I have felt, for some time, compelled to issue a statement to settle longstanding accusations that I was a central cog in Zanu PF and participated in its violation of human rights.
While I readily accept responsibility for my error of judgment in working with Zanu PF, it is important that I put on record the extent of that cooperation.
I joined active politics in 2013 after a career spanning 15 years in development work and academia. It was this development work, which includes the setting up of 12 new secondary schools, the construction of 7 weir dams, a hospital, 9 dip tanks, 79 classroom blocks, 8 teachers’ houses, 4 administration blocks and other such initiatives, that spurred my community to encourage me to represent them as their Member of Parliament.
At the time, Zimbabwe was under the Government of Nation Unity which saw then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai working together with former President Robert Mugabe in a power sharing deal that expired at the 2013 election. Despite some troubles, the situation in the country was relatively optimistic with a new constitution in the works. My decision to run on a Zanu PF ticket was merely the path of least resistance given that my community, Magunje, was a Zanu PF stronghold. While I was aware of Zanu PF’s many failings, the objective was not to challenge the political order but to better serve the community through effective representation in Parliament.
Soon after winning the Magunje seat, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from President Mugabe’s aide asking to meet me as I was tipped, she said, to be appointed minister. I had never met Mugabe before, and she wanted to know more about my work so she could brief him. Indeed, I had not met any of Zanu PF’s leading lights given that I was not a politician. The aide was particularly interested in my work as Registrar at the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Administration, where I had successfully overhauled the courses on offer, and whether I felt there was scope for similar interventions in the broader education system.
I was not appointed minister and ended up deployed as Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development where I believe I served with distinction. In the four years I was government, I steered five bills through Parliament and the Senate with 100% bipartisan support. Inside the ministry, I played a central role in the formulation of the STEM initiative that saw a 140% increase in students taking up sciences at A-level.
During this time in government, I was entirely focused on my constituency and ministry work and did not at any time engage in human rights violations or subversion of the rule of law. I would challenge my accusers to present evidence to the contrary.
My great undoing came about after a state media journalist attempted to recruit me in a plot to overthrow President Mugabe, claiming he had been sent by then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. I was compelled by the oath of office to report the incident and recorded a second episode with the same journalist. That audio recording is now in the public domain through no actions of my own.
The publication of that recording immediately identified me as being hostile to Mnangagwa’s ambitions and brought me into the direct line of factional political fire, resulting in my removal from government at the 2017 coup when Mnangagwa eventually seized power.
Contrary to claims, I was not expelled from Zanu PF but expelled myself by standing as an Independent at the 2018 election where I ran a vigorous anti-Mnangagwa campaign. Indeed, Zanu PF lost the popular vote in both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Magunje. This information is in the public domain.
I deeply regret having worked with Zanu PF. It was a significant error of judgment to have ignored the party’s past violations in the interest of political expediency. I accept that I must bear the distrust and suspicion that accompanies all those who have dined with the devil, and work to restore the reputation I built before entering government.
Dr Godfrey Gandawa