By Tafi Mhaka
Fresh off disembarking from a hired luxury Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft and walking straight into yet another government manufactured human rights disaster – an embarrassing and escalating public relations debacle for the “new dispensation” – Emmerson Mnangagwa reminded everyone he is not presidential material.
In the wake of trigger-happy security services killing at least 12 demonstrators and injuring scores more, amid reports of over 700 arbitrary arrests, violent home invasions, severe torture, intimidation and sexual assaults, Mnangagwa didn’t (or couldn’t) explain why security services fired live bullets on unarmed civilians – and he didn’t bother to visit bereaved families to apologise for an unnecessary, painful loss of Zimbabwean lives.
And neither did he rebuke presidential George Charamba for warning the thuggish, murderous mayhem unleashed by the ever-ill-disciplined Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) soldiers, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers and Zanu-PF youth militia was “just a foretaste of things to come”. Mnangagwa did what the former Midlands strongman always does best in these troubled times: he feigned concern and feigned control.
Mnangagwa released an abnormally worded statement calling for talks and basically absolving his administration (and himself) of any responsibility towards the trigger-happy madness, which had gripped Zimbabwe. He promised to “investigate”, right as he did with the pathetic August 1 inquiry. And the absurd statement declared that everything, which happened during the fuel hike inspired protests, was not the “Zimbabwean way” of doing things.
But, what is the “Zimbabwean way”? Is it akin to the way in which Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika, the MDC activists burned to death by Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative Joseph Mwale and Zanu PF activist Tom Kainos Kitsiyatota Zimunya at Murambinda Growth Point, died? Is it how Ishmael Kumire and Sylvia Matambo, both shot to death by ZDF soldiers in Harare on August 1, died?
Or is it something to do with how Kelvin Tinashe Choto, gunned down while standing on a football pitch in Chitungwiza – and human rights activist Itai Dzamara, snatched by security forces in Glen View and never to be seen again – died? Or is it the homicidal Zanu-PF philosophy behind the Gukurahundi massacres in Midlands and Matabeleland?
Zanu-PF ‘Deadwood’ vs. Zanu-PF ‘progressives’ debate
Although Mnangagwa is clearly the personification of the enduring problem behind Zimbabwe’s instability, a long-broken human rights culture and sequential repression, some commentators still believe he has the solutions to our countless woes. Writing in the Zimbabwe independent last Friday, Lloyd Msipa advised Mnangagwa to “be less trusting of the people who surround him in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC)” and to consult the people more.
Tau Tawengwa, writing in Nehanda Radio, believes the 76-year old, 38-year civil servant, and Zanu-PF politburo veteran, simply needs time to “flourish”. And commenting on Mnangagwa skipping the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos and the call for a national dialogue to take place on Nehanda Radio, Hopewell Chin’ono hopes “that those around him that are opposed to progress won’t block this all important initiative”.
Chino’ono, it must be said, wants civil society and political parties to gather for worthless talks on government’s ubiquitous inability to revive the economy and an endless, stubborn refusal to respect the Zimbabwean people’s right to enjoy both life and human rights – or even elect new leaders in free and fair elections.
“If we do not support the hand of the progressives in ZANUPF, we will be strengthening the hand of the chaos faction,” adds Chino’ono. But, doesn’t Mnangagwa owe his dubious presidency to the “chaos faction”, and its grubby political footwork? And who truthfully believes Mnangagwa needs more time to implement more catastrophic decisions and additional time to condemn more blameless people to more painful and premature extrajudicial deaths – again?
It’s the classic “deadwood” misinformation disseminated by Zanu-PF supporters in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Former President Robert Mugabe, if you recall, was never at fault for anything. No, no, no. No way. It was always his bungling ministers – the incompetent likes of Mnangagwa and Webster Shamu, and scheming, incompetent civil servants, the likes of the shamefully intolerant Tobaiwa Mudede – who were to blame for massive corruption, administrative inefficiencies and a dwindling economy, his admirers said.
Alternatively, it was always the likes of Ndabaningi Sithole, Western governments, faceless foreign agents, Tony Blair, George Bush, secretive saboteurs, the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai, or treasonous Zimbabweans, who were to blame for Zimbabwe’s troubles, people said. It was, quite simply, never ever Mugabe’s fault.
With time, the “deadwood” argument became the farcical, systematic justification which Mugabe used to validate disappointing and laughable cabinet reshuffles. It became the ever handy rational behind lacklustre civil service appointments and glorious vindication for rising, ubiquitous failure.
Yet all along, Mugabe, like Mnangagwa is today, was the immensely toxic, living portrayal of “deadwood” masquerading as a strong, mature and intelligent political force. Mugabe’s first loyalty – like Mnangagwa’s in 2019 – was to Zanu-PF, not to Zimbabwe – and certainly not to progressive Zimbabweans. This explains why government forces and Zanu-PF militias, both under Mnangagwa’s weak and incessantly weakening leadership, have been waging low-level wars on defenceless civilians – again.
And if there are “progressives” in Zanu-PF to dwell on, like Chino’ono claims, why haven’t they condemned the August 1 killings? Why haven’t they called for ZDF commander Valerio Sibanda and Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga to be fired? Why haven’t they resigned from their well-paying jobs – or quit Zanu-PF – in protest, and in plain disgust – at the unacceptably vile conduct of the violent and fanatical security forces under their government’s command?
And why didn’t they stand up when the July 30 election was being systematically rigged anyway? And why haven’t they, like Dzikamayi Mavhaire called on Mugabe to resign in 1998, called on Mnangagwa to go? Yes, why haven’t they, like Simba Makoni, resigned from Zanu-PF, and moved on to contribute to Zimbabwe’s development in other less prominent ways?
Chamisa must call on Mnangagwa to go
Last year, while on the presidential election campaign trail, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa said Mnangagwa would be the “happiest person because we are going to give him a lucrative pension”. Now, I know “Nero” may have meant well, but he – and all progressive-minded forces in Zimbabwe – must stop minimalizing gross human rights abuses, stop letting bygones be bygones and stop preaching forgiveness. Everyone must stop developing expedient, destructive forms of political amnesia and political leniency, all to accommodate an overwhelmingly confusing and misguided change agenda.
It will only make Chamisa, who has immense nationwide support to lean on, and a stolen presidential election victory to fully validate his moral authority on the people’s humanitarian and political desires and needs, look weak, vulnerable and desperate. Chamisa should in fact let it be known that everyone who violates the law, or orders security forces to kill innocent civilians, will definitely face the full wrath of the law when a new and lawfully elected government takes power.
Meanwhile, the MDC Alliance must rally the people behind Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions’ demonstrations and actually call on Mnangagwa to go before more people, everyday Zimbabweans like Kelvin Tinashe Choto, die at the hands of Zanu-PF’s murderous regime.