PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and Information minister Jonathan Moyo have a long-standing love-hate relationship dating back to 1999 when Moyo, then a stern critic of Mugabe’s leadership style and his attempts to impose a one-party state in Zimbabwe, was appointed to the 400-member Constitutional Commission where he chaired the media and public relations subcommittee.
Although the commission had an impressive leadership bureau chaired by then Judge President of the High Court, now Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku who was deputised by prominent statesperson Grace Lupepe, Anglican Archbishop Jonathan Siyachitema and the late Professor Walter Kamba, among other prominent persons, Moyo emerged as a strong and dynamic voice.
After the draft constitution was rejected by Zimbabweans in the February 2000 referendum, Mugabe appointed the political science lecturer to his cabinet as the Information minister following parliamentary elections held the same year.
Moyo was also drafted onto the Zanu PF politburo where he deputised the late national hero Nathan Shamuyarira in the information department, setting the stage for nasty clashes between the two academics whose leadership style contrasted sharply.
Such was the animosity between the two that Shamuyarira saw Moyo as a “weevil” and accused him, in front of Mugabe, of being a CIA agent. There was a feeling among some Zanu PF officials though that the information department, under Shamuyarira, had become moribund and no longer relevant in the post cold-war era.
Mugabe however was impressed by Moyo’s work ethic and clarity on issues and his strong defence of Zanu PF at a time the party was under serious challenge from the newly formed MDC, which had performed well in the 2000 elections.
In particular Moyo came out as an aggressive voice in support of the country’s chaotic land reform programe, coining phrases like “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again” and coming up with many jingles in support of the programme, at a time many Zimbabweans and the international community were critical.
Ahead of the 2002 elections, when Mugabe was facing his first stern test in the form of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Moyo, who had replaced the old guard in the public media and appointed pliable staffers ready to toe his line, ensured there was massive propaganda against the MDC and its leader.
In defence of Mugabe, Moyo was instrumental in the adoption of “draconian” laws such the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Public Order and Security Act(Posa), which were seen as a violation of the freedoms of speech, media and association.
When Moyo brought Aippa to parliament, the chairman of the Parliamentary Legal Committee, the late Dr Edison Zvobgo, said: “I can say without equivocation that this Bill, in its original form, was the most calculated and determined assault on our liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, in the 20 years I served as cabinet minister.”
Mugabe, who was under siege, however supported Moyo.
Soon Moyo became even more ambitious and was sucked into the Zanu PF succession politics, becoming an integral member of the Emmerson Mnangagwa- led faction.
He was accused of orchestrating the Tsholotsho declaration where six Zanu PF provincial chairpersons converged at Dinyane Primary School to come up with a plan which would eventually see Mnangagwa take power, and the presidency, revolving among the four main ethnic groups in the country — the Manyika, Ndebele, Karangas and Zezurus.
When details of the meeting were leaked to Mugabe he was furious and Zanu PF moved to set aside the Tsholotsho seat for a woman candidate as a punishment for Moyo, although the Zanu PF structures in the district had chosen him as candidate.
Moyo had also been elected to the central committee but his nomination was blocked at the Zanu PF Congress the same year.
In February 2005 a defiant Moyo however registered to stand as an independent candidate, further attracting the wrath of Mugabe who expelled him from the party and cabinet.
Moyo was fired in dramatic fashion, through a fax delivered to his hotel room, while his aides were withdrawn without his knowledge.
On February 19 2005, Moyo drafted a response accepting the dismissal, while at the same time reminding Mugabe he had literally rescued him from defeat.
“I have today received a faxed letter from President Robert Mugabe informing me that he had with immediate effect relieved me of my duties as cabinet minister and as an appointed Member of Parliament. I understand very well that he who appoints can also disappoint, unless one has been directly chosen or elected by the people themselves,” wrote Moyo.
He went on to narrate how he and other officials who were accused of being part of the Tsholotsho declaration had been unfairly treated and “made to suffer”. Moyo insisted he had served Mugabe and the country “loyally, professionally and with total dedication and commitment” often at great risk to his person and family.
“..For the very same reasons, I had also come to understand and appreciate that it is far better to be with the people and to work for them than to be hostage to the whims and caprices of the politics of patronage. That is why I am standing as an independent candidate in Tsholotsho on March 31, 2005.
“…It is notable and I am sure history and posterity will record the fact that my service to the President started at a time when the Presidency, the ruling party and our nation were individually and collectively facing an unprecedented onslaught from a number of hostile foreign interests and powers. I am very pleased that I had the honour and privilege to be one of the very few in the ruling party and the government that played pivotal roles in the fight to preserve, defend and protect Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and democracy while also being able to promote development in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland region and our country.”
Moyo won the Tsholotsho seat as an independent, after which he reverted to being a stern critic of Mugabe between then and 2008.
He stood again as an independent candidate in the 2008 general elections and again won the Tsholotsho seat.
The MDC-T did not field a candidate after reaching an agreement with Moyo but soon after winning, he started attacking the party while defending Mugabe and Zanu PF, in a development which stunned many.
Zanu PF insiders revealed Moyo had in fact started working with Zanu PF and became one of Mugabe’s strategists, together with the military, in the run-up to the controversial June 2008 election runoff condemned as a sham, paving the way for South-African brokered talks and the formation of the unity government.
Mugabe was desperate after seeing Zanu PF fail to get a majority in parliament for the first time since Independence in 1980, hence his reliance on Moyo and the military.
Moyo was rewarded for his role in saving Mugabe with readmission into the party in 2009. He got a standing ovation at the party’s 2009 congress.
Ahead of the 2013 elections, Moyo worked as an election strategist for Mugabe and wrote the party’s manifesto which has been transformed into the country’s economic blue-print, ZimAsset.
Although he lost his Tsholotsho seat, Mugabe was pleased with his work and last year praised him for ensuring the party had won elections.
Mugabe attributed Moyo’s loss to the time he spent in ensuring the party won elections.
Against the advice of Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Moyo was rewarded by appointment as Information minister, but he now stands accused of using the appointment to divide the party, attracting the sharpest of criticism from Mugabe in the process.