimination has not been slain but it has been muzzled. It cannot bite any longer… We thank Ms. Dongo for her courage in assuming the role of applicant in this test case. She proved true to her reputation as a pioneer and trail blazer.” – Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association

Margaret Dongo’s International work

Over the years, Margaret Dongo has shared her unique personal and political experiences as a former freedom fighter, former legislator, and advocate for democracy, human right s and the rule of law.

She has spoken at numerous universities and forums in Zimbabwe, South Africa, United States and Sweden. These include: 1996 presentation at the Parliamentarians and the Sustenance of Political Liberalisation in Africa meeting, organized jointly by the African Leadership Forum and UN Economic Commission for Africa, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; speaker at the World Movement for Democracy’s Inaugural World Assembly, New Delhi, India, in 1999; presentation at Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, (USA), sponsored by the Boothby Memorial Lecture Series, in 1999; keynote presentation at the Camden Conference in Camden, Maine, USA, in 1999); attendance at the Second Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2000; delivery of a seminar at Lundi, Sweden, in 2003;  and attendance at the Third Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy, in Durban, South Africa, in 2004; presentation on Zimbabwe elections at the UCLA International Institute, Los Angeles, USA, in 2005.

Margaret Dongo is affiliated with several key international political and social organizations, including the Washington, D.C.-based World Movement for Democracy (WAD) and the African Democracy Forum (ADF), an Africa regional network of WAD. Margaret Dongo has received numerous awards and recognition for her life and work.

Margaret Dongo Celebration Dinner

Margaret Dongo’s work has been recognized and celebrated by numerous individuals and organizations. In August, 2010, the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) hosted a “Margaret Dongo Celebration Dinner” to celebrate Dongo’s Supreme Court victory in the landmark Margaret Dongo vs. Registrar General of Zimbabwe case.

Margaret Dongo’s current Zimbabwe political and human rights activism

Margaret Dongo’s political and rights activism continues. The Daily News (Zimbabwe) recently described Dongo as “one of the ruling party’s and Mugabe’s most consistent critics.”

  • Margaret Dongo receives death threats for criticizing Robert Mugabe

On November 16, 2014, the Daily News reported, “Outspoken war veteran and former intelligence officer, Margaret Dongo, has been threatened with death if she “does not stop speaking ill” of President Robert Mugabe.”

  • Margaret Dongo challenges war vets to take on Mugabe

The Daily News quoted Margaret Dongo as saying that liberation war veterans’ pervasive fear of President Robert Mugabe is allowing the nonagenarian leader to continue his misrule of Zimbabwe. According to the publication, “Firebrand democracy activist, Margaret Dongo, says war veterans and other liberation struggle stalwarts have an inexplicably pervasive fear of President Robert Mugabe, an unwelcome situation that is giving the nonagenarian free reign to misrule both Zanu PF and Zimbabwe.”

  • Margaret Dongo: Top 5 most influential politicians since 1980

According to Alex Magaisa, Zimbabwean see Margaret Dongo as one of the “top 5 most influential” Zimbabwean politicians since 1980, alongside President Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai, Jonathan Moyo and the late Joshua Nkomo. Read Magaisa’s Zimbabwe Independent analysis here.

  • Margaret Dongo ties mysterious house fire to past threats

In January 2016, a mysterious fire gutted Margaret Dongo’s house in the Harare. Dongo told the Voice of America that the inferno was part of a years-long campaign to silence her.

Check out the In The News page for the latest news on Dongo by leading Zimbabweans and world media organizations, including Daily News (Zimbabwe), The Zimbabwe Independent, Nehanda Radio (Zimbabwe), The Herald (Zimbabwe), Voice of America, PBS, The Independent (UK), and The New York Times.

To learn more, about Margaret Dongo’s inspiring life and work, please visit: