Ever mutating tendencies to transform inconvenient truths into convenient palatable half-truths: The peculiar cases of Mandela and Mnangagwa.
“There is a new tendency to not just suppress history, but to recreate it completely so that it serves the present. Many of the recent accounts by Zimbabwe’s leadership about struggle icons are often misleading or so fragmentary as to be deceptive. Narratives about Nelson Mandela and Emmerson Mnangagwa, for example, only tell either partial histories, half truths or outright lies.”
By Prince Nyandoro
The hard knuckled realism is that Zimbabweans, as a people, are so melancholic that they prefer to look at the dimming lights of a glorious yesteryear than at beaming lights of a bright future. At the very helm of this soothing but self-deceptive activity is the Republic´s First Person.
There is no iota of doubt that history effectively determines the morrow, but there are imminent dangers of pitching tents in the past. Making the past one’s permanent dwelling place, grossly compromises one’s relevance and competence in today and tomorrow’s world. As one’s competence diminishes, there is natural tendency to attempt altering the historical narrative by either magnifying one’s legacy and/or by dwindling the contributions of one’s peers.
In the past few weeks, President Mugabe has made consented efforts to distort reality and negatively reshape the legacies of legendary revolutionaries casting them either as bona fide reactionaries or timid souls that were at the very peripheral of the struggle.
The globally revered son of Africa, Mandela, has not been spared prompting the oldest revolutionary party on the continent to swiftly respond encouraging the President to focus on improving Zimbabwe’s ailing economy. Next in the firing line was the person of Vice-President Mnangagwa as extra effort was taken to thrust him as a lukewarm involuntary participant of the struggle who was far from the madding crowding on the battle front.
The irony is that both Mandela and Mnangagwa belong to rare breed of revolutionaries that faced treason charges for actually conducting military operations. By and large, the incarcerations of the majority of nationalists including President Mugabe was simply based on the ideas that they subscribed to rather than the actions they took.
To question the credentials of the very people that ignited the spark that transmuted into the fire that consumed the oppressive regimes in their respective countries is indeed to play a deceptive game of hide and seek with truism.
The lameness and shallowness of the effort to disaccredit these two luminaries is epitomized by the glaring fact that they are coming from an individual who was preoccupied with mastering how to hold a cup of tea like British royalty while others were learning how to hold the gun.
With some assistance from the souls of Good Samaritans and legal provisions and exemptions premised on youthfulness, Vice-President Mnangagwa like Mandela was spared the hangman and was sentenced to a lengthy term for treason. The Vice-President and Mathew Malowa’s courageous act of blowing up a steam locomotive in Masvingo precedes the battle of Chinhoyi by more than 18 months and in essence marks the very beginning of the Second Chimurenga war. As a militant, the Vice-President was so fierce and ferocious that he earned
More than one nome de Guerra as he was referred to as Trabablas Dzokerai Mabhunu and Smart Tembo among other affectionate names.
It is the general nature of soldiers and militants to respect those who have distinguished themselves in the battlefield, and this is the reason why all bona fide war vets and decorated military Generals have been coming out fully supporting the Vice-President.
The admiration of tried and tested military personnel goes beyond the Zimbabwean borders, as Vice-President Mnangagwa gained the respect of the late President Samora Machel and the rest of Frelimo cadres when he was at Nechingweya in Tanzania.
After his release from prison, Vice-President Mnangangwa recommenced his liberation struggle activities in Zambia which was the epicenter of the revolution at the time. It is outright intellectual dishonesty to suggest that being in Zambia was hiding as he was country party secretary and very much part and parcel of the core the Chimurenga leaders based in the neighboring country.
His proximity to the action and other cadres is attested by the sounds of wedding bells when he was given General Tongogara’s sister’s hand in marriage. As an affectionate brother and decorated militant, General Tongogara had amply vetting the younger comrade and had the deepest of respect and trust for him.
At the time that the Vice-President went to Zambia, it was indeed the focal point of the struggle as evidenced with the presence of almost all members of the Dare reChimurenga. The equivalence of Zimbabwe’s Lancaster House agreement for Mozambique was signed on the 7 of September 1974 in Lusaka, Zambia and is referred to as the Lusaka Accord and paved way for the country’s independence in June 1975.
The decision to effectively shift ZANU’s base to the new independent Mozambique was precipitated by the aftermath of Chairman Chitepo’s unfortunate death. As visible cracks had been revealed within ZANU by the Nhari Rebellion, Zambian authorities suspected that the Chairman was factionalism collateral damage and they arrested ZANU high command leadership.
Chitepo’s death and ZANU high command arrests created a leadership vacuum, which was only filled when the young ZIPA cadres in Mgagao, Tanzania gave their support to President Mugabe and passed a vote of no confidence on Sithole. Initially President Samora Machel and Frelimo leadership were cautious about embracing President Mugabe, hence they hosted him in Quelimane which was far from both the capital Maputo and Chimoio, which acted as the headquarters for military operations.
The arrival of Vice-President Mnangangwa in Mozambique assisted the President to effectively take unchallenged control of the party and gain full trust of Frelimo’s top echelons. As a trained militant and age mate of most of the ZIPA cadres that were challenging the President’s authority, the Vice-President helped President Mugabe outmaneuver Dzinashe Machingura and other ZIPA members after Rex Nhongo had broken ranks with them.
After ascending to the role of Special Assistant to President Mugabe during the 1977 Chimoio congress, he was instrumental in convincing the hierarchy within Frelimo that the President was a true revolutionary who they ought to embrace. When the Vashandi rebellion commenced in 1978 to challenge the authority of President Mugabe, the Vice-President used his legal education and experience gained under the tutelage of Enock Dumbutshena to prosecute the rebels.
After being found guilty by Mozambican courts, Henry Hamadziripi, Rugare Gumbo, Augustine Chihuri, Happison Muchechetere were incarcerated in Mozambique until independence. As this was the last threat to the President’s grip on power before independence, the Vice-President literally paved way and delivered the crown to President Mugabe.
In essence, any attempt to distort reality or misrepresent facts in a bid to water down the contributions of the Vice-President are futile as his illustrious record speaks louder. As a tried and tested cadre who has diligently followed the revolution’s guiding principle to the letter for fifty-five years, Vice-President Mnangagwa has chosen golden silence and strategic diplomacy whenever his person is attacked.
Like all human beings, he has his fair share of shortcomings and has blundered along the way but it is essential that narratives are not altered in order to meet specific selfish agendas.
President Mandela and Vice-President Mnangagwa’s profiles of intellectually-gifted lawyers who not only comprehended that the albatross of oppression could only be vanquished through the barrel of the gun but enkindled the revolution by taking decisive military action when it mattered the most, will remain timeless references for all revolutionaries and revolutions.