PRESIDENT Robert Mug-abe’s deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, fired on Monday over internecine Zanu PF power struggles and sent scurrying for cover across borders like a bat out of hell, was a longtime ally of the veteran authoritarian ruler.
Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya
By the time he was sacked, they had worked together for about 50 years since the days of the liberation struggle.
He had been in Zanu PF with Mugabe for 54 years and in government together for 37 years.
They were partners in crime; they shared secrets, enjoyed and suffered together, at least until Monday, yet mutual distrust always lingered around.
Hence after the country’s Independence from Britain in 1980, Mnangagwa became one of the key architects of Zimbabwe’s authoritarian and repressive state. Together with Mugabe, he defined an era, although his long career came to a dramatic and crashing halt on Monday. Fearing arrest and jail, he quickly emerged from the rubble of his shattered career and ran for dear life.
Mnangagwa, a former security aide and personal assistant to the president, as well as his key minister in security portfolios in government, did all the dirty operations for Mugabe. He was his political enforcer; gangland-style if needs be.
From crushing the opposition by systematically wiping out their support bases through demonisation, intimidation, detentions, violence and torture, via Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s, liquidating real or imagined enemies, triggering waves of violence and killings after 2000 to stealing elections; he was the President’s henchman.
Mnangagwa was also probably the biggest accomplice in the Mugabe regime’s misrule, economic mismanagement and corruption. He was in the mix of everything; the good, bad and ugly.
That is why in certain circles there is intense antipathy, a deep-seated feeling of aversion, towards him. Of course, he was also liked in some circles especially in his regional political fiefdoms.
However, having been part of Mugabe’s system for decades, he failed to learn from history and was doomed to repeat it with disastrous consequences for him. He learnt and forgot nothing from history. To be sure, he did not even learn anything from the local experiences of fellow liberation struggle comrades Joshua Nkomo, Ndabaningi Sithole, Rugare Gumbo et al, Edgar Tekere, Edison Zvobgo, Solomon Mujuru and his wife Joice, among others, he helped to destroy.
Mnangagwa also spearheaded Mugabe’s fight against the MDC and its leaders. In 2008 he rescued Mugabe from the jaws of electoral defeat through a campaign of violence and murder. So together with Mugabe and others, they have blood on their hands.
Down the line over the years when he began to have power ambitions of his own and started manoeuvring to position himself for ascendancy, that is when they crossed each other’s path with Mugabe. This led to fights by proxy until the battle for power drifted towards brinkmanship involving the military.
Confronting each other eyeball to eyeball over power, it became a case of who will blink first. Mnangagwa did. To his credit, Mnangagwa tried to stand firm until the end. He showed some chutzpah in the face of a fierce wave of frenzied attacks from a ruthless political apparatus. On Wednesday he promised to fight back Mugabe tooth and nail to a bitter end.
Yet he knows or ought to know that could be suicidal; he might end up worse off. Mnangawa was removed largely because he had become ambitious, thus a threat to Mugabe. As Steven Levitsky points out in the Journal for Democracy, Peru’s Alberto Fujimori is most famous, or rather infamous, for his self-coup in 1992 when he purged everyone around him to take control of the situation.
Fidel Castro was legendary at this. After the Cuban revolution, he purged a lot of comrades, including fellow revolutionary Che Guevara, who were a threat to him.
Mnangagwa might want to battle on, but he has dramatically fallen from grace to grass.