A dismissal that changed course of Zim’s history
Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
The band played on. Feverishly. Madly. Deafening sounds and wet, clammy bodies gyrating against each other in lustful, prodigal passions.
Zimbabwe was enthralled by a mad political spectacle. It was the year 2017.
The ruling zanu-pf party was headed for yet another rapture – the second in three years.
Hawks connected to the then president Robert Mugabe bared their talons and would occasionally swoop on political prey with ravenous regularity. Prey was easy to identify: it was anyone and everyone that was opposed to Mr Mugabe and his garrulous wife.
Mrs Mugabe was being primed to take over from her ageing husband, and why not, she would gloat, she was qualified to!
The Mugabe dynasty was upon the land – and we could all do no jack about it. That was the contempt with which the Mugabes viewed people of lesser tribes and gods.
They were unconquerable – and a song was sung to that effect.
This time, the prey was the Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a man reputed to have served as Mugabe’s trusted lieutenant for about half a century. Vilifying Mnangagwa and making him political prey had an air of déjà vu. We had been down that road before.
When, in 2014, Mrs Mugabe was deployed to destroy Joice Mujuru – then Vice President – she did it in a fashion that had not been witnessed in the history of the revolutionary party, especially targeting a woman that was widely expected to be the next leader of the Republic using language, tone and innuendo that were completely alien to mainstream politics and the otherwise decent discourse of Zimbabweans.
The strategy was two-fold: attacking Mujuru for seeking to undermine Mugabe and discrediting her as a leader.
Her husband came first – and up to the time of the fall of the Mugabe dynasty experiment, she hailed the President as a humble, honest and God-fearing leader. This can be traced to her Mazowe Children’s Home meetings, which set the tone for the ubiquitous rallies that she and her husband used to destroy political opponents.
Mrs Mugabe would say her husband was chosen by God and people must patiently wait for their turn and desist from backbiting their leaders.
Those that followed the juggernaut at the time noted its dominant themes: criminalising ambition, accusations of dishonesty and criminality, personal attacks on morality and impropriety and the invocation of God.
From October of that year attacks on Mujuru come thick and fast; direct, vulgar and furious.
By October 16, in Bindura, venue of her penultimate rally, Mrs Mugabe said: “The person leading factions is the same person who accuses me of being involved in diamond deals, yet it is them that own a diamond mine. That person also moves around saying I want to acquire money using unscrupulous means when it is known that I started my businesses from scratch.
“It is that same person who goes around demanding 10 percent shareholding in companies. If you go to any company now, the name of that person is mentioned. You lead factions, you extort companies and you are involved in illicit diamond deals, so you cannot say you are not corrupt.”
She did not name any names – but did it matter? She revealed that she had encouraged Mugabe to “baby-dump” Mujuru.
On the last leg of Meet the People Tour, Grace finished off Mujuru.
“We have said the moment of truth will come,” she declared. “When the truth has been told and people zero in on you, it’s your problem because it’s you who started it.”
On October 24, she openly challenged Mujuru to resign saying: “I am giving free advice to my friend here that being fired from work is not good. She must resign . . . The final push is coming and she will be openly told that, ‘You have failed; go and rest!’ Isn’t it that you have a farm? Go and grow tobacco because there are those who have enough craving for it and you must have time to look after your grandchildren.”
On October 31, Joice Mujuru’s key ally, Jabulani Sibanda, was kicked out as the chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association after he was accused of conspiring with Americans.
In a fortnight, Mujuru’s other allies such as Rugare Gumbo, the party spokesperson; and Ray Kaukonde, were ousted.
In the following days, Mujuru was barred by the Mashonaland Central Provincial Elections Directorate from nomination into the Central Committee. This meant that she would not be eligible for a position in the Politburo – and possible appointment as Vice President.
It was game over for Mujuru and her allies. The December 2014 Congress in Harare, from which Mujuru absented herself, sealed her fate.
She was expelled only in April the following year.
Termination of Employment as Vice President
IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF ZIMBABWE AMENDMENT NUMBER 20 OF 2013, SECTION 329 OF THE 6TH SCHEDULE, PARAGRAPH 14, SUB-PARAGRAPH (2), HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT R.G. MUGABE, HAS EXERCISED HIS POWERS TO RELIEVE HONOURABLE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC E.D. MNANGAGWA, OF HIS POSITION AS VICE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZIMBABWE WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT. IT HAD BECOME EVIDENT THAT HIS CONDUCT IN THE DISCHARGE OF HIS DUTIES HAD BECOME INCONSISTENT WITH HIS OFFICIAL RESPONSIBILITIES. THE VICE PRESIDENT HAS CONSISTENTLY AND PERSISTENTLY EXHIBITED TRAITS OF DISLOYALTY, DISRESPECT, DECEITFULNESS AND UNRELIABILITY. HE HAS ALSO DEMONSTRATED LITTLE PROBITY IN THE EXECUTION OF HIS DUTIES.
That is the notice that changed the course of Zimbabwe’s history. Date: November 6, 2017.
The deed had been done.
It was a culmination of actions that were meant to push out the Vice President with Mrs Mugabe leading the hounds that drew blood from Mugabe’s No. 2. Countrywide rallies – dubbed the Youth Interface Rallies – had been conducted in all but one province where Mnangagwa’s “sins” were exposed, justifying his political lynching.
The tempo had increased with marked desperation. Something had to give.
“Did I err to appoint Cde Mnangagwa as my deputy?” an angry Mugabe asked during a rally in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, on this November 4, 2017.
“If I did, tell me and I can take him down as early as tomorrow,” declared the livid and all-powerful Head of State and Commander In Chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
The Rubicon has been crossed. Mugabe is super angry. Many people have never seen him thus even in his rants against the opposition and white people.
The one thing that has made him this angry is the jeering that his wife has been subjected to by a section of the crowd. Mnangagwa was accused of sponsoring the crowd.
In the next couple of days, the nation is in desperate suspense.
On November 6, amid swirling rumours around the impending dismissal of Mnangagwa, he reportedly tries to tender his resignation during a security briefing but his letter is turned down by Mugabe.
Resignation not accepted. Just as Mugabe did not allow Joice Mujuru to step down when it became clear that her time was up.
Mugabe wants to exact maximum humiliation and damage on his victim.
It is Mugabe himself that must deliver the blow and there is a media frenzy around a scheduled press conference to be addressed by Mugabe at State House at two o’clock.
The nation is on tenterhooks as it waits for the Final Hour.
Journalists flock to the State House – the colonial white building under a red tile roof, No. 1 Chancellor Avenue, Borrowdale – but the journalists are turned away by mean-looking security personnel.
There are also rumours that war veterans, key supporters of Mnangagwa, are to have their press conference at three while at six Mnangagwa will hold his own – all in robust response to any actions that may be taken by Mugabe and in light of the growing tensions within the ruling party.
Two o’clock passes, as does three.
It is expected that Mnangagwa will make a statement at six, but a key member in his office refutes the report as part of the wave of fake news that have flooded the cyberspace.
But at 5 o’clock, cometh the hour.
Information Minister and Zanu-PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo reads the notice. He refuses to take questions afterwards.
“I shall return to Zimbabwe to lead you”
The firing of Mnangagwa set off a train of events that would change the course of the country, birthing the “Second Republic”.
Mnangagwa fled the country after his sacking.
He has narrated how he was tipped off by a sympathetic security detail that he would be executed that night by hanging at his house to give the impression of a suicide.
He made good his escape, going through Mozambique to South Africa.
On November 8, he wrote a long statement from exile in which he assured the nation of his safety and his vision once his travails were over.
He said, after setting straight the record of his service to the nation and its leader: “I leave this post for now I encourage all loyal members of the party to remain in the party to register to vote as we will very soon control the levers of power in our beautiful party and country.
“Let not your hearts be troubled for peace, love, unity, development and prosperity are around the corner. I will be communicating with you soon and shall return to Zimbabwe to lead you . . .”
On the night of November 14, Operation Restore Legacy – the intervention by Zimbabwe Defence Forces to arrest the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe following the political impasse that threatened national security – was initiated with Major-General SB Moyo making the now famous appearance on the national broadcaster, ZBC TV.
He announced that “… the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R. G. Mugabe and his family, are safe . . . We are only targeting criminals around him …”
Zimbabwe had turned a corner, making a world famous transition for which the world could not find the right words to describe.
On November 18, Zimbabweans from all walks of life in Harare, other cities and other Diaspora pockets – including South Africa – marched in solidarity with the army for conducting Operation Restore Legacy. The following day Zanu-PF set in motion the recall of Mugabe from leadership of the country and the party paving way for the return of Mnangagwa.
An impeachment process – involving Zanu-PF and opposition MDC – was started in Parliament.
On the afternoon of November 21, as Parliament sat to impeach him, Mugabe resigned – ending his 37-year rule since Independence from Britain in 1980.
The following day, November 22, Mnangagwa triumphantly returned to Zimbabwe.
He was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s Second Executive President on November 24.
The writer believes Zimbabwe’s current generation would do well to document their history as it unfolds.