Hopewell Chin’ono – Why the British had no other choice but to work with Mnangagwa


I reflected on the tons of emails of feedback I got yesterday including from local embassies responding to the article published by nehandaradio, in which I wrote about the Zimbabwe-British relationship, I realized just how much a lot of information that we take for granted is actually not known our there.
British Ambassador Catriona Laing with the British Minister for Africa and former Goldman Sachs Banker, Harriet Baldwin and the CEOs and lawyers assisting Emmerson Mnangagwa who are Douglas Mboweni Caanan Dube, Joe Mutizwa, Charles Msipa, Edwin Manikai and Herbert Nkala
A lot of the feedback from the readers spoke about how Robert Mugabe must have felt cheated by Lacoste talking and getting support from the British, his sworn enemy. Contrary to that narrative, the British were equal opportunity friends.
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I imagine that this is the reason why Jonathan Moyo is not so harsh on the British for supporting a man who has become his life time obsession, Emmerson Mnangagwa. His less abrasiveness on the British hinges on a little known secret.
As I explained in my previous article yesterday, the British had realized that the MDC-T were going nowhere after the 2013 disastrous election result for Morgan Tsvangirai.
The MDC-T made many school boy errors whilst in the unity government, errors which were frustrating the western diplomats particularly the British and the Americans.
What made it worse was the fact that the MDC-T wasnot willing to acknowledge their mistakes when presented with them. They became so arrogant and refused to take counsel until they lost the 2013 election.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Deputy President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Deputy Constantino Chiwenga with Douglas Mboweni Caanan Dube, Joe Mutizwa, Charles Msipa, Edwin Manikai and Herbert Nkala
The South Africans were equally frustrated especially with Morgan Tsvangirai’s decision to take part in the 2013 elections, without the agreed GNU reforms being implemented.
They found this astounding because the GNU was primarily set up to reform the political architecture in order to allow free and fair elections.
The MDC-T arrogantly ignored SADC and South Africa’s advice to not participate in the 2013 elections until these reforms were done, they referenced anyone who questioned their logic, to the huge MDC-Trallies.
The same mistake that they continue to make to this very day, measuring electoral support with rally participants. In the feedback that I received from yesterday’s article, many readers asked why the western ambassadors think that ZANU PF will win the 2018 general elections.
It is simply based on the failure by the MDC-T to successfully push for media reforms, repressive law reforms, electoral commission reforms and many such related issues when they were in the GNU. Jonathan Moyo aptly responded politically to calls for reforms by saying that these reforms will result with reforming ZANU PF out of power.
Many diplomats do not understand why the MDC-T thought that they could get reforms implemented post 2013, when they couldn’t do it whilst they were in the government of national unity.
So the failure by the MDC-Tand the Zimbabwean opposition in general to push for these reforms is what has correctly made the western diplomats come to the conclusion that ZANU PF will win the general election.
The epic failure to push for reforms during the GNU led to other nations through their diplomats to look for alternative ways of resolving the Zimbabwean political crisis.
With all this taking place, the British made contact with ZANU PF in order to start talks on how the reformist thinking ZANU PF Government ministers could be helped to at least put brakes on the economic slide and toxic political discourse.
Everyone involved understood that Robert Mugabe was the stumbling block and that there were many in ZANU PF who were frustrated with being isolated from the rest of the world.
Emmerson Mnangagwa belonged to such a group that was fed up with the thick headedness of his geriatric boss. Mnangagwa essentially led that group and they understood that their boss needed to go if the economic and political situation could be salvaged.
In my view, the current British Ambassador, Catriona Laing, only fine tuned what her predecessor Deborah Bronnert had started before 2013.
Catriona picked a side she thought was viable to work with within ZANU PF, she is here to look after her country’s national interests not Zimbabwean interests. A lot in the opposition miss that important point and aspect of why diplomats are here.
So Catriona’s predecessor, Deborah Bronnert, established a line of communication with non other than Jonathan Moyo.
They used to meet regularly and Jonathan was accompanied by someone who was his handler. Many suspected that this handler had CIO links but was also rooted in the party, ZANU PF.
This was a reflection of how ZANUPF goons didn’t trust each other and how Mugabe had been able to create an atmosphere of mistrust to his own benefit.
Christopher Mutsvangwa was talking to the Americans. Mutsvangwawent to university in America. He also had the Chinese covered because he had been the Zimbabwean ambassador to Beijing.
Britain, America and China are the key countries when dealing with broader and important issues relating to Zimbabwe.
China supported ZANU PF during the war of independence, Britain is the former colonizer and America is the world’s only superpower which follows Britain’s lead on Zimbabwe. They are cousins separated by a pond as they say.
Unlike Jonathan Moyo, Chris Mutsvangwa was open about what he wanted to achieve, end Mugabe’s rule, get Mnangagwa in and then improve the economic situation.
The talks with ZANU PF through Jonathan Moyo were headed nowhere. Jonathan Moyo’s misplaced and exaggerated sense of invincibility and political arrogance became a stumbling block.
The link with him didn’t yield much and I would assume that is the reason why the British discontinued it. I am not sure if Moyo and his side understood what needed to happen and what was at stake beyond making Robert Mugabe happy.
Contrary to G40 which had made its narrative purely anti- Mnangagwa, pro-Mugabe and exclusively political, Lacoste focused on less politics and more business, trade and commerce. Their partner, the military, was already heavily involved in business including in Chiadzwa and many other ventures.
Emmerson Mnangagwa had key people in the business and private sector working in his corner.

One of them was the corporate lawyer Edwin Manikai of Dube, Manikai and Hwacha law firm. He became the go to person for many diplomats particularly the British and unlike Jonathan Moyo, he was civil and not rude to anyone he spoke to.
He became Emmerson Mnangagwa’s moving presentation board.
When British member of parliament Nick Soames came to Zimbabwe, he met with Edwin Manikai and was said to have been left speechless after Manikai’s presentation on why Lacoste was the way forward for Zimbabwe.
Nick Soames is Winston Churchill’s grandson and his father was Governor Lord Soames who presided over Zimbabwe’s transition from white racist rule to majority rule.
During the November 2017 military intervention before Mugabe had finally resigned, Nick Soames became the interviewee of choice for the British television debates on what was happening in Zimbabwe.
He told the British public to calm down adding that everything was under control in Harare.
This was as a result of a seed planted by Edwin Manikai when he met Nick Soames in Harare before the coup. This was how Lacoste operated, they humbled themselves before those they knew they would need help from in the future.
Other points of contact for Lacoste were businessmen like Herbert Nkala. This group of businessmen understood the economy inside out and therefore were able to articulate to diplomats what needed to be done and why Emmerson was the man to do it.
All this was lost on G40 and the opposition who spoke politics only and forgot that nations elsewhere are merely interested in economic interests. Mugabe’s doctrine and global affairs understanding had not changed since the Cold War.
He was subsumed under an imaginary sea of his own self importance and inflated sense of personal legacy and a herculean role in the history of the liberation of Zimbabwe.
He once went to the White House in the 1980s and gave Ronald Reagan a lecture on world politics. After he left, Reagan is said to have remarked to his officials that “…make sure that I never see that man again. I never want to see him here again.”
That has been a big problem of Zimbabwean political actors, not knowing what to say, who to say it to, why you have to say it and how you say it. Mugabe’sofficials aped his ridiculous sense of importance, rudeness and crude attitude towards any perceived enemies.
Emmerson Mnangagwa was the opposite, he is ruthless in applying what needs to be done to achieve his political objectives as seen with the November military carnival, but a very cordial man, humble when talking to people and keen to hear your views more than share his.
He is the total opposite of Robert Mugabe, a useless and vindicate man when cornered, very pompous and oblivious to any reality except his own, loves to hear the sound of his own voice and never wants to hear any other ideas other than his.
There is very little to separate Mugabe from Jonathan Moyo, very arrogant, thinks he is the fountain of everything intellectual, uses crass and crude language, noisy and as Ken Yamamoto calls him, all froth and no beer!
So presented with this dilemma, the British had NO other choice but to work with Lacoste to try and resolve the Zimbabwean political crisis.
The other choice was the arrogant G40 outfit which by 2014 had included Grace Mugabe in its arsenal. A woman who had NO clue whatsoever of international politics or how it works.
The third option was working with the bumbling MDCT which didn’t even realize that they were ineffectual as political operators.
Emmerson Mnangagwa has continued with his style of using business people as the go to pegs for his government. On the 5th of February, he met together with his Vice President Constantino Chiwenga with business CEOs who are meant to assist with direction working as a think tank.
They were comprised of Douglas Mboweni, Charles Msipa, Herbert Nkala, Joe Mtizwa and lawyers Canaan Dube and Edwin Manikai.
Patrick Chinamasa whose allegiance was unquestionably Lacoste also faced problems in cabinet. Anything that he proposed was shot down on factional lines.
He had an ad hoc sounding board of 15 people post-2013. Jonathan Moyo was also included in this group. These were mainly CEOs, economists and industry people who would meet voluntarily and informally to assist Chinamasa with direction.
The input got nowhere as the ZANUPF factional fights again took over. Thefactional fights also became self evident around the command agriculture issue. Jonathan Moyo declared this program, a dishonest and an exaggerated success before the figures even came out. He was a beneficiary of this program and was forced to admit it when the other side started talking about his hypocrisy.
We didn’t even know whether it was meant to be measured on National Food Security basis or House Hold Food Security basis or Economic Food Security basis. We were not told how it affected the Macro Economic framework. It simply became a Punch and Judy show hinged on factional basis.
So whilst G40 accentuated it’s political rhetoric against Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017, his team started to imagine a time when they would be in government.
They started working on a plan of what would happen when they took over, Edwin Manikai was so confident of this reality such that his parting shot became, “ED is the only game in town.”
The opposition and G40 missed out on a lot of things because they did not want to hear what they were supposed to hear. They only wanted to hear what they imagined was positive to their own reality.
Our nation has failed to grasp a simple thing, in order so succeed in life, allow opposing views and critique them and perhaps adopt what you consider is important from those opposing views. Throw away the bones and eat the meat.
When you tell a Zimbabwean about why his party will lose, they will accuse you of supporting the other side without even bothering to engage on why their party will lose.
Until we realign our thoughts with the obtaining reality on the ground, we will always be faced with negative outcomes and never understand how we can win.
Emmerson Mnangagwa won his battle against G40 and Robert Mugabe, now he has a bigger battle of turning the country’s economy around. That battle can only be won by understanding why we got there first and what we have learnt from that mistake and experience.
The opposition should understand that the diplomatic community owes them nothing. The fight against Mugabe was never about us, it was about the national interests of those country’s.
Only interest are permanent not friends. If Mnangagwa delivers positive outcomes towards their interests, they will see no reason not to support him. This is a reality that will become clearer after the election of Mnangagwa wins as is being predicted. There will be a recalibrated thought process and that might mean a burden for the already struggling opposition.
So there was and there still is a lot happening quietly away from the public gaze and unfortunately, our media being what it is, they miss out on all these goings on. I will write more and in-depth on these issues in my yet to be published book, A Servant of History: Chronicles of a Zimbabwean Journalist.
Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean journalist and filmmaker.He is a CNN African Journalist of the year and Harvard University Nieman Fellow. His next film, State of Mind looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe is coming out in March.

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