THE WOMAN President Robert Mugabe nearly married upon his return from Ghana in 1960, died on Sunday and was buried at her rural home in Mutoko, with her family disappointed she wasn't considered for war heroine status.
Former Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) president, Abigail Kurangwa, who was diabetic, had struggled with poor health after suffering a stroke four years ago.
According to former Zanu PF secretary general and national hero Edgar Tekere, Kurangwa had a relationship with Mugabe and nearly married him before the plans were scuttled by the veteran leader's Ghanaian flame, Sally Francesca Hayfron, who directly flew into the then Salisbury after learning about the affair.
A family member told NewZimbabwe.com that Kurangwa, who was aged 75, died at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare early Sunday morning and was buried at her Mutoko farm on Wednesday.
She is survived by two children, son Tonderai Chanakira and a daughter, Marian Kambanje.
"Her passing is a huge loss to the family. She was a mother and a father to everyone. We are however, disappointed that she was not considered for national hero or even liberation war hero status. She played a very important role during the liberation struggle, putting her life in danger since she was a courier for the freedom fighters in the Mutoko area," said a family member who asked not to be named.
"She was also very active in the party until right up to the time of her death and helped several leaders including the likes of Olivia Muchena campaign for elections."
Asked if any top Zanu PF officials attended Wednesday's funeral, the family member said: "No, no one came. Muchena sent a representative and we also got a condolence message from Health Minister David Parirenyatwa."
Tekere refers to Mugabe's relationship with Kurangwa in his book 'A Lifetime of Struggle'.
A close liberation struggle friend of the president, Tekere claims that a decision was made to incorporate Mugabe into the leadership of the struggle after he returned from Ghana at a time of frustration with Joshua Nkomo who, it was felt, "travelled too much and did not consult the party".
Mugabe taught in Ghana between 1958 and 1960 when returned home.
Wrote Tekere: "It was suggested that Mugabe be incorporated into the leadership, but there was a problem because he was not married. George Silundika and Moton Malianga approached a young lady called Abigail Kurangwa, who agreed to marry Mugabe, and eventually fell in love with him.
"Mugabe appeared to reciprocate, and his family liked Abigail, so all seemed to be proceeding smoothly. But in Ghana, Mugabe had had an affair with a Ghanaian woman named Sally.
"When Sally heard about Mugabe’s impending marriage to Abigail, she hastened to Southern Rhodesia and they were quickly married, while Abigail was side-lined.
"Sally and I never became friends, and I never liked her. But I acknowledge that my ill feeling towards her was coloured by the way poor Abigail had been used."
However, although Tekere suggests Abigail was side-lined after Sally came to claim her man and they married in 1961, the ex-lover would reappear in Mugabe’s life several years later.
The Zanu PF leader was jailed for ten years from 1964. Sally went into exile in London in 1967.
Mugabe was released from prison in December 1974 after which, according to Tekere, Abigail was involved in their escape to Mozambique the following year.
Says Tekere in his book: "On the appointed day (of the escape), towards the end of March 1975, someone I slightly knew approached me, and told me to wait at Kambuzuma Service Station at 7.00 that evening. I was not even aware who was organising for our escape …
"Ruvimbo drove me to Kambuzuma, where I sat down on the bench to wait. Just as she drove away, another car came up, and I got into the back seat. As I got into the car, I saw a small figure climbing the security fence at the rear of the garage. It was Robert Mugabe. He was coming from the home of Abigail Kurangwa."
Sally remained in London for eight years and only managed to re-join her husband in Maputo in 1975.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Nurses Association (Zina) moaned the loss of "a leader, a mentor and role model". Kurangwa was president of Zina between 2003 and 2005.
She worked as senior matron responsible for Seke district and was then appointed by David Parirenyatwa to the board of governors for Chitungwiza General Hospital where she worked until she retired in 2010 after her stroke.
"Her passing is a huge loss to the profession. It is rare to find nurses of her calibre," current Zina president, Regina Smith, told NewZimbabwe.com on Thursday.
"She was a wonderful professional of very high integrity. Even after she retired and was suffering with poor health, she continued to mentor and provide guidance and support to the association as well as the profession as a whole.
"We were also told in testimonies at her funeral of her bravery during the liberation struggle when she would risk her life carrying messages to fighters in the Mutoko area."