Vice-President Costantino Chiwenga returned home last week from China where he was receiving treatment. He arrived aboard a Chinese plane and the Chinese deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe, Zhao Baogang, led the delegates, who included Chiwenga’s brother and son, minus top government officials who welcomed him at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport. NewsDay chief reporter Everson Mushava (ND) caught up with self-exiled former Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo (JM), who described Chiwenga’s return on Twitter as bizarre and a reflection of disunity in Zanu PF. Below are excerpts of the interview.
ND: Last week, Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga returned home on board a Chinese plane and was welcomed by a Chinese envoy, minus government officials. In your view, what does that mean?
JM: What happened has no precedence, save perhaps in banana republics. And the fact that it happened the way it did, has certified Zimbabwe as a banana republic. You cannot have the senior vice-president, who had been away critically ill and was receiving treatment in China for some five months, returning on a special Chinese plane to be received by China’s deputy ambassador in Harare, who was head of the welcoming party with no government or ruling party officials. That’s unheard of. The inescapable impression, if not reality, is that China was demonstrating its muscles and exposing Zimbabwe as a Chinese puppet.
While it is tempting to conclude that the Chinese did not give the Zimbabwean government flight arrival details, which is not sustainable because Chiwenga’s Zimbabwean security was there in numbers, this clearly means that things have fallen apart. There’s now a shell of a government with no centre.
Zanu PF bigwigs did not expect Chiwenga to return, looking brand new, with the Chinese calling the shots and Zimbabweans playing second fiddle. Mnangagwa was offering Joice Mujuru the vice-presidency held by Chiwenga, while Zanu PF bigwigs were busy jostling for the same position and harassing Chiwenga’s allies in the military, government and in Zanu PF; and hoping that the party’s Goromonzi conference would consign Chiwenga to the dustbin of political history.
So, the return of a well-made up and well-groomed Chiwenga, with a presidential look, has turned things upside down in the corridors of power. A different power matrix is definitely loading, and the question is not whether it will materialise, but how it will do so and when.
ND: Now that Chiwenga is back, what do you think is happening in Zanu PF?
JM: I think Zanu PF is imploding. The writing is on the wall that Zanu PF has lost the army or that the army has lost interest in Zanu PF.
It is also clear that the post-2017 Zanu PF cannot survive without the army. You saw what happened when the army stayed away from Zanu PF’s so-called anti-sanctions march on October 25, 2019, it was an embarrassing disaster as Mnangagwa addressed an empty National Sports Stadium. Only the army can mobilise for Zanu PF.
Unlike Mugabe, Mnangagwa has no mobilisation capacity whatsoever. He’s not a leader. But of course, Mnangagwa wants to be a leader, apa haana vanhu (yet he has no support).
ND: Some people say there is no bad blood between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, claiming the rift is a creation by desperate people. Why are you so convinced that things are not well between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga?
JM: Well, I don’t know that the issue is about bad blood in politics because bad blood is the stuff of politics. But in real politics, a president does not entertain a vice-president who was his kingmaker. Conversely, a kingmaker, who is a vice-president, does not entertain an ungrateful president, who unleashes his allies against his vice-president.
The problem for Mnangagwa is that he has no base: He no longer has support in Parliament, no support in Zanu PF, save for his clansmen, no support in the army and no support in the business community.
On the other hand, Chiwenga has a base in the army and he campaigned for the Zanu PF Members of Parliament. But, like Mnangagwa, Chiwenga does not have the popular support of the people.
In fact, Chiwenga is seen as the mastermind of the electoral theft of the presidential election from which Mnangagwa benefited after losing to MDC leader Nelson Chamisa.
ND: You talked of Chiwenga masterminding the electoral theft of presidential polls that benefited Mnangagwa, how did he do that? Can you clarify?
JM: It is in my forthcoming book to be published in two weeks’ time.
ND: Mnangagwa recently started attacking the G40 grouping by threatening to deal with the remnants of the faction he accused of destabilising the ruling party, what is your comment on that?
JM: For Mnangagwa, G40 is a bogeyman he uses as a scarecrow. It has nothing to do with political reality at all. What is instructive though is that Zanu PF is now a divided house standing on quicksand. The majority in the leadership and membership of Zanu PF has lost confidence in Mnangagwa, who has failed to rise to the level of their 2017 coup expectations.
The fact that Mnangagwa followed Mugabe to the throne has been a nightmare for him. He is a terrible public speaker with shrill delivery style that irritates the ear; he’s given to clan politics and his content-free policies with no ideological grounding. He has failed to rally Zanu PF into a political force.
When the chips are down, all he sees is G40. Well, to the extent that the G40 is a shorthand for his internal opposition, then yes, he has good cause to be worried because his rampant failures have vindicated the generality of the G40 members of Zanu PF, who resisted his ascendancy because they knew or saw him as unfit for the presidency.
ND: Does G40 still exist and if it does, what is its mission?
JM: G40 exists only as a powerful idea about generational renewal, but not as a group. It is absurd that Zimbabwe’s young population is being held hostage by a clueless old guard whose politics are based on an entitlement revolution that is the enemy of human rights, diversity, inclusivity, merit and democracy.
ND: With Chiwenga back, what do you think will be the end game in Zanu PF?
JM: I don’t think Chiwenga is or should be the yardstick here. His return is being exaggerated beyond the realm of the possible. Those who think he will pull off another military coup are joking. History does not repeat itself, except as a farce.
But Mnangagwa and Chiwenga have a common fate: They are presiding over a political party with a history, but with no future.
Meanwhile, the people have an overdue date with Zanu PF. It won’t end well. The decibels on the “I” word are rising within Zanu PF circles. But the outcome of impeachment is not a straight line.
Mnangagwa’s illegitimacy arising from the stolen 2018 presidential election will not be cured by impeachment or even a resignation.
If Chiwenga succeeds Mnangagwa, he will inherit his illegitimacy. Legitimacy cannot be acquired from illegitimacy. A nullity from the beginning is a nullity throughout, up to the end. So, the end game for Zanu PF is a dead end.
ND: If another coup is likely, are you suggesting a revolution will be the endgame in Zanu PF politics?
JM: Yes, a very popular revolution.
ND: Do you have hope the revolution will succeed considering the use of police brutality to cripple the opposition and the people?
JM: Popular revolutions are by definition unstoppable. The ground in Zimbabwe has been shifting towards a popular revolution for more than two decades now.
ND: And lastly out of interest, your G40 colleague Saviour Kasukuwere is reported to be planning to lead a Zanu PF faction to challenge Mnangagwa in 2023, are you part of that scheme?
JM: I don’t comment to insinuations.
ND: It has been two years since you left Zimbabwe, are you at liberty to tell us what life has been for you during the period?
JNM: Liberty is the essence of human existence and I cherish my liberty. But even so, I don’t know about telling you what life has been in the two years you’re referring to. That’s material for a book. However, having taken your call, I’m obliged to answer your questions.
ND: Do you miss home?
JNM: I agree that home is best. But I also know that there is more to home than geography. In any event, right now home is on fire. So, rather than missing home, I am praying for it.
ND: But even when you are away, you seem to have a nose on what is happening in Zimbabwe, looking at your tweets about developments in government and Zanu PF. Does that mean you are still working with some people in government and Zanu PF? Does that not validate claims that you had literally taken over the intelligence unit before the 2017 coup?
JNM: I get my information from primary sources, not from the so-called intelligence sources that have proven to be anything but intelligent. Politics is evidence driven and theory follows practice.
So, as a political scientist, I can only tweet about what’s happening in my area of interest and inquiry. I have considerable experience in government and Zanu PF. But I also know people not only in government and Zanu PF, but also from across the political divide and in the media, academia, churches, businesses and society at large.
Geographical displacement cannot be a barrier to continued communication with my contacts in these sectors. Only fools think that information on what’s happening in Zimbabwe, especially in government and Zanu PF comes from intelligence sources. Many of the so-called intelligence sources are unintelligent and ignorant people. Do you think there is any serious person out there who thinks Owen Mudha Ncube is intelligent and well informed? No. I don’t think so.
ND: What is your assessment of Mnangagwa’s leadership so far?
JNM: There’s no leadership to assess. Mnangagwa has never been a leader and he will never be a leader. This is because leadership is about morality. You cannot be a leader when, like Mnangagwa, you have no moral compass, you never speak to the nation on moral issues because you know you are a disaster on that score; and when you have no regard for human life; and you take pride in shortening the lives of your opponents.
A leader with a moral compass empathises with the people and their everyday struggles; understands their suffering and is committed to fulfilling their aspirations through people-centred policies, which are not declared at Press conferences, boardrooms or in meetings, but are implemented on the ground.
So, my assessment of Mnangagwa is that he has proven that he has not risen above his historical role as the Gukurahundi chief instigator and enforcer. As a leader, he is clueless. If leadership were to smack him on his face, he would not recognise it. You cannot say you are a leader, apa hauna vanhu!
ND: Surely, the two years you have been out of government and Zanu PF have given you room for introspection. What things do you have regrets about that you would wish to correct if you have another chance in a government or Zanu PF?
JNM: The way you are asking me that question is as if I was the president of Zimbabwe and Zanu PF during the time in question. But anyhow in public policy, one looks back and sees things that could or should have been done differently or done better.
From 2013, I regret that I was reshuffled from the Information ministry in 2015 before I could implement the IMPI report and before I could complete the digitisation programme in broadcasting. In higher and tertiary education, science and technology development, I regret that the November 2017 military coup derailed the STEM initiative, which was meant to run from 2016 to 2026; the transformation of tertiary institutions and teachers colleges into degree offering institutions; the transformation of universities from conventional teaching programmes into research-based teaching designed to train high-end skills to produce technological solutions to community and societal problems; and the overhaul and modernisation of the Manpower Planning and Development Act to enable the industrialisation and modernisation of Zimbabwe.
I regret all this, but I know tomorrow is coming and these and related things will be done and done well. My biggest regret though is that I failed to convince President Mugabe to act to pre-empt the 2017 military coup which had been actively loading since December 2014, but whose roots were sunk in the 2008 presidential run-off election.
I believe I did everything one could do, including writing three confidential memos to President Mugabe, briefing him on several occasions and making a video presentation to the Zanu PF politburo. But President Mugabe was loyal to Mnangagwa and Chiwenga whom he gave the benefit of the doubt; never accepting or believing that either could seek to overthrow him in any way, let alone through a military coup. I really regret that I found myself with no means or way of convincing Mugabe to act. In the end, I engaged Rtd General Happyton Bonyongwe, in his capacity as the Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) around August 2017, but that too came to naught although I gave him compelling evidence, which has not been mentioned in the public domain.
When I look back, I regret that I came back to government, and I mean Cabinet, in 2013. If there’s anything I wish I could correct, that’s it.
The government and Cabinet I found in 2013 was very different from the one I served between 2000 and 2005.
In 2013, there was no longer a government. Things had fallen apart. Government business had become succession business. First, it was about Joice Mujuru, she just did not want to see me back in government. Saviour Kasukuwere took me to her office ahead of the 2013 elections and she did not want to hear about me. She was actually, palpably pissed off to see me in her office.
When I was appointed minister of Information in 2013, she could not believe it. She resisted our ministry’s efforts to reform ZBC and did not want to hear about salarygate. She attacked me in Chinhoyi, calling salarygate a CIA conspiracy to destroy Zanu PF from within. But the worst is when she got President Mugabe to call me “the devil incarnate” at Nathan Shamuyarira’s funeral in June 2014. That was hell on earth.
But my ordeal under Joice Mujuru pales into insignificance when compared to what I went through after Mnangagwa became vice-president. It was a dog eat dog affair. Like Joice Mujuru, Mnangagwa wanted me out of the Information ministry and later out of Cabinet. He used Goodson Nguni and Virginia Mabhiza to falsify corruption charges against me over ZimDef; yes, the same Mnangagwa who is behind the arrest and release fiasco of his clan boy, Jorum Gumbo, at Zacc.
Anyhow, I really regret that I went back into government in 2013. I wish I had stayed out to enjoy the life I had between 2005 and 2013 outside government. It was the best time for me and my family.
This interview was first published here by the News Day