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Who is Zimbabwe’s next long-awaited political messiah?

By Charles Star Kungwengwe

In 1990, euphoria enveloped the entire country when one of Zimbabwe’s most controversial war veterans, Edgar Tekere, broke ranks with his former party, ZANU-PF; and in the process also severed ties with his war-time bosom buddy, President Robert Mugabe, to form his own political outfit, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM).

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Everyone thought the now late political maverick, nicknamed 2 Boy — who was the ruling party’s secretary general then, was the right person to end 10 years of ZANU-PF and President Mugabe’s dominance.

Although he indeed shook the ruling party, he lost his 1990 presidential bid to President Mugabe.

But he, however, managed to grab 16 percent of the vote, while his ZUM outfit picked up 20 percent of the seats in Parliament.

But that was where it ended because that challenge sealed his political career, which from then on fizzled into oblivion.

Ah and then, around 1995, along came another war veteran with renewed euphoria in the form of Margaret Dongo and her Zimbabwe Union of Democrats. She and her party also dismally failed to change the status quo.

Almost a decade after Tekere failed to dislodge both ZANU-PF and its leader from power, came renewed euphoria in 1999 in the form of Morgan Tsvangirai, who had just transformed the trade union pulpit into a political podium and decided to throw his hat into the political ring to aspire for the country’s top job.

Supporters did indeed swarm around Tsvangirai’s then united Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party like bees around a blossoming flower.
Again, everyone thought Tsvangirai and his MDC were exactly what the doctor had ordered.

In fact, those schooled in political trend analysis and extrapolation (historical prophecy) were predicting and portraying the trade unionist as another General Nelson who would lead the local Napoleon to his Waterloo come the 2000 elections.

Tsvangirai was riding high on Uncle Bob’s, as President Mugabe is affectionately known, hero status in the drama of global politics or international relations due to the controversial 2000 land reform programme.

With the land reform programme having proved a monumental disaster, President Mugabe had fallen from being a darling of the western community to a villain. Moreover, Tsvangirai’s party was still very new; and new products are marketable. Needless to say, the MDC leader compares very well with his Nemesis in that he is also charismatic, shrewd, eloquent and valiant; and fortune favours the brave.

But Tsvangirai’s anticipated success soon turned out to be just another false alarm.

The problem currently facing Tsvangirai is that he claims to be a medicine man with the cure for the country’s disease of longevity in leadership incumbency, yet he has also overstayed at the helm. It is a matter of one advising his/her neighbour to remove a speck from his/her eye when he/she has a huge baobab tree-sized log in their own eye. Apart from being riddled with factional in-fighting, Tsvangirai’s party seems to have also been infiltrated by ZANU-PF agents.

Besides, all the local laws, including the Constitution itself, have a strong bias towards the ruling party, denting all hope that Tsvangirai and his party may one day take over from President Mugabe and ZANU-PF.

Consequently, the euphoria died down yet again despite the fact that Tsvangirai and his party proved to be the biggest challenge yet to ZANU-PF and President Mugabe’s octopus-like grip on power.

And more than three decades after ZANU-PF grabbed power from Ian Smith’s racist regime came yet another heir apparent in the form of Joice Mujuru, the country’s former vice president, who was unceremoniously thrown out of the ruling party and government after being accused of plotting a coup d’etat against President Mugabe.

It’s now two years or so ever since rumour had it that the former daring freedom fighter, who happened to be the first woman guerilla fighter to down an enemy chopper in the heat of battle between her group and the late Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Forces, would challenge President Mugabe.

After a long period of speculation and anticipation, the inevitable finally happened—Mujuru finally formed her own political party, Zimbabwe People First, and people are naturally expecting lots of fireworks. This is happening amid indications that different political parties in the country might join hands in a grand coalition against the old veteran leader. And so on and on goes the political drama in Zimbabwe.

It has been a history of unending bouts of political euphoria for Zimbabweans and yet the question: Who will lead after President Mugabe continues to beg for an answer.

In the Christian Bible, in Luke 7:18-19 and Matthew 11:2-3, John, the Baptist, who was then in prison, sent his disciples to Jesus with the question: Are you who is to come or shall we look for another one?

Jesus’ response, when asked that question, was to immediately perform different miracles and then tasked the messengers to go and tell John what they had seen and heard; for example, that they had seen the dead being raised, the blind seeing and the poor having good news preached to them.

Jesus was both a philosopher and a scientist as well.

Now, if Zimbabwe’s contemporary politicians were to be weighed against such high stakes, how would they fare in their own political vocations?

Starting with Mujuru herself, how has she been responding to the numerous enquiries on where she stands in this intriguing Zimbabwean political soap opera?

She should be able to answer, in whatever way she can, whether or not she is the political messiah that the country has been waiting for.

In other words, present day politicians must not confine their message to rhetoric, but learn to act. And so we await Mujuru’s party performance in Bikita West by-election on January 21 for a more telling answer.

I am, however, dumbfounded as to why Zimbabweans, even after all these false hopes for another political chapter, continue to hope that ZANU-PF and its leader are close to relinquishing power.

So in my vain attempt to find out who might just be the next political messiah, I am tempted to look within the ruling party where Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa appears closest at the moment but, as the Mujurus would bear testimony, the issue of being too near to or too far away from the “prince” is one and the same thing: One slight misstep will see one tumbling over the edge of the slippery political ladder into the abyss.

No doubt, Ngwena, as Mnangagwa is affectionately known, remains the second most powerful politician in the country after His Excellency and commands the support of both the old guard and the securocrats; while the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, another possible heir apparent to the throne, has the Young Turks, or G-40, on her side. The Young Turks have made some commendable inroads into the ZANU-PF population in the country.

And coming back to Ngwena – during the liberation struggle he occupied the most coveted post of chief of intelligence, a post that was also held by Dumiso Dabengwa in the then ZAPU, while the late Josiah Tongogara was Dare’s chief of defence and deputised by the late Solomon Mujuru, who was chief of operations. Financial Gazette