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Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

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Mnangagwa’s embellished life story betrays legitimacy crisis

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GLARING inconsistencies in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s life story, recorded in several pieces of literature — which he sponsored — betray a desperate attempt to prop up his image which has been under scrutiny since he took power in a military coup, analysts have said.

NYASHA CHINGONO

Mnangagwa’s biography penned by his newfound ally Eddie Cross has major distortions which border on lies on what happened after the former vice-president had been fired by his predecessor, the late president Robert Mugabe.

Like Mugabe, Mnangagwa’s legacy remains conflicted and is mired in controversy fuelled by major distortions unravelled by The NewsHawks through analysing his books.

Mnangagwa, who turned 79 this week has a conflicted history, which has been the subject of controversy, with his biographies, described as hagiographies, revealing glaring inconsistencies.

A book titled In the Jaws of The Crocodile by journalist Ray Ndlovu, based on various accounts with members of Mnangagwa’s family, differs from the narrative in the latest book.  It is apparent that Mnangagwa did not proofread the biography, as some costly historical blunders were published which obviously go against his longstanding public statements.

Cross’ biography claims that Mnangagwa went to China where he met the then military commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, yet he spent two weeks in South Africa before returning to seize power.

This is among several “half-truths” written in the biography where the President claims to have been part of the Crocodile Gang during the liberation struggle. Another lie that has been constantly repeated by Mnangagwa himself is that he was sentenced to death. The purported death sentence was commuted to 10 years in jail.

After serving seven years, Mnangagwa was released from Khami Prison, near Bulawayo, in 1972 and deported to Mumbwa, outside Lusaka, where his parents lived after they had also been apparently deported by the Rhodesian authorities.

As reported by The NewsHawks, some critical minds have questioned the authenticity of Mnangagwa’s story, especially in view of the brazen falsehood that he was a member of the Crocodile Gang, a group of early Zanu militants.

A war veteran, writing under the non de guerre Jonathan Chando, recently challenged the myths, including the death sentence and Crocodile Gang narrative.

After 56 years of uncertainty, it has now emerged — ironically through his own biography by Cross, A Life Of Sacrifice — that Mnangagwa was never sentenced to death. The court record of January 1965 contained in the book, which has many shades of grey magnified by distortions and omissions, makes it clear the judge did not sentence him to death.

“I do not therefore propose to sentence you to death,” Justice John Lewis said. Lewis was to later become Judge President in 1980. Hector Mcdonald was the Chief Justice. With Harry Davies, the trio sat in the Appellate Division, as research by lawyer Tererai Mafukidze published by The NewsHawks recently shows. There were 11 white male judges in 1980. The death sentence myth has triggered new controversy and raised a spectre of doubt over Mnangagwa’s legacy, now marred with “halftruths”.

To embellish his life story, Mnangagwa has often repeated the same lies in public, with analysts arguing this is aimed at propping up his image which has come under scrutiny after the coup.

Political analyst Stephen Chan said it is unfortunate that Mnangagwa’s account of his life relies on his own prejudices since his peers during the liberation struggle have died. He said the authenticity of Mnangagwa’s story was subject to prejudices, adding that his life remained a myth without similar accounts from his peers.

“All histories, including those in biographies, are subject to revisionism. However, whether the young Mnangagwa was on death row or not, there was certainly judicial consideration of whether he should be. Whether he was a member of the Crocodile Gang or not is subject to different accounts. The key question is whether the Crocodile Gang made any significant contribution to armed rebellion and liberation. Or was it a side show? Certainly, Mnangagwa had to, and did, join the freedom struggle. As with Mugabe himself, the rest is myth. Those who might say something closely factual – Chitepo, Tongogara, Mujuru – all actual leading fighters, are all curiously dead,” Chan said.

He said Mnangagwa’s efforts to polish his history could be understood in the context of internal party politics which often take precedence over national interests.

“Every leader seeks an ‘official’ account of his or her background. The worst of such efforts surround the leadership in North Korea, as the Kim family members from grandfather to father to son have been made into demi-gods. Zimbabweans have far too much sense to accept anything like that. And to be fair to Mnangagwa, the efforts to ‘polish’ his history are nowhere near the rewriting of history that was attempted by Donald Trump. But Zanu-PF has always been a party in which internal party politics take precedence over national policies of well-being,” Chan added.

Chan said that at the heart of the “half-truths” is Mnangagwa’s legitimacy problem.  “Mnangagwa’s concerns with legitimacy are not to do with the nation — there are collective shruggings of shoulders there — but within the inner councils of Zanu PF.

Jonathan Moyo knows how to touch Mnangagwa’s nerves on this front; thus, his taunts about reviving the G40,” he said.  Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said the confusion surrounding Mnangagwa’s legacy has been amplified by glaring inconsistencies in the biography and other pieces of literature.

“I am not sure one can speak of his legacy when all appears shrouded in controversy — his birthday, his upbringing, his imprisonment and subsequent release to Zambia (very strange because he would be the only purported freedom fighter to be sent back to what had become a rear base for the guerrilla movements of Zimbabwe), his years in Zambia from 1972, when he was released, to 1977 when he arrives in Mozambique to join Zanu as Mugabe’s personal assistant,” Mandaza said.

“Therefore, it is not surprising that the spirited ploy to prop up his image and legacy has been as much a flop as has been the claim of a ‘Second Republic’ – because there is no republic as such under a coup and the absence of constitutionalism (an accountable executive, a vibrant legislature and a fiercely independent judiciary), the rule of law and the return of the military to the barracks,” added Mandaza.

Instead of shedding light into Mnangagwa’s history as head of state, the biography has become the subject of controversy.  The dodgy biography also highlights the need for Zimbabweans to carefully scrutinise historical facts published on behalf of political figures.

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