The battle for the soul of ZANU PF and succession of President Mugabe had been a tumultuous game that has in the past four decades claimed the scalps of veteran nationalists. From 1976, after the toppling of Ndabaningi Sithole, the leader of ZANU, Mugabe has out manoeuvred any potential or aspiring successors to remain the soul of ZANU PF and at the same time its life leader.
Those in that category include the revered Josiah Tongogara, the feared Edgar Tekere, the sharp Eddison Zvobgo, leaders who harboured ambitions of one day leading the liberation movement. In a typical fashion of a dream deferred, all the above mentioned met their demise with no success in succeeding Robert Mugabe, who has remained the leader of the party since 1976.
Even the indomitable late Father Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo could not take the crown neither, after leading the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) in the war of liberation he was called a traitor and at some point, arrested by Mugabe and accused of treason. The same tragedy befell erstwhile comrades, Solomon Mujuru and his wife Joice, accused of trying to topple Mugabe from power. This is the same fate that has met ‘most loyal’ comrade Emmerson Mnangagwa, who over the past four decades naively thought he was the anointed one to succeed Mugabe. For Mnangagwa, he lived with Mugabe for all these decades learning and forgetting nothing. As Grace Mugabe insinuated over the weekend that Mnangagwa claims to have known Mugabe for four decades but in reality he does not know who Mugabe is.
The question is was that observation wrong? Mnangagwa became too much comfortable and failed to understand that Mugabe has one principle in politics, keep your friends and enemies closer. What befell Nkomo, Ndabaningi, Mujuru were all lessons to learn for Emmerson that Mugabe was one man not to be trusted no matter what. However, it seems Mnangagwa failed to understand the nature and character of Mugabe and his obsession with power.
Mugabe’s obsession with power: lessons to learn
In my previous article I deliberately referred to the late Samora Machel’s warnings about Mugabe taking charge of ZANU after the toppling of Sithole. The leaders of the Frontline states had already noticed bad leadership traits in Mugabe and their scepticism about him have finally been proven decades later. This is where we are today; he has been in power since 1980. It seems Mugabe has never relented from his dream of becoming a Life President of Zimbabwe and it now almost seems on course after expelling the remaining veterans of the war in ZANU PF.
President Mugabe’s continued hold on power has been aided by naive and selfish people who contributed in the creation of a Monster, and building a cult on the personality of Mugabe for selfish reasons. This is the scourge that has returned to afflict Mnangagwa. Suffice to say, Mugabe has not changed tact in his bid to be the Life President of Zimbabwe. Mujuru failed to learn, and for Mnangagwa, he should have learnt that no matter how much you play the loyalty card to Mugabe or even swallow a bullet for him, the man just doesn’t care. He is a narcissist, it’s all about himself and no one else. Mugabe is shrewd and unforgiving and believes in no other winner besides himself. He has been a master of dirty tactics, a political weapon that he always deploys to deal with perceived enemies. In describing Mugabe and his quest for power, the late Joshua Nkomo once said this about Mugabe:
I have suffered, I have worked so hard for this country before independence, during the war. I worked so hard after independence to make our independence stick and this man today calls me a traitor, me a traitor? A man who worked so hard for this country? I have never done anything wrong and Robert knows it. I tell you this is for personal power let him stand up and deny it, this is for personal power. He is frightened of my stature, he is frightened that he will not win the next elections. This is what he is doing, trying to smear me, very sly, very dirty.
Another interesting revelation on Mugabe’s crudeness is in Rugare Gumbo’s interview by the Rhodesian Herald on the 21st of February 1980: “He (Mugabe) uses people — the Presidents of the Frontline States, people like Joshua Nkomo to build himself up and then he tries to destroy them. He cares nothing for the masses or for the country. All he cares about is Mugabe.
“When he joined the party he had only a dirty shirt and trousers. Now he has money — a lot of money. He is wealthy. He built a fortune on the backs and the sweat of people like us. He takes his wife all over Europe and spends thousands. This is the man who wants to make this country Marxist. He must be stopped.”
Rugare Gumbo stops talking. Then in a hushed tone, he says;
“Yes, I am bitter. I am also afraid — for my people and for my country. Those who vote for Mugabe will do so out of fear, and it is wrong. They must be told not to do it. Mugabe’s intimidation must be stopped. The people must be united. I will do everything to accomplish this.”
Mnangagwa and resurrecting the Goblin?
Consequently, it is now a reality that Mugabe’s game has always been about power and nothing else. Interestingly, those who have been harbouring ambitions and yet worked tooth and nail to aid his consolidation of power have no one to blame apart from their selfish interests and political naivety. That is exactly why Emmerson Mnangagwa’s downfall is something the prodemocracy forces in Zimbabwe should welcome and capitalise on. I will explain later on in the article why and how I think the opposition and other forces can capitalise on Mnangagwa’s downfall.
However, I would not want to delve much on Mnangagwa’s dark past and his alleged involvement as Mugabe’s hitman that is well documented. Hence, in the same breath I would like to point out that the most disgusting of him was his involvement in resurrecting the goblin in 2008 (kumutsa chikwambo change chafa) and now the same goblin has claimed his scalp. This I make particular reference to the 2008 plebiscite in which the incumbent Robert Mugabe lost to Morgan Tsvangirai by 73%, a figure announced by Mugabe while addressing chiefs in 2014, never mind the correction he made. Mnangagwa confirmed and boasted at a rally in Headlands on the 4th of having saved Mugabe in 2008, denying Morgan Tsvangirai and the people of Zimbabwe a victory.
President vofona, ahh zvakamirasei? Ndikati ndomamiro azvakaita, Mugabe: saka todini? Mnangagwa: sokuti ndiri gweta ndaiziva kuti kune clause iya yekuti you must have 50 plus 1 percent. Ndikati ah imwi maita henyu 43%, uyu (Tsvangirai) 47 asi pakati penyu hapana awinner, saka kunoitwa runoff. Zvikanzi udza mai (Grace), ndobva ndaudza mama, zvikanzi toita sei manje ? ndikatoti hunzai baba nditaure navo, ndikati baba imi gadzirai cabinet
(‘’I called the President to tell him the results and he asked for my advice and as a lawyer I was aware of the 50 plus 1 %, therefore there is no winner since you got 43% and Tsvangirai 47% so we are heading for a runoff. Then I advised the president to organise a cabinet’’)
This is the same man who coordinated the military and militias to lead a violent campaign ahead of the June run off poll, killing opposition supporters and destroying their houses. It is also reported that after the March elections, Mnangagwa took over as chairman of Joint Operations Command (JOC). And when he became aware he (Mugabe) had lost the March 29 presidential election to opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mnangagwa’s first action was to advise Mugabe not to concede defeat but that he should force a second round run-off election and that at the same time the veteran leader should put pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to delay official results of the election.
Therefore, Mnangagwa deserves no sympathy and surely got what he deserved. Today he should rue the day he contributed to the controversial constitutional amendment of the ZANU PF constitution to consolidated Mugabe’s one centre of power, giving the President of the party unfettered powers to appoint his deputies, positions previously elected at congress. For Mnangagwa, he is a man who stood for nothing, he lacked principle, he lacked tact and was relying on borrowed robes, but they have now been taken from him. He is finished!
Don’t hate Grace, she has done it for you
While ZANU PF is going through a seemingly self-destruction path, it is rather amusing that the opposition and other prodemocracy forces are intricately involved ‘emotionally’ that is, sadly a majority seeming to be sympathising with Mnangagwa. What they must understand is that the hatred for Grace Mugabe should not therefore translate to sympathising with Emmerson. So instead of enjoying or becoming analysts on what’s happening in ZANU PF, the opposition need to strategise and capitalise on the chaos happening in ZANU PF. Though it might seem as if ZANU is imploding, the party might actually be on the mend and in fact they are undergoing a transition to a post Mugabe era, no matter which angle we look at it ZANU PF will be a different animal altogether after their congress in December. Maybe Chirimambowa’s article, “Succession Politics in Zimbabwe: GraceMugabe and the End of Patriotic History” is instructive in understanding the current politics. Chirimambowa argues that the ‘Grace’ moment present opportunities for democratisation rather than chaos:
ZANU PF-although by default and politics of convenience-is undergoing some kind of perestroika and glasnost, it presents opportunities for cross-political elite convergence on the limitation of liberation credentials based politics.
As a result, it also means that ZANU PF is changing tactics, they have already replaced the liberation generation with through the Youth league, and the tone has already been set at the interface rallies. It is unlikely that ZANU will use violence in future elections, but patronage and intimidation as a means of wooing voters. The 226 Isuzu vehicles bought for the traditional leaders are a case in point, and about 320 cars and trucks for campaigns, free residential stands being parcelled to the youth.
The MDC and the future
However, this calls for the opposition, in particular the MDC to seize this moment in the wake of an impending election which is almost six months away. Sadly, the leader of the party and the Alliance Mr Tsvangirai is going through difficult moments and has been in and out of hospital going through the straining chemotherapy sessions.
In my own view, I think there is now a need to have a frank discussion about Tsvangirai’s health vis-à-vis the succession. Never mind what the spin doctors and those closer to him presenting brave faces that the man is recovering fast and ready to lead the coalition. They need to be honest with themselves and plan ahead. Unlike ZANU PF, the MDC’s denial game will only lead to the demise of the party, which at this critical juncture has been presented with a golden opportunity to remake itself.
Tsvangirai has reached a dead ending, and no miracle or magic will even improve his fortunes if he is standing against Mugabe. The GNU did him bad, and therefore the party needs a new face. Had he handed over the baton after the 2013 defeat he would have saved the MDC and his brand as a democrat and not a cult leader like Mugabe. I argue that, he still has a chance to be different from Mugabe, this is the time for him to step down and prepare a new leader to bring in fresh ideas and a new impetus altogether.
The Save chete chete mantra is akin to the ZANU PF cultism of Gushungo chete chete, being slogans that have created cults and dictators. Those singing the Save chete chete mantra are not genuine and sincere, but are rather doing it for selfish gains and not for the greater good of the party. It’s typical of the politics in ZANU PF where people are bootlicking Mugabe for the sake of personal benefit and not conviction. The most progressive move for Morgan to do is stepping down and paving way for an extraordinary congress that will choose a new leader for the party to lead as the elections draw closer.
The issue of his health needs no emotions. The human body is not made of steel, it does go through such moments, and it is difficult when faced with a terminal ailment like colon cancer. Only yesterday while featuring on SABC Tsvangirai was at pains to convince the world that all was well.
Anchor: We are now joined by the president of the opposition in Zimbabwe. He is joining us from his hospital bed here in Johannesburg where he is being treated for cancer. Mr Tsvangirai thank you very much for joining us welcome. Perhaps…Tsvangirai (interjects): Thank you Peter…(coughs)I am…I am not …I am not in hospital ..eh..I’m just taking a rest outside a…a hospital…eh…I’m just taking leave outside the hospital.
Sadly Tsvangirai denies that he is not in hospital, but outside hospital taking a rest. Well… we all know that hospitals are not places to take a rest! Therefore in these difficult moments it does require a sober approach and accept reality. Though some might call it stigmatisation I still posit that a frail looking Tsvangirai will not do the MDC any good during the campaign period, he needs to rest and allow others to carry on the fight. The election period is a rigorous process, which will require a lot of travelling, meetings, rallies in my view will prove difficult for the MDC leader to encounter. Tsvangirai will forever be a hero of our time for having led the struggle against tyrannical rule by Robert Mugabe but this is now the time to pass on to a new generation of leadership. Even Moses had to pass on the baton to Joshua, he never entered Canaan!!