By Pearson Mbalekwa
I HAVE decided to come out of a self-imposed political hibernation and join the debate on the merits and demerits of the appointments of Hon ED Mnangagwa and Hon Phelekezela “Report” Mphoko as State Vice Presidents after Zanu-PF’s congress in December 2014. This is in view of the relentless attacks they have received from the private media and some so-called political analysts and commentators.
The attacks have been more vicious on Hon Mnangagwa and have been centred on his role in Operation Gukurahundi that was carried out to quell an insurgency that had arisen in Matabeleland provinces and some parts of the Midlands during the early 1980s.
The attacks on Hon Mphoko have come from none other than Cde Dumiso Dabengwa, the former intelligence supremo of Zapu and a doyen of the liberation struggle. The private media has gone to war with Hon Mphoko on his comments on the hidden hand of the imperialists in this Gukurahundi.
I will start my debate by firstly congratulating both on their appointments and wish them well in their daily duties and pray that their wisdom propels the nation’s fortunes to a higher level.
Hon Mphoko is a veteran of the armed struggle and for those who were old enough to follow the liberation struggle they will recall that he was part of the Zimbabwe People’s Army (Zipa) that was formed at the instigation of the Frontline States to ensure that the two forces of Zanla and Zipra combined their efforts to unseat the illegal settler regime of Ian Smith. His commitment to the armed struggle and political emancipation of the people of Zimbabwe is unquestionable.
And for his continued stay in Mozambique after the demise of Zipa when his colleagues went back to Zambia, we all know that he became Zapu’s representative in that country.
Zapu in its original form never disputed that he was their authentic representative in Mozambique during that liberation struggle even when he rose to the lofty echelons of the diplomatic world nobody from the original Zapu questioned his past.
Only now after his appointment to lamely paint him as a person who did not represent Zapu’s interest and make insinuations that he was Zanu-PF’s mole during his time in Mozambique, hence his appointment in the Central Intelligence Organisation prior to the two liberation parties signing a unity agreement on December 22, 1987.
I find this view to be absurd and unfortunate indeed. Hon Mphoko was not the only Zapu member to have joined the security services after Zanu-PF won the 1980 elections.
There were thousands Zipra members in the army, police and scores in the CIO; it would seem that the independent media loathes anything to do with security hence their insatiable thirst to attack anything and everyone who has a past etched in the institution of security and intelligence.
No nation worth its salt can survive without the institution of security and intelligence, it is a necessary cog of any administration, be it a political party, state or a corporate company. Knowledge is power and that knowledge needs to be safeguarded for the survival and viability of any institution.
Those nations that have failed to recognise this fact have failed to have political and social stability and some political parties have become irrelevant and confined to the dustbins of history for their failure to recognise this important establishment.
Some quarters have even gone as far as demanding that Hon Mphoko reveals his activities post-independence yet all those that are interested in his past should have known that he was with the Ministry of Labour and Social Services and was part of a team of ex-combatants that were administering the demobilisation exercise and their offices were in Fourth Street and only joined the CIO way into the eighties.
Hon Mphoko has been attacked on his comments about the involvement of imperialist forces in the Gukurahundi episode and I would like to echo his sentiments.
The insurgency that arose in the western part of the country was a result of former Rhodesian forces together with the racist regime of South Africa who wanted to destabilise the country so as to ensure that the new nation of Zimbabwe did not have time to support the armed struggle in South Africa but concentrate on the fighting dissent just like they had done in Mozambique by creating and sponsoring Renamo.
The secondary aim of these imperialist forces was to demonstrate to the world that self-determination by blacks bred chaos and security instability, so their aim was to ensure that the armed struggle in South Africa falls to get momentum both on the ground and at the diplomatic front.
It was unfortunate that the imperialists used some among us to drive their agenda but since this is a security matter, I have decided not to put a lot of flesh into this very sensitive topic which even President Mugabe termed as a “moment of madness” in the history of our country.
At the time of the insurgency in the Midlands and Matabeleland in the eighties, Hon Mnangagwa was the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for security and intelligence and the duty of any intelligence organisation is to furnish the state with information on the threat the nation faces from within and without its borders.
That is its mandate and indeed the nation was facing a grievous security threat which would have torn this country into political threads.
The role of any responsible government is to safeguard the interests of its citizen and that is exactly what the Government did during the insurrection that was taking place then and, a counter-insurgency operation was conducted and the forces that went on the ground to fight the insurgents were from the army and the Minister of Defence was Hon Enos Nkala while the commander of the Zimbabwe National Army was Rex Nhongo, later to be Solomon Mujuru.
The CIO is not any army yet anything to do with Gukurahundi is placed squarely on the doorsteps of the CIO and shoulders of Hon Mnangagwa as if he was the Cabinet: we don’t hear anyone talking about Nkala or Mujuru yet these are the people who had armed men on the ground, these were the authority and commanders of the soldiers who carried out the operation.
Can someone tell the nation why the name of Hon Mnangagwa should feature so prominently in the Gukurahundi history?
That some innocent lives perished is undeniable and indeed regrettable.
Unfortunately, in any armed conflict there are some overzealous fighters or soldiers who for various reasons be it psychological trauma or temporal madness go beyond the call of duty and commit atrocities.
This is unfortunate, but it happens in every conflict be it in Kosovo, Afghanistan or in Vietnam. During my training as an officer cadet in 1972 the war in Vietnam was still raging and the Americans were on counter-insurgency operations against the Vietcong’s and a section of Lt Kelly’s platoon was met with heavy gun- fire from the enemy in the village of Mal-lel and a couple of soldiers were killed.
The Vietcong’s looked like innocent poor villagers yet among the innocent looking villagers were insurgents and when Lt Kelly received the news of the massacre of his troops he was so incensed that he commandeered the entire platoon and went to the village where his soldiers had been killed. In retaliation he ordered the killing of all the villagers in that village including dogs and chickens.
This is what can go wrong in counter- insurgency operations; it’s a war without a front, your enemy is not defined by dress so you can get flak from a 10-year- old boy and the failure to identify your real enemy drives some people to the very edge of sanity.
During my training this incident became a case study on human behaviour during counter-insurgency operations and, unfortunately, moments like take place and it’s hoped that there never ever will be a recurrence of this part of our history hence the need for the continued cooperation between the former fighters of the liberation struggle.
I am aware that Cde Dabengwa is making some attempts to persuade some former Zipra fighters and Zapu members to re-organise Zapu. While it is his democratic right to do so he should let Mphoko do what he thinks is good for the nation and not seem piqued by his elevation.
There is also this misplaced view from the independent Press that Joice Mujuru was a more popular leader than Mnangagwa in Zanu-PF as she had nine provincial persons supporting her, I dis- agree entirely.
That Mujuru was a darling of the independent media is an undeniable fact.
If indeed she had the support of nine provinces as we are made to believe how then is it that eight provincial chairpersons were booted out so easily from the provincial councils when proposals were raised to pass votes of no confidence in them? This, to me, is a testimony that they lacked support at the structural level as Mujuru and her main backers concentrated on rigging in chairpersons during the provincial elections of 2013 but failed to win the hearts and minds of members of the provincial executives.
Only in Mashonaland East did we witness a serious resistance when the provincial leadership openly declared that they had total confidence in the leadership of Ray Kaukonde only to cave in after they discovered that they were fighting a losing battle as ex-freedom fighters and ordinary members of Zanu-PF put up a relentless battle to remove Kaukonde and some staunch supporters of Mujuru from leadership.
It was abundantly clear from way back in 2011 during the re-organisation of the DCCs that Mujuru and her backers had lost dismally in their effort to control this important structure of the party.
Using their majority in the Politburo they passed a motion to disband this structure which was running the day-to- day operations of Zanu-PF at the grassroots level as they did not enjoy its support.
It was as clear as daylight during the elections of provincial chairpersons in 2013 that these elections were being manipulated in favour of Mujuru’s preferred candidates as she used her incumbency in the party and national leadership to ensure that those preferred candidates went through by any means possible. Yet again instead of exposing this blatant vote buying and manipulation, the independent Press gave her hectares of space in praise of her so-called popularity.
The ordinary citizen of this country has not yet forgotten that the same anti-Mnangagwa campaign took place in 2004 when again the press went on the warpath against him claiming that Joice Mujuru had popularly beaten him to the position of Vice President at that year’s congress yet all and sundry knew that the constitution of Zanu-PF had been amended to accommodate a female vice president.
The late Cde Tenjiwe Lesabe stood for the post which was eventually won by Mujuru.
It is pleasing to hear it from the Secretary for Women’s Affairs and the country’s First Lady, Amai Grace Mugabe, that indeed Hon Mnangagwa had eight provinces backing his candidature for the position of Vice President in 2004 only for that post to be given to Joice Mujuru after the constitution was changed.
Without that there was no way on earth or indeed in hell that Mujuru would have beaten Hon Mnangagwa to that post.
There have been calls by some so-called political analysts and commentators that Mnangagwa should come out clean on his role in Gukurahundi. This is shocking and amazing to hear coming from people who are supposed to be luminaries of our society.
Do these people indeed want Hon Mnangagwa to hear all about Gukurahundi since he was the political head of the intelligence gathering apparatus?
Let all and sundry give these two vice presidents time to settle into their appointments so that they get down to the business of assisting the President to tackle the many economic challenges the country is facing.
That would be a breach of security. What these commentators should be doing is to praise him, that the organisation he was overseeing provided the State with information that ensured that Zimbabwe remained a stable and peaceful nation and did not degenerate into a sea of chaos as witnessed in neighbouring countries where imperialist forces planted and natured seeds of conflict and instability during that period.
Hon Mnangagwa is also being blamed for saying let bygones be bygones on the issue of Gukurahundi. What more do you want him to say, he is not a policymaker, he is part of a team that formulates policy and the head of the team is the President Mugabe who has expressed his regret over what happened during that period. You don’t comment any further on a subject that your senior has commented upon, end of chapter.
There now seems to be an effort by the independent press to cause internal conflict and even to inflame it by creating divisions among and between the current leadership of Zanu PF centred on making people believe that Mnangagwa was responsible for doling out positions in government and party.
Like all other appointees, Mnangagwa was President Mugabe’s appointee so how on earth was he expected to give the so-called gang of four the posits the papers say they wanted?
I personally know all the four people mentioned in papers well and they are honourable luminaries of our society and they are adept with the party constitution which they themselves as senior leaders crafted.
They know that powers of appointing people into various positions are the domain of the president; one would see very clearly that the story of dissatisfaction among senior members of Zanu PF carried out by two independent papers owned by two different entitles on 29 December 2014 carried their lead stories themed daggers drawn against ED’ and Mnangagwa under siege was authored by one person.
It could well be that some of the people that have fallen by the wayside together with Mujuru are the ones planting this make-believe to the press and not the so-called Gang of Four in order to create confusion within the leadership of Zanu PF.
One can clearly note that an effort is being made to create an impression that President Mugabe is leading a faction while Mnangagwa has his own faction; this is just a wish devoid of reality.
How can a leader of a political party lead a faction? He is the leader of all member of his party, it is not surprising to hear that as these journalists have witnessed such scenarios take root in political parties that lack strong and decisive leadership thereby creating a leadership vacuum.
How on earth would President Mugabe appoint someone to be his deputy and a minute later they are at crossroads?
There is something incoherent about the reporting of events even if it was an analysis.
The two newly appointed Vice Presidents have come under serious attack from the independent press because of their having been part of the security establishment which this press seem to loath with a passion.
No nation can survive without security; it is the most important cog of a nation without it the country would degenerate into a failed state like Libya, Syria, Somalia and Iraq.
We do not want to see chaos obtaining in Nigeria where school children are abducted and a year later the state has no clue on where they are and how to get them.
A strong and reliable security establishment is a guarantee of a lasting peace.
This article first appeared in the Bulawayo based news website Bulawayo 24. The views expressed in this article are those of the individual writer and do not reflect zimsinsa.com’s editorial policy