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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Emmerson Mnangagwa – The Archbishop of the corrupt, criminal elite around him

By Luke Tamborinyoka

They say a fish rots from the head.

As Emmerson Mnangagwa and the First family make shrill noises about the litany of corruption allegations in which they are being implicated, claiming they are just but mere victims of an avaricious, name-dropping criminal elite, one will always find it very difficult to absolve them.

Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka
Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka

It is always very difficult for a leader to dissociate himself from the criminal elite that surrounds them, for they say any leadership is defined by the very people that surrounds it. And Mnangagwa’s has been monumentally tainted by a corrupt inner circle of relatives and acolytes that has been been the hallmark of his tenuous leadership.

Take for example the recent case of the 6kgs of gold bullion found on Henrietta Rushwaya, a Mnangagwa relative, at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International airport.

Just how do you absolve the President himself in a case that has sucked in his wife, his son Collins and his close security team that includes Stephen Tserayi, Gift Karanda and Rafius Mupandauya? Just who could have the guts to needlessly name-drop figures in the First family when they are aware of the grievous consequences that could befall them, especially given ED’s malignant character and his infamous blood-soaked legacy?

There is simply no smoke without fire and the well-choreographed airport heist certainly had a political principal behind it. If these Mnangagwa acolytes fingered in recent corruption scandals were the deacons in the well-publicised incidences of avarice and sleaze, then there certainly has to be an archbishop in this church of criminal activities.

And one just can’t absolve the First family from providing papal services to these nefarious activities. It’s so tragic for a man who rose to power after waxing lyrical about what his proxies alleged to be a corrupt and criminal G40 cabal that surrounded former President Robert Mugabe. Ironically, this has turned out to be a worse cabal, nay a corrupt coterie of close associates. Indeed, corruption has been redefined anew under the corrupt cabal of the so–called new dispensation.

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, corrupt clique with an aptitude for evil schemes and desires.

Ever since the militarily-orchestrated demise of Robert Mugabe in November 2017, the new administration constantly referred in disparaging terms to what it called “the G40 cabal”, a clique that it accused of holding hostage the former President. This G40 cabal was reportedly fronted by former Cabinet Ministers Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and the former First Lady and ZANU PF Women’s League boss, Grace Mugabe, among others.But the new man himself has been held hostage by an avaricious elite of a worse disposition.

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 and dangerously corrupt cabal is the new team now in charge as reflected by the unrepentantly corrupt, anti-democracy and long-time criminal associates that have conveniently regrouped and now make up Emmerson Mnangagwa’s so-called “new” administration.

Indeed, as this piece will show, the real corrupt cabal is this team in government; with its like-minded characters that have a long history of corruption and standing between the people and their hope for democracy. This cabal—the Mnangagwa cabal–is replete with scheming characters strewn across a vast labyrinth of sectors that range from business, the military, the criminal underworld, the civil service.

At the centre of this team has always been July Moyo, who those in the know claim has always been the chief strategist of Mnangagwa’s faction and its enduring agenda to grab power at whatever cost. He is now the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing who has himself corruptly usurped the functions of elected local authorities in flagrant violation of section 274 of the Constitution.

It is important to state from the outset that I hold no brief for Robert Mugabe and his G40 equally corrupt cohorts. I had my own issues with Robert Mugabe and his G40.

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 victimized and traumatized my sister, Hon. Dorothy Mashonganyika, 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.

My relationship to Zanu PF’s Hon. Mashonganyika is that our late fathers were blood brothers. The two G40 protagonists, Grace and Tyson, mistakenly thought that Mai Mashonganyika was MDC simply because she is my sister, despite her being a staunch Zanu PF member, 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 few 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 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 two Chiheras 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 Friday, 19 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 team now in government as the really dangerous and more corrupt cabal is in no way a vindication 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 have my own issues with the G40, but I posit here that the real and more frightening confederacy is ED’s violent and corrupt cabal; this insidious alliance of callous characters now in government; indeed this closely-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 corrupt characters now in government have endured and will make obvious why the appointment of certain characters into Mnangagwa’s administration was not a mere coincidence. Cronyism and villagism are into themselves a form of corruption.

The Moyos are Mnangagwa’s maternal uncles and these include Obadiah Moyo, the former Health Minister currently facing charges of graft in which the First Family has once again been fingered.The other Moyos, his uncles, that Mnangagwa appointed into his government include CIO director-general Isaac Moyo and AFZ head, Air Marshall Elson Moyo.

If one adds the criminal lot of the likes of Delish Nguwaya and ED’s top associate Kudakwashe Tagwireyi, who was implicated in the more than US$3 billion Command Agriculture programme and who appears to have a finger in every corrupt pie, one begins to appreciate the murky dimension of the corrupt team around the President; the team to whom he can only be the archbishop!

Perhaps the first indictment on Emmerson Mnangagwa as archbishop of corruption is the UN Report on the Plundering of the Democratic Republic of the Congo natural resources , a report done by the United Nations 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 Perrance Shiri, later to be appointed 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 Perrance 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 20 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. The late Shiri was also a Minister in the new administration after the November 2017 coup and one begins to get a feel of what amounts to the regrouping of a really corrupt cabal.

If one adds other shadowy characters named in the UN report—personalities that are friends with Mnangagwa, among them Ahmed Said Thamer al Shanfari and the late John Arnold Bredenkamp, then the criminal elite network becomes a full cast!

The same UN report also implicates the then Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeramayi. The report states that 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 and highly corrupt 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 corrupt elite 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, more 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 G40 team had framed him as a presidential frontrunner after Mugabe.

Thus, Mnangagwa has an enduring relationship with the army and some of the corrupt military characters who stopped a transition in 2008. After all, the rabid war cry of “27 June vaMugabe muoffice ” when Mugabe had lost the first-round 2008 poll was a military operation fronted by Mnangagwa as the Minister of Defence and as Mugabe’s chief election agent.

It is this malignant cabal fronted by Mnangagwa himself that has reunited in the current administration and that is now saddled with allegations of systemic corruption. They have waited too long for this and no can dare disturb their time to eat!

It must not be forgotten that while Mugabe was holding a press conference at State House on Friday, 30 July 2013, just on the eve of the 2013 election, it was Mnangagwa who pitched up on the State House lawn while the presser was taking place, accompanied by 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 2013 election. Mnangagwa was therefore the archbishop of that huge electoral heist, having commanded the surreptitious payments to Nikuv International.

It is anyone’s guess why Mnangagwa had brought this mysterious man to Mugabe on the eve of an election!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 in those heady days bought a bank for US$23 million while earning a salary of less than US$5 000 when he was Minister of Mines. Mnangagwa appointed Mpofu the Minister of Home Affairs after the coup, charged with the onerous responsibility of bringing justice to all criminals and corrupt goons.

Surely, how !could a mosquito be entrusted with curing malaria?

From 2008 to the current dispensation, there has been 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. Charanba, now the Deputy Chief Secretary (Communications) in the Office of the President and Cabinet, played hardball in implementing media reforms.

Charanba, himself accused of looting well over US$200 000 in the PSMAS corruption scandal, is one man with a long history with Mnangagwa, which stretches back to the Tsholotsho debacle in 2004. It is now public knowledge that it was Charamba, then as the accounting officer and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Publicity, 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 also reportedly written Mnangagwa’s speech, which speech was eventually delivered in Tsholotsho by Chinamasa on November 18, 2004. No wonder my brother until very recently occupied three powerful posts. Until his shunting to the OPC, Charamba was the de facto Minister of Information, the permanent secretary as well as presidential spokesperson all rolled .into one.

By dint of Charanba’s long-standing history as a Mnangagwa acolyte, it was no wonder 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 Charamba could have been running with the hare and hunting with the hounds!

Also in Mnangagwa’s Office is his cousin, one Misheck Sibanda, who has continued to be the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet. Phillip Valerio Sibanda, yet another Mnangagwa cousin, is now the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

If one were to add Mnangagwa’s associates in the military, which military has gone beyond the barracks and is now in the presidium, in Cabinet, in the party commissariat and at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, among other strategic institutions, you have a full-fledged cabal that has regrouped in the so called new but very corrupt dispensation.

In short, the new administration is a regrouping of sorts, with relatives and long-time friends across the sectors re-uniting to form a formidable criminal cabal.

The multi-million dollar question ahead of the last pilfered election was: If this cabal could steal it for Mugabe when it was several feet away from real power, how far could it go in a scenario where they were set to be the immediate and direct beneficiaries?

Our consolation as a nation ahead of 2023 – – – especially in this month of November— is that if through sheer tenacity we survived and politically outlived Mugabe, then we can surely survive and outlive this regrouped criminal cabal!

Without sounding complacent, the person of Emmerson Mnangagwa has never been votable and his electoral chances will always lie somewhere between nil and zero, in the absence of electoral shenanigans and the whiff of condign power.

As ZANU PF prepares to field the archbishop again in 2023 , the MDC Alliance could mischievously consider throwing into the fray one Blessing Chebundo, the man who twice defeated Mnangagwa in Kwekwe until he sought political succour and comfort in the rural safety of Chirumanzu-Zibagwe. For Mnangagwa’s political peer in the MDC Alliance, who defeated him anyway, is Blessing Chebundo. Nelson Chamisa was always too much of an overkill.

It appears that Mnangagwa is surrounded by a criminal lot, apart from the fact that he has himself been publicly named by the United Nations as having the chief architect, nay the archbishop, in the criminal plunder of the resources in the DRC.

As Robert Mugabe and his cronies plundered the country’s resources, with Mnangagwa himself as a key sidekick, the man appears to have been wallowing in silence while bidding his time to also bring his own cronies to the dinner table to plunder Zimbabwe’s milk and honey.

During the era of Mugabe, Mnangagwa appears to have been angling for the day he would bring his own family, kinsmen and associates to the fore to plunder the country.

Dai ndirini ndigere paya
Deno ndaive ini ndiripo paya
Ndairidza huwi ndodaidzira vamwe vangu
Kuno kwabikwa dopiro akomana
Huyai mese , huyai tinombore

Mnangagwa is now President, illegitimately of course. But that is a trifle matter to this criminal lot. What matters is that fate has blessed the archbishop. And true to Leonard Zhakata’s lyrics, he has now invited his family and fellow criminal congregants to partake of the country’s honeycomb!

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa . He is a multiple award-winning journalist who was once elected and served as the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.

Tamborinyoka also served as spokesperson for almost 10 years to the country’s democracy icon , Morgan Tsvangirai , until the latter’s death in 2018 . He is an ardent political scientist who won the Book Prize for Best Student when he graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree in Political Science at the University of Zimbabwe.

You can interact with him on Facebook or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo .