By Luke Tamborinyoka
As the nation gears for peaceful political pressure in the wake of a deteriorating economic crisis and amid disturbing reports of the disappearance of US$3 billion from the national coffers without trace, it may be necessary the unpack the true nature of the avaricious cabal running the affairs of Zimbabwe.
A cabal can generally be defined as a group, a faction, a gang, a set, a confederacy or a junta.The Merriam-Webster dictionary refers to a cabal as the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot while the English Collins dictionary defines it as a clique, a set, a party or a league. Whichever definition one decides to pick, the underlying message is that a cabal is a malignant clique with an aptitude for evil schemes and desires.
Ever since the militarily-orchestrated demise of Robert Mugabe in November 2017, the current administration constantly referred in disparaging terms to what it called “the G-40 cabal”, a clique that it accused of holding hostage the former President. This G-40 cabal was reportedly fronted by former Cabinet Ministers Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwawo and the former First Lady and ZANU PF Women’s League boss, Grace Mugabe, among others.
The aim of this treatise is to show that notwithstanding the very valid framing of these close acolytes of the former President as a cabal, the very real, dangerous and fearful cabal is Team Lacoste as reflected by the unrepentant, anti-democracy and long-time associates that have conveniently regrouped and now make up President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s so-called “new” administration.
The recent brazen theft of $US3 billion through a murky agriculture programme as well as the appointment of Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo as chairperson of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission confirms that acolytes are re-grouping, further confirming George Charamba’s toxic and infamous dictum that chine vene vacho chinhu ichi (this “thing” has its owners).
Matanda-Moyo is wife to Foreign Minister Major-General (Rtd) Sibusiso Moyo, a further testimony to the now incestuous institutional relationship between the supposedly autonomous Constitutional bodies and the Executive arm of government.
The arrest yesterday of Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira who most certainly has a case to answer herself may have been an attempt by the cabal to deflect national attention from the even more dangerous kleptocrats in ED’s inner circle who have milked this country dry.
Indeed, as this piece will show, the real cabal deserving that malignant nomenclature is Mnangagwa’s government; with its like-minded characters that have a long history of standing between the people and their hope for democracy. This cabal—the Lacoste cabal–is replete with scheming and corrupt characters strewn across all sectors from the military, the criminal underworld, the civil service and business.
At the centre of this close-knit team of friends who make up the new administration has always been July Moyo, who those in the know claim has always been the chief strategist of Mnangagwa’s Lacoste faction and its enduring agenda to grab power at whatever cost. He is now the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing.
The G40 may have been a cabal but the nation must be more in terrorem of the cabal currently occupying the levers of power. It is important to state from the outset that I hold no brief for Robert Mugabe and his G40 cohorts. I have my own issues with almost all of them.
First, as the elected secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, I was the first person to take the then Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, to court way back in 2002 when I challenged what we regarded as unconstitutional and undemocratic provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), whose negative effects the media industry still feels to this very day.
As ZANU PF commissar and women’s league boss respectively, Kasukuwere and Grace Mugabe have victimized and traumatized my sister, Hon. Dorothy Mashonganyika (Zanu PF), a war veteran in her own right.
The two conspired to hound her out of her elected position as ZANU PF women’s league chairperson for Mashonaland Central province. Among the reasons for their excoriation of my sister at their party meetings was her relationship to me since our late fathers were blood brothers. The two G40 protagonists mistakenly thought that Hon. Mashonganyika was MDC simply because she is my sister, despite her having been on the war front as a ZANLA combatant when Kasukuwere was still wetting his pants at the mere sound of gunfire and helicopters!
.I used to tell Kasukuwere the times we bumped into each other that ours is not a barbaric family; that my sister and I respect each other and our common parentage, notwithstanding the fact that we belong to different political parties. We value our blood relationship more than we do our party cards. We co-exist very well, despite our stark ideological and political differences.
As proud Africans, we have not allowed our different party cards to tamper with our blood bond which we both regard as more enduring and more important.
Indeed, that is the inclusive and tolerant political dispensation that some of us aspire for and which she, as my sister, fought for when she spent over two years in the bush fighting for the liberation of this country.I am proud of her, as well as my other late sister, Acquelinah. The to beloved sisters of mine left Tamborenyoka village in Domboshava to join the war of liberation in the summer of 1978.
As for Robert Mugabe, I was arrested for the first time in my life on trumped up charges of criminally defaming him—during my other life as a journalist–on 21 January 2001. His government was to orchestrate several bombings on the offices and the printing press of The Daily News, the then audacious newspaper where I was political editor before I became the newspaper’s chief news editor, a position I left to join the MDC as the party’s Director of Information and Publicity on 28 October 2005.
So this treatise on this Lacoste team now in government as the real cabal is in no way an expression of support for G40 and its luminaries, who have all been a source of trouble for me personally and professionally over the years.
The point is I had my own issues with the G40, but I posit here that the real and more frightening confederacy is the Lacoste cabal; this alliance of callous characters now in government; indeed this close knit amity of personalities with a relationship that spans many years as they plotted together for the ultimate kill (both literally and metaphorically).
This piece will show how far back the alliances between the characters now in government have endured and will make obvious why the appointment of officials into Mnangagwa’s administration is not a mere coincidence.
The first indictment on the Mnangagwa administration as a cabal is the UN Report on the Plundering of the Democratic Republic of the Congo natural resources, a report done by the UN Panel of Experts (S/2002/1146).
The report names what it calls an “elite network” of politicians that was at the centre of plundering the resources of the DRC. Named in the report are Emmerson Mnangagwa, then the Speaker of Parliament as well as Sibusiso Buso Moyo, then the director general of COSLEG, a Congo-Zimbabwe Joint Stock company that was a vehicle of the military-backed commerce involving mostly diamonds, banking and timber in the government-backed areas. The report also names Perrence Shiri, now Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement.
The damning UN report reads in part: “The key strategist of the Zimbabwe branch of the elite network is the Speaker of Parliament and former national security Minister Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa……..A long time ally of president Robert Mugabe, Air Marshall Perrence Shiri has been involved in military procurement, and organizing air support for the pro-Kinshasa armed groups fighting in the eastern DRC………
“Other prominent members of the elite network include brigadier-general Sibusiso Busi Moyo, who is director-general of COSLEG. Brigadier Moyo advised both Tremalt and Oryx Natural Resources which represented covert Zimbabwean military and financial interests in negotiations with State mining companies of the DRC.”
Given this association in what the UN alleges to be criminal activities in the DRC some 17 years ago, it is no wonder that Mnangagwa picked Moyo to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs in his Cabinet. This is the same Moyo who became a news anchor overnight and announced the military take-over on state radio and television in the last hours of Mugabe’s reign. Shiri is also now a Minister in the new administration and one begins to get a feel of what amounts to the regrouping of a cabal.
And now Moyo’s wife has the onerous task of investigating corruption when her own husband is neck-deep in the cesspool of nefarious activities in the unbridled pursuit of avarice and self-aggrandizement. Just as ZACC is questioning the likes of Mupfura, the nation expects them to exuding the same zeal with those who plundered the diamonds in the DRC and in Marange as well those at the centre of the disappearance of $3 billion through the murky Command Agriculture programme.
The net may as well end up in Matanda-Moyo’s very own matrimonial bed!
If one adds other shadowy characters named in the UN report on the plunder of DRC mineral resources—personalities that are friends with Mnangagwa, among them Ahmed Said Thamer al Shanfari and John Arnold Bredenkamp, then the cabal becomes a full cast!
The same UN report also implicates the then Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeramayi. It was Sekeramayi who wrote a memorandum to Mugabe in 2002 proposing that a joint company between the ZDF and DRC be set up in Mauritius to disguise the nefarious military activities in the Congo. Given the revelations in the UN report and his links with this junta, it is by no means surprising that despite being touted as the G40 presidential candidate after Mugabe, Sekeramayi has been spared any form of arrest or harassment by the junta now in charge of the country.
Sekeramayi, who continues to sit in Mnangagwa’s Politburo despite losing his Ministerial post, remains a troublesome but delicate irritant, like a mosquito perched on the scrotum. You have to be careful how you squash it or else you injure yourself!
Sekeramayi knows a lot and he can’t be harassed, even though the G-40 team had framed him as a presidential frontrunner after Mugabe.
Thus, Mnangagwa has an enduring relationship with the army and some of the military characters who stopped a transition in 2008. After all, the rabid war cry of “27 June vaMugabe muoffice” when Mugabe lost the 2008 election was a military operation fronted by Mnangagwa as the Minister of Defence and as Mugabe’s chief election agent. It is this cabal that has reunited in the current administration and is desperate for some semblance of legitimacy in the forthcoming election. They have waited too long for this!
It must not be forgotten that at while Mugabe was holding a press conference at State House on Friday 30 July 2013 on the eve of the 2013 plebiscite, it was Mnangagwa who pitched up on the State House lawn while the presser was taking place, with none other than Emmanuel Antebbi. Antebbi was the chief executive of NIKUV International, the Israeli company at the centre of the pilferage of the people’s will in Zimbabwe’s last election.
It is anyone’s guess why Mnangagwa had brought this mysterious man to Mugabe on the eve of an election!
Reports say NIKUV International had been paid by proceeds from diamonds extracted from the army’s claims given to the military by one Obert Mpofu, then the Minister of Mines. Mnangagwa was the Minister of Defence and it is no wonder that Mpofu, who himself bought a bank for $23 million with a salary of less than US$5 000 when he was Minister of Mines, as named the Minister of Home Affairs in the Mnangagwa’s administration soon after the coup.
Talk of the regrouping of a cabal!
Notwithstanding Mpofu’s murky and shady past, it was him charged under the Mnangagwa administration at its inception with policing and arresting “the criminal elements around the former President!” soon after the 2017 coup de tat.
Talk of expecting a mosquito to cure malaria!
Even as Mpofu’s name has been on the list of corrupt top officials released by the Zanu PF Youth League, the man continues to occupy his top post at the party headquarters, well aware that the much-vaunted charges will eventually come to nothing.
From 2008 to the current dispensation, there is a sonorous chorus for media reforms as a key condition for a free, fair and credible election. For a long time the only constant human factor at the Ministry charged with the responsibility of ensuring these reforms take place was one George Charamba, my brother and totem-mate. Charamba has played hardball in implementing these reforms.
He is now the deputy chief Secretary (Presidential Communications), probably angling to take over from one Misheck Sibanda, a close relative of Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Charamba has a long history with the Lacoste faction which stretches back to the Tsholotsho debacle in 2004. It is now public knowledge that it was Charamba, as the accounting officer and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information who hired the helicopter that transported the ZANU PF chairpersons to Dinyane secondary school, the venue of the attempted putsch in 2004.
His former boss, Jonathan Moyo, later told us that it was Charamba, as the accounting officer in the Information ministry, who authorized the payment of $9 780 750 for the helicopter and even helped secure clearance for it. According to Moyo, it was Charamba who authorized the hiring of the helicopter for two days after he had reportedly written Mnangagwa’s speech, which was eventually delivered in Tsholotsho by Chinamasa on November 18, 2004.
No wonder until his shunting to the OPM sometime last year, Charamba had occupied three powerful posts. He was the de facto Minister of Information, the permanent secretary as well as the presidential spokesperson.
This is the same Charamba who was fingered in the PSMAS multi-million corruption scandal where he received $200 000 in sitting allowances at a time the medial aid society owed creditors $119 million and was failing to dispense cervices to struggling civil servants who religiously paid their monthly subscriptions.
Charamba has a long history with the Lacoste cabal which is why some of us wondered aloud whether he was a Mugabe emissary or a representative of the interests of the military junta in the Father Mukonori-led negotiations in the last hours of the former President’s tenure. Mugabe may have regarded his spokesperson as his man but, as I wrote a few weeks ago, Charamba was running with the hare and hunting with the hounds!
Also in Mnangagwa’s Office is his nephew, one Misheck Sibanda, who has continued to be the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet.
Mines minister Winston Chitando is yet another close ally of Mnangagwa and if one considers his reported amorous relationship with Priscilla Chigumba, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, then the incest between the supposedly independent chapter 12 institutions and the Executive becomes scandalous.
Emmerson’s friend from Kwekwe, Owen Ncube, his chief enforcer among the amakaorokozas in Kwekwe is the Minister of State Security of the Republic. The State and its secrets are now in the hands of close buddies.
Quite clearly, competence was never a factor of consideration during the appointments.
If you add Mnangagwa’s associates in the military, even in the wake of the reported fall-out with Chiwenga, you have a full-fledged cabal that has regrouped in the so called new dispensation. Remember there are also shadowy military characters in the ZEC secretariat, which ZEC committed the infamous boob of revising downwards its own Presidential election figures a record three times in the last plebiscite.
Added to all this is Tongai Mnangagwa, the MP for Harare South, who is Mnangagwa’s son.
And Monica Mutsvangwa, the Minister of Information was Emmerson’s Personal Assistant long back when Mnangagwa was the Minister of State Security in the 1980s.
I wish to stop here before I make any further allegations that will be construed to be scandalous and defamatory.
In short, Mnangagwa’s administration is a regrouping of sorts, with relatives and long-time friends across the sectors re-uniting to form a formidable cabal that is desperate for legitimacy in the next election.
It was clear before the 2018 polls that if this cabal could steal it for Mugabe 11 years ago in 2008 when it was several feet away from real power, how far could they go in the scenario where they were set to be the immediate and direct beneficiaries of any electoral pilferage?
Indeed—The Mnangagwa administration–The Regrouping of a corrupt Cabal could very much be an interesting thesis and fascinating subject of academic inquiry.
The sobering fact is that notwithstanding the numerous pyrrhic victories that the various cabals the world over may appear to have temporarily scored, in the end, the people have always reigned supreme!
#God Is In It.
Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka is the Deputy National Spokesperson of the MDC. He is a multiple award-winning journalist and an ardent political scientist. You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @luke_tambo.
This is a revised version of an op-ed by the same author that was published on 30 January 2018