COLOGNE– President Emmerson Mnangagwa could have been sworn into office, as early as December 2014, after former leader, Robert Mugabe, had reportedly struck an informal gentlemen’s agreement to hand over the reigns of power to his then cabinet minister in 2008, on condition that Mnangagwa ensured his final poll victory against opposition foes he was sharing power with, during the Government of National Unity (GNU), Spotlight Zimbabwe, can exclusively reveal today.
GNU was a coalition administration between the three major political parties in Zimbabwe at the time, formed on 13 February 2009, after the signing of the Global Political Agreement, facilitated by former South African president and close Mugabe ally, Thabo Mbeki. Under the five year tenure government, the late MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, was inaugurated as prime minister, together with Thokozani Khupe and Arthur Mutambara, who became deputy prime ministers.
The fresh political mystrey comes on the backcloth of reports on Wednesday, that Mugabe had flown out to South Africa on private business, with no further details available as to the real purpose of his trip, thereby raising political tensions in Harare and panic inside the ruling Zanu PF, also barely a few days when Mugabe has been linked to the country’s latest political opposition outfit, the National Patriotic Front (NPF) as its brainchild, but symbolically led by Retired Brigadier General Ambrose Mutinhiri, a former Minister of State for Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs.
There are mounting fears along the corridors of power, that the nonagenarian, could be using the South Africa visit to regroup with the ousted G40 faction, in a crunch bid to derail and stonewall Mnangagwa from attaining victory in the much anticipated watershed presidential elections set for no later that August this year, former ministers under Mugabe have said.
Mnangagwa, according to the former ministers and a retired senior army official with intimate knowledge about the hitherto undisclosed revelations, played a crucial role in reviving Zanu PF and rescuing it from the first round defeat suffered to the opposition in the 2008 elections, with Mugabe effectively allotting Mnangagwa with substantial statecraft as his campaign manager and defence minister later on in the coalition regime with Tsvangirai.
This reporter first wrote about the alleged secret power deal between Mugabe and Mnangagwa in April 2012 for the London Sunday Telegraph. Mugabe himself did not dispute the story, but Mnangagwa dismissed it while presenting a public lecture at the Midlands State University in Gweru at the time, in what the ministers believe was a move Mnangagwa made to demonstrate loyalty to Mugabe and prove that the “leak did not come from his camp”.
Mugabe was said to have been on the verge of stepping down following the shock defeat to Tsvangirai, only making a u-turn after having conducted emergency talks with Mnangagwa and his army generals, who argued that the decision to leave office and surrender power to the MDC was not for him to make alone. A second run-off election was called, as none of the contending candidates had amassed the required 50% majority, which Mugabe went on to win with a landslide two thirds majority.
While in the GNU cabinet Mnangagwa became the most powerful cabinet minister with the defence portfolio, even having more influence than the prime minister. At one time Mnangagwa’s workload became so pressing, that he was awarded the privilege to use military helicopters for his travels between his residences and offices in Harare and Kwekwe, while at the same time chairing the Joint Operations Command (JOC), now thought to be rotationally chaired by his first deputy, Retired General Constantino Chiwenga.
JOC is a shadowy quasi military organ, bringing together the country’s military-security complex which includes the army, and its military intelligence wing and Presidential Guard, Air Force, police and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) to manage homeland security affairs.
“Mugabe was supposed to resolve his then succession headache during the coalition government days, which was a fair enough grace period,” said the retired army official last week. “However he reneged on allowing a smooth transition of State and Zanu PF power to ED (Mnangagwa) thereafter, as we understand he was supposed to step down after 12 months following the ruling party’s 2013 poll victory against the opposition.”
The military man citing confidential intelligence briefings, said Mugabe was expected to bid farewell to his supporters countrywide in a series of rallies, where he would openly endorse Mnangagwa to take over citing his advanced age and health as the ground, but the G40 faction sensing an opportunity to install former first lady, Grace Mugabe, as president ahead of then sitting VP Joice Mujuru and Mnangagwa, came to spoil the party by casting concrete on any presidium promotions and movements, and instead started calling for a life presidency for Mugabe and Mujuru’s ouster.
“This explains the origins of the so called ‘Meet the People’ rallies, which saw Grace making cross-country appearences to introduce herself to the electorate, while decampaigning Mujuru and calling for her expulsion from Zanu PF,” he said. “It was all a strategic bid to counter Mnangagwa’s rise, by pushing out Mujuru and lobbying for Grace to fill in her shoes, and they almost succeeded had it not been for Operation Restore Legacy, launched last November. The power vaccum created by Mujuru’s dismissal in December 2014, forced Mugabe and his faction to begrudgingly appoint Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko as VPs, when by that time Mnangagwa was supposed to be appointed Zanu PF leader during the party’s 6th National People’s Congress of the same year. So once again, people will now have a better understanding of why the G40 had to once more launch the ten presidential youth interface rallies, which climaxed late last year with the elevation of Grace as Zanu PF vice president designate at their Harare gathering.It was all calculated to finish off Mnangagwa.”
Another former cabinet minister who has served in a security related ministry, said it had become clear after 2004 when Mnangagwa almost became VP, losing to Mujuru, as a result of the jinxed so called Tsholotsho Declaration, that he was “unstoppable” and that securocrats were not happy with Mugabe’s decision to deny Mnangagwa a well deserved elevation.
“Lets hope that someone out there will eventually publish a book about the true story, as to why Mnangagwa missed out on becoming vice president earlier on in 2004 and even taking the presidency after the 2013 election,” said the minister during a telephone interview this week. “His (Mnangagwa) political foes, went to the extreme of cooking coup charges against him in 2007, hoping that Mugabe will fire him, but he was exonerated of any wrong doing after Mugabe ordered an investigation into the matter. It later turned out that Mnangagwa’s accusers are the ones who had plotted against Mugabe.”
Mnangagwa escaped the false charges of an alleged military putsch against Mugabe in 2007. At the time the new president was in China and had to rush back home to clear his name of any wrong doing with Mugabe. Government claimed to have foiled the coup d’etat involving almost 400 soldiers and high ranking members of the military that would have occurred on June 2 or June 15, 2007.
The G40 confederacy and Grace, continued to use coup accusations to impede Mnangagwa’s rise, with the former first lady on 5 November last year reviving the charges by digging into Mnangagwa’s past, during what was dubbed “Super Sunday Rally” at Rufaro stadium in the capital.
Grace accused Mnangagwa of a dark past of clandestine plots, including planning to stage a coup around the time of Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980.
“In 1980 this person called Mnangagwa wanted to stage a coup. He wanted to wrestle power from the president (former). He was conspiring with whites. That man is a ravisher,” said Grace.
Spotlight Zimbabwe has also been told that, Mnangagwa earned the full backing of sympathisers in the military establishment during the GNU, as Mugabe continued to “play with his emotions” at one time giving signals that he wanted him as heir apparent, and switching to decimate and purging his Zanu PF allies on the other hand.
The clearest endorsement from the army came during Mnangagwa’s 66th birthday party at his Sherwood Farm, on the outskirts of Kwekwe on September 15 2012, when then Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) boss and now vice president Chiwenga, who was guest of honour praised Mnangagwa who was defence minister, describing him as a liberation hero.
“Mnangagwa is the only surviving member of the first politburo meeting because in the first days, the president (former) did not attend the politburo,” the VP was quoted by the press saying. “All the others who attended the first meetings are now dead. I’m sure he is alive for a reason which we all know.”
Mnangagwa’s spokesman and press secretary, George Charamba, was not reachable for comment yesterday, as his mobile numbers were all busy, and he was said to have left his office early, on duty with the president who had a busy schedule, including his meeting with Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who was in Harare to cement military and mining cooperation between Zimbabwe and Moscow.