Countrymen, let us undress Mnangagwa

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By Rodwell Makombe

MY fellow countrymen, forgive me for being so rude to our newly self-elected President. The word “undress” is rather rude especially in a country where everyone is still in a daze after the long-waited departure of one of Africa’s worst dictators. Some in Uzumba and Pfungwe are still unaware that Robert Mugabe is no longer President of Zimbabwe. What would you expect in a country with only one television station? If any evidence was still needed to prove the uselessness of that fallen regime… that could be one among many examples.

Dictators sit on everyone until everyone gets used to the weight of oppression on their shoulders, the way Zimbabweans have become used to one meal a day. They rule you (like Putin is doing in Russia!) into a state of amnesia where you can’t even remember if they are still there or gone. They become a stubborn odour that refuses to let go.

But as we all know, there is a lot of euphoria in that country at the moment. It’s like we are back in 1980. Everyone is talking about a new Zimbabwe. In a euphoric atmosphere, those who think differently are likely to be labelled counter-revolutionaries. So, I wonder if this is the right moment after all, to talk about undressing our dear mukoma Mnangagwa. I am told he comes from my province but anyway let’s leave ethnic loyalties aside. It is nepotism that has ruined our country. Let me go for it

The first thing which must be said unapologetically is that Mnangagwa is a shameless protégé of Robert Mugabe. This is a fact that no longer deserves any qualification. In my culture we say the young one of a snake is a snake. This is not to say Mnangagwa is a snake. No. It’s just to settle an issue of heredity which is evident in the way Mnangagwa has been doing politics.

The question, perhaps, is what politics (or is it whose politics) does Mnangangwa know. I was not surprised at all when he unashamedly refused to apologise for the Gukurahundi atrocities when he had a chance to do so at an international stage in Davos. Remember it is Mugabe who made “apologise” a curse word in Zimbabwe. Apologise for what? Apologise for who? Heroes are always right, after all.

In Zimbabwe, we have come to believe that apologizing is a sign of weakness. Why apologise to the minority when we know that we don’t need their vote to remain in power? Let the Ndebeles go to hell! So even when we are wrong we insist that we are right. This is the legacy that Mugabe has bequeathed to us, and the political culture that our politicians have embraced.

Remember it was our disgraced professor Jonathan Moyo who once tried to convince the whole nation that Mugabe had broken the fall (whatever that was supposed to mean) even when the President was literally on all fours. This is the politics of ZANU PF that everyone in Zimbabwe knows. When Mugabe became President (or was it Prime Minister?) in 1980, he didn’t know any politics of his own. What he knew was the dictatorship of Ian Smith (which is probably why he never repealed most of the draconian laws and institutions of the colonial era).

Our police remained a force whose responsibility was to hunt down and arrest personal enemies of the President. Similarly, our army was turned into an instrument of the ruling party, and in some instances, they would be turned into election agents responsible for counting and throwing away opposition votes. Well, let me hasten to say that when this happened we all celebrated. There he was, our Prime Minister of the Republic and everyone was ululating. I can just imagine the feeling…. Seeing so many excited people looking up to you when you also don’t know how this thing is done. You feel like a god, and as we all know whatever a god does is right. So, he started to do anything, and we ululated… there goes the Messiah.

But what is my point? My point is that Mnangagwa (like his predecessor when he got into power 1980) knows nothing about running a country. Granted, he has moved from one ministry to another over the years but we all know that in that regime no one was allowed to think. The experience that he accrued over the years, which probably helped him to survive for so long, is that of showering praises at his master, which explains why he keeps calling a guy who almost killed him his father.

What we must all acknowledge is that our country needs some fixing and it can’t be fixed by the same people who got it broken in the first place. Zimbabwe needs a leader with clean hands (I mean in relative terms) and an energetic mind. Can we find such a person in Zanu PF? Do we really think that the very people who enacted POSA and AIPPA have a solution to the problems facing our country? Is it possible that Mnangangwa who hero-worshipped Mugabe yesterday has suddenly turned into a new person at 75? Born again, perhaps? Brand new as if he never asked villagers to vote for his party or else he would go back to the bush.

The good thing with Zimbabwe (or is it the bad thing) is that it is a country of selective memories. We remember the good things (like independence in 1980) and quickly forget the bad things (like the indiscriminate brutality of the guerrillas- my mother always tells me about her pot which the guerrillas never returned). These self-elected coup plotters (not that I want Mugabe to come back though) who now masquerade as saviours chopped off people’s arms in broad daylight in an independent “democratic” Zimbabwe. They killed and boasted of their killings in public.

Here I am not suggesting that I know anybody that Mnangagwa killed personally but it is public knowledge that ZANU PF was responsible for the disappearance of many people during Mugabe’s tenure. The least that Mnangagwa should do (if ever he wishes to wash his soiled personality) is to give us the names of those who were abducted and murdered by CIOs during Mugabe’s tenure. We can’t simply say it’s a new dispensation as if Mnangagwa were an angel that has just come down from heaven. The man has a history and we all know what that history looks like.

Mnangagwa has been sitting silently (sometimes saying all the wrong things) under the leadership of a very ruthless dictator in the name of Robert Mugabe. When he was given a chance to sit in his master’s seat (or did he give himself?) through a popular coup, the first thing he did was to declare his father’s birthday a national holiday. Ah! mukoma Mnangagwa? Are you for real?

What do you want the people of Zimbabwe to celebrate? Should we jump and sing and ululate and celebrate the death of our mothers, brothers and sisters? Should we throw a party to celebrate the dreams of young people that are being wasted in the streets of Harare, Johannesburg, Gaborone, London…? Should I sing the praises of those who lost an election in broad daylight and refused to release the results?

And then they said they were going to run alone, count the votes alone and declare themselves winners. Can Zimbabweans celebrate the one-man rule of Mugabe where no different ideas were tolerated? Our people say a country is its people, never one man, no matter how noble his intentions. What is there to celebrate? The shameless arrogance of Jonathan Moyo and that other fellow they called Bright Matonga. If there was ever a criminal regime, I mean a mafia regime in this whole world, Mugabe’s regime ranks among the worst.

And when I say Mugabe’s regime I mean the regime where our brother Mnangagwa was a chief lieutenant starting from Gukurahundi to the rigged elections of 2008. If I should give free advice to Mnangagwa in light of the upcoming elections (that is if he genuinely intends to make them free and fair), he should start by confessing to the whole country how they used to rig elections. Only the truth will set our brother free. We cannot continue this façade of a new era when our new Captain sat in a regime where people like Chivayo could be paid millions of blood-stained tax-payers’ money for doing absolutely nothing. 

Mnangagwa was silent when Tsvangirai (the only man who raised his finger at a time when mentioning Mugabe’s name in vain was a criminal offence) was battered like a snake. We all saw the pictures. A whole leader of an opposition party walking around with a blood stained t-shirt and a swollen face. And should I remind you, fellow Zimbabweans, even now in our new dispensation, nothing has been done to identify and lock up those uniformed hooligans.

This idea that we must forget the past, as if we were all born during the coup, is absolute nonsense. If forgetting the past is such a noble thing, why don’t we forget what the colonisers did to us. It’s only those who committed crimes who see it as expedient for all of us to go to sleep in the hope that when we wake up the criminality of the Mugabe/Mnangagwa regime will be gone. This notion of calling bygones bygones smacks of the same arrogance we used to hear during the Mugabe era.

Remember we used to be told the same thing that we should focus on building the country when the truth of the matter is that no country was being built. My point here is that every building needs a good foundation, and a good foundation for a nation is truth, not lies or cover-ups. Now the whole of Zimbabwe is being made to think that the problem was Mugabe and yet when Mugabe was in power we were told that the problem was much bigger than one man.

Is it not a joke that in this so-called new era, you can’t even recognize those people who used to equate Mugabe to Jesus Christ? In fact, even the people who announced Mnangagwa’s dismissal are newly born now, and they don’t even have the decency to explain to the citizens why they fired the Vice President only to sing his praises in the post-coup era. What I can say in all this post-coup-circus is that Zimbabwe needs total cleansing which should start with removing all the dead wood from top to bottom.

I have listened to a number of so called political commentators, some in the diaspora too, saying Mnangagwa has brought a new order to Zimbabwe. Really? But perhaps we need to give the devil his due … he has cleared our roads of extortionists who masqueraded as police men and women. That is something positive (or is it?) Mnangagwa was there when those merciless (sometimes mindless) fellows were unleashed onto our potholed roads to raise money for the President’s endless trips to Singapore.

He was there, but now that he is in the driving seat and busy sanitizing his image, he will tell you that he was an innocent Lacoste and not a corrupt G40 like Kasukuwere. One thing about Zimbabweans is that they are very quick to forgive and forget especially when you promise them a new dispensation and things such as free and fair elections. Even if you are the same person who once humiliated them in front of their children for supporting the wrong party, they will forgive you.

Mugabe knows this.  That is why he is starting (or is it blessing?) a new political party with a blatantly insulting name. New Patriotic Front? The only Patriotic Front we know is a party of looters and political rascals who masquerade as revolutionaries. For goodness’ sake, we don’t need a new version of a dysfunctional political party. But as I said, you won’t be surprised to find that some people already think that Mugabe was better. It’s always like that when you compare two rotten apples. There is always a better one.  Some believe that no one will vote for the New Patriotic Front, but let me assure you, some patriotic citizens of our great country will.

In Zimbabwe, we have one problem, and that is we cannot recognize the new from the old. Everything is so mixed up that sometimes we think the old is the new and the new is the old. Remember those days when ZANU PF insisted that their candidate for 2018 was Mugabe even when the latter could hardly raise a finger with old age. Or think about this; in what way is a party headed by a retired Brigadier General new? Or to come closer home, in what way is 75 years (what a time to start a career!) new? The cabinet is reeking with old age.

Fellow Zimbabweans, sometimes all we need is a little common sense. Is it possible to make a house new by moving the furniture around? Since I was young (about thirty something years ago), I have known the same politicians, carrying the same briefcases and making the same speeches … about reviving the economy and starting a new economic policy that will empower “our people”. It’s the same old faces (some were already looking old when I was doing Grade three). These are the people talking about taking us to Canaan. What country is this where people don’t retire? And our political analysts keep telling us that it’s a new dispensation. Do they really know what new looks like?

In fact, one funny thing about our country is that it has been highjacked by opportunists (in the name of prophets and political analysts) who are ready to claim that they can see the future. Recently, I heard a prophet say that Mnangagwa was chosen by God. Really? I beg to differ. Does God stage coups too? That man was chosen by the military, probably not everyone in the military too. And the truth of the matter is that at 75, having wasted his years sitting under the shadow of Mugabe’s eloquent speeches, he has nothing new to contribute to the country.

What I don’t understand is this logic that someone who destroyed a thing is also the one who should be entrusted with the delicate task of fixing it. It’s a weird logic, and one that can only make sense in a country where people are ready to believe anything that comes in the name of the prophet. Even Mugabe was once seen as a prophet, that is why in 1980, we all switched off our minds and rushed to the polling stations armed with Xs. Now there is a new prophet in town, and again, we are being told to make the same mistake we made in 1980.

What I am saying in a nutshell is that Zimbabwe needs new blood and I don’t think there is anything new in comrade Mnangagwa and his crew. I know that Zimbabweans have gone through a lot and they are ready to believe anything that is not painted “Mugabe”. That is a good thing – hating Mugabe and his leadership style – but for me its foolishness to shun a 95-year-old for a 76-year-old. For goodness sake our retirement age limit is 65. How on earth do we pension teachers on the pretext that at 65 they are too old to teach, and yet we refuse to pension a President. Do we really think leading a country is less cumbersome than leading a class?

Lastly, I want to put it on record that I am not campaigning for anybody (although I believe that there is no harm in being led by a young President for once). In my view, it gives the nation some kind of new energy, especially after years of watching Mugabe sleep in parliament.

I also want to put it on record that I don’t hate Mnangagwa. He is probably a good man (in the broadest sense of the word) with good intentions; a good man who is trying to do too little too late. One good thing that he has done through the coup is that he has given us, in our lifetime, an opportunity to name someone else, other than Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe. Many people died wishing to see this day. But we must never confuse the cock that announces dawn with dawn itself.