By Professor Arthur G.O. Mutambara
I lost my autographed copy of Wilfred Mhanda’s book when Emmerson Mnangagwa, then Minister of Defence, borrows it and never returns it.
It is important to note that in his memoirs, Dzino (Mhanda) does not acknowledge Mnangagwa as a significant player in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.
In fact, he ignores him completely!
In my conversation with Mnangagwa, he keeps saying:
“This guy (Dzino) does not just like me. He hates me. I do not know why.”
It is obvious why Dzino thinks Mnangagwa was a minor and peripheral player in the liberation struggle.
When he is released from Smith’s jail in 1972 and is deported to Zambia, where his parents were living, he does not rejoin the liberation forces.
Instead, he attends the University of Zambia to continue his legal studies, which he started in prison.
He reappears in the struggle after the 1977 Chimoio Conference at the invitation of Robert Mugabe for the role of Special Assistant to the President and Head of ZANU’s Security Department.
The latter post was a portfolio once held in the ZANU Dare ReChimurenga hierarchy in Zambia by the notoriously cruel Cletus Chigowe, whom Mugabe was palpably scared of.
Mugabe narrates to me how he invited Mnangagwa to join the struggle in Mozambique in 1977:
“After we had finished the election of the ZANU leadership at the 1977 Chimoio Conference, Tongogara says to me:
‘Given what happened with Herbert Chitepo in Zambia, the position of Head of Security is a sensitive one.
You, as President, must choose a person you are comfortable with.
That person will also be your Special Assistant.’
I thought about it for a minute and then said:
‘There is this young man we had in prison who is now a lawyer in Zambia – Emmerson Mnangagwa. Let us appoint that one.’
Tongogara just threw his hands in the air and started smiling sheepishly. He then said:
‘Don’t you know that he is now my brother-in-law? He is now married to my sister.’
I said: ‘It does not matter; that is the one I want.’
So that is how Emmerson is invited to join us.
We wrote to him, and he indicated that his father had just died, and he was winding up his estate.
He would come to Maputo as soon as that exercise is completed.
This is how Emmerson became my Special Assistant and Head of Security in the ZANU Executive in Mozambique, in 1977.”
It is important to note that my conversation with Mugabe is in June 2012 at State House when Mnangagwa is Minister of Defence.
This is before he becomes Vice President, leading to the later fallout and the coup d’état.
Mugabe’s description of Emmerson’s ascendancy is a clinical and correct narration of what transpired, uncoloured by these later events.
However, it is significant to note that before his arrest in 1965 – for sabotage after attempting to bomb a train in Masvingo – and detention in 1966, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in 1962, goes to Egypt for military training under ZAPU.
When ZAPU splits in 1963 he joins ZANU.
Thereafter, he is in one of the first groups to train under ZANU in China.
So, he is a trained cadre when he is detained in 1966. Nonetheless, when he is deported to Zambia after being released from detention in 1972, he does not directly rejoin the armed struggle.
This must be emphasised.
Instead, he goes to pursue legal studies at the University of Zambia, after which he embarks on legal pupillage under Enock Dumbutshena – Zimbabwe’s future Black Chief Justice – in Lusaka.
From 1972 to 1976, he is not in ZANU’s Dare ReChimurenga or the ZANLA High Command.
In this period, he is not involved in the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe.
It is instructive and prudent to highlight and stress this.
He is not an active ZANLA or ZANU cadre at all, from 1972 to 1976.
It is only in 1977 that he is invited to Mozambique by Robert Mugabe.
It is important to note that, outside the amateurish train sabotage effort, Emmerson Mnangagwa never saw active combat as a ZANLA guerrilla.
He rejoined the liberation effort by invitation in 1977 after 11 years of voluntary (1972 to 1976) and forced (1966 to 1971) absence.
Emmerson Mnangagwa’s voluntary and self-serving inactivity in Zambia during a critical stage of the armed struggle and his rejoining the struggle only at the invitation of Robert Mugabe would lead Solomon Mujuru to derisively pour scorn on Emmerson’s liberation struggle credentials in later years, in independent Zimbabwe.
Mujuru is brutally dismissive and uncharitable when they clash in ZANU-PF Politburo meetings.
He says in his stammering voice, wagging a finger at Emmerson:
“In Zambia, you were no-o-thing.
You were not part of ZANU’s Dare ReChimurenga (ZANU War Council) or ZANLA High Command.
You were just a runner (pimp) who used to bring us girls from the University of Zambia into our ZANLA camps for our entertainment.
In Mozambique, you were just a security aide – just a guard like those young men outside protecting us as we deliberate in this Politburo meeting.
Your job was to carry Robert Mugabe’s briefcase.
That is all you did.”
What a smackdown!
Of course, Emmerson does not have the nerve to answer back in the face of such obvious facts from a man of Mujuru’s stature.
The putdowns worsen as Mujuru seeks to stop Mnangagwa’s unbridled ambition to succeed Mugabe.
My interactions with Emmerson during the GNU are relatively extensive.
As one of the three GNU Principals (with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai) and Deputy Prime Minister, I supervise his activities as Minister of Defence.
We also spend time together during some of the various government fora.
The most extended period we are together in intimate conversation is on a trip from Mutare to Harare in 2012.
We had gone as a GNU team of Cabinet Ministers to the diamond fields of Chiadzwa on 16 February 2012.
This high-powered delegation included Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Minister of Finance Tendai Biti, Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu, Minister of Energy and Power Development Elton Mangoma, and Minister of Defence Emmerson Mnangagwa.
When we are done with our extensive tour of the Marange diamond fields, it is getting into the early evening.
Hence, our helicopters cannot fly us to Harare but only to Mutare. From there we must travel to Harare by road.
Emmerson and I share a car ride in a fancy Mercedes-Benz belonging to – and driven by – Mutare ZANU-PF businessman Esau Mupfumi.
What a long and animated conversation we have!
We discuss in detail his ZANU-PF exploits, in particular the Tsholotsho Declaration (so-named after an abortive launch of the agreement at Dinyane School in Tsholotsho) of November 2004 – an unsuccessful attempt to install him as Vice President of ZANU-PF, whose objective was to set him up as Mugabe’s successor.
He delves into the meetings and activities that led up to the declaration and its eventual fate.
Mnangagwa’s narration aligns with various documented accounts, such as articles by former ZANU-PF Minister Jonathan Moyo and the memoirs of former GNU Minister David Coltart.
The gist of the matter is that, on 23 August 2004, a meeting of ZANU-PF provincial chairpersons and provincial governors chaired by ZANU-PF National Political Commissar Elliot Manyika was held in Harare.
At this meeting, the seven provinces of Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Bulawayo and Mashonaland West voted in favour of the Tsholotsho Declaration principles, which sought to reimagine and refashion procedures for the nomination of the top four leaders of ZANU-PF.
The key elements of the declaration were that:
a) There should be ethnic and regional balance in the top four ZANU-PF leadership positions.
b) The office of the President and First Secretary should not be reserved for one ethnic group. It should rotate among the major ethnic groups of Zimbabwe.
c) These top positions should not be imposed but elected.
d) The party’s constitution and the rule of law within the party should be respected.
Background to this declaration was disgruntlement that Mugabe’s Zezuru ethnic group was dominating all the top leadership positions within the judiciary, army, police, government and, of course, ZANU-PF.
The people constituting the top hierarchy of the despised Zezuru hegemony included President Robert Mugabe, Vice President Joseph Msika, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, Police Commissioner General of the Police Augustine Chihuri, and Commander Defence Forces – Constantino Chiwenga (promoted in 2004).
It is important to note that at the meeting of 23 August 2004, the three Zezuru-dominated provinces of Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central and Harare viciously opposed the principles of the Tsholotsho Declaration.
Nonetheless, this minority group of provinces seemed of no consequence, as Mnangagwa’s ascendency appeared inevitable, if not guaranteed.
In an article on the online publication: NewZimbabwe on 17 October 2017, titled Tsholotsho Declaration of November 2004: The Untold Story, Jonathan Moyo asserts:
“It became clear from the deliberations of this meeting [23 August 2004] and the outcome of the vote that Emmerson Mnangagwa would be elected as one of the two vice presidents and second secretaries and would be poised to succeed Mugabe.”
However, all this was to come to grief!
As David Coltart articulates in his book titled The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe:
“Solomon Mujuru’s faction, having got wind of a meeting of Mnangagwa’s supporters in Tsholotsho on 18 November 2004, through John Nkomo and Nicholas Goche, persuaded Mugabe to call an emergency politburo meeting the same day, which amended the party’s constitution to mandate that at least one of the vice-presidents should be a woman.
The amendment effectively scuppered Mnangagwa’s hopes of becoming vice president.
The politburo meeting also prevented Mnangagwa from attending the event planned in Tsholotsho …”
In my long car ride with Mnangagwa from Mutare, he confirms this sad turn of events.
He laments how misfortune struck him in such a humiliating and indecorous fashion:
“As ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration, the Politburo members asked me to read the existing ZANU-PF constitution with respect to the election of vice presidents.
There was nothing about a woman vice president.
They asked me to insert the new provision and then go and make copies.
When I returned and distributed the copies, they asked me:
‘What does the ZANU-PF constitution say about the election of vice presidents? Can you articulate the position for us?’
I had to read out the vile and pernicious provision.
Just as I finished, there was nauseating ululating and shameful dancing in the Politburo meeting!”
Indeed, the ZANU-PF constitution was unprocedurally and illegally amended in a dramatic fashion to block the rise of Emmerson Mnangagwa.
It is important to note that Robert Mugabe and Solomon Mujuru (the Zezuru kingpins) used their undue influence in the Politburo to back the minority Zezuru provinces against the aspirations of the majority provinces.
The fact that the Zezurus disproportionately control four out of 10 ZANU-PF provinces speaks volumes about the evil craftiness and skill of the creators of the Zezuru hegemony in Zimbabwe.
Jonathan Moyo confirms the events of that fateful Politburo meeting in his http://NewZimbabwe.com article of 17 October 2017:
“When it became clear to all and sundry at the emergency meeting that the procedures for nominations in Mnangagwa’s letter of 11 November 2004 were indeed in terms of the constitution, those members of the Politburo who are associated with Solomon Mujuru’s camp demanded the instant amendment of the party’s constitution there and then to accommodate their interests and wishes.
… Mnangagwa was directed to withdraw his earlier letter of 11 November on the procedures for nominating the top four leadership positions of the party and to issue a new letter dated 18 November 2004 based on the new amendment of the constitution by the Politburo.
This amendment was illegally effected on 18 November 2004 and implemented immediately by an organ of the party, the Politburo, which has no powers to amend the constitution.”
As he narrates the events of the Tsholotsho Declaration and their debilitating outcomes, Mnangagwa is despondent and seems resigned to his fate.
After going through the gory details of the failed ‘palace coup’, he emphasises:
“I barely survived that episode.
It was a rough patch.
Now, I have to sit back and watch others make moves for the throne.”
Needless to say, a short six years later, he grabs the reins of power through a real military coup d’état in November 2017 against his mentor and master – Robert Mugabe.
Sadly and unfortunately, as an opponent and a victim of Zezuru hegemony, Emmerson Mnangagwa has chosen the dangerous path of constructing his own Karanga hegemony; or is it a primitive Midlands clansmanship; or a primordial family dynasty?
As I conclude these memoirs in January 2023, I am saddened and surprised by Emmerson’s inability to learn from recent history.
How can a victim of ethnic political machinations seek to perpetuate a worse version of the same malady?
You carry out a coup d’état to remove a dynasty and replace it with a dynasty of your own.
We need an inclusive and non-discriminatory governance and socio-economic model in Zimbabwe.
From the car ride with Mnangagwa from Mutare on 16 February 2012, let us fast forward to the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa Annual Regional Summit in Cape Town from 4 to 6 September 2019.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his key officials – Sibusiso Moyo, Mthuli Ncube, Biggie Matiza and John Mangudya – are in attendance.
During the main WEF dinner, Emmerson is sitting at the VVIP table with WEF Chairman Klaus Schwab and other SADC Presidents, including SA’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi and Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi.
My wife Jackie and I are dining at a nearby table. We have not had a chance to chat with Emmerson during the WEF events.
I decide we must pay him an unannounced courtesy call.
We approach him.
He turns around, and he is pleasantly surprised:
“Professor, great to see you! How have you been? Ko, Professor takambomutsana here (have you and I ever violently differed or had acrimonious conflict?)”
We all burst into laughter and giggles.
I am sure he is referring to some recent uncharitable remark or salvo that I must have launched in the press recently.
He cannot understand why I would do that, given that he and I worked fairly well in the 2009-2013 GNU.
“I know you are based here in SA, but don’t you come to Zimbabwe?
Come and see me.”
“Well, well …” I chuckle nonchalantly and non-committedly.
Jackie finds the exchanges quite amusing, if not comical.
This is an excerpt from the book: In Search of the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream, Volume III (Ideas & Solutions)
By Professor Arthur G.O. Mutambara