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Mudenda’s political resurrection

Despite being tainted by Gukurahundi atrocities and the Willowgate scandal, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chairperson Jacob Mudenda’s star continues to rise. He has now opened a new chapter in his rise-fall-and-rise tale in the last six months after President Robert Mugabe plucked him up from political obscurity back to the limelight through an appointment to chair the commission.


This week his revival reached its zenith when he was appointed new Speaker of Parliament.

Mudenda’s rise — which signifies Zanu PF’s resistance to reform and its backward-looking approach — is made remarkable when one looks at the chequered political path he has travelled since Independence in 1980.

Mudenda, a former English teacher, was appointed a district administrator by Mugabe’s government soon after Independence and his influential political connections and relationship with Mugabe resulted in him being elevated to provincial administrator and subsequently provincial governor and resident minister when the post was created in 1984.

With that appointment, Mudenda became Mugabe’s eyes, ears and spokesman in Matabeleland North during the dark era of the Gukurahundi massacres which left about 20 000 civilians dead between 1982 and 1987.

Although Mudenda was also fingered in the Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries scandal of the late 1980s in which he was part of a greedy cabal that profited through acquiring cars at knockdown prices from the assembling plant for resale at exorbitant prices, he is the only senior official to have made a full political comeback after others’ careers were broken forever.

One of the most powerful ministers at that time, the late Enos Nkala went and never returned while Maurice Nyagumbo committed suicide. Frederick Shava made a partial recovery and is presently Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China.

It seems Mudenda is the only one to have made a dramatic comeback after he appeared to be gone for good following his role in the controversial Tsholotsho episode to discuss Mugabe’s succession in 2004.

After some time in the political wilderness, Mugabe surprisingly appointed Mudenda to the decision-making Zanu PF politburo in 2011 and convinced former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai early this year to appoint Mudenda ZHRC chairperson despite the cloud over his acts of commission or omission during the Gukurahundi era.

While surprisingly defending Mudenda’s appointment which was condemned by progressive forces, Tsvangirai, who was one of the principals in the coalition government, strangely quipped,“who doesn’t have a past”?

While many were still trying to come to terms with Mudenda’s incredible rebound, Mugabe sanctioned his nomination for the post of speaker.

Political analysts believe the election is reflective of Zanu PF’s internal factions repositioning themselves in anticipation of Mugabe’s exit from the political scene.

Zimbabwe Democracy Institute’s Rashweat Mukundu said: “The factional fights in Zanu PF will reach boiling point soon and those with their people in key positions will prevail. The Zanu PF system is largely made up of lame ducks, and these tend to be more loyal as they listen and take instructions without questioning.”

Another analyst Jonathan Gandari said Mudenda’s election was specifically designed to have someone who could easily be manipulated.

“I think suspending Mudenda was just a way of whipping him into line. Remember history has recorded a long list of Zanu PF members who have been expelled or suspended, only to bounce back,” said Gandari.

Mudenda’s election as speaker creates a vacancy for another party loyalist to become ZHRC chairperson, thus strengthening Mugabe’s hand in controlling all influential state institutions.

Mugabe and Zanu PF’s hand has been emboldened by their July 31 general election crushing but disputed victory, and can make key appointments to state institutions to further entrench their rule.

In his acceptance speech, Mudenda confirmed the perception that he was a willing tool in implementing Zanu PF’s political projects without any qualms when he told the house what parliamentary democracy meant to him.

“While the minority will have their say (in debates) the majority will have their way,” he said to applause from Zanu PF MPs.

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