A critical assessment of Mnangagwa

Moyo’s presentation to Sapes last week:

I WOULD like to express my gratitude to Sapes Trust for inviting me to the Third Pan-African Lecture Series under its Policy Dialogue Forum; and giving me an opportunity to share ideas on a subject that is topical and important against the backdrop of the celebrations of Africa Month — which is May — and in light of the state of politics in the country today.

Jonathan Moyo – Cabinet minister

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa

I think it is fair to say that Sapes Trust is the only civil society platform in the country that remains committed to providing space for open and objective debate on public affairs issues. This is important to observe and to applaud as well as encourage in view of the collapse or political capture of some key public discourse platforms such as the public media and some private newspapers.

I have accepted this invitation fully aware that I wear many public capacities. I am Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development; I’m also a member of the Zanu PF politburo and an MP for Tsholotsho North, to which I am happy to add that I am a former fulltime academic and currently studying law at the University of Zimbabwe.

So, in which capacity am I speaking this evening given all these hats that I wear? Well, none of the above. I am simply speaking as Jonathan Moyo.

One reason I accepted this invitation is that there has been quite some whispers in successionist circles that I have been too quiet and that my claimed quietness is because the purported G40 that I allegedly belong to has supposedly been silenced if not eaten up by the so-called Team Lacoste. I will return to these whispers later in my presentation, save to say there is a time for everything. In any event, it is better to talk when you have been asked to talk, like today; I am talking at the request of Sapes Trust.

So, Whither Zimbabwe’s Nationalist Project? I propose to reflect on this important question in three ways.

I will start by briefly defining, by way of a schematic outline, the characteristic features of the nationalist project; then I will identify the key features of Zimbabwe’s balance of forces today and how they relate to the nationalist project. I will then conclude my presentation by sharing with you what I believe to be the emerging balance of forces in the country ahead of the 2018 elections.

In general terms, the nationalist project is a summation of the founding values, principles and aspirations of the anti-colonial independence movement. In Zimbabwe, this is about the values and ideals of the liberation struggle.
Section 3 of our new constitution outlines Zimbabwe’s founding values and principles which include “recognition of and respect for the liberation struggle”.

It is a matter of major historic significance that Zimbabwe’s constitution now entrenches the values and ideals of our liberation struggle among the country’s founding values and principles, which have purposive constitutional import and impact.

As such, the nationalist project is historically and constitutionally the fulfilment and materialisation of the values and ideals of the liberation struggle which, in policy terms, are the aspirations of the people and, in ideological terms, the national questions. What then, are these people’s aspirations or national questions?
The first and most fundamental people’s aspiration is the national question. This is about national unity, Zimbabwe’s aspiration to be a unitary, democratic and sovereign developmental state.

Second is economic question about the wealth of the nation. It is axiomatic that the independence movement was land and natural resources on or under that land during colonialism and Unilateral Declaration of Independence. There are two important sides to this question: land and indigenisation. The nationalist mantra that land is the economy and the economy is land is a fundamental and perennial aspiration of the people.

Quite a lot has been done to address this question and still more remains to be done.

Third is the equality question. It is notable that this question is one of the key pillars of the new constitution as provided under Section 56, which says “all persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law”. It is now in the Bill of Rights and is therefore justiciable.

Fourth is the democracy imperative, which is based on the principle that those who govern must have the consent of those whom they govern. Central to this question is the issue about the means for getting into power through elections.

Fifth is the issue of order and stability. The nationalist project in Zimbabwe did not escape the post-colonial challenge of order and stability arising from a range of sources, including destabilisation under the conflict-ridden Cold War era and internal political divisions and ethnic strife.

Zimbabwe went through such internal strife after independence, the Gukurahundi period. This was addressed through the 1987 Unity Accord whose values and ideals are today under threat from certain political quarters.

Sixth is sovereignty, which is about Zimbabwe’s right to make its own domestic and foreign policies as part of the discharge of the power of the people. Sovereignty is the glue of the nationalist project.

Seventh is the issue of skills. This is about the education of the nation through developing and empowering individuals with high-end skills called science and technology. The difference between the capacities and capabilities of countries ultimately turns on their national skills or competencies: that is, what they can do through science and technology as an expression of their higher education and development agenda.

Given the foregoing, what is the current balance of political forces in Zimbabwe and how do they relate to the seven features of the nationalist project outlined above?

Broadly speaking, there are currently three notable political forces at play in Zimbabwe. Within Zanu PF there are successionists who are a minority in the party, but who are very vocal and now openly back Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Robert Mugabe well before the next general elections so that he becomes party’s presidential candidate in 2018 through the back door.

There are also loyalists who are the silent majority in the party and who support President Mugabe to serve his full term and to be the party’s candidate in the forthcoming elections in accordance with the party’s constitution.

For the sake of perspective, it should be noted that outside Zanu PF, there is some political activity going on in opposition ranks that are pre-occupied with building a coalition of the fractured and weak in the vein hope of getting a chance, however slim, of winning the next election.

I am excluding the opposition ranks from this discussion because all narratives and surveys thus far indicate an assured poor showing by the opposition in 2018. Suffice it to observe that the biggest weakness of opposition politics in Zimbabwe is that they are not rooted, framed or cast in the nationalist project. This is a fatal weakness because the majority of Zimbabweans are historically, politically and indeed existentially connected to the nationalist project.

I therefore think that the state of fatal paralysis currently gripping the opposition means the question “Whither Zimbabwe’s nationalist Project” is best examined with reference to the balance of political forces in Zanu PF.

In that connection, I do not think there is any serious person in Zimbabwe who is now not aware that the so-called Team Lacoste in Zanu PF is presenting itself in general and its candidate, Mnangagwa in particular, as a shoo-in: “Tapinda tapinda! (We are in)” is their slogan punctuated with their refrain that “Mudhara achauya (the leader is coming)”.

The loud successionist claim early in the year was that “something was going to happen in April”. What was or is there something that was supposed to happen? Then in March the heat was turned on Zanu PF national commissar, Cde Saviour Kasukuwere, who faced dubious votes-of-no-confidence under the absurd claims that he had set up parallel structures to topple President Mugabe.

The ensuing and unprecedented pressure on Cde Kasukuwere was dubbed “The Momentum”. What momentum or momentum towards what?

In any event, it is important to assess the so-called Team Lacoste and its candidate against the seven features of the nationalist project outlined above.

On the national question, it is a matter of the public record that the so-called Team Lacoste defines power as chinhu chedu (our thing) because the group and its leader have no sense of the importance of collective belonging or national unity as a permanent aspiration of the people or as an expression of people’s power.

On the economic front, it is again now in the public domain that the so-called Team Lacoste is about command economics, command politics and command ideology — to them everything is now about command! This command framing business is as revealing as it is dangerous.

On equality, and again based on what is in the public domain, it is clear that Team Lacoste and its leader are far removed from the nationalist project. Instead of espousing the fundamental nationalist value now enshrined in Section 56 of the constitution that “all persons are equal before the law and have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law”, the so-called Team Lacoste has declared itself to be Zimbabwe’s “stockholders” under a template of entitlement that is not only against the aspirations of the nationalist project, but also patently unconstitutional.

Regarding democracy, the so-called Team Lacoste has used its entitlement approach to misinterpret the appointment of its leader as vice-president to mean anointment for the presidency that should be handed over to him as a matter of entitlement outside an election. This is not only against the spirit and letter of the nationalist project, but also against the constitution.

Concerning order and stability, it is notable that their political positions run against the grain of the nationalist project as they are divisive. An example of this is the current campaign against the Peace and National Reconciliation Bill being spearheaded by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko. Of greater concern on this issue is their agenda contained in a document dubbed Blue Ocean that started circulating in 2015 and an interview Mnangagwa gave to an elite British magazine, the New Statesman last year titled The Last Days of Robert Mugabe. These two documents tell a very revealing story about their sinister plot to capture state institutions and target individuals through extrajudicial means in betrayal of the nationalist project and ways that threaten order and stability in the country.

On sovereignty, it is a matter of concern the so-called Team Lacoste is working harder to win the support and endorsement of foreigners than to win the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans. Loud hints are everywhere within successionists circles that Zimbabwe needs British support through such plans like the Lima Debt Initiative or that Zimbabwe needs a Deng (Xiaoping) or a (Paul) Kagame, and the leader of Team Lacoste is in that mould. How about that Zimbabwe needs a Mugabe, a Joshua Nkomo, a Simon Muzenda or Herbert Chitepo?

As regards to skills, the so-called Team Lacoste has shown a surprising hostility to the youth who are not only the vanguard of the party today, but also a critical pool from which the skills necessary to industrialise and modernise Zimbabwe must be developed, trained and tapped.

In my analysis, the so-called Team Lacoste poses a clear and present danger to the nationalist project. The threat is dangerous not least because it comes at a time not only when the centrepieces of the nationalist project have found expression in the new constitution, but also on the eve of the 2018 elections. It is important that the 2018 elections are used to consolidate the gains and legacy of the nationalist project, not to propel power-hungry individuals to power.

Going forward, I think the time has come to do five things:

The silent majority in the nationalist movement must stand up and be counted in defence of the nationalist project. Europeans are defending their project, let us defend and advance ours;

The current situation where the so-called Team Lacoste uses a whispering campaign to carry out a silent power-grab is harmful to the nationalist project. The time has come to subject the so-called Team Lacoste to open and public scrutiny consistent with the values and aspirations of the nationalist project and our constitution. People who say they are on the verge of taking over power deserve that kind of robust scrutiny. It would be disastrous for Zimbabweans to wake up in a power-grab;

There are lot of things that have happened in a number of key state institutions that not only smack of a capture of these institutions by the so-called Team Lacoste, but are also are detailed in the Blue Ocean document and the very revealing New Statesman interview with Mnangagwa. These two documents must now be revisited and analysed in light of events that have happened; events which match the agenda and strategies outlined therein. Necessary legal action should be taken where it is warranted by the evidence;

The time has also come to expose and dispense with the myth entertained not only by the so-called Team Lacoste, but also by others, including in countries like Britain, that Vice-President Mnangagwa is the designated successor or that he is the successor on the verge of taking over anytime from now. The position is that there is no vacancy in the Office of the President in the party or in government. Where there is no vacancy any talk or activity of succession — such as contained in the Blue Ocean document and in the New Statesman interview, is by definition subversive; and

Finally, the notion peddled by the so-called Team Lacoste that its leader is the only one who is above or senior to everyone else below President Mugabe is false and that falsehood should stop. There are others that are equally senior or senior to the leader of the so-called Team Lacoste. One of them, by way of an important example, is Dr Sydney Sekeramayi, whose loyalty to the President Mugabe, Zanu PF and country; whose liberation credentials, experience, consensus-style of leadership, stature, commitment to the nationalist project and humility have no match in the party. So there are others. In fact, I must add that even Vice-President Mphoko is senior to the leader of the so-called Team Lacoste.

So whither Zimbabwe’s nationalist project? Well, it is facing formidable challenges and threats, but as we move towards the 2018 elections, I expect the balance of forces to realign and radically shift towards or infavour of the critical nationalist project.

Moyo is a professor of politics, cabinet minister and Zanu PF MP.