Dark Times in Zimbabwe: The Last Days of Emmerson Mnangagwa
Times are dark when collective dreams of freedom and happiness are turned into nightmares of torture, rape and murder. Zimbabwe is back in a genocidal moment where people are not safe from those that are supposed to be their leaders. The euphoria that intoxicated Zimbabweans when Robert Mugabe was dethroned has evaporated and left a suffocating smoke. Dystopia itself has become the historical and political identity of the country under a blind, dangerous and evil leader. Ernest Wamba dia Wamba meant such leaders as Emmerson Mnangagwa when he expressed the fear that one day some African countries will fall under the leadership of “sorcerers.” I write this reflection at a time when Zimbabweans are supposed to be commemorating their heroes and celebrating heroism itself. The lesson of the decades is that some toxic villains wormed themselves into the history of the country the way Lucifer and other expelled angels do. As a truly tragic figure, however, Mnangagwa is stampeding towards his bloody end. What should be avoided is that as he sinks to his destined abyss he goes down with more Zimbabwean lives. Too many lives have been lost already. The infanticide in the hospitals, the slow genocide of patients that die of treatable diseases combined with the yet to be truly reported toll of COVID-19 are expiring Zimbabwean lives. Manmade poverty is finishing Zimbabweans off. The looting of state coffers by individuals and groups that are connected to the president and his family are causing a slow but real genocide in Zimbabwe. True to the Nigerian proverb that one can leave a log in water for so long but it will never be a crocodile, Mnangagwa has squandered an opportunity to be a leader, reformer and a hero. He has evaporated the goodwill and chance the entire world extended to him when Mugabe fell. Greed, poverty of thought and evil have been his undoing, not that he has ever been any event to write home about.
The Aesthetics of Vulgarity
Evil can dress itself up in poetry to look and sound beautiful. True tragedy can pass around as what people can live with as comedy and the lighter side of life. That is what I think Achille Mbembe meant by the ‘aesthetics of vulgarity’ in the African postcolony where some evil and tragic things can be entertaining for their obscene and grotesque nature. Many Zimbabweans and other Africans laughed when Mnangagwa came out on prime-television time boasting of the freezing conditions in a mortuary that he constructed, "inotonhorera!" In the same appearance, he reported on a prize that was won by families that were able to supply the first corpses to be stored in the mortuary. What we do not always note is the pleasure and comfort in his voice and bodily demeanour when he talks of death and corpses. The President of Zimbabwe is possessed of a necrophilic sensibility. He is at home and happy with the suffering and death of others. Another video footage of the President is circulating online. It shows him publicly losing composure and laughing out loud at the idea that Zimbabweans are “afraid of being beaten.” That he is a head of state and is supposed to be a statesman is lost to the man who cracks away in the true manner of the clowns. Mnangagwa’s very dull speeches and their lousy content that makes him a sleeping tablet to audiences are not his problem. With his pretentious rhetoric and elevated performance, Mugabe set too high a standard for a man whose gifts are the direct opposite of communication. Mnangagwa’s jokes about death and of pain and suffering were going to be entertaining if he was not in actuality punishing and killing Zimbabweans. Some of his practical jokes are truly revolting and tasteless. I am not the only one who failed to see the humour in 1kg packet of rice, another 1 kg of sugar and a litre bottle of cheap juice in a hamper that was marked: "President's appreciation to COVID-19 Frontline Staff." Nowhere in the world have we seen medical doctors and nurses so mocked in such dark and devilish humour. These serious professionals need their competitive salaries and safe workwear, not left-overs, please do not provoke them.
Madness without Method
Mugabe can correctly be described as an “evil genius.” He knew and could pretend to the truth but went on to practice evil. Mugabe’s nationalist and Pan-Africanist rhetoric kept Africans and black people throughout the world captivated while he clobbered Zimbabweans at home. Mnangagwa has neither cause nor rhetoric to pretend to. He can only perform evil. Those that say he is an evil idiot can be forgiven. As the Vice-President to Mugabe in 2015, he told the Chinese CCTV channel that “a leader must not take people where they want to go but where they ought to go,” which is an accurate quotation from the handbook of fascism. I am one of those political observers that were shocked but not surprised when a video of Mnangagwa claiming that his political faction was everything circulated: "We must be respected, we are the majority, we are the people, we are the government, we are the army, we are the airforce, we are the police, we are everything you can think of,” he bellows. The presentation is followed by thunderous applause and whistles from the audience. Lost to Mnangagwa and the captive audience of flatterers, enablers and beneficiaries of tyranny is that he was publicly announcing the vulgar manifesto of tyrannical rule. What Ken Wilber calls "aperspectival madness" is exactly that, total unawareness of what the going truth is in the world. So insulated from the real world is Mnangagwa that he believes that his opponents are wrong. His aperspectival insanity prevents him from seeing the truth that the flatterers and sycophants that clap and whistle for him are just enablers that are looking after themselves and not honest interlocutors affirming him. Mugabe worked with, used and rewarded flatterers and sycophants knowing what he was doing. Mnangagwa has no clue. He believes that the choirs of praise-singers around him are honest prophets and that is how far mad he is. Mnangagwa's aperspectival madness presents itself as political monomania where he is unable to know any alternatives to the one idea that he has of a politically powerful and rich tycoon. For him, there is no hook or crook approach to power and money that is the hallmark of other despots but only crook throughout. Not so hidden inside the present ruler of Zimbabwe is a black marketeer with a vulgar appetite for money and power that is fast becoming his very undoing.
Mugabe’s other Hand
No. I am not about to go on about Mugabe’s two bodily hands that all of us have and use to handle materials. I am talking about political approaches, one beautiful and powerful and another dark and evil. Every time people ask me to explain how Mugabe became such a political monstrosity I ask them to forget Niccolo Machiavelli and consult the doctrines of St Ignatius of Loyola, the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. Mugabe was not only ‘corrupted’ by the doctrines of Jesuitism but he also appropriated and corrupted them, gave them a personal stamp. In particular the doctrine of Pelagianism which “holds that the original sin did not taint human nature and that humans have the free will to achieve human perfection without divine grace” found a zealot in Mugabe. He weaponised it into a Christianity that has no Christ in it, and it gave him a tyrannical god-complex that made him a monster. Mugabe’s Jesuitism is a story for another day. Today I delve into how he corrupted and weaponised Pelagianism to the extent that he became a true Lucifer.
The first of Mugabe’s hands became a performance of educatedness. This he achieved by studying, amassing degrees and speaking in an elevated 'Edwardian English' tone and accent. Many people were taken in by this dramatic act and believed that Mugabe was a messianic thinker when he was a good pretender. Under this act, Mugabe kept around himself and deployed brainy types from Marxist ideologists of the 1960s to political philosophers and ideological engineers of the Jonathan Moyo model. One can say there was a Mugabe of ideas. He loved to be associated with thought and to be known as a deep and great novel thinker. In his fantasies, Mugabe saw in himself a Kwame Nkrumah here and an Amilcar Cabral there. His right-hand dream of being a Pan-Africanist philosopher king was evaporated by his left-hand nightmare of a sorcerer.
It is the second hand, the other hand, the left hand that drew Mugabe to Mnangagwa and Mnangagwa to Mugabe during the liberation struggle and after in politically independent Zimbabwe. Mugabeist Pelagianism held the Luciferic idea and practice that political opponents can and must be physically eliminated. This is the Mugabe of “degrees in violence,” covert and overt violence. Many Zimbabweans have been witness to “the idea of ZANU-PF as a gun idea” that Eddison Zvogbo popularised in the late 70s. The overt violence of Mugabe and ZANU-PF is a matter in the public domain now. The covert violence that Mugabe especially assisted by Mnangagwa got onto is a matter yet to be fully exposed; it is a dark and bloody world.
One of Zimbabwe’s most brilliant and industrious scholars, Blessing-Miles Tendi has stumbled on details of this world of Mugabe and his left hand in politics, evil. I am not here talking about Tendi’s exposition of the killing of General Solomon Mujuru, not yet. I am addressing the special and dark relationship of master and assistant that existed between Mugabe and Mnangagwa and some special groups of trained men and women within the police, army and intelligence, civilian and military. The brilliant and sober Alex Magaisa has also, in one of his good articles, explored the “special relationship” between Mugabe and Mnangagwa with the important metaphor of the man as what was a “water carrier.” Mnangagwa became an important instrument in Mugabe's left and dark hand in power and politics. With Mugabe gone, the left hand is headless and bodiless, hence the vulgarity of violence and murder that we are witnessing. There is no longer any method to the madness, we are in trouble. Zimbabwe is in what Hannah Arendt called 'dark times' about the time of the Holocaust in German.
The Domain of the Sorcerers
It was cause for both laughter and embarrassment in 2015 when an entire Mugabe told the nation of Zimbabwe that Joice Mujuru was conducting, with the help of Nigerian Sangomas, witchcraft rituals that were designed to cause his death. Here was a sophist believing in and lamenting superstitions and witchcraft. Grace Mugabe even claimed at a rally that the CIO had footage of these golgothic rituals. Truth is that it was not the right-handed but the left-handed Mugabe that was afraid of witchcraft. When I recently read Tendi’s biography of Solomon Mujuru (2020) I learn that the Mujuru family shared with the researcher stories about “mighty rituals” that they conducted after the assassination of their own. The rituals were believed to be able to send the angry spirit of the dead man to go seek and find revenge. Why Mugabe believed he was the target is our assignment to ponder, our burden to decipher.
Tendi, thanks to his monstrous social science, and artisanal research have enjoyed rare access to people and voices in the dark Zimbabwean intelligence sector. One “senior figure in the security establishment” around Mugabe told Tendi that at some point “ Military Intelligence made technical changes, they imported special poisons from Kazakhstan, which work on you over 2 or 3 years so that it looks like some other disease.” The Mugabe left-handed strategy started a programme of poisoning political opponents within and outside ZANU-PF. One does not want to count how many political figures in Zimbabwe have died of some diseases from cancer to HIV/AIDS. Some have died of conditions like a multiple-organ failure. Poisons and poisoning, besides choreographed car accidents, have been and still are a dark weapon of elimination in Zimbabwe. Many soldiers and politicians have gone down and under accompanied by post-mortem reports written "natural causes." Family members of politicians including their most loved children have been targeted to punish and dispirit their parents. Zimbabwe has become a dark place that is going through dark times under leaders that are in actuality sorcerers. The abductions, shootings, torture and rape that have been witnessed are something. Something more is in the covert killings that are consigned to diseases and nature when they are the work of the powerful that vote others out of life itself using chemicals that include slow poisons. The COVID-19 pandemic has become the latest alibi and excuse that is used to give good cover for eliminations of enemies and those that are suspected or feared to harbour coup ideas.
The Festivals of Big Eating
From the Democratic Republic of Congo war in the 1990s to the Chiadzwa Diamonds recently powerful politicians have looted to make big money. In all this looting the Zimbabwe National Army has been used as a personal and partisan militia that protects the loot of the big chefs. Selected spies, soldiers and police officers that act as runners for the Chefs pick up big crumbs and become super-rich on their own. The Mashurugwi militias and some street money changers are runners on behalf of ruling black marketeers and tycoons whose families have become owners of the economy. This big eating has international barons and black marketeers some of whom were inherited from the Rhodesian sanctions-busting syndicates. As Zimbabweans drown in poverty and disease the rulers are swimming in obscene prosperity. The rulers of Zimbabwe are presently richer than the country. Starving soldiers, police and spies are repeatedly sent to abduct, torture and kill starving Zimbabweans as the Elite eat big on their behalf. The left hand of Zimbabwe's late political Jesuit is in rampage but also its zenith and limit. This thing is about to collapse on the weight and contradictions of its evil. Zimbabwe's 'Tunisia Day' is no longer in the horizon and the firmament but in the immediate calendar. Many powerful figures in the security sector that, during the coup that toppled Mugabe, were willing to kill for Mnangagwa, are now only willing to kill him. He has been incapable of keeping allies but competent in creating new enemies. Zimbabwe’s next leadership change is not going to be a designer coup like the one that toppled Mugabe. This one will be vulgar, treacherous and truly devilish. It will be the work of a higher Lucifer.
The Last Days of Emmerson Mnangagwa
It is about over. Mnangagwa’s present attacks on Zimbabweans are not a result of the old fact that he has always been angry, cruel and dangerous, no. He is now afraid. ED is a terrified man. He has gone too far in, together with his family and friends, eating public resources in the open when the population that includes the police, soldiers and spies that have kept him in power are starving. Some personages that are the very security pillars of his power have seen their own expired and eliminated. They know what is happening and who is doing it. He might still have a few but influential enablers around him that applaud his speeches and even draft them, as he threatens to “flush out” the “dark forces” but it’s about over. He has been so dark and bloody that what he knows and what he sees is dark forces. What he will never see until it’s too late is the hand that will deliver Zimbabwe from him and the darkness that he stands for. The Nigerians say, “the stubborn fly that does not listen to advice follows the rotting corpse to the grave.”
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Zimbabwean political scientist and semiotician. He writes from Marabastad, in Pretoria: firstname.lastname@example.org.