Moses Magadza in WINDHOEK, Namibia
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa left hundreds of Zimbabweans living here in stitches yesterday when he offered “practical tips” on how to become President of a country.
“First, you need to be poisoned and you need to survive the poisoning. Next, you need to become a border jumper. Thirdly, you need people like (Lt-General Sibusiso) Moyo somewhere,” the President said to roars of laughter from Zimbabweans who gathered for a business forum with him in Windhoek.
The Zimbabwean Head of State and Government was taken violently ill while at a rally last year. He had to be airlifted to South Africa for treatment, which he now says was successful.
He survived another attempt on his life shortly after he was fired from Government and fled partly on foot to Mozambique before catching a flight to South Africa from the port city of Beira. He returned to Zimbabwe to take control of the country as he had promised within weeks.
Lt-Gen Moyo(Rtd), now Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, announced the advent of Operation Restore Legacy that culminated in the resignation of Cde Robert Mugabe after 37 years in power.
Lt-Gen Moyo (Rtd) was a Major-General in the Zimbabwe National Army when the army stepped in to deal with what it described as a criminal cabal that had surrounded Cde Mugabe and was causing untold suffering to ordinary Zimbabweans. The lot fell on Maj Gen Moyo, who holds a PhD in International Relations, to appear on state broadcaster the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and after saying “Good morning Zimbabweans”, to contextualise the military intervention.
On Monday Lt-Gen Moyo’s now familiar booming voice rang over the public address system in Windhoek as he introduced the President.
“Good afternoon Zimbabweans,” he began, but had to wait for nearly a minute while those in the audience, familiar with his authoritative voice and events leading to Mugabe’s resignation, ululated and clapped.
On his part Mnangagwa, who was relaxed, friendly and joked most of the time, said when he spoke to his predecessor on the telephone shortly after his tactical retreat into South Africa, the then president had asked him to report to State House to help “resolve things”.
The new Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces who was in Namibia to meet his counterpart Hage Geingob, said after 37 years of “sweet independence”, it was time to work and to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy.
He said he had set targets for his first 100 days in office and called for all hands on deck, saying he would not hesitate to crack the whip on uncooperative or incompetent Cabinet Ministers.
On food security, President Mnangagwa said the Command Agriculture Scheme, which he spearheaded while he was Vice President, had been a roaring success. He revealed that there were plans to build more dams in the country so that Zimbabwe could be food self-sufficient come rain or shine.
He said work had begun on dualisation of Zimbabwe’s major highways as well as on upgrading the country’s railway network.
A former white commercial farmer, who now lives in Namibia asked the President if it would ever be possible for him and others to return to Zimbabwe “and grow and export like we used to.”
President Mnangagwa said white commercial farmers, like all other Zimbabweans, could apply for land from the Government “and join the queue” or go into joint ventures.
Asked by veteran former newscaster Joseph Madimba how calls for people who stashed money outside Zimbabwe had been received, The President said substantial amounts of money had already been returned. He revealed that he had a list of people, who had spirited money out of the country and warned that appropriate measures would be taken after the grace period.
It was a hilarious moment when President Mnangagwa said: “I thank you!” at the end of his remarks and his captive audience roared back: “Asante sana!” which Mugabe once said to the disappointment of many, who expected him to resign when he addressed the nation at the height of the transition. He only later stepped down when a joint sitting of the Zimbabwean legislature was in the process of impeaching him.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who accompanied President Mnangagwa to Namibia, called for Zimbabwe’s own currency, saying relying on foreign currency “kutenga mazhanje ne mbeva” (to buy African chewing gums or snot apples and mice) was not sustainable.
Mr George Charamba, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services in Zimbabwe was also part of the delegation to Namibia. SADC PF Secretary-General Dr Esau Chiviya and Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Namibia, Mrs Rofina Chikava moderated discussions during the forum.