Opinion: By Jonathan Maphenduka
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is still walking a tightrope between extremism and moderation as he approaches the end of the first year of his election last July.
Perhaps nothing demonstrates his position in this regard better than his appointment of Victor Matematanda to replace Christopher Mtsvangwa as leader of the war veterans’ faction of the ruling party.
Mtsvangwa’s downfall was forced on Mnangagwa when the former war veterans leader advised against what may be called militarisation of the government.
Since then, the army has been accused of shooting innocent civilians in Harare to quell civil unrest.
After that, sabre-rattling, demagoguery and rabble-rousing have become the order of the day.
Some of these antics are clearly designed to discredit or outdo previous leaders in the tenuous constituency of former freedom fighters, from which one can be removed without fighting an election.
It is quite clear to observers that some public pronouncements by some war veterans leaders fly in the face of Mnangagwa’s foreign policy.
This has serious implications for the president’s much-vaunted new dispensation policy mantra, if I may borrow George Charamba’s famous word which is in danger of becoming a nauseating cliché, which is a subject of so much hopeful talk among the president’s followers.
Is he going to pull a tight rein on some of his wayward and undisciplined followers or let them continue talking so rashly out of turn?
Many readers will remember the man who said if the MDC Alliance won the elections, the army would not allow Nelson Chamisa to take the reins of government or words to the that effect.
Many observers expected Mnangagwa to take disciplinary action against the man, but he was rewarded instead.
It is indeed common knowledge that Zimbabwe was born out of a war of liberation, but it is folly to keep harping on it because independence was a subject of negotiations.
Freedom fighters did not overrun the Rhodesian forces. So the glory of freedom fighting has a limitation and should not be used to deny Zimbabweans their right to freedom of speech and the right to think for themselves.
Matematanda is on record as telling the country that if the opposition has anything constructive to offer, let them bring it to the ruling party and see what Zanu PF will do with it.
Does that mean Zanu PF under Mnangagwa wants to rule for another 40 years to abuse power in which members of the opposition and those who do not agree with their rulers should bear the brunt?
Those who are so intolerant of opposition should have their wings clipped for the good of the country.
I’m sure Mnangagwa realises that anything that threatens foreign policy should not be countenanced.
Freedom fighters have every right to protest against sanctions but should limit their protests to sanctions and not to threaten the opposition with damnation.
This is particularly true when viewed against the clear balking by some countries that, before the disputed elections, appeared ready to approve Mnangagwa’s new dispensation policy.
But since then many countries have not only back-pedaled, but have also openly expressed hostile views against the country and are now being blamed for renewed sanctions.
These are countries that Zimbabwe simply cannot thump its nose against and pretend the country can go it alone without their support.
For its part Zimbabwe has appeared to be returning to Robert Mugabe’s disastrous look east policy, which move was accentuated recently by whistle stop visits to Russia and two other countries in the region, one of which — the public media told Zimbabweans — has oil resources to give away.
So the visit to this country was justified on the pretext that Zimbabwe can import its oil resources from that country.
When Zimbabwe cannot import oil from neighbouring Angola and is struggling to import from the Persian Gulf?
The trip to Russia, it can be argued, was more fruitful because Russia is willing to invest in the diamond industry.
But Russia has been mining diamonds in Chimanimani in partnership with the Development Trust of Zimbabwe for nearly 20 years.
What, therefore, gives this reported new impetus for Russia’s renewed interest in the country’s diamond industry when the Russians have always enjoyed all the trappings of a favoured nation status under Mnangagwa’s predecessor?
How has Mnangagwa himself performed regarding the thorny subject of national reconciliation since becoming president?
To appreciate his efforts in this regard, one must go back to 2016 when the then vice-president Mnangagwa ended his second appearance before a United Nations body in Geneva to defend Zimbabwe’s human rights record.
The report of the UN body, following his delegation’s visit to Geneva in 2016 was negative, accusing Zimbabwe of continuing to violate human rights “with impunity”.
In less than a year after that visit, Mnangagwa led what has been described as a coup that overthrew Mugabe after nearly 40 years at the helm of a free-wheeling autocratic rule.
He has since attended an international trade and investment conference in Davos to explain his government’s new foreign policy.
It was in Davos where he was asked if he was willing to apologise to the people Matabeleland for atrocities committed by the military in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
His answer was that he was talking to traditional leaders in Matabeleland.
That was the first move which he announced to tackle the thorny issue of the so-called Ndebele question.
Talking to traditional leaders, however, has absolutely nothing to do with the political hot potato, if you like, which is the Gukurahundi issue.
Like appointment of two eminent persons, chiefs are servants of the State and therefore should not be used in a serious move to resolve the emotive issue of the Gukurahundi debacle.
March 21 was a great day for two civic organisations in Matabeleland which were chosen to be feted by the president at State House in Bulawayo.
The occasion was held behind closed doors and the public is, therefore, unaware at first hand what the leaders of the two organisations told the president.
But we have it on authority of the public print and electronic media that they were told they could express their views on anything including the subject of the much-debated Gukurahundi and the time-honoured subject of exclusivity, which has been applied against the people of Matabeleland by both the first and the second republic.
What appears to be a deliberate exclusion from those invited to meet Mnangagwa was the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP).
If representatives of the CCJP were among the invited, the public media successfully suppressed the need to record, not only their presence but their contribution to the talks with the Head of State.
The media has not reported if any persons in the political constituency of this issue were invited and what contribution they made, if at all.
The political constituent of the Gukurahundi issue can be excluded from such talks only if the government wants to continue to choose and pick only those who are unlikely to challenge the government’s agenda in this regard.
Nothing shall be gained without talking to the body politic in the Ndebele question because exclusion and Gukurahundi are products of political decisions.
Sooner rather later the government will have to accept that the issue can only be resolved through adoption of a political inclusion policy.