By Fungi Kwaramba
President Emmerson Mnangagwa remains a closed book for most people.
Some say he is cruel while others say he is as soft as wool. The Daily News on Sunday’s chief writer Fungi Kwaramba sat down with former Zanu PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, who has known the Zanu PF leader since the 60s to get an understanding of what makes the incumbent tick. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Q: What are your thoughts on the way President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power?
A: This is something that we have to accept and live with. Even if we might hold different views with those who are in power, there is nothing that we can do now and I hope that those in leadership will allow us to criticise them and express our views openly.
Q: Does Mnangagwa have what it takes to lead the country?
A: Since he succeeded to outplay Grace Mugabe who is the wife of the (former) President (Robert Mugabe) while he was the vice president, he has what it takes and knows what people want. I was surprised by the confidence that was shown by Grace when she was addressing people at her Bulawayo and Rufaro Stadium rallies and to see things changing dramatically, it was a shocker.
Q: Are you happy with the way Mugabe left office, does that befit his legacy?
A: I was surprised that he resigned like that. I used to tell him that with the way things were going they would end badly. I don’t know why he did not believe us when we told him that there were two factions, one led by Mnangagwa and the other by (former vice president Joice) Mujuru. The two denied leading factions. We were surprised to see his wife forming a third faction and we asked where are we going? What kind of a people are we who keep on fighting yet there is no progress?
Nothing good came from the factionalism, but he didn’t see that because in his head he wanted his wife to be the vice president. He had paved the way for her. I was surprised but why not appoint her, why did he take such a long route that bred fear in Zanu PF? It seemed as though Mnangagwa was now fearing to be killed by a man he has known for such a long time — the way he ran away it showed he was scared.
Q: Would you have ran away if you were in Mnangagwa’s shoes?
A: Ndairwara kuti ko mukuru wangu akundifungira chii? (If I were him, I think I would have fallen sick)
Q: You have known Mugabe for such a long time. Does he have feelings for other people?
A: Nikisi, haana (No, he doesn’t have). In my view, he has no feelings at all for anyone but himself and his family. If you talk to him about his relative, he will say something from the heart, the same thing when he talks about himself, asi ukazoda kuitira utsinye hama yavo, havadi, vanenge vachida kutouraya (just try to do something nasty to his relative, and you will see his dark side. He is even prepared to kill if you do that). That is why he first accused people of doing certain things.
When we were expelled we were accused of plotting to kill him. We said how could we kill you when we did not have any weapons? I told him that as the State Security minister my duty was to look after him. If you tell him that don’t you see that your wife shouldn’t be behaving the way she is, he did not want to hear that. I was told ndinokurova nezvibhakera, ndikati shefu zvazvekurwa here, akati unoziva ndinogona zvezvibhakera here ini (I was told that he could beat me up. He boasted that he was a good boxer.)
Q: So what did you do, did you back off?
A: I told him things were going out of hand, your wife keeps on insulting people, like kutuka kwaaita Mai Mujuru (like the way she insulted Mujuru), I wasn’t happy with that and I told him to stop her but he did not listen to me. I was also insulted, ndikanzi kachembera (Grace said I was too old). I was told that I was going to die soon, now his legacy is being kept by a person who removed him from the presidency.
Q: Have you tried to get in touch with him (Mugabe)?
A: I shall. I think it’s (still) too early. Let him lick his wounds, I will call him one of these days. When this was happening, I wanted to call him and tell him to resign immediately so that he would salvage some of his legacy, but at least Father (Fidelis) Mukonori handled the situation very well, otherwise it could have spiralled out of control.
Q: But the army was very disciplined.
A: Yes it was, and I think it was made to do so by Mnangagwa because it was part of his faction, isn’t it?
Q: But didn’t Mugabe see this coming?
A: I am not sure, maybe he was trying to endear his wife to the generals and (former Higher and Tertiary Education minister) Moyo too, but it did not go that way.
Q: Are you prepared to rejoin Zanu PF, now that Mugabe and his wife are out of the way?
A: I have worked for Zanu PF before it was formed. It was not there in the 1950s; we were first led by (Joshua) Nkomo, then (Ndabaningi) Sithole took over and these people were removing each other — I was there. I was working for the leadership, some even asked if I was not interested in taking a leadership position and I said no, I always wanted to be an assistant, even when we formed People First along with Mai Mujuru, some people said why don’t you lead and I told them that I have never wanted to lead, right up to now but I am prepared to work for my country.
Q: Are you prepared to go back to Zanu PF?
A: I will have to wait and see where we are going. For now, I want to comment from the sidelines. I am grateful for what they have done so far, but you cannot divorce yourself completely from what is happening in the country, can you?
Q: What kind of a man is Mnangagwa?
A: There are a lot of things that are written about him in the press, some say this while others say something else, but hardly know the person.
Q: Former Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo calls him a ‘Gukurahundist’, do you regard him as a ruthless fellow?
A: We went to the front almost at the same time with Mnangagwa in 1977. I shared prison with him but he was not as close to me as was Mugabe, Martin Malianga and Edgar Tekere. I, however, know him sufficiently. If I am asked to walk with him as was the case around independence, there is nothing to be feared.
If you discuss things and ask him to do something, he will do it properly, but because there is a lot of distrust unotofamba wakabata bakatwa rako (you have to be vigilant at all times). There is a lot of fear around Mnangagwa that people talk about, but myself I have never seen it , I was with him during the war and we came together, we lived together and worked together but of course I had my own dagger just in case.
Q: What do you think this government should do to move the country forward?
A: There is need for honesty from the leadership. People are listening to what he is saying very closely but some people are still afraid of him, maybe because of the presence of the army which helped Mnangagwa ascend to the top, but they have to guarantee free and fair elections. Let us be totally democratic. Whoever wins will have the people’s mandate, but as long as people are sceptical that would be wrong. We are saying remove all that, I have no doubt at all that if he does that he will win, because so far people are indicating that they like him. Why would he rig?
Let’s have a proper election where he is elected president, when that happens I will submit myself to him and say let us sort out the Gukurahundi issue, and actually I don’t see why he is the only one blamed for Gukurahundi. The whole Cabinet during that time must be blamed.
For some time, Enos Nkala was Defence minister. Enos Nkala hated Zapu so much, I know him very well and I know all the former big guns, we used to argue about that, but nobody has ever mentioned Nkala, so why blame him alone. There was JOC (the Joint Operations Command) which had people, why are they not blamed? You keep blaming Mnangagwa anenge ane jambwa, ngaabike doro (he is cursed, he must be cleansed).
Q: But some say he played a role in rigging elections in 2008?
A: We had lost the elections. The run-off led to the death of people and I don’t think anyone who was in Zanu PF should boast about that. Yes we won but it was wrong, we wronged the people, the way Mugabe won in 2008 was fraudulent. Daily News