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Mnangagwa's poisoned chalice

11 Sep 2017 at 05:57hrs | Views
For those who have dispassionately followed the polarised politics of the ruling party in light of factionalisms of recent years, there have been two kinds of reaction.

Either to watch it all as a kind of political football that swings from one end to the other; or some drama with its melodramatic, sometimes gambolic moments and an air of tragedy hanging uneasily above.

The latter proposition perhaps comes naturally given the ill-famed nature of politics as an old, dirty vocation (like prostitution).

And luckily for Zimbabwe in the 21st Century, there has been a lot of footballing in the game and less of the tragedy and blood of Macbethan tragedy. This is not 1977 (think of the Nhari-Badza rebellions, etc).

Even 2014, when one Joice Mujuru was kicked out, there was no blood on the floor. Nor 10 years prior, in 2004, when a group of men planned some kind of coup called the Tsholotsho Declaration.

In both instances - classically cause celebre - issues have been resolved rather agreeably in political terms, with losers facing their Nurembergs but not with dear life.

We do not credibly expect worse. This is 2017. But we are naturally seized with reading what has unfolded so far in the year, with the year coming to an end.

There was Bindura on Saturday. President Mugabe took his Youth Interface Rallies on the eighth leg and as was expectedly, a bumper success by way of crowds and political statement at a time when the election season is officially on since the Head of State proclaimed dates for voter registration. And as usual the biggest take away was how the political football played out.

Many a pundit saw Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa take what is widely seen as a huge reversal. In no small part, it was because he conceded some fatal own goals.

He took the proverbial poisoned chalice. A poisoned chalice is widely defined as an assignment, award, or honour which is likely to prove a disadvantage or source of problems to the recipient.

Those who have elementary knowledge of English literature will quickly relate to how Shakespeare's Macbeth in a soliloquy in which he debated and contemplated the murder of Duncan.

First of all, take it at a literal level. The other name of chalice is cup. Our Vice President received a cup as a gift between last year's festive season and the beginning of this year.

We came to know of the cup when he was pictured with a controversial businessman and musician named Energy Mutodi. It immediately became a source of much controversy and trouble.

At another level, the symbolic level, the cup depicts the responsibility that has been thrust on VP Mnangagwa to take over the reins of the ruling party and country.

It is not a secret that while VP Mnangagwa no doubt enjoys the support of many Zimbabweans given his record in and commitment to the ruling party, there have been individuals and a group of individuals who have overzealously and fatally fronted his cause.

And they have done it in a manner that is not only divisive — pulling out the tribal card and declaring that "It's time for a Karanga person to rule" — but sometimes outright dumb and impolitic.

Think of how low a person like Victor Matemadanda, leader of the war veterans, could sink into wearing a T-shirt denigrating First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe.

We were taken aback by such dumbness and some of us even went on to remark that Matemadanda (what's in a name!) behaved like the foolish monkey of the tale who happily chopped at the bough of a tree that he was sitting on.

Or that VP Mnangagwa should not have allowed such tainted characters as Mutodi anywhere near him and his ambitions, if he harboured any. (And it is neither criminal nor treasonous.) But it would seem the VP did not have the willpower to stop this bad PR or underestimated the damaging potency of it all.

Or, equally fatal, he may have thought that he could easily wash his hands off it — for which he is often accused by aggrieved former co-plotters like Professor Jonathan Moyo.

All this has come back to haunt him, and President Mugabe captured this classic tale of a poisonous cup that VP Mnangagwa has accepted. He chastised his second in command for entertaining party rebels and hosting them at his farm. These are lost cadres that were supposed to languish in the cold.

Then President spoke to the contentious issue of the poisoned cup, which the VP claimed to have innocently accepted and flaunted. "Now you are in trouble because of this cup. This cup has become notorious. Can a person lose all because of a mere cup?" (The translation is mine.)

There is more at stake than a mere mug: in fact the issue has grown so big that it is not the mere storm in a teacup that some dismissively called it at the beginning of the year.

What is more is that how the current episode of factionalisms is handled will define the direction of the party and country at large. It goes beyond mere point scoring, which factionalists are so keen on.

One thing that is clear in all this is that President Mugabe is in control of the situation and he is informed in his wise decisions by many factors which include history and constitutionalism.

It is his enigmatic forte. The following three months to the December annual people's conference will be interesting.

In the interim, there will be two other Presidential Youth Interface rallies which will no doubt be watched for the political scoreboards.

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