The rise and fall of Emerson Mnangagwa.
For the 37 years he has ruled Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has never liked to see anyone with clear presidential ambitions deputizing him. He has repeatedly labelled people with presidential ambitions ‘witches’ preferring a litany of charges on some, ranging from treason, terrorism, banditry etc. The first VP, initially deputy Prime Minister, Simon Muzenda, was a ‘saint’ and one with no political ambitions, whatsoever. On one occasion he was asked what he would do if Mugabe dies and he immediately replied ‘ko ini ndohoita Vice President waani?’, meaning if Mugabe dies so who am I going to deputize? Joshua Nkomo, though he had presidential ambitions at independence, completely abandoned such a dream during the onslaught of the Ndebele people by the 5th Brigade. President Mugabe appointed him VP having been satisfied that he had taken the venom out of him. Joseph Msika was too old and clearly uninterested in Mugabe’s job. John Landa Nkomo was actually surprised by his appointment such that throughout his vise presidency he was busy daily counting his blessings. Joyce Mujuru had begun to organize party and government in preparation for her eventual take over when President Mugabe and his wife spectacularly pulled the rug from under her feet and within a few months of unrelenting attacks by the First lady Joyce found herself in the political wilderness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Joyce Mujuru was the first VP since independence with clear presidential ambitions. To date President Mugabe has had 7 Vice Presidents of whom 4 have died
When Joyce was kicked out, howbeit kicking and screaming, her nemesis, Emmerson Mnangagwa was roped in to replace her. It is still mind boggling how ED Mnangagwa failed to read Mugabe’s mind. It was clear Mugabe removed Mujuru not because he preferred Mnangagwa but rather because Mujuru had become too ambitious, or rather impatient, to succeed Mugabe.
Unfortunately Mnangagwa never learnt from Joyce’s ‘mistakes’. His first mistake was made in China. During his 2015 visit to China Mnangagwa made a candid assessment of the business climate in Zimbabwe and thinly outlined his economic policy which was a departure from his masters scotched earth policy. Mnangagwa’s detractors in ZANU PF went to town over the speech, questioning Mnangagwa’s loyalty to Mugabe.
Like Joyce and any other politician for that matter, Mnangagwa began to reorganize ZANU PF structures in preparation for his eventual take over. In a normal political environment this should not be a problem as politics is all about winning the heart and soul of the people who matter. But in ZANU PF such attempts are frowned at and viewed as usurping the One Centre of Power, who is Mugabe and deserving banishment from the revolutionary party. Uncharacteristic of the Croc that he is said to be, this time Ngwena miscalculated his move.
Statements by war veterans and party members who openly declared that he was going to be the next President haven’t helped Mnangagwa’s cause. Mnangagwa was put between a hard place and a rock. I suspect some of the people who declared him the next president were not his supporters but rivals intend on building a case against him. As an ambitious politician he was not suppose to silence his supporters but his silence confirmed what his detractors were claiming – that Mnangagwa was now a security threat to Mugabe.
Lately the Kasukuwere saga was yet another miscalculation that has spectacularly backfired on the hapless Ngwena. It is very clear Kasukuwere, Moyo and Joao are lightweights in ZANU PF but ukaona bofu richiti ndinokurova rinenge riine charakatsika. It is not a surprise that the very same allegations they had leveled against Kasukuwere have turned a full circle and now landed heavily on Ngwena who will soon have his day in the ZANU PF kangaroo court charged with attempted coup on Mugabe. The fact that Kasukuwere’s verdict will be decided by the presidium, and not Politburo, seem like Mnangagwa has been floored. He will be a loner and must be careful with his contribution on the verdict.
Mnangagwa will certainly survive this onslaught, at least for now, but his position in party and government cant be guaranteed once Mugabe retains his position in 2018.
Meanwhile as he keeps playing out one faction against the other, 93 year old Mugabe is buying more time at the helm of both party and government. For now Ngwena will be preoccupied with cleansing himself in the sight of Mugabe, pleading for leniency whilst G40 enjoys its moment in the sun. Remember in October 2016 when Jonathan Moyo was fighting arrest over ZIMDEF funds he once tweeted ‘In politics the real drama starts when the tables are turned’. This is drama, only that its real!