Zimbabwe honors deputy intelligence chief


HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — The Zimbabwe prime minister's party said it stayed away from a state funeral Monday for an intelligence officer because he had been convicted by a court of attempted murder.

Elias Kanengoni, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Organization, died Wednesday after collapsing at his country home. He was 60.

He was buried Monday with full military honors at Heroes' Acre, a shrine for politicians and fallen former guerrillas in the bush war that led to independence in 1980.

Kanegoni, an ex-guerrilla, and an associate were sentenced to seven years in jail for repeatedly shooting an opposition politician during an election campaign in 1990. They were freed on an immediate pardon from President Robert Mugabe.

The politician survived severe groin injuries and was a lawmaker in the prime minister's party before his death in 2009.

"We don't recognize his status as a hero at all," said Douglas Mwonzora, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party spokesman.

The heroes' shrine was meant be the resting place for defenders of people's rights and not for "hired assassins" with a history of violence, he said.

Patrick Kombayi, a former stalwart in Mugabe's party, helped found the opposition Zimbabwe Unity Movement before he was shot in the central town of Gweru.

He was wounded by seven pistol shots into his groin and abdomen and underwent genital surgery in Britain afterward.

Kombayi, elected a senator in Tsvangirai's party, had become prominent in business and served as the mayor of Gweru, where he owned the main downtown hotel.

After his 2009 death, his family mounted a permanent photographic exhibition in the hotel depicting his activism against colonial-era rule and his burgeoning opposition to Mugabe's increasingly authoritarian rule.

In a brief statement Monday, family members said they recalled Kombayi's "horrific gunshot wounds" that left him to endure years of physical pain.

Kanengoni was now honored for "protecting Mugabe's interests. What can we do as a family? Nothing. It is the system which is wrong," the statement said.

Mugabe's vice president Joice Mujuru told mourners at Heroes' Acre outside Harare on Monday that the spy chief's death left "a deep void" in the nation's intelligence service that fought against internal subversion and outside political interference.

She described him as "a dedicated freedom fighter who sacrificed life and limb to change the course of history and ensure the country remains secure."