Will Ngwena outfox his opponents again?

IN the political realm, he is nicknamed “Ngwena” (a crocodile) for his astute political tact and unruffled “shrewdness and political mastery” that many have credited with Zanu PF success story, but Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has surprisingly developed a rather ill-reputation of ditching allies, who front his bid to succeed President Robert Mugabe.

Source: Will Ngwena outfox his opponents again? – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 25, 2016


Many in the opposition spheres fear him, suspecting he is a ruthless politician, who is violent, but this has proved to be the opposite, when it comes to protecting those, who champion his succession cause.

In 2004, at least six provincial chairpersons were sacked from Zanu PF after they openly campaigned for Mnangagwa to take over, as one of the party’s VPs, replacing the late Simon Muzenda.

Mugabe fumed at the architects of the infamous Tsholotsho Declaration and, as expected, summarily plucked them off his political diary for some time.

Several ruling party heavyweights were demoted from their government posts with some reduced to ordinary card-carrying members.

One of the victims, Higher Education minister and Tsholotsho North MP Jonathan Moyo, aptly summed the after effects of being weaned off Mugabe’s feeding trough, when upon re-admission, he declared “it’s cold out there”.

Moyo recently said he had learnt his lesson from the 2004 debacle, insisting he will never support anyone, except the appointing authority.

“I’m not fighting anyone. I’m just making sure that I do not again put myself in a political situation that is in conflict with my President, as my appointing authority.

Mnangagwa’s ambitions did not die in the 2004 fiasco, as he nurtured the art of outfoxing his opponents — pushing for those who still supported him for top jobs, but whenever tables turned — he would dump and sacrifice them, acting as if he is not linked to them in order to protect his position, while nurturing his ambition to succeed Mugabe.

Fast-forward to 2012, Mnanaggwa had a strong support base in the district co-ordinating committees (DCC), which were the party’s heartbeat, but in his typical fashion, he watched legs akimbo, as a rival faction led by then Vice-President Joice Mujuru mutilated the organs, arguing they were causing divisions in the party.

DCC chairpersons were left licking their wounds and sweltering in the heat of anguish, as they were reduced to nothing, but cell members.

Ironically, the person they were vouching for maintained his position in the party, as secretary for legal affairs in the politburo, and government.

In 2013, Mnangagwa’s modus operandi came to the fore again during the provincial elections, where he left his protégés at the mercy of the Mujuru camp, which brutally shellacked them, winning almost all the 10 provinces.

As if that was not enough, he never backed the presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, who attempted in vain to push for the nullification of the election of Mashonaland Central chairpersn, Luke Mushore against Dickson Mafios.

Moving to 2014, in order to land the VP post, it took the intervention of First Lady Grace Mugabe to plunge head-on into politics, waging a war against Mujuru and subsequently hounding her out of Zanu PF.

While celebrating his long-sought dream, the VP was back to his perfidious ways, keeping golden silence, when his allies were purged one after another.

First to receive the proverbial boot was the former Home Affairs deputy minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who was also Mashonaland West acting provincial chair, currently serving a three-year suspension for allegedly disrespecting the First Lady and promoting factionalism in Mugabe’s home province.

Next in the firing line were the seven provincial youth chairpersons, who were shown the exit door for backing Mnangagwa, ahead of the First Lady, to succeed Mugabe.

The expelled youth leaders refused to allow the expulsion to deter their indefatigable support for the VP and they appeared at a public function donning T-shirts inscribed Lacotse.

This incensed the G40 group, which demanded Mnangagwa to explain the T-Shirts in a politburo meeting and the VP allegedly left his colleagues in stitches, when he said the only Lacoste that he was aware of was a perfume-making company based in France.

More recently, more VP allies, who include inter alia the late women’s league secretary for administration, Esphinah Nhari, war veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa and his wife, Monica have been either suspended or expelled without Mnangagwa coming to their defence.

However, this did not deter the war veterans, as they went on to declare that Mnangagwa is their preferred successor and should they not get their way there would be a bloodbath.

Under attack in the recent party’s central committee meeting over war veterans’ utterances, Mnangagwa left them in the cold, claiming he was not involved in their actions, although the former liberation war fighters insisted that they made the remarks to promote his political ambitions.

Commenting on Mnangagwa’s modus operandi, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure said politics was all about self-interest, and the Midlands godfather’s approach was not unique in the politics.

“The larger picture is that self-interest looms large in politics,” he said, adding: “Politics in Zanu PF is very fluid at the moment. For Mnangagwa, it is a high stakes game. It is a dicey game, which needs to be handled with care. Purges will come the same way that happened to Mujuru’s faction.

“This could be a second phase, and there could be a third one, hence, Mnangagwa is moving cautiously.”

Masunununge said Mnangagwa’s silence could be a sign of political astuteness, as he could be interested in maintaining relations with Mugabe, so he remains relevant in the party at the expense of his followers.

“He has clearly opted for a more diplomatic approach, which to some of his allies and the public would seem, as if he has abandoned his supporters,” Masungure said.

“That is why (Jonathan) Moyo would never forgive him after being chucked out of the party and government in 2004. There were many casualties, but Ngwena survived. What is also abundantly clear, however, is that, he is more robust than Mujuru, who kept quiet, when she and her supporters were under attack.

“He (Mnangagwa) has come to understand that a tepid approach does not work. He is quiet, but obviously, mobilising war veterans and the military behind the scenes. His quiet diplomacy is different. We have already seen it, the war veterans are his constituency.”

Masunungure opined that not all of the VP’s allies appreciate his behind-the-scenes efforts to fight for political survival.

“His allies might want someone who might throw back the punches. That is why some of them may accuse him of abandoning his allies,” he said.

Another political analyst, Takura Zhangazha concurred with Masunungure, saying Mnangagwa’s silence could be well-calculated to ensure he maintains his cordial relationship with Mugabe and remains in the party so that he manoeuvres his way up.

“It is difficult for him to move his way up when he is out of Zanu PF,” Zhangazha said.

Academic and political commentator, Ibbo Mandaza said Mnangagwa has proved to be indispensable in the Zanu PF body politic, hence, Mugabe could sacrifice his allies, but not the VP.

“That is his nature, he wants to keep himself in good books with Mugabe and the old man can’t just throw him away like that. He is indispensable in the Zanu PF matrix,” he said.