By Luke Tamborinyoka
We chatted and laughed heartily over coffee as we sat comfortably in the visitors’ lounge, with the chirping birds softly chorusing their hymns in the background.
At one moment, we even exchanged a high-five as we conversed, just as two crows flew past the nearby window, spurting watery droppings on the window-pane.
The gusting wind wasted no time smearing the bird droppings across the entire glass pane, in the process shutting us out of the picturesque and scenic view of the tall cypress trees and the trimmed lush-green hedge outside the lounge of this old building at the Catholic-run Mission..
It was a chilly Saturday morning last year. The man across the table wearing a brown winter jacket and with whom I was animatedly conversing was none other than eminent Roman Catholic cleric, Father Fidelis Mukonori.
The venue was Visitation Makumbi High School in my beloved rural hood of Domboshava. I was on the campaign trail, meeting opinion leaders around my homeland and introducing the citizens’ movement called the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) that had just been minted only a few months earlier.
The eminent Bishop, now the leading cleric at this Catholic-run Mission school in Domboshava where I did my secondary education, just happened to be among the list of people on my schedule as I drove around Goromonzi West, meeting and chatting up ordinary villagers and opinion leaders.
Makumbi Mission, the church run institution with a long history, is situated tight in my mother’s village. The school is named after my great-great maternal grandfather, Makumbe, the polygamist famed for his 32 wives, among them one Sone, daughter to his friend Chief Masembura.
My great maternal grandfather must have relished his married life, cherishing nightfall as he looked forward to a protracted, vexing and tiresome schedule of executing his conjugal duties on the over two-and-half dozen matrimonial beds.
While Zimbabwean men have always believed cow -boots can enhance unfettered coital performance, I have always presumed that with his 32 wives, my maternal ancestor needed to periodically slaughter a whole herd of cattle if he were to deliver optimum performance in his conjugal responsibilities.
But I digress. When I met Father Mukonori in July 2022, I had resolved to go around Goromonzi West constituency meeting pastors, village heads, headmen, eminent civil servants and other opinion leaders as I intensified the campaign both for the party and for myself in my quest to become the CCC parliamentary candidate in this land of my birth and upbringing.
So I met and sat down with Father Mukonori, now the eminent bishop in charge of Makumbi Mission.
Before I met him last year, I had not had the occasion to meet and talk to him, even though he had been the Father Superior at Chishawasha Mission when my son, Leslie Tanyaradzwanashe, was the headboy at Chishawasha Mission primary school some 10 or years ago
Father Mukonori’, who was close to former President Robert Mugabe, rose to more prominence during the 2017 coup when he became the mediator between the military generals and Robert Mugabe, then the country’s strongman who had misrun the country for an uninterrupted 37 years.
Bishop Mukonori was very close to Mugabe. When we met last year, I told him that he owed Zimbabweans a book, a good read, on the intricate negotiations that took place behind the scenes as the military held Mugabe under house arrest inside his Blue Roof mansion in Borrrowdale, Harare, in what turned out to be a momentous point in the history of the country. For the coup marked the day that we collectively as a nation jumped from the frying pan into the sizzling fire.
For purposes of confidentiality, I wouldn’t want to get into details on what Bishop Mukonori told me in our two-and-half hour engagement in which we touched on Mugabe’s last days in office, among many other issues.
But as we spoke over coffee in the guest lounge at the Bishop”s quarters that day, I probably got interesting titbits of what happened behind the scenes in Mugabe’s final hours in office.
I now know, for instance, that it all started when the Bishop received an early morning phone call from George Charamba around 3 am in November 2017.
The phone call asked him to be the mediator and to arrange a meeting between the military generals and Mugabe because there were intimate issues that the elite soldiers wanted to discuss with their Commander-in-Chief.
The rest, as they say, is history.
But for me, it confirmed the known script that as his boss fought hard to remain in office, Charamba had abandoned him to join the side of Mnangagwa and the generals, even though he was the strongman’s spokesman.
And probably Mukonori too had since crossed sides even as Mugabe thought he was a trusted emissary, given his interview last week in which he claimed Mnangagwa won the 2023 elections and that Nelson Chamisa, as the “loser”, should dialogue with the “winner.”
Mugabe certainly cut a forlorn and pitiful figure in his last days, abandoned even by those he thought he could trust, and most probably that included both Charamba and Mukonori..
In my largely cordial engagement with him last year, the good Bishop appeared to be a very rational man.
But his posturing and utterances last week that sought to sanitise a sham and to give the impression that Zimbabwe had had a credible election that had produced a “winner” and a “loser” made me believe I had probably over-estimated his decency and under-estimated his links to ED’s clueless and murderous regime
The honest truth is that with his call for dialogue, not a dialogue of disputants as should be the case, but with Chamisa as a “loser” and Mnangagwa as the “winner”, Bishop Mukonori is whistling in the graveyard.
The majority of Zimbabweans will certainly unhear him and will not agree with him . They will not countenances the exhortation of this man of the cloth, who now appears to be clothed in the tattered veil of false political knowledge, far removed from the spiritual realm that ought to be his turf.
There are several problems with Mukonori’s postulations, including his misplaced plea for Chamisa to converse as a “loser” to Mnangagwa, whose door the clergyman said is always open.for dialogue.
You are wrong, Bishop!
As ordinary Zimbabweans, our knowledge of Mnangagwa and his blood-soaked legacy stretchers over many years. We certainly know that he has never had a genuinely open door that will leave you alive if you choose to walk through it.
When dealing with ED , it is always wise to treat any doorway as a trap, nay as a sordid pathway likely to lead you to your unfortunate demise.
Yes, with ED, any orifice that one may deem to .be an escape route to better prospects may in fact be one’s quickest way to the gas chamber!
It is always foolhardy for one to be enticed by an amphibious ally of the alligator to follow the Crocodile’s spoors into the muddy waters, as the Bishop is exhorting Chamisa to do.
Secondly, any genuine dialogue must be unconditional. That the Bishop seeks to give the condition that Chamisa must first accept the position of “loser” even after a sham election is very unfortunate.
What happened, as confirmed by the various observer missions, is simply that Zimbabwe held a sham poll, from which there cannot be any legitimate winner or loser.
Yes, a legitimate election must result in a legitimate winner and. a legitimate loser, which did not happen in the last plebiscite. Any legitimate loss should be an outcome of a legitimate contest, which legitimate contest did not happen in Zimbabwe’s last election.
What we had on August 23 in Zimbabwe was grand theft that resulted in a legitimate thief and a legitimate victim of theft.
Seeking to stampede Chamisa into a sham dialogue as a loser is akin to asking a victim of theft to go onto dialogue with the robber on the condition that he accepts that nothing was stolen from him. It was a donation on his part.
The purpose of a sincere and legitimate dialogue process under our circumstances is to unlock the political logjam actuated by a sham election.
For Chamisa to first accept the tag of “loser” means that there will be nothing to negotiate or talk about The so-called dialogue would then be trite and vacuous since the genuine debate over the winner and the loser of the election would have been settled as a pre-condition, to the dialogue.
What then would be there to talk about if there was a winner and a loser in the last election?
Thirdly, Mukonori cannot have his cake and eat it at the same time. For the record, Mukonori is an eminent Bishop of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.
The Catholic Bishops Conference, to whose position Mukonori must necessarily associate with as a senior Bishop of the same church, observed the last election and dismissed it as a sham.
The chairman of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, the Right Reverend Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro issued a damning pastoral letter early September in which the Catholic bishops castigated the plebiscite as a sham and chastised ZEC for disenfranchising voters and for presiding over a charade.
Mukonori cannot break away from that collective position of all the Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe . He cannot tell us today that the same event they dismissed as a sham produced a “loser” who must now bend his knees to desperately seek dialogue as an underling!!
It is always tragic and unfortunate when bishops become hypocrites. In one instance, under the banner of the Catholic Bishops, Mukonori and others dismissed the election as a sham.
In another instance as a lackey and parrot of Mnangagwa’s regime, , the same Bishop wants to tell us that the same imbroglio that they collectively dismissed produced a legitimate winner and a legitimate loser!
Give us a break, Bishop!
Or is that Mukonori has since joined Pastors and Bishops for ED, one of whose members, Passion Java, has reportedly “prophesied” the death of Nelson Chamisa?
When Mnangagwa’s minions make a “prophecy” about your death, it does not need a rocket scientist to decode the message. Much like the butcher prophesying the death of an ox before bringing down his cleaver to slice through meat and bone!
Well, there’s always a God in heaven. Under his Almighty gaze, the whims and caprices of mortal men will not always come to pass
Whatever amount of money he was paid, Bishop Mukonori cannot subjectively claim to be calling for a false dialogue which he falsely hopes he will be allowed to falsely mediate.
Any genuine dialogue that will extricate this country from the current morass must be presided over by an impartial, mutually agreed convener.
He may whistle in the dark for all he cares. But Zimbabweans are itching to have their own second dialogue with the ballot paper in the various polling stations across the country. They want to settle the unfinished election of August 23. The rest is a needless and unnecessary side-show.
We just cannot afford another scarfed five years!
Luke Tamborinyoka is a citizen from Domboshava. He is by profession a journalist and a political scientist. He is also a changed champion in the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC). You can interact with him on his Facebook page or on the X handle @ luke_tambo.