Mnangagwa and Makamba fall out

By Andrew Kunambura

It never rains but it pours for businessman, James Makamba.

James Makamba
James Makamba

Less than five months following his return to his motherland, analysts fear that Makamba could be contemplating going into self-imposed exile once again after falling out with the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Makamba ended his 12-year-long absence in December last year and immediately claimed that he was answering Mnangagwa’s call to Zimbabweans in foreign lands to return, help rebuild the economy and make the country great again.

“I feel great to be back home,” he said as soon as he arrived. “Anyone who has stayed away from their respective home for an extended period of time will tell you that it is no fun being away from home.

“So much happens during your absence, in my case I lost a dear daughter, Chiedza, known to most people. Friends, relatives and family had to stand in on my behalf at her burial, a thing that I found extremely painful, but, however, life goes on.

“We are answering the call by the new president, Cde Mnangagwa, to come home, work with others in rebuilding our economy because Zimbabwe is going to be great once again.”

Upon returning home, he set his sights on the National Assembly, thinking that the new Zanu PF regime would allow him to represent Mt Darwin South constituency in the legislative assembly.

That was not to be.

While Zanu PF structures had initially cleared his name to stand in the party primary polls held last week, with the governing party’s supreme decision-making organ in-between congresses — the politburo — even endorsing his candidature, there was a change of heart at the last minute.

Suddenly, a decision was made to bar the businessman from contesting. His name had to be deleted from the ballot papers.

Zanu PF insiders told the Daily News on Sunday that his name was withdrawn not because he had fallen short of the selection criteria.

His coup de grace was the leaking of an audio, where he was gunning for Information Communication Technology minister Supa Mandiwanzira and accusing senior government officials, including Mnangagwa and his powerful deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, of failing to assist him regain control of Telecel.

In the leaked audio, Makamba is recorded allegedly plotting a smear campaign against the minister.

He is also heard taking a dig at Chiwenga and his wife, Marry.

Political analysts yesterday said Makamba’s political career was bleak.

University of Zimbabwe senior lecturer Tawanda Zinyama told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that if the video recording was anything to go by, then Makamba “will definitely have to go back to exile. This may take place soon after the general elections”.

“If he decides to stand as an independent candidate, no one can stop him. The question is, is he going to make an impact? No, he is different from a Jonathan Samukange or a Munyaradzi Kereke. Zanu PF will also frustrate and throw spanners along his political road,” said Zinyama.

In 2013, Samukange went through hell in Zanu PF in his bid to represent Mudzi South in the National Assembly amid fierce resistance from bigwigs in the ruling party.

Samukange had to stand as an independent at the 2013 polls, which earned him summary dismissal although he was later re-admitted into Zanu PF after the tables were turned on those who were persecuting the top lawyer.

Kereke, who rose to fame as an advisor to maverick former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono, went through a similar ordeal in his bid to represent Bikita West constituency.

After a gruelling political battle, he won the seat but eventually lost the seat following his conviction for rape in 2016.

Political scientist Ibbo Mandaza was blunt on Makamba’s prospects of endearing himself with the current government in the wake of the leaked audio, saying he was his own worst enemy.

“This is not the first time that Makamba has been frustrated by Zanu PF and I don’t know why he keeps going back there. He has been rebutted a few times before; this must be the third or fourth time. It’s entirely his fault. Now they may pursue his old cases and we might see him running away from the country again,” Mandaza said.

An ally of the late retired army general, Solomon Mujuru, Makamba has never had it easy with the powers-that-be ever since the liberation war icon fell out with former president Robert Mugabe in the late 1990s over his continued hold on power.

Born on January 1, 1952, Makamba — who could not be reached for comment yesterday as his mobile phones went unanswered and he did not respond to text messages forwarded to him — had his television project (Joy TV) shut down after it was refused a licence renewal by government in 2002.

In 2004, he lost his investment at a farm he was leasing from government in Mazowe after he was evicted from the property. Makamba had borrowed heavily from a local bank to build Blue Ridge Spar Mazowe Supermarket, which had been officially opened by the then vice president Joseph Msika.

His dream to become mayor for Harare had earlier been frustrated by Mugabe, who had also twice prevented him from standing as a Member of Parliament for Mt Darwin in 1996 and 1999.

When he went into exile in 2005, he was being hounded by government for violating the Exchange Control Act.

He skipped bail and fled the country as the State prosecuted him on charges of allegedly externalising £3,7 million, $2,1 million and R15 million.

He set temporary bases in several countries before eventually settling in neighbouring South Africa.

Although the official reason for his prosecution was that he had externalised funds, many still believed that he was suffering personal persecution at the hands of the then president, Mugabe; which perhaps explains why he did not wait too long to return home after the despot was deposed in a soft military coup last year.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said Makamba should not be fooled that things have changed.

“After elections, these chameleonic political beasts will show their true colours. So he has a high chance of facing the same fate he faced under Mugabe. This case shows that Zanu PF never changed a bit. It was merely removing a 94-year-old head and replacing it with a 75-year-old one,” said Saungweme.

“The people who were persecuting him under Mugabe are still the same in power. It’s only that they are trying to appear to be different, tolerant and keeping a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its very substance,” he added.

Makamba is an entrepreneur with a diverse portfolio of interests covering telecommunications, retail, mining and consultancy.

He came to prominence as a disc jockey at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and was part of a consortium awarded a licence to operate the country’s second mobile operator Telecel.…businessman may go into exile again. Daily News