In 1983 when I was General Manager of the Dairibord – a large Parastatal in the dairy industry, I got a call one day from the Catholic Mission in Lupane to say that the army was in the district and causing mayhem. I called the then Secretary to the Prime Minister (Mugabe) and Cabinet, Charles Utete, and asked him what was going on. I invited him to fly with me in a light aircraft to see for ourselves. He replied after 30 minutes that this was “nothing to do with me, too sensitive and I should leave it alone”.
The Catholics sent me a report on the problems in the district (it was the start of Gukurahundi – the “storm that cleans”) and I took this report with me on a business trip to Scandinavia where I shared it with four foreign Ministers and asked them to get their Prime Ministers to call our Prime Minister and urge restraint. When I got home I was summoned to the Ministers Office and there I was given a transcript of my discussions with the Norwegian Secretary of State and I was given a severe warning from the Minister of State Security to “never do that again, or else”. That was Mnangagwa.
I took the advice and watched from the sidelines over the next 4 years as the supporters of Joshua Nkomo were bludgeoned into submission. Tens of thousands lost their lives and perhaps a million people fled their homes for South Africa.
Of interest to me as an economist, was his short sojourn at the Ministry of Finance. I do not recall the circumstances, but I do remember how effective he was in a very short space of time. This view was reinforced by the senior Civil Servants in the Ministry who said he was clear headed, did not have to be told anything twice, made decisions and was a pleasure to work with. Most of all he took advice and listened. So often a weakness in so called “strong men”.
I have been a Member of Parliament for ten years, during that time we have had many interchanges with Emmerson. He has a very sharp mind and a sense of humor but if you do take him on, expect no prisoners. The one thing that always impressed me was his automatic authority in the House of Assembly – often a rowdy and unruly place. If he stood up in a debate or at question time, a hush would descend on the House. Very few command that kind of control.
His nick name – the crocodile (Ngwenya) is very apt as all such Shona nick names are – we all have them – I have had several, not all complementary. But in this case when he sits in Parliament with his eyes closed, you know that he is listening and will react if prodded. When he does attack – its fast and he takes no prisoners, ask Joice Mujuru and now Robert and Grace Mugabe.
Mugabe’s departure was received with national celebrations – people poured onto the streets and the party went on through the night. This was proceeded by the extraordinary and completely spontaneous demonstrations the previous Saturday when perhaps 1.5 million people took to the streets of Harare in support of the army and calling for him to step down. What stunned the world was the completely peaceful nature of this outpouring. What impressed me was its universal character, the people demonstrated all over the country, even in rural villages and towns.
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