Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa who is generally considered one of the top contenders to succeed Robert Mugabe as leader of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front as well as the country claimed he had no presidential ambitions at all.
“..I don’t really know where any of this kind of stuff comes from at all. I am number 12 in the party, not number two, and am just a very humble person,” he told the British paper, the Sunday Telegraph, yesterday.
“I have no ambitions to be president. People speculate left right and centre but we have a structure in our party with a president and two vice-presidents. The leadership has to come out of that group, and I am not part of it. I just wish a legacy of peace, prosperity and growth for the younger generation,” he said.
The interview depicted how cunning Mnangagwa is and why he is generally considered, even by the West, as potentially one of the most dangerous men after Mugabe.
Mnangagwa’s name has been dragged through the mud for more than two decades, and he has been written off as presidential contender on several occasions but he continues to rise from the ashes all the time. Even his silence has haunted his friends and foes alike.
Though he is believed to have been the main force behind Mugabe’s defiance to stay in power after the 2008 disputed elections, Mnangagwa said he was not involved in the 2008 post-election violence at all because at the time, he was Minister of Rural Housing, a post he was demoted to after the foiled Tsholotsho coup of 2004 in which it was alleged he was part of a group that opposed the unilateral appointment of Joyce Mujuru as party vice-President.
“I was minister of rural housing. Unless they say that people were being intimidated during the construction of rural homes, then this never happened,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.
Below is the full interview:
Zimbabwe’s Minister of Defence ‘wants heal the country’s divisions’
Emmerson Mnangagwa is Zimbabwe’s defence minister and a senior figure in President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party. A former chief of the intelligence services, he is often accused of being a secret power behind Mr Mugabe’s throne – but in this Sunday Telegraph interview with Colin Freeman he insists he is keen to heal the divisions of the past.
CF: How has Zanu-PF found the experience of sharing power with Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change?
EM: It is more than two and a half years since we established the inclusive government, and a lot of things have happened that are positive. Among them is that we discovered that our differences with our opponents are not that serious, and that we can work together without too many problems in cabinet as well as in government generally.
Since then there has been peace in the country, and the economy, which had really gone down very seriously, has recovered. Industry and agriculture are also in the process of recovering, and there is a vibrant mining sector.
Tourism went down drastically because of sanctions brought by your people (Britain, Europe and the US) and the bad publicity that the country has received internationally, but is also showing signs of growth.
CF: Are you hopeful of sanctions being lifted against your party?
EM: All three political parties in Zimbabwe have agreed to campaign for their removal, but so far we have drawn blanks on this matter from Brussels and London. It seems they are still inclined to impose sanctions on us. There are also still foreign broadcasts into Zimbabwe in our local languages that are spreading hate speech, which agitate for regime change.
CF: Are you referring to the BBC?
EM: No, I mean the likes of Voice of America. The BBC has its own crimes, but not that one.
CF: When do you think there will be elections in Zimbabwe?
EM: This is not set in stone, but assuming that a referendum on a new constitution is held and accepted, then the time frame for elections after that is a period of four months. If we were to have a referendum in October, then we would be looking at February for an election.
CF: Do you think they will be free and fair?
EM: I can assure you that the people of Zimbabwe are more concerned that the elections are free and fair than anyone in London or elsewhere, and we want to do everything to achieve that. The perception that Zanu-PF is violent is wrong. It is more and more apparent that it is not us, but the MDC-T (the party of Morgan Tsvangirai) who is like that – recently some of their representatives were arrested in Harare for a killing a policeman.
CF: How do you view Mr Tsvangirai personally?
EM: We have seen in the past that his organisation has had foreign funding, which does not go down well here, and also received reports that he has consulted in the past with US and British diplomats, which again works against him. But while I have been Minister of Defence, I have found him a very sound, sober person, and have had no problem with him.
CF: You have profited personally from the land confiscations against white farmers. Is this justified?
EM: I have 400 hectares, that is correct, but it is a just entitlement, absolutely. My parents were removed by (former white Zimbabwean leader) Ian Smith and pushed into the mountains. Other reclaimed land includes which was taken from my grandparents 60 or 70 years ago. I would say, though, that the single quarrel between us and Britain, on land reform, is now behind us. Yes, six people died in the process, but the issue of land reform is a question of justice.
CF: Do you think that Britain still secretly controls things here in Zimbabwe, as Mr Mugabe sometimes seems to claim?
EM: The British do not command things here, no, and I personally do not think they have any inimical intentions towards Zimbabwe. I should point out that when we took over here in Zimbabwe, I actually offered promotions to three of the white officers who tortured me during our struggle for independence.
The point was to make it clear to them that I realised that they were simply doing their jobs, serving their governments, and that we wanted to build a new country, this time based on love and respect.
CF: What do you say to claims that you were involved in organising campaigns of intimidation against opposition supporters in the 2008 polls?
EM: I was minister of rural housing. Unless they say that people were being intimidated during the construction of rural homes, then this never happened.
CF: Why is it that so many Zimbabweans say bad things about you? That you are a secret power, more feared than Mr Mugabe himself?
EM: You are the first person to ask me these kind of questions, but I don’t really know where any of this kind of stuff comes from at all. I am number 12 in the party, not number two, and am just a very humble person.
CF: Do you have any ambition to be president?
EM: I have no ambitions to be president. People speculate left right and centre but we have a structure in our party with a president and two vice-presidents. The leadership has to come out of that group, and I am not part of it. I just wish a legacy of peace, prosperity and growth for the younger generation.