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Mugabe, power and the Jonathan Moyo effect in Zimbabwe

CONTRARY to prevalent opinion, Professor Jonathan Moyo’s trouble with Robert Mugabe and some die-hard Zanu PF old guards did not suddenly explode with Mugabe’s tirade at the burial of Nathan Shamuyarira. No. Moyo was under attack from the time Mugabe publicly recognised and thanked him for engineering Zanu PF’s much unexpected victory in the 2013 election.
Students of power politics will note that the very announcement that Moyo occasioned the electoral victory that shocked the thinking world, split the MDC-T, and continues to occupy political talk throughout the world was an invitation for fear and hatred for Moyo, first in Zanu PF and next in the opposition that then saw Moyo as that willy fellow who once again bandaged a dying snake and sentenced Zimbabwe to another term of venal Zanu PF and Mugabe rule.
Mugabe might have said it in genuine gratitude for a resounding victory that he did not imagine was possible but the effect that the statement of recognition and praise for Moyo had was to alert the sleeping dogs in Zanu PF that Moyo was no longer a common soul but a monumental power player and one that was indispensable. Added to the fact that Mugabe appointed Moyo a minister after having stressed that those who lost their constituencies in the elections were not to be considered, it became clear that when it came to Moyo, the political rules can be bent.
In common logic this was understandable because Moyo took leave from his constituency duties to craft stratagems of Zanu PF victory at national level and so was not expected to harvest any meaningful votes in his own turf. In political logic however, this meant that Moyo had suddenly become an undeclared member of the Presidium who delivered for the party what none of the Doctors and Generals in Zanu PF could deliver without the use of violence and other old-fashioned political tools of coercion.
What is happening to Jonathan Moyo in Zanu PF, I suggest in this article, is an important vantage point from which to try to decipher the true historical and political condition of not only Zanu PF, which might soon suffer its own split, but that of Zimbabwe which is boiling toward inevitable political change and renewal, if not for better for worse.
Of Kingmakers and Matchmakers
The political history of Kingdoms and principalities is littered with anecdotal evidence that those who make kings and shape kingdoms normally suffer or die for their rare abilities. There is an old Zulu proverb that says “umbeki wenkosi kabusilayo” which is a pithy suggestion that the one who installs the king normally does not go on to rule alongside him, but he is killed or dispensed with somehow.Advertisement

It is commonsensical in power politics that in reality this fellow who knows how to make a King can very easily unmake him, and so he must be treated with suspicion always, if not eliminated. Kingmakers have it in their resources to make themselves kings or replace the kings they have made with new ones.  Powerful kings also feel insecure and unsure in the presence of those who made them; it’s a wish of every powerful person to be seen as the engineer and the owner of their power not just beneficiaries of the political genius of others. Borrowed or donated food loses its test when consumed in the presence of those that made it available.
Those that have thought about relations of men and women, and the activity of matchmakers must also have observed that matchmakers are good during matchmaking and a lot insufferable and a discomfort after. Who sleeps in peace in bed with a wife he knows was convinced to get into the romantic congress with him by another man? The Ndebele say “umcoli ngumoni” to mean that this very fellow who brought the lovers into romantic congress is to be regarded as a perpetual offender who is dangerous to the relationship. Lovers feel light and naked in the presence of this knowing fellow who has full details of how the relationship began and who can unmake the relationship anytime.
The political position of Jonathan Moyo in Zanu-PF is not in any fundamental way different from that of an industrious kingmaker in the kingdom, and that of a creative matchmaker in a prominent marriage. In reality those characters with the ability to imagine kingdoms and not only that but come up with the mental resources on how the empire will be built and how it will stand can be scary. The same with those, most of the times, who do not have their own wives but can convince some women to marry other men, such personalities suffer the suspicion of possibly going around renting their own women to unsuspecting men. One cannot be a competent kingmaker and matchmaker and not endure suspicion and the hatred of those who wish to be like them and indeed those who benefit from their talents.
Moyo, by Mugabe’s word brought power to Zanu PF in 2013 (and before) and brought Zanu PF to power. Every time Mugabe and Zanu PF are about to celebrate their sweet power they have to suffer the humbling knowledge that they are where they are because of one human institution called Professor Jonathan Moyo. The thought might be scary that if he can make us this high and big what if tomorrow he uses his mental workshop to make himself bigger and higher than us? In short, what next will he do? What is he thinking now? Is he Baba Jukwa? What does he want and, in reality, who is he? The political position of Moyo in Zanu PF, for the reason of his abilities, has become that which Dambudzo Marechera called “the rat that every cat secretly admires”.
The knowledge by other ministers and certain place holders within the party that Moyo is not just another minister fills them with a very guilty conscience and undiluted envy. For that reason, as bad as it is, witchcraft stories were concocted, an increasing traffic of toxic rumours were sent to Mugabe to alert him to just how dangerous Moyo is to him and the party. Those who sought to crucify Moyo crafted the stories in the vocabulary that would scare the ninety something year old senseless. That rant at Heroes Acres was the rant of a scared, alarmed and terrified man.
In all the alarm and fear, nobody must be fooled into forgetting that Robert Mugabe himself is a skilled political dribbler who most probably sees in Jonathan Moyo a sharper representation of his younger self. Those like the late Edgar Tekere who have testified on the rise of Robert Mugabe have emphasised that what recommended him was his clear thinking, eloquent speech and sheer gravitas, all of which are but a few of the qualities that Jonathan Moyo has polished to Rock and Roll. In light of that, the rant at Heroes Acre might as well have doubled up as a pathetic scream to the world to say “I am still powerful.”
The burial of Shamuyarira, an event which was naturally conditioned to represent Shamuyarira as having been a good person became opportune for Mugabe to seek to reduce Moyo because Shamuyarira is one person that Moyo spectacularly outshined. Right by the side of Shamuyarira’s casket, it was easy for a political dribbler to seek to diminish Moyo’s growing power and use the overwhelming sympathy to Shamuyarira at his burial moment to try and publicly erode Moyos’s enigma as a storied regime builder. Funeral gatherings have from times immemorial been vivid locations of spirited attempts to sway the hearts and the minds of mournful and therefore less thoughtful audiences. A lie told by a graveside is so easily embellished to some truth by bleeding hearts and grieving minds.
Mugabe and the many parties in Zanu PF
Some months ago, in a rare feat of candour, Nathaniel Manheru said something that must have captured our attention were we not still recovering our wits from Zanu PF’s miraculous electoral victory. Manheru wrote of a Zanu PF that had achieved “victory” and had lost the “party” in the process. In a strong way, there is no longer a party in Zanu PF but parties. Simplistically these parties have been called factions or just groups but in reality it appears that they are parties that are all jostling to govern in the absence of others.
Also absent in the Zimbabwean table of political debate is the observation that in actuality one of the most influential of these many parties in Zanu PF is the one led by Grace Mugabe. So much dust has been raised about the Joice Mujuru faction and the Emmerson Munangagwa faction to the total ignorance of how Grace Mugabe is grouping people around herself and her own political project to seize power in the party and the country if not to ensure that those who will protect her vast business empire succeed Mugabe and secure her golden pickings for posterity.
Interestingly, currently all the parties within Zanu PF are still led by Mugabe himself, they all speak and act in his name while they impatiently wait for him to expire. The vitriolic attack on Jonathan Moyo at Shamuyarira’s grave side did not come from the President of Zimbabwe or that of Zanu PF but from a bitter leader of a party within Zanu PF, and which party does not hold Jonathan Moyo in good stead but fears him to the centre.
Politically speaking therefore, the Mugabe who publicly valorised Jonathan Moyo for salvaging victory for Zanu PF in 2013 is not the same Mugabe who came short of announcing that he has dismissed Moyo from government at a funeral gathering. The angry and alarmed persona that attacked Moyo by the side of Shamuyarira’s grave was a faction leader whose senses and purposes were a distant from that of a grateful Mugabe who became humble enough to tell the world exactly to whom Zanu PF owed its inexplicable electoral and political victory.
Most of us remember the curious story where on a highly political visit to Gideon Gono’s farm, a farm which those who “don’t know much” claim to be Grace Mugabe’s, Mugabe was told how the good works of Gono are being blacked out in the media. That farm visit is but one of the many visits where Mugabe has been worked on, pressured and persuaded to revise his view on Jonathan Moyo and see him as the “devil incarnate.” The tirade that Mugabe threw up at Heroes Acre was not in defence of the Mujuru faction or an attack on any other, but it was a launch of a new offensive by one of the parties in Zanu PF, and one closest to his old ear. The prevailing fight in Zanu PF these days is who gets Mugabe’s ear!
The party within Zanu PF that is led by Grace Mugabe is peopled by business tycoons, pastors, prophets, briefcase academics and other “men of God.” These are people thrown into politics by the need to protect financial interests and gains that run the danger of being lost if an individual not sympathetic to Grace succeeds Mugabe. What they have gained silently through political patronage they publicly and loudly thank God for it and preach gospels of prosperity and wealth. This is the party of “God” that directly eats from under the table of Robert Mugabe.
In this party there are slippery fellows who have collected all the jargon from business dictionaries and throw around sound bites that are easily mistaken for wisdom. These fellows describe God in graphic terms, as if they were with him at lunch, and make claims to visions and prophecies. They have assured Mugabe he is of God and they have polished his ego to shine. The sudden upsurge of prophetic politics and political prophecy in Zimbabwe is not insulated from Zanu PF succession politics, but it is embedded in it.
Robert Mugabe and the fetish of power
To those who have considered the matter closely, it has always been clear that Mugabe will need such people as Jonathan Moyo but not necessarily like them. Mugabe possesses or actually is possessed by what German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche described as the intoxicating “will to power.” The “will to power” defines a spirited appetite to acquire and retain power at whatever cost and by whatever means.
For power, Robert Mugabe will do unheard of things that include sending an entire ministerial delegation to salute a teenage Sangoma that is making claims to accessing pure auto-mobile fuel from the ancestors. Power as a fetish has so long been retained in Zanu PF through brute force without any pretence to civility and respect for legitimate means of negotiating authority. The discourse of “degrees in violence” comes from this deployment of systematic violence to coerce the masses to consent to Zanu-PF rule.
What Jonathan Moyo has been trying to bring to Zanu PF is indeed a “will to power” but differently, power that is achieved through the witchcraft of persuasion, vivid public relations rituals and polished means that Walter Lippmann famously describes as the “manufacture of consent.” Those of us who remember, only recently, Moyo delivered what was almost a lecture to the police on the uselessness of force after they blocked an event that was organised to commemorate World Press Freedom Day. By seeming to discourage Zanu PF from its trusted vocabulary of violence, it becomes easy to see Moyo as an enemy within.
Mugabe’s Iron “will to power” has also fed fat on part-time Mafioso types who have taken bribes from threatened white commercial farmers in the millions, and who have committed so many other crimes, as long as they drop the name of the President and donate to the February 21st Movement they continue to walk. In his spirited confrontation with corruption, Moyo has minimised such personalities and threatened them with extinction. Even Vice-President Joice Mujuru whose inexplicable wealth has been publicly estimated around Nine-Billion United States Dollars came out screaming about why the media should stop publicising corruption stories as this was destroying Zanu-PF.
At the time of Mujuru’s alarming statements most people thought she was just out of order but now it is clear that she spoke for many in Zanu PF who believe that an attack on corruption is an attack on the party. Mugabe’s friends such as Enos Nkala who was dismissed from government under accusations of corruption told the world that Mugabe only used corruption allegations as an excuse to eliminate potential successors, otherwise if corruption pays homage to his power Mugabe can sit well with it.
Besides his pronounced opposition to violence and spirited attack on corruption, Moyo has gestured towards a new media era in Zimbabwe where the airwaves would be opened up to non-governmental players and where the polarity between the private and the public media is minimised. This has given players in the media a scent of a new era in Zimbabwean governance and leadership. To Mugabe’s steel “will to power” this can be frightening, hence the strong language where Moyo has been described as a “weevil” that is eating deep into Zanu PF from within. Such political gamesmanship as Moyo’s ability to win over such international media actors as Mduduzi Mathuthu and others is being turned around as bringing in enemies of the state closer to the centres of power. Since when has winning over former opponents into your side became a fault in politics?
Those who have become rich through the Zanu-PF patronage system do not necessarily love Mugabe or love Zanu PF but they love themselves in Zanu PF and what the name of Mugabe has done for them. These are the people who would work over time to convince Mugabe that Moyo is not attacking corruption but is eroding Zanu PF from within. In short, corruption has become such culture in Zanu PF that it has become impossible to fight it without fighting Zanu PF itself.
Jonathan Moyo’s attempt to use the soft violence of information management and the “manufacture of consent” through symbols and rituals of conciliation are now clashing with the founding values of brute force and the now endemic corruption in the party. Through the arts of non-violence, the vivid vocabulary of indigenisation and black economic empowerment Zanu PF won the 2013 election, after the election, those who consider themselves the owners of the party are going back to the traditions of violence, corruption and the genocidal language where people are reduced to elements and insects such as ‘weevils’.
Zanu PF, Jonathan Moyo and Zimbabwe
What Jonathan Moyo has done for Zanu PF has been told to the world by Mugabe himself. Moyo has severally rescued the party from electoral defeat. Inside Zanu PF he has been seen by some as an infection that is eating the party from within we have learnt. That Zanu PF needs Jonathan Moyo needs no argument, the question is does Jonathan Moyo deserve Zanu PF? To some of us it appears that Zanu PF has given the likes of Moyo false hope that it is capable of changing and becoming a modern party that can rule through legitimate means when in fact Zanu PF is ready to return to its primitive ways any second. The friction between Moyo and the Zanu PF guard presently defines tension between an old order and a new order. The spirit of renewal is in the air in Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe needs those sons and daughters that can recover her and restore her to the comity of nations in the world.
The political history of Jonathan Moyo shows that he is at his best under pressure; hostile political conditions seem to squeeze the best out of him. This is so with many political thinkers and actors of note.  Those who have followed history will recall that Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, a book that remains the pornography of power politics was written by a rejected and lonely Machiavelli who had even resorted to setting up snares for birds and small game. The treatise itself was in reality an application for love and a job from a hostile new regime. It is the task of those rejected Zimbabweans from the MDC-T and Zanu PF to imagine a new Zimbabwean political desideratum and deploy imagination and creativity to win the hearts and minds of Zimbabweans to the direction of new politics and power.
For many years individuals such as Tendai Biti spent their mental energies and professional appeal giving the MDC-T and Morgan Tsvangirai an appearance of  nobility, now that the mask of Tsvangirai has fallen, the myths and fictions of him as an individual who is “More” have exploded, the same people who built him are called sell-outs. The same with those reformists such as Jonathan Moyo and others who have tried to modify Zanu PF to a party of the 21st century have earned graveside tirades from leaders and parties that will never change. The question of the day is indeed, why should we, good Zimbabweans, keep doing the same wrong thing over and over again?
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Pretoria based Zimbabwean political scientist and semiotician. He can be reached at dinizulumacaphulana@yahoo.com