By Tendai Kamhungira
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday gave a rare personal insight into his early life, during which he was involved in subversive activities after seeing his dreams of becoming a pilot frustrated by the racial politics of the time.
The 76-year-old Zanu PF leader also told youths who attended a two-day conference in Harare how his family had subsequently been banished from Zimbabwe by the minority Rhodesian government that was in power then — which saw them settling in Zambia.
“That’s when I changed from wanting to be a pilot and joined Unip (the United National Independence Party) of Kenneth Kaunda in 1959.“ Yes I am a lawyer, but I never designed to become a lawyer, circumstances forced me to become a lawyer.
“I do not say it’s good to be expelled, but I was expelled from college in 1960 because we had burnt a house of one of the lecturers.
“So, I became a political activist at that age and my desire was to become a soldier and indeed (this happened) in 1962,” Mnangagwa said.
“I was taken by Zapu to go to Tanganyika, Tanzania now, where we were sent for training in Egypt and subsequently China, and then graduated in 1964.
“So, that was my desire to be a soldier and I achieved that … Down the line I got arrested … sentenced to death, survived because of technicalities in terms of age.
“At the time, the legal age of majority was 21 … and at the time I was under 21. So, I was saved from hanging and my colleagues were executed,” Mnangagwa added.
He later joined other nationalists such as ousted former president Robert Mugabe in the liberation struggle, which led to Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in April 1980.
During this latter period, the Zanu PF leader was a personal assistant to Mugabe in Mozambique. And until the increasingly frail nonagenarian fell from power through a military coup in November 2017, Mnangagwa had known and worked with him for nearly 55 years.
Mnangagwa also told the gathered youths yesterday that his government was working hard to create opportunities for them to play prominent roles in the government’s ambitious 2030 vision, which would see the creation of a thriving middle class in the country.
During the meeting, which was attended by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and vice president Constantino Chiwenga, Mnangagwa also said the government was alive to the many needs and challenges facing the youths. “Since the advent of the Second Republic, I have pronounced that I am a listening president and that I am open for dialogue.
“I continuously encourage us to live in harmony, peace, unity, love and tolerance … no matter our differences or our persuasions.
“In addition, one of the values under vision 2030 and also enshrined in the Constitution is participatory decision-making, where citizens participate on issues that affect them,” the president said.
Mnangagwa also said the establishment of the Empowerment Bank and the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank was meant to achieve a “jobs revolution” in the country. He further referred to the recently launched India-Africa Incubation Centre as being aimed at equipping young people with entrepreneurial skills to start their own companies.
“My administration is revamping vocational training centres, which together with polytechnic colleges must be the engine rooms for artisans who will practically drive industrialisation in our country.
“This will further ensure that school leavers and graduates of tertiary institutions acquire appropriate entrepreneurial skills.
“Those young people in our universities should also fully utilise incubation hubs established in these institutions to nurture and grow innovative ideas,” Mnangagwa said. Zimbabwe is currently in the throes of a debilitating economic crisis which has deepened poverty levels and also limited employment opportunities, particularly for first time job seekers.
Since winning the country’s hotly-contested elections last year, Mnangagwa and his government have battled to put the economy back on track. The frustrations of long-suffering Zimbabweans boiled over in January this year when tens of thousands of people flooded the streets after heeding calls for a stay-away by labour unions.
As a result, police and soldiers engaged in running battles with protesters, which saw up to 20 people being killed in the ensuing mayhem. Property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was also destroyed and looted in the chaos.
At the same time, security forces subsequently unleashed a brutal crackdown against the protesters, the opposition and civil society leaders, in a move which received wide condemnation in the country and around the world. Daily News