Many keep asking and wondering: why did Mnangagwa appoint Constantino Chiwenga as the minister of defence?
To some it was a blunder; he should have left Chiwenga as the ZDF chief to expunge the coup ‘accusation’, they argue. Moreover, they say, Chiwenga has become the most powerful and, therefore, a dangerous minister considering he was already a VP and after leading the coup.
What these questions and assertions over-look is the fact that Emmerson Mnangagwa did not clinch the presidency by accident; it should be obvious to all by now that a lot of planning was put into his ascendance. And yet there shouldn’t be any doubt that the more Mnangagwa shapes his administration the more some things become clearer.
Mnangagwa knows how dangerous a defence minister can be following his own rebellious rise. So, he needed a trusted person as defence minister. After all, he plotted his rise together with the army hierarchy when he was the minister of defence. That was after they had saved then President Robert Mugabe from the jaws of oblivion following his defeat to Morgan Tsvangirai in the 2008 polls.
Mugabe made Mnangagwa the minister of defence during the GNU because Mnangagwa had worked well with the army to ‘rig’ the re-run and to mastermind the wave of violence which saw the MDC-T pulling out at the last minute. He [Mugabe] calculated that that was going to be pivotal in maintaining and keeping the machinery lubricated for the next election  and that strategy, as is now known, yielded the desired outcome.
But there was a catastrophic downside. Unknown to Mugabe was the fact that that was the time when the army and Mnangagwa laid the ground for the power grab project. The idea was to take over in an orderly manner and only resort to a coup (through Mnangagwa) if Mugabe acted in a way that threatened the whole strategy. Whatever means they were going to use to takeover, so they decided, power had to eventually shift to the KGVI (now Josiah Tongogara).
This is how things got to that. When government took a month to announce the 2008 elections results, the army discovered how pathetic Mugabe was after defeat; it was clear to the generals that they were his last and trusted line of defence. It was obvious to them that without the military Mugabe was a sitting duck and so they concluded that they could do as they pleased henceforth. In that regard, they quietly decided to grab power for themselves through Mnangagwa.Advertisement
Over the years, Mugabe had cultivated mutual mistrust among the generals that it became a culture which he relied on to perpetuate his control over the military and eventually the state. He so much depended on this culture that he was unable to notice its secret or quiet erosion from the 2008 polls onwards.
Once the generals were assigned to an unprofessional role of manipulating the elections the day to day professional restrictions fell away. They got closer at individual level. As they shared personal thoughts on the day to day rigging project chores, it dawned on them how easy it was to trust each other. Gradually, they began to reflect on other issues outside that particular assignment [election management]. Once the rigging was over, they secretly transferred their newly found and treasured mutual trust to their professional life to hatch the power grab plan. To them, they could not continue to soil their name just for Mugabe; they had to benefit somehow. This feeling got stronger with time as Mugabe tried to use Grace whom the generals held in contempt.
To prepare for their future rule, the generals started going back to school to study for PhDs so as to clean their image [It says much that we learnt of Perrance Shiri’ and Sibusiso Moyo’s postgraduate training at the completion of the so-called Operation Restore Legacy]. At regional level, they used the routine social clubs such as the regional generals’ golf tournaments to brief SADC colleagues on their project so that when it eventually concluded it would be accepted.
But there was a hurdle: Joice Mujuru, then VP. As Mugabe recently admitted that Mnangagwa was also instrumental [“he helped us to remove Mujuru”] in her ouster, it was planned that she should be removed after the 2013 elections. It became easy to do so after the 2013 ‘victory’ which Mnangagwa and the army had promised Mugabe.
Mugabe had felt humiliated by the 2008 initial defeat to Tsvangirai (whom he once called an ‘empty bucket’) and the resultant GNU. Mugabe desperately needed the 2013 ‘victory’ that when it was finally delivered he was so elated to the extent that Mujuru became useless for him. Just as the army had saved him in 2008 and made the 2013 wish a dream come true, he, too, found it easy to grant them (army) their wish (Mnangagwa’s rise).
If Mujuru’s claim that her husband was murdered and that the ‘murderers’ were known to “those people in power” is true, whoever ‘assassinated’ Solomon ultimately made it easy for Mnangagwa and the KGVI crew to push for Mujuru’s ouster. With her husband long dead, she was mincemeat. According to her, Solomon, an adroit strategist and Mnangagwa’s top enemy, had played a pivotal role in her drammatic rise which saw Mnangagwa losing the Vice Presidency at the last minute.
Mnangagwa’s push for Mujuru’s expulsion did not become easy because of Rex’s death and Mugabe’s 2013 victory only. There was another factor. Mugabe has never liked to appear to owe anybody anything. Throughout his rule, he had been able to remove all the people who did not owe their political influence or stature to his benevolence or facilitation. Only Solomon was able to extract certain concessions from him and only himself could be frank with Mugabe. Solomon enjoyed this privilege because of the role he had played in Mugabe’s taking control of Zanu in Mozambique. Getting rid of his widow, Mugabe thought, would leave him with no burden of loyalty; he would have a free terrain to do as he pleased; Mnangagwa was not a problem to him at all, so Mugabe thought.
What Mugabe didn’t know was that he had fallen, headlong, into the murky waters. That was what an ever stealthy Mnangagwa wanted-to give Mugabe a false sense of total and stress free control. It was that false sense of freedom on Mugabe’s part that was useful in the KGVI cabal’ scheme of things; it made it possible for them to consolidate their power grab strategy.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa was to continue to pretend to be loyal to Mugabe. On many occasions, Mnangagwa appeared on TV showing excessive respect for Mugabe, almost kneeling down; hand to his chest.
That was meant to pull wool over Mugabe’s eyes; after all, in Mugabe’s world there are either bootlickers or enemies; no friends at all. As one who knew Mugabe well and to be safe, Mnangagwa had to appear to be bootlicking. But a problem arose: some treacherous G40 members, who were initially part of the power-grab project, then revealed this to Mugabe. But Mugabe, perhaps thinking Mnangagwa and Chiwenga were his stooges, took too long to act. His early strategy was to put Grace into the mix to neutralise the Mnangagwa project. That is why both Grace and Mnangagwa cherished Mujuru’s ouster. The rest, as they say, is history.
So, by deploying Chiwenga at defence Mnangagwa wants him to monitor the army so that they (military), after tasting fruits of the coup, don’t fall into temptation in future. Mnangagwa could have left Chiwenga as the Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief but caution had to be taken. There was a fear that Chiwenga [KGVI’s preferred successor] would miss out on the presidency if Mnangagwa was to either die or be incapacitated in whatever way before he (Chiwenga) was in the presidium. So it was decided that he would take both the Vice Presidency and the defence portfolio.
So, what this means is that the KGVI government is now firmly in place and in total control and that may be so for a very long time.
Using his arthritic grip on the levers of power and the state, Mugabe, over the years, succeeded in fixing his ego as the dynamo of government to achieve what one might call government by ego. Just about every state department was run in a way that danced to Mugabe’s mood, fears and whims.
For example, when Mugabe was angry specific government departments had to shake. Even when a statue [Joshua Nkomo’s at Karigamombe] had to be erected it had to be in a way that boosted and pampered Mugabe’s ego. People were appointed to specific positions not on the basis of competence and or skills but on the basis of what service they would have rendered to Mugabe either on the espionage or terror fronts. If you sought to be admitted into the Mugabe inner circle and you had not accorded Mugabe any particular service you had to owe him something mostly by having committed a crime for which you would not have been punished so that Mugabe would use it as blackmail.
But under Mnangagwa, the dynamo of government is, according to plan, KGVI. Under this arrangement, no individual’s ego holds sway; rather collective resolve is evident. Nobody is necessarily dangerous to the other. As such, Chiwenga has not become really powerful, as some claim. Rather he is influential. The very nature of the KGVI government doesn’t allow an individual to be all powerful.
Considering the fact that the KGVI government is partly an offspring of the earlier mutual fear it goes without saying that there should be mutual and or collective ownership and common purpose driven by the treasured mutual trust.
In any case, as his subordinates revealed to the CIA agents and as exposed by the Wikileaks six years ago, Chiwenga is not a gifted strategist; neither is he articulate making him unsuitable for project management. Moreover, he routinely flunked his exams. He is just a violent man (the only characteristic outside bigotry which Mugabe cherished in him); his limitations were exposed during the press conference announcing the impending coup and during the insurrection itself out of which Sibusiso Moyo emerged the star. Power, as has been said, lies at KGVI which is a collective extension of unprofessional soldiery and criminal bureaucracy controlled through civilian and Godly pretences at Munhumutapa Building.
The KGVI administration was easy to set up; it was just a question promising the opposite of Mugabe’s ideals and swearing by the people and God [The voice of the people is the voice of God: Mnangagwa]. Also, villifying Grace, under such circumstances, is enough to earn one accolades. So, the recruitment of aides had to be in line with the aforementioned.
With Godly pretences, it is hoped, Gukurahundi and Marange blood will be washed away. It may have been accidental that the renaming of the KGVI after Tongogara coincided with the coup but there is no doubt as to the spiritual boost that it is lending to the new government. Even Chiwenga has begun to speak of “things” he “knows” (about Tongogara’s death) but is “unable to say”.
But just because the KGVI government is of Ego state parentage similarities are obvious if not inevitable. Both the KGVI government and Mugabe’s are inherently deceitful and rapacious. In both entities, vendetta rules the roost despite reconciliation pretences.
Tellingly, the godfather of the KGVI remains the same Frankenstein Mugabe: the one who is proudly violent, who thinks Kalangas are the only criminals; the one with degrees in violence. “To me personally, he [Mugabe] remains a father, mentor, comrade in arms and leader,” said Mnangagwa. It says a lot that despite Mugabe’s criminal rule, the KGVI crew saw “criminals around” Mugabe and not a Frankenstein in him.
Mthulisi Mathuthu is New Zimbabwe Deputy Editor. His recreations include Afro-Jazz and travelling. Views expressed here are his own. His email is: firstname.lastname@example.org