BEWARE OF THE CROCODILE; IF MNANGAGWA SHOULD CROSS THE RUBICON

...An Audit of his political balance sheet

IN my previous installment regarding the fate of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in light of the onslaught against him from the G40 group, and the yet unknown impending outcomes of the ZANU PF elective Congress in December 2017, I stated that Mnangagwa was on the banks of his political Rubicon River, just like Caesar was in 49 BC (see article https://thelmachikwanha.blogspot.fr/2017/10/mnagagwa-on-banks-of-his-political.html). His choices were whether to cross the river (and face off with Mugabe and his detractors in G40), or not to cross.
I proffered two options for Mnangagwa. One option is a “do nothing option,” which I said is a doomed option unless something happens to the life of the President (as in dying) between now and the ZANU PF elective congress. I called it an option steeped in fate.
The other option was a “do something option”, based on activating a proactive strategy designed to take the fight to the other side. This means that Mnangagwa crosses the Rubicon and marches to Rome.
In deciding on the “do something option”, Mnangagwa should assess his entire political environment and take stock of his political capital. This involves looking at his past record and reputation and weighing his strengths and weakness.
But first, let’s look at why doing something is a strategic imperative.
Why Crossing the Rubicon River is a Must for the Crocodile
There are three reasons I think Mnangagwa will and or must cross the Rubicon and face his political nemesis.
First, Mnangagwa simply doesn’t have other choices that can guarantee his political survival and relevance. Crossing the river is the only way to avoid political oblivion. It’s clear there is a game plan that his G40 detractors are rolling out, and the Cabinet reshuffle was just an episode in a drama whose final end is unfortunately politically tragic for the Vice President.
Second, Mnangagwa has spent his entire life in politics, and at the service of ZANU PF to give all this up at the push of some political Jonny- come- latelies not known neither for their investment in the party and country, nor for their political capital other than what they derive from the President Robert Mugabe, would be out of character for this hardened fighter.
Third, Mnangagwa is down, no doubt about that, but, as will be covered in this article. when you look at his political balance sheet, it is too early to say whether or not he is out.
However, if he has to cash in on his assets, he has to start now, because timing is of absolute essence, given that any strategic move on his part would be a counter to a G40 strategy whose clock is ticking and will be executed in two months at the elective congress.
Underestimate  Mnangagwa at your own peril
In my last article, I talked about the political cunning of Jonathan Moyo in the fight against Ngwena. Indeed I hold to that even now. But it must not be lost to all and sundry that Mnangagwa has exuded even greater political cunning and predatory political characteristics of more than just the crocodile, which he is nicknamed after. He has characteristics of other predators as well.
Mnangagwa can be like a hyena, reputed to be cowardly and timid, yet can be bold, opportunistic and dangerous, with an abundance of intelligence and patience.He also has the charm of a python when luring its prey, the controlled arrogance of an elephant when dogs are barking, and the proverbial nine lives of a cat when it comes to survival. All these attributes have been demonstrated in his illustrious political life before and after independence.
Different episodes in his political life that dates back to 1963 will show traces of these attributes at different times.
For example, Mnangagwa has survived several assassination attempts, with the closest to success being the food poisoning in Gwanda this year. He is the only one of the veterans of the struggle who has been a death row inmate when he was sentenced to death convicted of sabotage by the colonial regime during the liberation struggle.
Following the Tsholotsho debacle, Mnangagwa was demoted to a post as Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities in 2005. But, but he sat, waited, and bid his time. He bounced back to become Minister of justice and then Vice President.
Beware of the Crocodile
Rick Gore, a National Geographic writer, said this of a crocodile: It “is cunning enough to stalk a human, strong enough to bring down and dismember a water buffalo, yet gentle enough to crack open its own eggs to release its young". Mnangagwa is a character who hardly shows his emotions, and you just don’t know what he is thinking. He has sat stoically on the high platform at the Youth Interface rallies and taken a lot of flake from First lady Grace Mugabe without showing an aorta of emotion. The next moment he stands up to take that same podium to do his “Pasi ne mhandhuuuuuuu” slogan as if nothing has happened. I don’t know about you, but if I was Grace that would certainly scare me.
But if one thinks he cannot fight, that would be falling prey to the charm of a python. Writing for the British publication, The Statesman after meetingMnangagwa in January 2017, Martin Fletcher referred to a conversation he had with a close business confidant of Mnangagwa, who said of Mnangagwa “He never says a word but suddenly he bites”.
Assessing Mnangagwa’s political capital
Let’s look at the real and potential political assets and liabilities that he has which he needs to factor in as he weighs his options.
A stocktake of Mnangagwa’s political capital shows he is not in as bad a situation as things would seem. There are assets on his political balance sheet that could be useful if he were to assemble a strategy to use to take the battle to the “enemy.”
Political constituency
Mnangagwa’s followers love him with as much passion as those who hate him. He is a political Godfather in the constituencies of Masvingo and Midlands Provinces, and it would be a hard sell for ZANU PF to impose anyone else in those provinces who is not supported by Lacoste. With the goings on in the factional political arena that is engulfing ZANU PF, it is safe to assume Mnangagwa can count on the sympathy vote of the majority of these provinces.
The Securocrats Alliance
Whether by character or as part of long-term strategic planning, Mnangagwa has invested well in the times he superintended over the security forces. He has cultivated personal relations and allegiances with The Armed Forces and the Central Intelligence Organization during the time he superintended over them as Minister of Defense and Minister of State Security. Whether this was part of his charm or part of a long-term strategy, it can definitely be defined as a smart move as these are the two most important state security apparatus the country.
The Armed forces
The relationship between Mnangagwa and the Armed forces, particularly the Army Commander Constantine Chiwenga, are now a matter of public knowledge. This relationship is not just personal; it is institutional. The Army has gone public in defending the Vice President from attacks, going as far as commenting on Jonathan Moyo’s attack on Command Agriculture, which is led by the Vice President, as a threat to national security warranting the army’s concern. The Army has also taken a position that the G40 poses a threat to the security of the nation, and has taken pots at the likes of Mandi Chimeme chiding them for talking nonsense after “smoking something”. They are the ones who airlifted him from Gwanda following the poisoning incident at the ZANU PF rally. (See; https://thelmachikwanha.blogspot.fr/2017/08/mnangagwas-political-stakes-higher-than.htmlca)
The Intelligence Organization
The intelligence operatives are the eyes and ears of the state, and when they see what they see, it depends on whom they see for. Any dirty linen of the President, past and present, is or can be in the hands of Mnangagwa as soon as he has sympathizers in the intelligence services. Mnangagwa probably knows a lot about the President’s health, matters related to First Lady, real or imagined; Matters related to political disappearances and assassinations, before, during and after the war. He has the lock to the state house secrets. Although Mnangagwa’s relationship with the intelligence is secretive, it reflects more the nature of their operations than its absence. My take is they are very much with him.
The War Veterans
Throw in the vociferous War Veterans for good measure, then you have assembled a formidable force within the Zimbabwe polity not to be taken lightly or for granted. The President and the G40 are aware of this power base and this is a source of concern for them. It was very telling that during the ceremony on the Empower bank, the  First Lady touched on the issue of a coup, and, as if talking loudly to someone,  that coup Leaders would not be recognized by any country. Funny.  Suddenly she sees the value of outsiders when her husband sees no value in outsiders observing our elections.
The above can be Mnangagwa’s potent assets should he decide to cross the Rubicon. The first two as State organs cannot do operate openly, but since the fallout with the President the War Veterans have openly come out guns blazing against Mugabe and his G40 and have been unequivocal in their support for the VP. Ditching Mnangagwa is not going to be as easy as hounding  Joice Mujuru out of power.
The “culling” of the Armed Forces is a risky adventure
The President has on more than one occasion warned Armed Forces not to be involved in politics. Certainly, the President is getting irritated. He has said politics leads the gun, and if Service men want to meddle in politics they should take off their uniforms and join politics. The President was exercising selective amnesia. In 2008, at the time he lost elections to Morgan Tsvangirai, the same man said the gun leads the pen. One wonders what has changed now, other than that the shoe is on the other foot.
The President’s intentions with respect to the Army Chiefs are no longer concealed. The pen dropped on his intention when he talked of retiring some members of the Armed Forces into some “comfort’ so that they do not starve. One can sense he is testing the waters for a reaction while wielding the stick and the carrot at the same time.
Any such move would not be seen as anything other than a strategy to deal with the VP’s power base. That move is too exposed now. History is replete with nasty experiences of leaders who have lived to regret moves they have made against taking away from the Army the power and influence they had been given and had become so accustomed to. Mugabe allowed the Army to run elections, and it is reported elections are run from the barracks at KG 6. The Joint Operations Command (JOC) is the power base of the Executive in the country.
A normal Mugabe with his political shrewdness would not go this far and open new fronts for confrontation, certainly not with the Army. The ones he has opened up right now are enough. But these are not normal times and the President seems to be acting on the advice of his ambitious wife and her G40 handlers who want to get to the levers of power quickly while the Lacoste team is still smarting from its recent losses.
Support of the International community (political pragmatism)
Mnangagwa is reported to have gained the respect of many of the leading countries, among them China, Russia, UK, and some countries in Europe. If this is true, which I think it is, it must have something to do with the fact that he is more pragmatic on many issues that appear to be the case. My reading is that the anti-West rhetoric of Government, the anti-whites, the anti-reform; the crazy indigenization and all the anti-investment policies we see today are directly associated with Mugabe himself. Nobody in ZANU PF believes in them, and nobody who succeeds Mugabe and wants to change course would have them a day longer. I can bet my last penny that a pragmatist like Mnangagwa knows that those things are wrong and have sent the country to the dogs. For that, in the face of a hapless opposition, the outside world see hope in him.
This is capital on his part, but one that he cannot use because it will backfire on him. He will be accused of selling out and would be targeted by the G40. Jonathan Moyo has made a dig at Mnangagwa’s interview with the British newspaper Magazine, The New Statesman, in early January 2017.
So, this is dead capital. Let’s just call it Goodwill for our political accounting purposes.
Respect in Parliament by friends and foes alike
Within Parliament, Mnangagwa has distinguished himself as being hardworking, is known for attention to detail, never misses parliamentary sessions except when he is out of town or out of the country, and, as Leader of Government Business, even opposition members of Parliament have made complimentary statements about him. Mnangagwa understands the role of Parliament and was even Speaker of Parliament from 2000 to 2005.
This is capital he could leverage on, though again, it might be dead capital. In politics, managerial acumen plays second fiddle to political allegiances.
Mugabe in the wrong basket
Mnangagwa stands to benefit from the fact that, in the court of public opinion, Mugabe is by his association with the G40 in the wrong basket. Don’t get me wrong, this is not to suggest an endearment of the Lacoste team by the generality of Zimbabweans. Given a chance, Zimbabweans would want to see the back of anything ZANU PF, Lacoste included. But ZANU PF is unfortunately what we have, and if one were to choose between the two devils of ZANU PF factions, the majority of people would end up with Lacoste, not so much for the love of Lacotose as for the loathing of G40. Unfortunately, that happens to be Mugabe’s basket.
While undertaking an audit of the G40 will be left to another day, suffice to point out a cursory assessment of the public perceptions of the characters behind G40.The Head, President Mugabe, is someone everyone is tired of. He has been around too long, has destroyed a once vibrant economy, closed democratic space and displayed heartless. Vice President Mphoko is seen as someone who was parachuted to that position from nowhere and is a lackey of the President. He is arrogant and overbearing, and his love for hotel life has not endeared him well with anybody. Jonathan Moyo is someone no one can trust. He will sing for his supper and defends the indefensible. Did you see him involving himself in the WHO appointment when he is neither the Presidential spokesman not the Minister of Health of Foreign Affairs? He fought hard to close down the privately owned media during his time as Minister of Information. He is not and cannot be trusted. Then there is Savior Kasukuwere, a latecomer in the ZANU PF politics but whose bulldozing behaviour with Local Authorities is seen as the reason why most of them are now dysfunctional. Patrick Zhuwawo, there is nothing to say, he is just there, and whatever he says (if he says anything), no one listens and no one remembers.
Then, there is Gucci Grace Mugabe, that Marie Antonette of Zimbabwe. She has acquired fame but for the wrong reasons. She loves power and wealth in a rather crude way. Ladies, who in their right minds wears a $1.3million anniversary ring? And for you men, who in his right mind buys, or allows his wife to buy a diamond ring for that a much, more so when you are leading a country short of foreign currency and whose economy is crumbling?
She hounded Mujuru out of power in a nasty way and engineered  Mnangagwa’s woes. She has accused the Army of wanting to assassinate her children and has insulted grown up men publicly at rallies. These are all decorated war veterans who were on the frontlines at a time when she was still a toddler. Grace is the biggest liability of the entire G40 outfit.
So, this is a snippet of the G40 group that is on the other side of the Rubicon river, and the crocodile should count himself lucky that he stands to look prettier than he really is on account of the composition of his competition.
Drawing dividends from the circus in the opposition
It is a real irony that I get to mention the circus in the Zimbabwean opposition as something working in favour of Mnangagwa should he decide to cross the Rubicon and confront the G40 group in its quest to grab power in Zimbabwe. The paradox in the opposition is that at no time have things been better for them to clinch victory from ZANU PF since the birth of active opposition in Zimbabwe in 2000.  ZANU PF is divided along factional lines between G40 and Lacoste; they lost the support of the war veterans who are their usual election bulwarks; they have alienated large sections of support from people that were aligned to Mujuru since she was fired from the party; the economy is crumbling and in tatters; the First Family has not behaved in an exemplary and caring manner, the list is endless.
When the cherry is ripe for the picking, the opposition is in its worst shape ever. They cannot agree on a single candidate to face ZANU PF. In fact, one party after another have embarked on an orgy of firing each other almost on a monthly basis, the latest being Mutambara fired from Zim People First. The main MDC seems clueless and lacking strategy on how to approach the elections, and what position to take with regard to the voter registration mess.According to Obert Gutu, MDC-T Spokesman,
The current opposition, in whatever form or nature it appears, is solidly ill-prepared to solely resolve the deeply rooted political and socio-economic challenges facing the country. We are terribly underfunded and rather ill-organized and in some cases, actually deeply divided among ourselves”
This is a candid admission by the opposition that they are not up to the expectations of the people as far as fighting the fight is concerned. It is very sad because the opposition knew 5 years ago in 2013 that there would be an election in 2018.You hear things like this, and your heart sinks to the deepest part of despair.
I don’t know how many people I speak for, but there is a sense that perhaps we can and should look from within ZANU PF itself for a better of the devils because these clowns in the opposition will never take us to Canaan. Harsh as this may sound, it happens to be true, and someone has to say it.
Whatever the opposition is doing in preparation for elections, you don’t get that sense of euphoria and purpose that was there in 2013.
The point here is, people in ZANU PF, who are reform-minded, repentant, pragmatic and progressive, stand a chance of endearing themselves to the people, if they dust themselves up, and cleanse themselves of the negative stigma associated with ZANU PF.
Assessing Mnangagwa’s political liabilities
There are pieces of baggage on Mnangagwa’s balance sheet that cannot escape an audit scrutiny. One thing that will be difficult to duck is the long-term association with the President.  Mugabe is such a damaged brand that anyone who has been associated with him for over 50 years as is the case with Mnangagwa, has a mountain to climb to convince anyone that he doesn’t think like Mugabe and believe in what Mugabe believes. That on its own is a scary proposition.
Mnangagwa has been credited with installing Mugabe after the defeat by Tsvangirai in 2008 and has been seen as Mugabe’s main election agent, overseeing the JOC and the ZANU PF rigging machinery.
There are people who feel that Mnangagwa is not a reformist, and is simply incapable of reform. Tendai Biti, President of the People’s Democratic Party, once said: “Noone can name any act of reform he has ever carried out”.
Mnangagwa has not done himself any favour or by the recent repeal of the Constitution to allow the President to appoint Judges of the High Court. With so many laws still to be aligned to the new Constitution, he found it a priority as Minister of Justice to fast-track this amendment and take away the democratic separation of powers and scaling down of Presidential powers that had been won through the constitution. This must have been done to please the President but clearly, this grandstanding did not pay for him, as he is now only no longer Minister of Justice, and may end up being nothing after the Congress.
Anyone who has been associated with ZANU PF for a long time will find it hard to extricate themselves from the evil deeds of the party.  Mujuru had a hard time on the BBC Program Hard Talk on that very same point: How can you, as Vice President dissociate yourself from the bad decisions taken by Mugabe. Didymus Mutasa has had to apologize to the people of Zimbabwe for what happened to them while he was part of ZANU PF
Mnangagwa needs to exorcise the ghost of Gukurahundi
But perhaps more than anything on his liabilities side, Gukurahundi will forever be Mnangagwa’s long-term liability. This will damage his quest for national leadership and will always be used against him by those who fight any of his attempts to rise to power.
That madness will never be forgotten, and Mugabe has not helped by refusing to apologize for it, and acting as if it never happened. Recently Dumiso Dabengwa was barred from attending an event commemorating Gukurahundi, and every year Police ban such commemoration events even in the form of Arts and Culture.
Mnangagwa was the Intelligence Chief during that Gukurahundi period, and it is impossible to believe that a matter considered of national security as was Gukurahundi could have taken place without his knowledge. Many believe he was an active participant and has as much Gukurahundi blood on his hands as does Mugabe.
Mnangagwa does not help the situation by threatening to sue all those who claim he was involved in Gukurahundi. This is despite the existence of evidence of statements he has made, calling dissidents “cockroaches” and the Fifth Brigade as “DDT”. He is also quoted as saying in 2003 that
Blessed are they who will follow the path of the government laws, for their days on earth will be increased. But woe unto those who will choose the path of collaboration with dissidents for we will certainly shorten their stay on earth,” 
At some point, Mnangagwa has to come clean on that. Otherwise, the stigma will always be with him, and at some point, he has to come clean on that.
Perhaps there is something that we do not know yet. There is evidence that given the latitude, he can and will spill the beans. In one interview with a UK newspaper, Mnangagwa's response was that he was not the Commander in Chief at the time the atrocities were committed. Whatever that meant, time will tell. But even if he may not have ordered Gukurahundi, he was part of the leadership that was responsible for the massacres and is guilty by association.
Cleansing the image of the War Veterans
In the eyes of most Zimbabweans, War Veterans are seen as ZANU PF’s foot soldiers and have been used to terrorize people during election time. For this reason, they are seen as the reason Mugabe is in power long after people would have wanted to see his back. The violent farm invasions that started in 2000, as well as the violence that accompanies all elections, were perpetrated by or in the name of War Veterans.
Fortunately, the support of the Veterans is not a long-term liability. The current leadership of the War Veterans, in the name of Chris Mutsvangwa,  Victor Matemadanda and Douglas Mahiya, have done the unthinkable and taken on Mugabe and ZANU PF head on. They have had the courage to apologize to the people for their acts in the past. They demonstrated their sympathy and association with the oppressed during the time of the social unrest and arrest of Pastor Evan Mawarire in 2016. The senseless arrest of Matemadanda and Mahiya, events I personally covered myself, made them heroes of the people. It is possible to turn the liability of their past into a potent asset for any strategy going forward.
So, what is next?
Mnangagwa is a divisive character. Those who love him do so very passionately and those who have issues with him are also passionate about their opposition. He needs to assess the arsenal in his Armory and decide whether he can take his opponents head-on, and in the process also win over those who have doubts about who he really is. At a juncture when the opposition is in sixes and sevens, those numbers are huge and go beyond those just in ZANU PF.
Zimbabwe is crying for Leadership. Any Leadership, as long as it dissociates itself from Mugabe and the policies and practices of ZANU PF.
I hear the tick tock tick tock of a clock ticking.
And By the Way:
The WHO Appointment of Mugabe as Ambassador
What was that all about President Mugabe being appointed, and then suddenly disappointed from being global Ambassador of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Non-communicable diseases (NCDs). What a circus. The reaction of the Zimbabwe and the international community was fast and furious. Whoever advised the DG of WHO to make that appointment must be in serious trouble. WHO grabbled global attention for the wrong reasons. But I applaud the Director-General for beating a hasty retreat. This would be news up till now if he has decided to stick to his decision.
And, did you see how the Zimbabwean spin doctors responded to it? Charamba said that this was a non-event because President Mugabe was never formally invited to become Ambassador. Pleeeease!!!!! He forgets that his own Herald Newspaper had screamed the appointment in the headlines. There has to be logic and rationality even in denial
And then we have Jonathan Moyo wading into the discussions and opining on a national matter when he is neither Minister of Health, Minister of Foreign Affairs nor Presidential spokesman. He is not even ZANU PF spokesman. Talk of arrogating unto oneself portfolios not allocated to you.

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