Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master movie series remains an epic watch across the globe. Ardent movie fanatics have been held rapt by the shockingly prudent stunts the renowned martial arts icon performs in the series and how he beats his opponents while in a high state of inebriation. Since a jaw-dropping video of a drunken Emmerson Mnangagwa leaked into the public domain last weekend, many Zimbabweans have been boldly swearing their putschist leader could yet give Jackie Chan a run for his money for his drunkenness if not for anything else.
ED showcased his own unique stunts in the leaked video that has gone viral in the country and beyond. The optics told their own drunken story:—- the goblin, trademark scarf was not strangling the neck as usual. In its place was an unknotted, dangling pink neck-tie that hung loosely across the old, creaking alabaster shoulders while on his face lay a sheepish, stupendous grin that betrayed a vacuously blank mind as two aides held his outstretched hands. The aides are seen accosting him to what looked like a reluctant podium that appeared not keen to host one so highly inebriated!
My 9-year old daughter Lee-Anne Tapiwanashe is a movie addict and one of her favourite blockbusters is Legend of the Drunken Master in which an intensely intoxicated Jackie Chan, who stars as Wong Fei Hung, competently dishes it out to an international criminal cartel that was underpaying Chinese workers and stealing Chinese cultural treasure.
When I watched ED’s leaked video, my mind quickly went back to Legend of the Drunken Master , a Golden Harvest Presentation produced by HongKong Stuntman Association Limited Productions. Only Mnangagwa, unlike Jackie Chan, was not dishing it out to any of his international allies in the criminal underworld who are extracting the Zimbabwe’s vast mineral resources and salting away the proceeds to their offshore accounts.
Hell no. Mnangagwa was not dishing anything out like Jackie Chan. All evidence pointed to the fact that if anything, he had dished into his old body all the beer brands that were available during that scholarship launch at State House. At that function, ED ironically proved himself an ardent scholar of the wise waters and a keen imbiber of the intoxicating products of the world’s renowned breweries. Indeed, ED may well have equally launched his own scholarship and announced—in his own unique way—his entry into the infamous alumni of world leaders who are remembered for their intense drinking habit.
Leaders that drank themselves silly
Mnangagwa has certainly not broken any new ground as a good number of African Presidents were famed imbibers. But of course, that he is not alone in this embarrassing penchant for the bottle is no defence!
Closer home, Edgar Lungu, Zambia’s recently defeated President— a key ally and friend to our own ED—drinks like a fish, including during the time he was in office. In March 2015, less than two months after taking over from Michael Sata who died in office, Lungu collapsed on the podium while presiding over a Women’s Day celebration in Lusaka. In 2013 while he was Home Affairs Minister, Lungu was exposed by fellow Patriotic Front officials who provided Zambian media with a photo of Lungu having lunch with other officials. Beneath the table on which they were having their lunch was a crate of beer.
In 2019, Lungu dismissed all reports of him being a heavy guzzler of the wise waters. While acknowledging that he did take some alcohol “with moderation”, he said reports that he was close friends with the bottle were a smear campaign by his enemies.
In May 2013, while on a visit to Ethiopia for the 50th anniversary summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, the then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan missed his slot to address the conference because he was too drunk to walk. Apparently, he had spent the entire night drinking after he received some not-so-good news about a State election loss back home in Nigeria.
Early in the year 2013, I had the privilege to accompany the then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai across Africa to meet some key Heads of State ahead of our own election in July of the same year. We met with President Jonathan late in the night in Abuja. As I sat in that meeting, I could see the red eyes and a visible restlessness characterised by a frequent clasping and unclasping of hands. With the benefit of hindsight, one could surmise that maybe, just maybe, Goodluck had had one too many that eerie night.
They say Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta just loves his whiskey. At one time, he reportedly gave a public speech while visibly drunk. In fact, they say President Kenyatta’s favourite drink is not actually beer but whisky, especially Jameson and John Walker Green Label.
In 2017, Kenyatta was photographed drinking a glass of beer at a plant where he officially opened a private brewery. He had been offered just a sip of the brew after he inspected the facility with Kenya Breweries Limited management. Instead of a simple sip, Kenyatta took one huge gulp to the surprise of everyone, draining the whole mug without flinching even once.
Uhuru’s father, Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, they say, loved roasted goat ribs downed with a glass of muratina, a traditional Kenyan honey beer.
Mwai Kibaki, a one time President of Kenya, is also famed for his frequent thirst for cold beer. In his heyday as a Cabinet minister in Daniel Arap Moi’s government, Kibaki was a regular drinker. He is known to have frequented various entertainment spots in Nairobi, including red light districts. He however was forced to quit the habit following a serious car accident in 2002.
Milton Obote, the man who led Uganda to independence in 1962 from British colonialists served as Prime Minister from 1962 to 1966 then as President from 1966 to 1971. In January 1971, Obote was ovethrown by army general Idi Amin while on a State visit to Singapore. Apollo Milton Obote died in 2005. Media reports claim he died of a stroke, or anaemia, or liver damage, or kidney failure. Other reports, however, indicate that his death could have been alcohol-related.
Obote was well known for alcoholism. President Yoweri Museveni makes reference to Obote’s drinking habits in his biography Sowing The Mustard Seed
Drunken excuses by the regime’s spin doctors
Since the leakage of ED’s drunken video last weekend, the State has offered lame and feeble excuses, including the line that the man was exhausted because of taxing diary commitments, never mind the fact that the excuses and explanations came some four days later, itself a cardinal sin in the field of political communication. The prudent image minder must occupy the narrative space first before it is colonised by detractors and naysayers!
The government’s explanations for the drunken video have ranged from the bizarre to outright lies. First was government spokesperson Nick Mangwana who waded into the fray several days after the video leak to claim that the President was not drunk but was instead walking with vigour, balance and focus. Yet in the video, we all saw an unbalanced and unfocused ED being helped to walk by aides.
But our Nick is a certified liar. He has this uncanny habit of always nicking the truth. The opposite was in fact true. ED was weary, physically and mentally unbalanced and certainly looked unfocused. Nick went laughably further to claim that ED was as sober as a judge. ED certainly did not look sober and in any case, that cliché has always been figuratively untrue when applied to Zimbabwe. As sober as a judge is a phrase that does not apply to Zimbabwe’s judges. Sobriety and the country’s judiciary are not mutually inclusive, judging by the fact that we currently have Supreme Court judges that are presiding over a case in which they are cited, they certainly cannot be deemed sober in any sense of the word.
I am not a lawyer by profession. I am a journalist and a political scientist. Yet in my strident academic pursuit, I have read and studied about a tenet of natural justice principles legally referred to as nemo judex in sua causa . This is a cardinal principle of natural justice that states that one cannot preside over their own case, confirming that the judges in question could be figuratively drunk. As a phrase, as sober as a judge becomes trite and vacuous when applied to our judiciary.
Presidential spokesman George Charamba offered a bizarre explanation, stating that the President is not a frequent imbiber of alcohol. He told us every year, ED drank beer for only half-a-year—– starting from January to June, deliberately and conveniently placing the drunken video in the beer-fasting period!
Strangely, Charamba also wants us to believe that Mnangagwa is bound by some 1978 oath by liberation war cadres to abstain from heavy drinking. Charamba must be nuts if he expects us to believe that ED, who routinely violates the country’s Constitution made and affirmed by the people in a referendum, could feel bound by an unwritten obscure pact made by drinking mates in some bush somewhere!
After all, we are used to these feeble lines of defence. In the case of Kenya, the government spindoctors claimed Kenyatta’s red eyes were not a result of too much alcohol but were caused by the sleepless nights the President spends while working for the good of the nation.
Closer home, when former strongman Robert Mugabe fell at the airport, his image minders said he was still very agile. They said he had in fact put his feet astride as he successfully sought to “break his fall.”
We are used to. fibs told by these minions of African leaders.
The pressures that justify the drinking
There are several theories that have been flying around since the video leak, including the version that ED is in fact now mentally unhinged. But I have chosen to agree with the narrative that he was drunk, which narrative appears more credible.
I perfectly understand the pressures around ED that could have sent him to the bottle: the coup coalition that is falling apart, the huge, multi-faceted crisis in the country that he is failing to solve as well as the internal challenge to his legitimacy as a Zanu-PF leader.
The case by Syberth Musengezi is no joke, not necessarily for reasons of its prospects of success in our captured courts but for purposes of its political import. When your legitimacy gets challenged both internally and externally, by both friend and foe alike, it reflects turbulent waters around him that may be difficult to navigate and that probably need the assistance of a beer to cope with.
Government has just confirmed the collapse of the Zimdollar and has agreed to pay its hard-pressed workers their bonuses in scarce forex so as to placate them.
Added to these immediate pressures around him is the growing sonorous chorus in the countryside in which the nation has converged on the mantra of # Ngaapinde Hake Mukomana, further giving him sleepless nights. The people’s President Nelson Chamisa’s successful forays into Zimbabwe’s rural hinterland have certainly added to the headache!
All these could be the pressures that have exhorted ED to the wise waters, resulting in this leaked video of shame that has made him a subject of mirth and derision.
A legacy of drunken utterances
The dictum that leaders are a reflection of their countries is now making perfect sense.
When weather-beaten Zimbabweans say ” Nyika Yadhakwa “, they could well be talking about the country’s leader ensconced at the very apex of the State.
Social media pundits have reproduced the following catalogue of Mnangagwa’s infamous statements and concluded that he could well have uttered them while under the influence:
1.After officially opening a mortuary Mnangagwa said he had placed his hand inside and felt that the temperature was OK as it was very cold, adding that he would give a prize to the first bereaved family to use the mortuary: Ndakaisa ruoko rwangu maitonhorera chaizvo . Kana watanga kupinda
ndinomupa mari .”
2. At one time, he told despondent Zimbabweans to avoid meat if they could not afford it. He instead urged them to settle for cheaper relish such as vegetables and potatoes. He hollered: “_Idyai murivoooo nemapotatooooo ”
3. At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mnangagwa drunkenly exhorted every Zimbabwean to get vaccinated. He made his public statement while smiling sheepishly: ” “Jungwai. Munhu wese anofanira kujungwa”
4. At one time, ED said the government would arrest anyone whose house was found with roaches and other creeping insects: “Tichasunga munhu wese ane musha une mapete”
5. When Zimbabweans complained of high prices of goods and services, Mnangagwa urged them to equally hike the prices of whatever they were selling themselves, adding that those who had no price to hike should hike their own trousers and pants: “Kana_ usina chokukwidza kwidza bhurungwa”
6.Upon his return from the recent COP26 summit in Scotland, where his minions appeared with trolleys laden with whiskey bottles, Mnangagwa, with the exhilaration of an impressionable teenager, told a shocked nation that at last he had shaken hands with US President Joe Biden and British Premier Boris Johnson. A rookie in the world of diplomacy, Mnangagwa naively expressed gratitude that the two leaders had smiled back at him when he greeted them: ” Ndakavakwazisa vakanyemwera”
Thanks to the leaked video, Zimbabweans now have some insight into the state ED was in when he made these infamous, drunken utterances referred to a above.
Whatever the explanation by his spin doctors, the optics of a drunken, disoriented President being helped around at a public function severely puts his person, his office and the entire country into serious disrepute.
The public image of a disoriented and blank face, dishevelled hair and a dangling tie that to all intents and purposes depict a half – dressed President is at best indecorous and does not befit a Head of State. Jan Prayzah must now change the lyrical verse associated with Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa. Whereas the theme song during ED’s pilfered entry to power in 2017 was ” Kutonga Kwaro “, Jah Prayzah must now switch the lyrical backdrop and replace it with one from his songs where he sings about ” kudhakwa foshoro ” (drinking oneself silly).
The sight of a drunk President, even one who stole an election, is just but a joke that is not funny.
Who knows with our Emmerson, there could be more stunts to come. This leaked video could yet be the launch of Zimbabwe’s own Drunken Master movie series.
Or it could equally be that Mr Mnangagwa’s taking to such heavy drinking is not his fault. It’s the sanctions stupid! His heavy drinking is most likely the work of the illegal sanctions placed on our country by imperial Europe and the United States of America!
Luke Tamborinyoka, an ardent political science scholar and award-winning journalist in his own right , is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by the people’s President Advocate Nelson Chamisa. He can be contacted through his Facebook page or via the twitter handle @ luke_tambo