17 June 2019

Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa Tormentor Applies to Be President's Corruption Storm-Trooper

Photo: The Herald
President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Since taking power on the back of a military coup in November 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has cemented public perceptions of an enigma, attracting ridicule, scorn and admiration in almost equal measure.

Mnangagwa's campaign ahead of last year's elections was anchored on a pledge to fight corruption, resuscitate the economy, widen the democratic space and engage Zimbabwe's erstwhile mortal enemies in the Western hemisphere.

The jury is still out on his pledge to allow democracy to flourish but it is the fight against corruption that has become the source of his biggest headache, worsened by an economy that has rejected every one of his overtures by spiraling out of control threatening the very existence of his regime. Critics have jumped onto his lethargic fight against corruption to insist the President has failed.

In response Mnangagwa early this year dissolved the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, appointed a group of prosecutors ensconced to his office but reporting to the Prosecutor General in a bid to reignite the fight.

Success has eluded the Zanu PF at least thus far.

However, in what could signal an interesting turn of events, Mnangagwa might yet find a savior in the most unlikely of sources, the opposition MDC and in the form of his greatest political tormentor former Kwekwe Central MP, Blessing Chebundo who has offered to be one of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission Commissioners.

Chebundo is one of dozens of leading political figures, lawyers and other professionals who have put forward their names to take up the challenge.

Contacted for comment Chebundo argued for him it is about service to his country.

"Its not about Chebundo or Mnangagwa. For me it is about service and all Zimbabweans want to see corruption go. That is what I am offering myself to do," said Chebundo.

The fight against corruption or lack thereof could make or break Mnangagwa's administration or better still ensure he loses or wins a second term.

Mnangagwa's anti-corruption crusade will also determine a continuation of the lack of confidence in his government or a turn for the better with a shaft of light into the economy. So Chebundo if successful could turn from Mnangagwa's chief tormentor to his saviour, just like that. Politics indeed can be a freak business.

At some point Chebundo claimed he had a gallon of petrol poured onto his head before the matches that was supposed to finish off the gruesome job turned up wet. It had been raining!

His crime, challenging Mnangagwa's authority in Kwekwe Central constituency. As fate would have it, Chebundo would be successful not once but twice and forcing the Zanu PF strongman into abandoning the constituency altogether.

While the opposition MDC led by Nelson Chamisa has rejected Mnangagwa's some of the party's officials have sought to work with the Zanu PF government. Chebundo is not alone.

Former Harare West MP and ex-national executive member Jessie Majome was one of those interviewed for the job of Prosecutor General eventually given to Kumbirai Hodzi. Former party deputy secretary general and national executive member Tapiwa Mashakada tried his luck to be Harare Town Clerk after last year's elections in which he contested and won the Hatfield constituency for the umpteenth time.

However, the irony of Chebundo's bid cannot be lost to the causal viewer, he sticks out like a sore finger given his history.

But the former lawmaker his history with Mnangagwa besides their political fights is one of professionalism.

"Remember he was Speaker of Parliament when I was a first time MP between 2000 and 2005. I worked with him quite well along with other presiding officers at Parliament," said Chebundo.

Asked if he has ever met Mnangagwa at a personal level, the MDC senior official retorted.

"There was no way we could have avoided each other," he said.

Chebundo a trade unionist and founding member of the opposition MDC in 1999 then led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai was one of the virtual political unknowns unleashed by the then new party onto the scene in the 2000 elections. Like Patrick Kombayi in 1990 who threatened the late Vice President Simon Muzenda's political existence as a Zimbabwe Unity Movement candidate in Gweru, Chebundo's candidature was coming up against another Zanu PF stalwart.

This was no ordinary stalwart, Chebundo was pitting his green political wits against then President Robert Mugabe's enforcer, Zanu PF Midlands political godfather and Kwekwe "warlord" Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Nicknamed the "Ngwena" the crocodile, Mnangagwa was a virtual lord in Kwekwe and his word and authority was biblical law in the gold rich city.

Mnangagwa who succeeded Mugabe after the November 2017 military coup was at the time seen as the former guerrilla leader's heir apparent having been his protégé for decades dating back to the anti-colonial struggle in Rhodesia.

Everything in Kwekwe was therefore beholden to this might political figure that Chebundo was now challenging. It was a David and Goliath contest to put it mildly.

Chebundo had the winds of change sweeping across the country in his sails in the year 2000 and secured his seat in the National Assembly at Mnangagwa's expense. He was to repeat the feat in 2005 forcing Mnangagwa to have a special constituency created for him in the 2008 elections.

Chebundo said at some point: "The path to becoming the first opposition legislator for Kwekwe was a protracted, thorny and meandering one, where the gap between my life and death became increasingly narrow."

"Back them Mnangagwa had been informally declared the heir apparent to President Mugabe. So, challenging him was like challenging Mugabe."

Chebundo suddenly wants to turn from the man who tormented the man who would become President into his saviour. A dramatic twist to this dual two man soap opera that not even the great William Shakesphere would have scripted if it turns into reality.

Kwekwe has an uncanny ability to produce the kinds of Chebundo. Lloyd Mukapiko an undertaker with the Redcliff Municipality is current MP after takinhg out Zanu PF's deputy secretary general July Moyo in last year's elections. Just maybe Mnangagwa's former playground might save him.

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