Tendai Mugabe: THE INTERVIEW
President Mnangagwa is a man of few words and action. To him action and delivery matter most. Many wonder how he grew up in rural Mapanzure in the central part of Zimbabwe and how he rose to become a prominent politician of our times. In this report, our senior reporter Tendai Mugabe (TM) speaks to Mr Jonah Mnangagwa (JM), a brother to the President about the life of a man who has defied odds to become Zimbabwe’s second Executive President.
TM: Briefly share with us on who is Emmerson Mnangagwa and his childhood life.
JM: Emmerson Mnangagwa is my young brother. He was born here in Tafireyi Village. His parents, who are both late, are Mafidhi Mnangagwa and Mbuya Mhurai Mnangagwa. He was born in 1942 if my memory is still serving me well, as you can see I am also old.
TM: About his childhood life what do you have to say?
JM: What I can say with a strong sense of conviction is that throughout his childhood, Emmerson was very intelligent. He was bright at school and in short I can simply say he was born a leader. Ndiye munhu aigona chikoro mumhuri medu kukunda vamwe vose. He attended Lundi Primary School and his intellectual prowess during that period was next to none. It’s unfortunate that there were no awards of excellence for pupils who excel in school like what is happening now, but I believe if there were any at the time, Emmerson could have scooped them all.
TM: He is also called Dambudzo. Can you explain how this name came about?
JM: Dambudzo is his real birth name and that is the name that most people here know. Emmerson is his second name — izita rekwaMudzviti. During the colonial era, the whites preferred people to have English names so when Dambudzo started school, that’s when he was given the name Emmerson.
TM: I heard you saying this village is called Tafireyi and yet your surname is Mnangagwa. Can you explain the relationship that you have with the name Tafireyi?
JM: That is interesting indeed and yes I am the head of Tafireyi Village. Those who do not know ask the same question because they think Tafireyi and Mnangagwa are not related. According to our lineage, Tafireyi is our forefather because he is the father of our uncle Mnangagwa and this village is named after him. I like it when young people of your age express interest to know such things.
TM: You told us that President Mnangagwa attended Lundi Primary School. What about his secondary and tertiary education?
JM: He furthered his education in Zambia, but I am not sure about the names of the schools that he attended. I did not go to Zambia then.
TM: Can you explain how he relocated to Zambia?
JM: When UDI was declared, the white regime passed one of the draconian and segregationist laws that suppressed black people.
That law was called the Land Tenure Act. Under this Act, there was division of land between European settlers and the Africans whom they called natives. After the Land Tenure Act, blacks were no longer allowed to own more than five head of cattle and were restricted to eight acres of land. This did not go down well with our parents who said hatingagarire nyika yakadaro, so they decided to relocate to Zambia where Dambudzo then proceeded with his education. They were staying in Mumbwa area.
I am not quite sure how he got connected with other nationalists in Zambia, but a few years after the relocation we were told that Dambudzo was arrested for blowing a Rhodesian steam locomotive in Fort Victoria (now Masvingo).
He was tried and we sold almost all the livestock that we had to pay the lawyers who represented him.
They assisted us a lot and one of our late brothers, Phillip, who was a teacher played a pivotal role in paying the lawyers.
Dambudzo was convicted and sentenced to death and he was only saved by his age. The law then did not allow people under the age of 18 to be given death penalties.
After serving his prison term, some whites came to me saying your brother has been released from prison can you stay with him? I said no because I feared for my life because the Smith regime was brutal so he was deported to Zambia. That is where he joined with his fellow comrades again to organise the war of liberation.
TM: After independence did he return home?
JM: Yes, he came back and when Government started to build secondary schools in rural areas, we named one of our schools here after him in recognition of the work that he did during the liberation struggle and he is the patron of that school.
I then said to him now that you are a senior official in Government, you should build a home here and along the road.
I think you saw his homestead adjacent to Lundi Primary School. Even up to now, he comes back home and when he comes he always asks about some of his friends like Jimmy Maposa. We understand that given the position that he now holds in the country, it’s not possible for us to have him here always as and when we like. Yes, he is our brother, but he is also a national leader and we understand that he has national duties to fulfil.
TM: Can you describe his character from the way you know him as your brother?
JM: Dambudzo is a brave and disciplined person. He has that sense of determination in everything that he does. I was laughing one of these days that he is a great survivor.
He left the country when our parents relocated to Zambia and when he came back, we got our independence and recently he went into exile again after he was expelled from Zanu-PF and when he returned he became the President leading a new dispensation in Zimbabwe. He is a person who listens more when you talk to him. He is open to everyone. What I observed about him is that he believes more in action than talking.
TM: When he was expelled from Zanu-PF, there was talk that the previous Government sought to arrest him. Did he communicate with the family on what was happening or his next move?
JM: He did not communicate to us, but we were so disturbed when we received the news that he was expelled from the party and that he had skipped the country’s borders. Asi taingoti regai tione zvinoitika nekuti shasha yacho zvepolitics inozvigonawo futi.
TM: Now that he is the President of Zimbabwe, how do you feel as a family?
JM: We feel greatly honoured. Dambudzo has always been a hard-working person although we never thought he would excel to such levels.
We wish him all the best as he works for his country and to resuscitate the economy. He has the full backing of the family and I hope he will get the same support from all Zimbabweans.