‘Mnangagwa hamstrung by borrowed robes’ – Analysts

Described by one of Zanu PF’s unrestrained bootlickers as “Son of Man”, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s First Vice-President, has for all intents and purposes, been missing in action since landing the coveted position as President Robert Mugabe’s second-in- command.

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BY NDAMU SANDU

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Grace Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa

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Even as he held the special duties as acting President, the veteran politician has been lying low after receiving brickbats from comrades in the divided Zanu PF questioning the rationale of his meeting business leaders at his farm in Kwekwe instead of using his official government offices.

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Mnangagwa resurfaced last week showering praises on First Lady Grace Mugabe whom he described as stronger than a nuclear bomb. This was in recognition of her blasting to smithereens the faction led by his predecessor and political foe, Joice Mujuru.

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Mnangagwa was nowhere to be seen when floods claimed over 10 lives and displaced hundreds of families — or when hundreds of families were left to stay in the open after being evicted from a farm in Mazowe under controversial circumstances.

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Analysts said last week that Mnangagwa’s failure to intervene in such crises befalling citizens would erode the respect he had commanded over the years.

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“The brutal truth is that people will always compare Mnangagwa with Mujuru. In this case the ‘Son of Man’ has failed dismally,” a political analyst said yesterday.

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Political analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya said the work was cut out for Mnangagwa to remove the notion that his group has no human face.
\n“Mnangagwa and his group need to address perception in society that it is a group with no conscience, no respect for rule of law and fundamental human rights and liberties,” Ruhanya said.

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But Kent Law School lecturer Alex Magaisa said Mnangagwa was encumbered by fear, that is, the fear of being accused of outshining his master.

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“President Mugabe is not in the habit of visiting disaster victims. He totally neglected to pay a visit to the Tokwe-Mukosi flood victims last year, contrary to what is expected of national leaders in such dire situations. For Mnangagwa to now start taking on this hands-on approach, he would be doing things very differently from his boss and that might be interpreted by his critics as trying to outshine and overshadow him,” Magaisa said.

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“So he is steering clear of any potential problems for himself. Remember he has already been warned of the dangers of creating a rival centre of power by some of his internal critics.”

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Mnangagwa was silent as government trampled on human rights and justice — the key components of his expanded portfolio — by watching the evicting of families from Manzou Farm in Mazowe in defiance of a court ruling granted last year.

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The High Court had to issue another order last week to halt demolitions and evictions. Government is nonetheless moving ahead to take over the farm which the First Lady wants to turn into a wildlife sanctuary.

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Ruhanya said Mnangagwa’s failure to stamp his authority showed that his ministry was now one of injustices. He queried how government could be so “heartless as to evict people in this rainy season.”

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Human Rights Watch senior researcher Dewa Mavhinga said Mnangagwa’s hands were tied and “he may be unable to act in the interests of justice and the rule of law because the people allegedly behind the evictions are his political allies”.

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Mavhinga said Mnangagwa was only an acting president with little authority, and in any case any attempt to assert authority would be interpreted as being “over-ambitious and threatening the President’s authority”.

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Given how Mujuru was severely punished for merely having ambition, it is likely that Mnangagwa will want to tread with utmost caution in order not to upset Mugabe, Mavhinga said.

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Magaisa concurred with Mavhinga, adding that Mnangagwa’s biggest undoing was that he had borrowed power.

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“When you are wearing borrowed robes, you are always uneasy because you have no idea when the owner might demand them back.
\n“He might demand them while you are showing off at the township …and when he takes them you will be left naked. It’s that embarrassment he [Mnangagwa] fears.”

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Ruhanya said a VP post in Zimbabwe did not mean substantive duties as Mugabe still called the shots even when he was on leave. Last month, seven ministers were relieved of their duties by Mugabe from his holiday retreat in Asia.

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“Mugabe continues making critical decisions even when he is away. In his absence Cabinet does not meet. The central committee and politburo does not meet because Mugabe has privatised state institutions and power,” Ruhanya said.

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“It is difficult for an acting President because Mugabe is omnipresent — he is everywhere, which is not normal in a democracy order.” – The Standard