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Godfrey Tsenengamu and Lewis Matutu: Zanu-PF ‘rebels’ without a cause

By Tafi Mhaka

The suspension of Lewis Matutu and Godfrey Tsenengamu from Zanu-PF for labelling Sakunda Holdings chairman Kuda Tagwirei, Green Fuels boss Billy Rautenbach and top ruling party officials as corrupt and denouncing gold smuggling is no surprise.

Tafi Mhaka is a Johannesburg-based writer and commentator. His debut novel, Mutserendende: The African in Us, is scheduled for release in 2020. Follow him on @tafimhaka / tafi.mhaka
Tafi Mhaka is a Johannesburg-based writer and commentator. His debut novel, Mutserendende: The African in Us, is scheduled for release in 2020. Follow him on @tafimhaka / tafi.mhaka

Neither is the fact that the former Zanu-PF youth leaders chose to air out their grievances as private citizens at a press conference held at the Media Centre in Harare, and not at Zanu-PF headquarters.

Why didn’t they, as one would expect in a normal, healthy democracy, approach the Competition and Tariff Commission, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), or the Zimbabwe Republic Police for help? Or why didn’t they air out their various complaints through Zanu-PF’s politburo or central committee structures?

The duo cast considerable doubt on the integrity of the Judicial Services Commission and ZACC, and questioned the efficacy of the Command Agriculture Programme; however they didn’t explain how Tagwirei compromised a purportedly well-regarded farming scheme, or indeed elaborate on what wider political constituency possibly stands to profit from capturing a vital agricultural scheme.

After all, Matutu and Tsenengamu did spend much of 2019 blaming Zimbabwe’s economic and political troubles on the MDC Alliance and EU/US sanctions and participating in dubious political marches in Harare, Johannesburg and New York.

Indeed, they spent an inordinately extraordinary amount of time intimidating MDC Alliance supporters, threatening to go to war and vowing to die for an ostensibly God-given President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The Zanu PF youth league
The Zanu PF youth league

Yet, they resurfaced on Wednesday, rebranded as progressive, caring democrats to the hilt, pretending to be rebels with a political cause and appearing reasonably well informed and visibly disturbed by the widespread consequences of corrupt, anticompetitive business practices on Zimbabwe’s economy.

Yet they truly appeared hypocritical and largely inadequate in substance. The improbable myth about a Zanu-PF rebel fighting for people’s rights and safeguarding Zimbabwe’s democracy and economy is fast running short of legs to stand on.

The mind boggling fallacy of a Zanu-PF dissident practically misunderstood, wronged and wounded after an unjustified pounding from undemocratic, compromised and unpatriotic ruling party heavyweights has evolved into a recurring and repulsive populist hoax.

It’s exactly what carried Mnangagwa to power in November 2017, and landed Zimbabwe this hopeless regime. So the only mildly laudable feature of Matutu and Tsenengamu’s public considerations and consequent one-year suspensions is the unintended admission that Zanu-PF allows no genuine freedom of thought or speech and incompetence and corruption affect everyone irrespective of political affiliation and locality. However, everything else carelessly declared on Monday, borders on advancing a political fantasy.

Like many powerful, wealthy and prominent Zimbabweans closely associated with Mnangagwa, Zanu-PF or top government officials, Matutu and Tsenengamu, for whatever reason, have a problem publicly acknowledging the buck really stops with the president and ruling party.

Tsenengamu and Mututu’s false outrage over people ‘stealing from our country’, while claiming Mnangagwa is definitely ‘not captured’, is disingenuous and unquestionably the overriding reason why Zimbabwe has remained politically and economically stagnant since President Robert Mugabe’s forced resignation.

Zanu-PF is not big on shouldering culpability, stamping out corruption or managing government-owned organisations professionally: look at how the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Air Zimbabwe, to name just two, have been woefully mismanaged over the years, and look at how Mnangagwa has failed to revive them or create favourable conditions conducive for global investment and meaningful economic regeneration.

President Mnangagwa consoles Mr Kudakwashe Tagwirei while flanked by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga before the burial of the businessman's father, Sekuru Phineas Tagwirei, in Shurugwi yesterday. - (Picture by John Manzongo)
President Mnangagwa consoles Mr Kudakwashe Tagwirei while flanked by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga before the burial of the businessman’s father, Sekuru Phineas Tagwirei, in Shurugwi in 2018. – (Picture by John Manzongo)

Besides, cartels don’t materialise or operate in a vacuum: who licenced Tagwirei and Rautenbach’s companies? Who’s in charge of supervising the energy and mining sectors? Who controls our borders and polices the inflows and outflows of precious minerals, goods and foreign currency?

And what’s stopped Mnangagwa from downsizing the army, reforming the CIO and creating an elite, professional crime fighting force to handle modern crimes? What’s actually stopped Mnangagwa from demanding unparalleled excellence from ministers and high-ranking civil servants?

While Mnangagwa may not be corrupt, he certainly hasn’t demonstrated a strong, creative and unwavering ability to fight corruption, reform Zanu-PF’s old, unproductive ways in government or introduce solid economic change. Still, the Zanu-PF Youth league remains hopelessly obsessed with glorifying a lacklustre politician who has clearly failed to improve Zimbabwe.

This is the enduring weakness of all self-proclaimed Zanu-PF rebels nowadays. Former ministers Saviour Kasukuwere and Patrick Zhuwao have upheld their misplaced faith in Mugabe’s so-called revolutionary and democratic credentials, from exile in South Africa, just as Matutu and Tsenengamu have retained faith in Mnangagwa’s cryptic leadership skills, as Zimbabwe’s economy fails further.

Protecting the illusory inviolability of the presidency at all costs is the very reason why Zimbabwe has remained a haemorrhaging pariah, and one of the world’s most underperforming and poorest countries.

Rebels, by nature, will oppose an unjust system – they won’t protect and admire its leader out of fear or for personal gain. Edgar Tekere, a founding member of Zanu-PF, despised corruption, spoke truth to power in the early 1980s and challenged Mugabe; for his troubles the late national hero was expelled from Zanu-PF, and went on to spend a lifetime relatively ordinary and powerless.

But today’s self-promoting dissidents are unlike Tekere. They have rebelled against the founding constitutional values of Zimbabwe and people’s humble aspirations, not Zanu-PF. Instead of simply ‘fighting’ businessmen empowered by Zanu-PF’s patronage system, they should stop beating around the bush and fight Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF’s faltering leadership.

Only when Zanu-PF members develop the character to challenge their party leaders in public will political and economic change become a probability.

Only when progressive Zanu-PF members have the conviction to speak openly on the irreparable harm caused by disputed elections, bad governance, unworkable economic policies, corruption and weak, failed leadership will change begin to happen.

Tafi Mhaka is a Johannesburg-based writer and commentator. His debut novel, Mutserendende: The African in Us, is scheduled for release in 2020. Follow him on @tafimhaka / tafi.mhaka

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