Zanu-PF lawyer Paul Mangwana exclusively told Tichaona Zindoga in December 2017 about his role in elevating Emmerson Mnangagwa as he fought to replace former President Robert Mugabe. The strongman was removed in a coup in November that year. Review & Mail brings you the interview. Subscribe for our e-paper on firstname.lastname@example.org for all exclusive interviews and stories
Paul Mangwana on his role in the rise of Mnangagwa in 2017
Zindoga: How did you come to know and politically identify with Mnangagwa?
Mangwana: Initially he was Speaker of Parliament when I was an MP. I then developed a liking for his leadership skills, the way he was handling issues, you know he was leading the first parliament which was multi-party in 2000. There were almost 57 MDC and 62 Zanu PF and the margin was there. By that time MDC was extremely vocal and difficult to manage but I saw him manouvre, show a sense of justice, fairness, objectivity, until there was peace in the running of that parliament and I admired his leadership skills.
I could see how unfairly he was treated whenever he wanted to go for a top position. In 2004, he had obtained support from eight provinces out of 10 and the Zanu PF constitution was changed just to make sure that he does not get that position. I really felt bad. I was not part of the team that went to Tsholotsho but I believed that they were right.
When I even analyse what they call the Tsholotsho Declaration, I would subscribe to it to the extent that it only was saying that in determining leadership in Zimbabwe, you must pay regard to regional balance, you can see how he even structured his presidium today, he has made sure that the Mashonaland has somebody in the presidium, the Southern province has somebody in the presidium, the Western province has somebody in the presidium and the Eastern province has somebody in the presidium, that is nation building, those are the principles I saw in him earlier on and I said whatever it takes I’m supporting him. So I’m supporting him because of the values in him not because he comes from my home area or anything like that. The time I first supported him I was in Mash West and people did not even know that my roots were in Masvingo but I was looking at a leader whose values I could ascribe to.
I became one of the vocal leaders in Masvingo who were saying, no, we cannot have oppression of an individual just because someone doesn’t like him and then of course when operation restore legacy commenced, I volunteered to be the legal advisor.
Zindoga: So, how did you operationalize this support?
Mangwana: It involved me contacting the military, advising them of constitutional provisions, working with key members in the party, guiding them in terms of the legal provisions and how to manouvre from the party side and the national constitution itself. I came up with the idea of impeachment and how it could be done, I came up with the idea of withdrawal of mandate by the central committee, I discussed that with my colleagues and we organized the provincial coordinating committees, we organized the central committee, we had to look into the constitution of our party, how we could hold lawfully the central committee without the president, the vice president or the national chairman.
It worked out, no one could attack from a legal constitutional point of view all the steps we took I was giving on that to make sure that we cloth whatever had happened, the military intervention, we cloth it with constitutionalism then he leaves office in terms of constitutionalism not in terms of military intervention which then happened, he resigned which is allowed in terms of the constitution, his mandate was removed by the central committee which is a body empowered to elect a president into a house. So all that was being done in terms of the constitution because that’s the role that I was playing.
Zindoga: You mentioned your interaction with the military, some people would like to call it a coup, how was it planned?
Mangwana: To be honest I do not know the military decided to intervene, what I know they only did what to say the president cannot command security forces to do anything to the civilians, then the civilians were safe, they could now demonstrate, then the Party (Zanu-PF) was safe they could now meet without fear. So they brought that confidence in the civilian population to say don’t worry we are with the President and you can do what you want, that’s basically the message I got from Sibusiso Moyo, that as long as you are peaceful you can exercise your democratic rights and then we can take all these steps without fear that he could use executive powers against us. So that’s the major role in my view which the military played. They did not take over State power, they simply made sure that the President did not exercise certain executive powers which could oppress them and allow people to exercise their democratic right in terms of the constitution to the movement of power.
Zindoga: I’m interested in especially knowing, how various political and military processes and meetings were coordinated. Where these things discussed at military leadership and political leadership levels?
Mangwana: I’m not aware, what I only know is that certain political individual political leaders could informally consult especially after the current president was removed from his position as VP then people were meeting sharing ideas what do we do but those meetings did not involve the military.
Zindoga: From your presentation earlier and from my own research, I found that Mnangagwa was somebody who had people doing things for him rather than direct from the front. So was it out of loyalty that you think these processes, even the military process, could have been done without the direction of the president himself?
Mangwana: I think there was so much injustice which was being done to him that he became a beneficiary of natural sympathy and people could volunteer. In any revolution in order for you to succeed, it must benefit from voluntary energy and this is one classic example where people just volunteered to take risks because they had come to believe that something unfair and unjust was happening.
So most of the people who joined in their various forms in making this thing a success it is because they felt that so much injustice was taking place and so much unfairness was taking place that some steps had to be taken to correct the situation. I remember before all this had happened, the war vets under the leadership of Mutsvangwa coming to my office, in fact I phoned them when there was a pronouncement that Mandi Chimene had taken over with an interim committee, I had to phone Mutsvangwa on my own, to say Mutsvangwa can I give you legal advice, I’ve read your constitution there is no provision for an interim committee, there is no provision for a vote of no confidence so go to the High Court, go and obtain an order and I’ve prepared everything, but I told him because of the current position I’m holding in the party I cannot sign so get another junior lawyer to go and appear but I’ve done all the paperwork which was voluntary. So this was the kind of thing which was happening and we did not even consult him (the current president) he did not even know, that we are going to resist the removal of Mutsvangwa so that he continues to be the chairman of the War Veterans Association and that took place about in March when we went to court and defeated Mandi Chimene and their group. So a feeling of just, look, this is not fair get you to act and all the insults which took place against this person, they helped even grow his support without even him campaign to anyone, he did not campaign to be the president of the party, the people just said look, he must be the man.
Zindoga: Did Mnangagwa acknowledge these efforts?
Mangwana: What I know is that through or informal consultations that we do, we know some people who were quite close and sometimes we would just tell them, look this is what we are doing and just check with the Big Man if we were are not going out of hand; but it was very minimum. At any level, that consultation was minimum. Most of the things were just happening spontaneously with people just doing whatever they thought was in the best interest of the cause because they believed in the cause and must lead us to the change we want.
Zindoga: One of the character traits I’m reading of the President, some people take it negatively, some people take it positively, is that he is not bound by loyalties. So is he not going to be disloyal to his cadres, because he doesn’t owe anybody anything?
Mangwana: I think he listens to the wishes of the people, he’ll try by all means to ensure that the generality of the party membership, whatever he does is in consent, he believes n collective leadership. Any person who believes in collective leadership does not dictate his position and as long as he doesn’t detect his position it means those who are representing the various sectors of society and are close to him will give him guidance. He is a good listener, whenever you are talking to him he writes notes, he is a god reader, he is a good listener and he takes notes and if you come to him after three weeks he will refer to the old notes of your biggest meeting, like that is his trait, he is very orderly and scholarly. So if he listens to people then he will nod his own thing and there will be not many disgruntled people, even now, I’m not in Government, quite a number of key players who got this thing to succeed did not make it in government but he explained to the people that look, I want a very small government and we are not all going to serve in the Government, I will deploy some of you in the party and some of you in the government and I’ve been deployed in the party and I’m happy with that and some are going to lead in various other sectors of government and with that in mind I think he is going to manage.
Zindoga: What was the cost materially or otherwise of supporting Mnangagwa’s rise? Mangwana: It was very costly to the individuals because you had to use your own resources, I know of a businessman who spent a lot of money in financing transportation of the people who came here to demonstrate from their own resources and they were never compensated. I know somebody who fed the whole stadium when it came to the inauguration out of the love of what happened and all of us never got compensation financially from anyone, we were using our own resources. It was so voluntarily, it was like we are going to the war of Chimurenga where you didn’t need anyone to pay you to do anything.
Mangwana: There has been a lot of talk about AIPA, there is absolutely nothing with the access to information act, the UK has an act which is even stricter than ours and is one the democratic states that we have, so there is no need for us to seek amendment to AIPA. There is nothing wrong with POSA, these criticisms are political statements, if you ask the proponents of these criticism and say what exactly do want changed in AIPA which is not anywhere provided in other laws of the world, nothing. There is liberalism in terms of media existence in this country, they are only saying can ZBC give us more time as opposition parties, that’s an administration issue not a legal issue, the law allows them to have coverage but it must be arranged. So that’s administrative, so there is nothing wrong with that law. POSA it simply says notify the police who will check as to whether there are also other competing interest where you want to have a meeting and what is wrong with that because that provides for order otherwise we’ll have political clashes.
Source: Zimbabwe Review & Mail