The Sunday News
Vincent Gono, News Editor
“YOU know the trait of a crocodile, don’t you? It never hunts outside water. It always goes into the water to catch its prey. It never goes into the villages or in the bush looking for food. It strikes at the appropriate time. So a good guerrilla leader strikes at the appropriate time.”
This quote is not fetched from pages of Art of War by Sun Tzu neither is it a relic of Chinese revolutionary collections by a military tactician of Mao Tse Tung’s nature.
It comes from the depth and logic of President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa in his biography: A life Of Sacrifice and it speaks to strategy and a virtue of patience that has defined him as a character who never rushes, a schemer who doesn’t do things in haste, and one who seems to own time throughout his political career.
Armed with royalty, courage and inherent leadership skills inherited from his father who was a traditional leader, President Mnangagwa was soon to exhibit traits of political consciousness and an unbreakable resolve that manifested itself in his strong resistance to oppression.
It was from his late father, Mafidhi Mnangagwa who was later banished to Zambia by the colonial regime that a strong abhorrence for the colonial regime and all that it stood for took root in him and vowed with an unshakable spirit to fight it.
The titling of his biography: A life Of Sacrifice authored by economist, critic and scholar Eddie Cross is therefore apt. It is an emotionally moving testimony into his political life, barring in no uncertain terms and unapologetic language with a collection of pictures both new and archaic the trials, tribulation, torture and pain that punctuated President Mnangagwa’s political life.
He admitted in the foreword to the book that the sacrificial environment in which he was raised influenced his political views although his desire remains that of positively transforming the lives of Zimbabweans.
Indeed, sacrifice was to become part of his personae. He is not a stranger to tears, sweat and blood. They have shaped most of his political life and it has most probably made him the person he is today, a cadre who chose to be a martyr on the tumultuous altar of a liberated, unified and developed Zimbabwe.
The turbulent life that President Mnangagwa led from his youthful days can be likened to that of the Biblical David the shepherd son of Jesse who took the reins of a once theocratic nation of Israel from Saul.
At a tender age David fought lions, foxes and other wild animals that threatened his father’s flock and it prepared him so well to be a perfect saviour and guardian of the people of Israel. His defeat of the invincible Assyrian giant Goliath was the turning point in his life from where he led Israel.
President Mnangagwa, like David endured a tempestuous life at the hands of foreign forces that threatened the liberty of the native people and escaped the gaping jaws of death by a whisker only saved by his age then.
This was after his Crocodile Gang had attacked a police station in Nyanyadzi and a train on the line to the then Fort Victoria now Masvingo.
He was to suffer a 10-year prison term in isolation in the notorious D-Class cell that was only reserved for people deemed dangerous where he was not even allowed to attend church services. He was regarded as a purveyor of a deadly contagious disease that was unwelcome to the Rhodesian social order hence the quarantine.
His biography puts it clearly, pointing out that he was subjected to the full fury of the Rhodesian security forces.
“In the cell with the hooks he was subjected to the most brutal and inhumane torture tactics which included hanging him on the hooks upside down.The techniques used were not in any textbook on how prisoners should be treated… He was severely beaten and lost the partial use of one ear as a result. He was hung upside down and doused with water… He was made to hold a Land Rover seat in air while standing on one leg for hours.
“He was made to crouch under a low shelf in a very uncomfortable position from time to time and assaulted. A dynamite was lit and held to his chest till it got down to the end while drawing pins were stuck into the soles of his feet and he was made to walk on them causing him considerable pain,” reads part of the President’s biography.
Cde Mnangagwa served time at Grey Street Prison (now Bulawayo Prison) before he was moved to Khami Maximum Prison before he was sent back to Harare and later deported to Zambia.
It was while in prison that he met the late President Mugabe and the two curved their relationship premised on nationalistic values and became close political associates whose ideas intersected on the goal to free the country from colonial subjugation. They also took their time in prison to improve their education.
The biography is a hard knuckled must-read blow by blow account of the power politics played in the political construction of an independent Zimbabwe where President Mnangagwa was instrumental in shaping both the course and pace of politics.
It offers valuable insight into the Gukurahundi disturbances that threatened to shred into civil conflict the young liberated state razing through the causes, its suppression, the conspiracies and the formation of the Unity Accord in December 1987.
It also gives clear lenses through which the hazy politics were used to sideline President Mnangagwa in the race to succeed President Mugabe despite his impeccable record as a trusted lieutenant who shared the trenches and the political dungeons with the nationalist cadres’ crème de la crème.
It was after independence that his persecution started as he was viewed as a threat in the succession politics by those who believed were naturally supposed to take over after the late President Mugabe. A serious political positioning ensued and it was in the thick political matrix that President Mnangagwa was caught up and his political tribulations persisted.
The biography also shreds into the Tsholotsho Declaration of 2004 whose aftermath saw President Mnangagwa given a less powerful ministry of Rural Housing and Social Amenities, the appointment and subsequent disgraceful disappointment of former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
This was after President Mnangagwa had persuaded the then Women’ League Chairperson to relinquish the position to former First Lady. The result was that Cde Mujuru was dismissed and President Mnangagwa was appointed Vice President on 10 December 2014.
It also gives insight into the relationship with his then counterpart Vice President Mphoko.
His political tribulations however, did not end with his assumption of the VP’s post. In fact, it was the beginning of another harsh drive characterised by humiliation and persecution. These were from political colleagues who included political late comers who have no aorta of party history others who were privileged to get appointed into Government.
This culminated in the Youth Interface rallies of 2017 that were framed to attack President Mnangagwa. He was poisoned, his offices were broken into several times and attempts at his life were made albeit unsuccessful.
His dismissal on 6 November 2017 saw in motion a rollercoaster of events while in South Africa that saw him coming back to lead the country that he had so much love for, a country that he sacrificed his entire life for, putting together his Cabinet and making key appointments.
He won the elections in 2018, beating Mr Nelson Chamisa’s MDC-A and other small political parties that have emerged to challenge him.
After getting the mandate to lead the country, he had to put his hands on the deck, and he was equal to the task of fixing the economy and uniting the party that had been tattered through factional fights. On the economic front, he was quick to put in place economic blue-prints that served the purpose of guiding economic development.
In 2018 when he assumed office soon after elections he put together the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) which was as the name suggested – a package of policy reform initiatives by the new dispensation to encourage domestic production, exports, rebuilding and transforming the economy to an upper middle income status by 2030.
It was meant to set the economy on a recovery path after years of stagnation through stabilising the macro-economy and the financial sector; introducing necessary policy and institutional reforms to translate to a private sector-led economy; addressing infrastructure gaps, and launching quick-wins to stimulate growth.
It was characterized by austerity measures that were meant to bring posterity and it set the tone for economic recovery where it was replaced by the National Development Strategy (NDS1) which saw a number of projects being implemented.
The success of the NDS1 where 7000 massive life transforming infrastructural projects coupled with many other projects brought about by the actualization of devolution were carried out was to be President Mnangagwa’s trump card in the just ended harmonized elections.
President Mnangagwa won the mandate to lead the country and his vision of having an upper-middle-income economy by 2030 was emphasized recently during his high level meeting with his ministers when he emphasized the need for hard working, humility and unity in his Government.