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JOHANNESBURG — Edgar Z. Tekere, who was imprisoned for a decade with Robert Mugabe during the struggle to end white minority rule in Rhodesia, and later unsuccessfully challengedMr. Mugabe’s political domination of what had become an independent Zimbabwe, died on June 7 in the eastern city of Mutare, Zimbabwe. He was 74.
The cause was prostate cancer, a family friend, Ibbo Mandaza, said.
In a memoir published in 2007, Mr. Tekere largely blamed Mr. Mugabe for building a nation whose people “live mostly in fear of their own government, of a state machinery, born out of the forces of liberation, but now, regrettably, more associated with ruthlessness and naked force.”
Mr. Tekere said he accepted his “share of responsibility” for the failure of his generation to establish institutions that would have safeguarded democracy.
In 1963, Mr. Tekere helped found the Zimbabwe African National Union, or Zanu, in Rhodesia. The following year, the party was banned, and Mr. Tekere and Mr. Mugabe, then the party’s secretary general, were jailed as Prime Minister Ian Smith’s government sought to crush demands for black majority rule. After their release in 1975, both men crossed into Mozambique, which had become a base for a guerrilla war.
At independence in 1980, Mr. Tekere was considered even more militant than Mr. Mugabe, who was then advocating reconciliation with whites. That same year, Mr. Tekere and a bodyguard were found to have murdered a white farm manager just months after independence, but Mr. Tekere was freed under an Ian Smith-era law that shielded government ministers from criminal charges if they believed they were acting to suppress terrorism.
Mr. Tekere was demoted from his post as manpower minister, and he became a critic of the public corruption that defined Mr. Mugabe’s rule. In 1988, Mr. Tekere was expelled from Zanu-PF, the successor to Zanu. He subsequently formed his own party, ran for president against Mr. Mugabe in 1990 and lost.
Edgar Zivanai Tekere was born on April 1, 1937, in a village called Nyang’ombe. He is survived by his wife, Pamela, and a daughter, Maidei.
Mr. Mugabe was quoted by the state-controlled newspaper on Thursday as saying that Mr. Tekere’s death had brought back memories “of our escape from Rhodesia to join thousands upon thousands of young Zimbabwean fighters housed in various rear bases in Mozambique.” Despite years of bad blood between them, Mr. Mugabe, 87, who is still in power 31 years after independence, described Mr. Tekere as “fearless and highly temperamental.”
Zanu-PF, the ruling party, declared Mr. Tekere a national hero on Thursday, qualifying him to be buried at Heroes Acre on the outskirts of Harare, the capital.
Mr. Tekere had angrily declared over the years that he did not want to be buried “among thieves and killers” in Heroes Acre, said Mr. Mandaza, who wrote the introduction to Mr. Tekere’s memoir. But Mr. Tekere’s family accepted the honor.
“He earned it,” Mr. Mandaza said of Mr. Tekere. “His status will rehabilitate the concept of being a national hero.”