By Tendai Mugabe
President Mnangagwa has turned out to be one of the finest politicians to emerge in Zimbabwe especially following events that led to his inauguration as the country’s second Executive President on November 24, 2017. Although it is now a matter of public record that he was born in Mapanzure, Zvishavane, many Zimbabweans do not know how he shaped his political career. In this interview with our Senior Reporter Tendai Mugabe (TM), his brother Mr Socha Mnangagwa (SM) explains how the Mnangagwa family relocated to Zambia and how President Mnangagwa joined the liberation struggle.
TM: How are you related to President Mnangagwa?
SM: (President) Emmerson (Mnangagwa) is my younger brother. In the Mnangagwa family he is number five. The first is Jonah followed by Phillip, who is now late. After Phillip there is Judah, who died last year. I am number four and Emmerson comes after me as number five.
TM: How big is the Mnangagwa family here?
SM: We are many but the older generation is now late. Most of those who are here are now descendants. From our age group I am the only one surviving.
TM: How and why did your family relocate to Zambia?
SM: The major reason for the migration was the brutality of the white regime (in Southern Rhodesia). The regime had introduced the Land Tenure Act that suppressed the black people, restricting them to only five head of cattle and eight acres of land. Fortunately, we had an aunt who was married here in Zambia. After the enactment of the Land Tenure Act, our fathers decided to visit our aunt who was married to Mr David Shamasapo. When they arrived, they discovered that the soil here was good for agriculture and that there was also some semblance of peace compared to Southern Rhodesia.
They negotiated for a piece of land and that is how we migrated. Emmerson came here in 1957 before me. I remained behind to finish my Standard Six and followed in 1958. When Emmerson here came, he proceeded with his education at Myooye Primary School. From Myooye he went to Mumbwa (Secondary School) before he enrolled at the University of Zambia where studied law. He later joined politics and he was arrested and imprisoned for 10 years.
When he was released we implored him to refrain from political activities because to us as a family 10 years in prison was not a joke. He then started to work as a lawyer staying in Kamwala, Lusaka, with his family. He joined politics again and connected with other nationalists to wage the war of liberation. While in prison he studied several courses through correspondence.
TM: May you explain how President Mnangagwa joined politics?
SM: What we know is that he was working in Lusaka as a lawyer. After a couple of years we received information that Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa had been arrested in Zimbabwe after blowing up a steam locomotive in Masvingo with his colleagues. The matter was announced on all the radio stations both in Zambia and Zimbabwe and it was being repeated on a daily basis until the time when they said he was now going to be hanged.
They advised us to come and see him for the last time before his death. As a family we organised ourselves and looked for lawyers in Zimbabwe to defend him. The lawyers worked hard to ensure that he was not hanged and he was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison. It was not an easy task because most of us did not have passports so we could not travel back to Zimbabwe. We had a family friend called Mr Sihwahwa who had a passport. We asked him to travel to Zimbabwe to assist Emmerson.
TM: President Mnangagwa joined the liberation struggle at a tender age. At family level, who motivated him to take such a bold decision?
SM: When Emmerson was growing up I think should mention that he was very intelligent. His intelligence was unparalleled. From the time he was learning in Zimbabwe, he was extremely witty. Even as we recited folktales we had learnt at school, you could see there was something special about him. Way before we imagined war would come, he exhibited some special traits as a young boy. Even our great- grandfather at some point asked him how he did certain things that he as an adult could not do.
Our great-grandfather Mr Mnangagwa was a great fighter and warrior. He took after our great- grandfather, things just did not happen. Unfortunately, we don’t know where our great-grandfather died. We knew more about him when his spirit came through our aunt Chigume Mnangagwa who was married in the Dzapasi family. Through the spirit, he said his name was Mnangagwa and had died during the war. We just hear that he died at Shangani while fighting in the war but do not know where he was buried.
TM: Before he was elevated to the position of President, Cde Mnangagwa was expelled from Zanu-PF and Government. Were you in touch with him during that period?
SM: We only received that information but there was nothing we could do considering we are based here in Zambia and that we are not senior members of the ruling Zanu-PF. Our only fear was that they may kill him. What was more disturbing to us as a family was that he was fired by Robert Mugabe.
Emmerson and Mugabe worked together for a long time. Mugabe was a teacher here and I wondered what had happened for him to reach a stage where he could say I am now firing Emmerson from the party and Government. Another incident that also got us upset as a family was the poison saga. We were asking ourselves what crime Emmerson had committed to deserve such kind of treatment after working so tirelessly for his country and the party?
TM: So do you harbour any hard feelings against Mugabe or those who ill-treated President Mnangagwa during the last days of the Mugabe administration?
SM: We are Christians and we have nothing against Mugabe. Isu tinoti chivi hachitsiviwe nechivi. We urge our brother to have a forgiving heart. If things have reached such a stage leave everything to God. Even if you try to fight back I don’t think that will help matters.
TM: So how do you feel as a family that one of yours is now the President?
SM: We are extremely happy but I think Emmerson deserved it. He started to work for his country at a very tender age and up to now he has not given up. I urge all people to give him maximum support for the betterment of our country. We are here in Zambia but we are Zimbabweans and we want to see it prospering. We don’t spend a year without visiting Zimbabwe because that’s our home.