IT is with indecent haste that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has of late been seeking to flag his increasingly questionable presidential credentials and ambitions before Zimbabwe and the world. They usually stumble and fall those that run that fast.
In China he became the astute capitalist who knows that capital goes where it finds comfort, assuring Eastern and Western investors of an investor-friendly Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa’s interview with China’s CCTV was instructive of what he thinks. It’s clear he now sees Mugabe as a stumbling block to progress no matter what he says publicly and rhetorically, hence the telling indication of his desire to follow the Deng Xiaoping path after Mao Zedong during his visit to Beijing in July.
In Harare, to Baffour Ankomah, the London-based New African news magazine editor, Mnangagwa became the proverbial man with lions who frightened Mugabe into threatening him with his crocodiles in Zvimba, his rural home. In realpolitik as in the underworld, there are no innocent jokes.
And he is the same Mnangagwa who recently all but wrote prematurely Mugabe’s obituary when he said “we will miss him dearly” as if he can predict who will die first, while his boss is still alive and in power. Mugabe’s wife Grace also around the same time uttered the same words, as if they know something we don’t.
Mnangagwa has been so hectic trying to profile and project himself such that he has even scaled new heights of historical revisionism and distortion that would leave holocaust deniers or denialists green with envy.
In a stunning act of revisionism laced with unmistakable hatred and malice towards the man who pioneered Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and fought for more than 30 years to free his country, Mnangagwa claimed that after all, according to the late Rhodesian premier Ian Smith, founding nationalist movement leader, Joshua Nkomo, was a sell-out who lost elections in 1980 because he could be swayed to represent white interests like Smith’s internal settlement collaborationists Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and Jeremiah Chirau.
While historians constantly engage in historical revision around major events, denialists become willfully blind to facts as they have a pre-determined mindset which negates mainstream historiography.
Like Mnangagwa, such people attempt to rewrite history by minimising, denying or simply ignoring material facts. They don’t go for re-interpretation, but denial of known facts, hence negationism.
The fundamental question here is, since when did the revolutionary crocodiles of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle begin to rely on the testimony of Smith for the assessment of their heroes?
If Mnangagwa was a sincere revolutionary and not a thief of history, he would have been the first one to know that for the Rhodesians, the art of divide and rule was not just a strategy, but a policy.
The formation of Zanu as a breakaway from Zapu in 1963 — according to Ken Flower, the first head of CIO in Rhodesia and independent Zimbabwe, in his work Serving Secretly: An Intelligence Chief on Record —had its genesis in that policy.
While Flower could have been giving a candid biographical account, no astute revolutionary would expect Smith to talk frankly about Nkomo or Mugabe. If Mnangagwa believes Smith on Nkomo, does he also believe him on Mugabe?
Does Mnangagwa agree with Smith that Mugabe, whom he initially thought after their first meeting in 1980 was a “sophisticated, balanced, sensible man”, later morphed into an embodiment of a “corrupt, violent and amoral dictator” as the Rhodesian premier had warned his supporters in the first place?
The history Mnangagwa cannot be able to steal has it that Rhodesians still have not forgiven Nkomo for many lethal strikes against their war machinery and infrastructure, particularly the downing by Zipra forces of the Air Rhodesia Flight 825 in Whamira Hills in Karoi on September 3 1978, and again the shooting down of Air Rhodesia Flight 827 on February 12 1979 in Vuti.
Even so, countless times, Smith called Mugabe a bloodthirsty terrorist, should we then take that as the gospel truth and teach that at schools and universities? Smith described Nkomo as a “monster” after the shooting down by Zipra of those Vickers Viscount planes using SAM-7 missiles in a bid to assassinate Rhodesian army commander Peter Walls. After that he launched a vicious backlash against Zipra positions, mainly massacring refugees at Freedom Camp in Zambia and attacking Nkomo’s house in Lusaka. Nkomo survived an assassination attempt by Rhodesian commandos on April 13 1979 at his house in Lusaka.
Very easily, the heroism of former vice-president Joice Mujuru was withdrawn last year as we were told by those who had given it in the first place that she never downed a helicopter during the war as claimed, because now she is just a witch from Dotito.
However, Nkomo’s heroism cannot be easily withdrawn or stolen by a scrambling presidential aspirant certainly not competent to question his record in the first place. In fact, what Mnangagwa has said about Nkomo tells us more about himself than about Nkomo. This invites thinking people to ask the question who exactly is Mnangagwa to start with?
Lest we forget: on February 5 1982, accompanied by current Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Mnangagwa boarded the same plane from Harare to Bulawayo with Nkomo. They greeted him with salutes and bows, knowing fully well that the following day they would accuse him of treason and display to the wide world arms unearthed at Ascot Farm as they sought to lay the ground for Gukurahundi, which culminated in the massacre of at least 20 000 innocent civilians in Midlands and Matabeleland regions.
As it later transpired, it became known the alleged discovery of weapons was part of trumped up charges against Nkomo by people, led by Mnangagwa, who knew very well that both Zanla and Zipra had cached some arms as they did not trust the Rhodesians. It is also now common cause Zipra had also cached arms on behalf of Umkhonto WeSizwe, the ANC’s military wing.
The same Mnangagwa, who was involved in the Gukurahundi campaign in which Nkomo survived a government-sponsored assassination plot on April 8 1983, is now trying to kill Nkomo’s legacy 16 years after his death.
According to Kevin Woods, a CIO operative who was also apartheid South Africa’s double agent, a group of Zimbabwean intelligence and police officers gathered at CABS Building on April 7 1983 in Bulawayo to plot the operation to kill Nkomo. Present was one Dominic Chinenge, who is now called General Constantine Chiwenga and is commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. Nkomo only escaped before fleeing the country because of the astuteness of Makhathini Guduza, but his driver Yonah Ncube was killed. So Mnangagwa is not only trying to kill Nkomo’s legacy now, he was also involved in plots to assassinate the Nkomo of flesh.
Earlier in 1982, exactly on June 11, the CIO raided Nest Egg Farm and confiscated the entire archive of Zapu and Zipra records. The names of Zipra guerrillas, fallen and living, their families and addresses. It is those records that were used by Gukurahundi to trace former Zipra cadres and their families for slaughter. Up to today, Mnangagwa and the government are in custody of the stolen archive, history and record of Zipra. They are also refusing to return Zapu properties, buildings and farms.
The Mafela Trust has tried to piece together the history of Zapu and Zipra to no avail, only relying on the brilliant photographs of Zenzo Nkobi and narratives of the surviving cadres, but Mnangagwa and the government have the actual records that were moved from CABS Building around August in 1986.
Not only the history of Zapu and Zipra was stolen, the future too, as Mnangagwa and his collaborators spiritedly tried to silence and erase Nkomo’s contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe. At “the right time”, as he says, crocodiles do wait, there is no doubt that he will alter, if not slaughter, the legacy of Mugabe himself as well and blame such crimes as Gukurahundi solely on him. He has already said he never carried a gun to kill anyone as he only provided intelligence, insinuating others did and not him. As a trained lawyer, he thinks that is his future line of defence.
Mnangagwa must let sleeping dogs lie because he has too many skeletons in his cupboard. After the PW Botha’s apartheid regime launched “Operation Drama” in 1981, as part of the “Total Strategy”, a military and intelligence onslaught against communism and the liberation movement, Mnangagwa cut dodgy deals with the South African Defence Forces (SADF) that sought to sabotage and annihilate Zapu and the ANC.
Declassified records of the South African Department of Foreign Affairs and the important writings of Professor Timothy Scarnecchia witness to this. Particularly from February 7-8 1982, intense meetings were held where Mnangagwa promised the SADF that the Zimbabwean security forces will ensure Umkhonto WeSizwe’s hideouts and activities in Zimbabwe would be destabilised and combated. Interestingly, Mnangagwa agreed with the South African apartheid regime security chiefs that, “Zapu, ANC and Swapo” were a “case of common concern” between the apartheid regime and Zanu PF. Instead of helping other liberation movements to free their countries like Frelimo in Mozambique, Unip in Zambia and CCM in Tanzania did, Zanu PF, after coming to power, became a double-dealer in a Cold War and geo-political context rife with contradictory and competing political agendas and self-interests.
Boastfully, Mnangagwa disclosed to the South African apartheid security bosses that he had fixed the dialogues that happened between the apartheid regime and Angola and Mozambique, leading to a cessation of hostilities. Yet, the irony is that, officially, the Zimbabwean regime that Mnangagwa represented publicly claimed to be unhappy that Mozambique and Angola had held talks with the apartheid regime. It was typical Zanu PF double-standards and duplicity that we still see up to this day.
In October 1983, Mnangagwa held a press conference (this is also confirmed by Scarnecchia and the South African Department of Foreign Affairs files of 1983), to parade two teenage boys he claimed were dissidents that were trained by South Africa to come and fight to install Nkomo as the leader of Zimbabwe. Conveniently, Nkomo and Zipra were now being paraded as allies of the apartheid regime, when in fact Mnangagwa and Zanu PF were the ones working behind the scenes with the apartheid regime.
For all Mnangagwa’s clownish yet tragic claims about Nkomo being a representative of white interests, Taffy, a Rhodesian spy and assassin in the narrative of Peter Stiff, confirms that when he was about to assassinate Mugabe, the Rhodesian regime called him off. Woods also states that Botha also protected Mugabe when moves were suggested to blow him up — which he says was going to be very easy — because of Mnangagwa’s secret liaisons with apartheid security apparatchiks.
However, Nkomo survived Rhodesian and Zanu PF murder plots by sheer luck.
While Mnangagwa sometimes claims to be as “soft as wool”, he also says he was “trained to kill” enemies although he would no longer kill but “deal with” adversaries. Woods opines that Mnangagwa enjoys the immunity because he knows a lot about Mugabe and the inner workings of his regime, hence his frequent boasts and threats. He has spoken of his ability to “shorten” the lives of opponents and, according to Woods, he once told prisoners during Gukurahundi, “if you want to talk to God, talk through his son”, meaning himself. Perhaps that’s why his allies now call him “Son of Man”.
Evidently, the man who impatiently wishes to succeed Mugabe is a divisive Nkomo hater and notorious thief of history. If Grace Mugabe ever feared that once Mugabe is gone Mujuru was to drag her down the road and soil Mugabe’s legacy, she has a lot more to fear. Abound are crocodiles with forked tongues who are likely to make friends with Mugabe’s enemies when it’s convenient at her dear expense and to Zimbabwe’s detriment as well when it matters.
Jack Goody was right that of the many crimes under the sun, one of the worst is the theft of history, even as the same thieves of history in the world are known to be also looters of other resources.
Macaphulana is a Pretoria-based Zimbabwean political scientist and semiotician. — firstname.lastname@example.org