THE MUGABE’S TOP 2017 NEWSMAKERS
Former President Robert Mugabe left Zimbabwe’s political scene in controversial circumstances. Given his nature of rubbing all and sundry the wrong way, Mugabe could not have bowed out of politics after over half a century in any other fashion.
At a rally in Bulawayo, Mugabe accused his then deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa’s supporters of insulting his family and growled: “Was I wrong to appoint Mnangagwa as my deputy. If that is so I will fire him, even tomorrow.” And fire him he did.
As it emerged that the then Zanu PF leader – who had been in charge of the party for exactly 40 years – was priming his wife Grace to take over, opposition within the party grew against his leadership. His ill-advised decision to fire Mnangagwa on November 6 triggered a chain of events that Mugabe would never have anticipated.
A rally was held in Harare at which Zanu PF activists fell over each other to pronounce Grace as their preferred candidate to take Mnangagwa’s place as the party’s number two and State Vice-President. It was never to be.
The military issued a stinging statement threatening intervention on November 13 and two days later Mugabe was under house arrest, while his cohorts in a faction of Zanu PF known as G40 that included his wife were scattered, as others fled into exile.
On November 19 anticipation across the globe was Mugabe would resign, but the wily-old fox did not, instead he dug in his heels and declared he was ready to preside over Zanu PF’s extraordinary congress then set for mid-December.
The televised announcement which came at a time Mugabe was a virtual captive at the hands of the military, deflated the mood of the general public who expected him to announce his resignation. His asante sana and good night remarks went viral.
Zanu PF set in motion a process to remove Mugabe and called for the first central committee meeting without him in four decades. The party resolved to remove him as first secretary and President.
In his stead, Mnangagwa, who was forced into exile then, allegedly fearing for his life was elevated to take charge.
Two days later, Parliament was convened to consider a motion to impeach Mugabe and as Senator Monica Mutsvangwa introduced the motion minutes after 2pm Mugabe resigned, finally.
It was over!
Then Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantine Chiwenga had become an instant hero among the people and his side-kick Major-General Sibusiso Moyo, who was given the task of announcing the military takeover in the early hours of November 15 was feted.
Moyo turned into an instant idol after announcing the military intervention with the statement: “Firstly, we wish to assure our nation, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade Robert Mugabe and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed. We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing….”
Mnangagwa returned to Zimbabwe and was quickly inaugurated as the country’s President. He has since appointed Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi as his Vice-Presidents, cementing a national sentiment that it is indeed the military that is in charge.
Zanu PF as an institution also made headlines almost on a daily basis albeit for the wrong reasons.
The internal power struggle, for Mugabe’s succession reached a tipping point in the year, with two distinct factions the G40 and Team Lacoste at each other’s throats in a vicious cat-fight for Mugabe’s throne.
In April, Team Lacoste led by Mnangagwa tried to engineer the expulsion of then party national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, triggering nationwide wild-cat demonstrations that came to naught. Grace jumped to Kasukuwere’s defence and the issued died a natural death.
Mnangagwa’s politburo fight with then Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo also caught the eye.
Mnangagwa, according to Moyo, had captured State institutions in a bid to take power from Mugabe. Initially, Mnangagwa failed to respond after allegedly being poisoned at a Zanu PF rally in Gwanda.
When he did, the new Zanu PF leader accused Moyo of being an American spy bent on destabilising the party and Zimbabwe.
Moyo ever the master of side-show creation, thrust sheepish former Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi’s name into the succession bon-fire.
It was never to be, but those close to Sekeramayi claimed he was actually warming up to the idea of succeeding Mugabe and for that he has paid with his political life.
In October, a gang of gold panners made headlines after a video apparently recorded by soldiers in which the young boys narrated how they went on an orgy of violence and ra_pe, went viral on social media. The tobva tadii paya catchphrase took the nation by storm.
Following the military intervention, leading G40 figures Kudzanai Chipanga and Ignatius Chombo were continuously hauled before the courts on different charges creating a continuation of the spectacle that has become Zanu PF politics.
Meanwhile the opposition remained in tailspin as Zanu PF was stuck in turmoil. The search for a coalition ahead of elections next year remains a pipe-dream and conflicting messages coming out of especially the MDC-T.
Reports of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s deteriorating health also made waves in the media.