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Dynastic ambitions laid bare



VIRAL images of President Emmerson Mnangagwa pictured alongside his twin sons Sean and Collins have raised eyebrows amid suspicions that this could be a strategy to psych the nation into accepting the First Family’s dynastic succession plot.


Sean is an army major in the Presidential Guards Brigade. He was pictured in camouflage with his twin brother Collins donning industrial safety clothing alongside their parents at State House in what was seen as symbolic by many.

Sean and Collins were celebrating their 37th birthday and the First Family took an opportunity to show their class. While Sean was in military garb, Collins was dressed in mining worksuit as he owns several gold mines across the country.

 He is reportedly doing roaring business with the Chinese, minting millions. Mnangagwa has used a classic dictator’s handbook to create a dynasty by unconstitutionally placing his wife Auxillia at the centre of government roles like meeting ambassadors and sending her on state missions like to Belarus, while he has also appointed his sons into government in a brazen act of patronage, nepotism and cronyism.

After being re-elected in a disputed election in August last year, Mnangagwa attracted widespread derision when his dynastic construction was laid bare.

 He appointed into his new administration his son David Kudakwashe Mnangagwa as Finance deputy minister and nephew Tongai Mnangagwa as Tourism deputy minister, among many cronies.

There are also many of his clan members and homeboys in his new administration, for instance Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe John Mushayavanhu.

Some were already in critical positions such as Martin Rushwaya, chief secretary to the president and cabinet.

Rushwaya replaced another Mnangagwa relative, Misheck Sibanda, who was initially appointed by the late former president Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa has relatives and cronies in cabinet, government in general, state institutions, including security ones, and the ruling Zanu PF politburo.

Dynasties are common in West and Central Africa where they end in military coups or armed conflicts, but rarely in the Southern African Development Community region, which makes Mnangagwa stand out.

In Gabon, President Ali Bongo Ondimba was a product of dynasty politics as the son of Omar Bongo, who ruled for 42 years from 1967 to 2009. 

 However, in September last year Ondimba was toppled by the military from power, shortly after being declared the winner of much-criticised elections that would have seen him extend his 14-year rule as president.

General Brice Oligui Nguema stepped in as leader of the country. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila ruled for 17 years after succeeding his slain father Laurent-Désiré as head of state in 2001.

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang — in power since deposing his tyrannical uncle Francisco Macías Nguema and the country’s first head of state, back in 1979 — has installed his son Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue as vice-president, placing him in pole position to succeed him.

Currently, Uganda is seeing a social media campaign touting General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, son of current head of state Yoweri Museveni, as a potential governing party candidate for the next election in 2026.

Museveni has been in power since 1986. Mnangagwa’s appointments came across as a Marcos-style coterie of relatives, friends and cronies underpinned by traits of a dynasty .

To the contrary, in all his excesses in power, Mugabe rarely appointed his relatives, although in the twilight of his political career he put his nephew Patrick Zhuwao into his cabinet and catapulted son-in-law Simba Chikore to the helm of a key state institution, Air Zimbabwe.

There were also a few other scarcely disguised nepotistic appointments, but not as brazen as Mnangagwa’s.

 Sean is now a major, a high officer rank that is six steps from the commander.

The Zimbabwe National Army is the primary branch of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces responsible for land-oriented military operations.

It is the largest service branch under the Joint Operations Command that Mnangagwa heads. Mnangagwa’s wife Auxillia, who has now surpassed Grace Mugabe in her leveraging of power for self-interest, is sometimes sent on government business even though she is not a public official, for instance to Iran and Belarus.

 In so doing, Mnangagwa has effectively joined the likes of Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, former US president Donald Trump, Museveni and certainly Filipino kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos, among others, in abusing power and office for cronyism.

 Mnangagwa’s dynasty construction is in sharp contrast to Kenyan President William Ruto who said that he will never appoint any family member to his government.

 Mnangagwa’s action raises a number of critical issues which span the central question of meritocracy, “our time to eat mentality” that implies greed and corruption, governance, leadership succession and family dynasty.

 Besides, it is also an ethics and character issue on his part. Coupled with misrule, nepotism fuels poverty and people’s suffering.

Even the “as long as they are qualified in their respective fields” refrain to justify the appointment of relatives to government offices is really concerning because it is still the President or another public official who will decide.

As a result of the potential dire consequences of nepotism and family political dynasties, some countries have laws to prohibit the appointment of relatives into government. For instance, in the United States, there is an anti-nepotism law passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. Last year, Mnangagwa positioned Auxillia and his children at the centre of cutting pure family business deals with Belarus using influence of his state power.

Auxillia flew out of the country with her twin sons to hold separate meetings with Belarus head of state Alexander Lukashenko and his Foreign Affairs minister Sergei Aleinik pursuing personal deals using her proximity to power in Harare.

According to Belarusian media house Belta, Auxillia discussed issues involving business deals in agriculture, technology and mining. In another development that showed how Mnangagwa is using state power to cement First Family business ties and create a dynasty in the long term, in February last year he was captured by the media arriving in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, with his son Emmerson Junior.

He has previously taken his sons on business missions using state resources. Early last year, Mnangagwa and Lukashenko met in Harare. Emmerson Jnr attended high-level meetings at State House despite not being a government official amid concern that he was pursuing family business interests.

He was also spotted the following day at another high-level event where Lukashenko and his delegation visited the National Heroes’ Acre to lay a wreath on the grave of the unknown soldier.

While the Heroes’ Acre event included scores of other ordinary citizens, it was his presence at the State House closed-door meetings which raised eyebrows. Lukashenko, in a statement after meeting Auxillia and her sons in Minsk, confirmed that he had clinched deals which he had negotiated with Mnangagwa in Harare during his February visit.

He made it clear that the deals which Auxillia had followed up in Belarus had been made on his friendship basis with Mnangagwa in Harare which implies they were personal, not for the Zimbabwean government.

However, the Mnangagwa dynasty-in-the-making has a mountain to climb in fulfilling its ambition of reaching the top and keeping the leadership within the family circle. The Mugabe dynasty project collapsed with his government’s demise in the 2017 military coup.

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