HARARE – With the warring post-congress Zanu PF’s ambitious Young Turks, the Generation 40 (G40) faction, cranking up the heat on Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle have joined the fray, questioning the embattled VP’s struggle credentials.
BY MUGOVE TAFIRENYIKA AND FUNGI KWARAMBA
Speaking in interviews with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, three distinguished war veterans who were commanders during the liberation struggle, claimed that Mnangagwa was never part of the famous Crocodile Gang that was led by the late William Ndangana as the VP has consistently asserted.
They also claimed that Mnangagwa was a peripheral figure during the protracted liberation struggle and that his “only possible claim to fame” was that he was once allegedly married to the sister of the late decorated war commander, Josiah Magama Tongogara.
The claims come amid the worsening bad blood between Mnangagwa’s faction and the G40, who appear hellbent on thwarting the VP’s presidential aspirations — even going to the extent of roping in President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly influential wife, Grace, and the other VP, Phelekezela Mphoko, in the plot.
Until Grace and the G40 recently teamed up against Mnangagwa, the VP was well-poised to succeed Mugabe following last year’s brutal purging of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her close allies from both the post-congress Zanu PF and government.
The liberation struggle veterans who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said they were raising their doubts about Mnangagwa now because they were worried that Zanu PF was about to be led by “a person with a hazy history”, and who was allegedly “a stowaway who fled the country claiming to be a Zambian”.
One of the veterans, Retired Colonel Bastian Beta, said he had only met Mnangagwa once during the liberation struggle, “and then he was just a family visitor to the camp”.
“I only met him in 1978 when he came to the camp and we asked who he was, and we were told that it was Comrade Tongogara’s visitor. We were later shocked when we returned home to find that he was heading the security ministry,” Beta said.
Speaking in a recent interview with the UK-based New African magazine, Mnangagwa said that he was the head of security of Zanu and that he had conducted check-ups on recruits, something that war veterans now describe as a “bizarre” claim.
“The three check-ups were done by the commissariat department and included assessing someone’s background,” another war veteran, who preferred to be referred to only as Taitezvi and who was in charge of intelligence then, said.
A former member of the Zanla High Command, Parker Chipoyera, weighed in saying Mnangagwa had allegedly left many war veterans dispirited when he refused to assist them in 1976, “preferring rather to complete his academic thesis first”.
To augment their claims, the former freedom fighters also said that there were only five members of the Crocodile Gang and Mnangagwa was not one of them.
“The five were Sipho Ncube, William Ndangana, Cde Mlambo, Cde Dhlamini and Cde Master. They later scattered after they killed a white man at Nyanyadzi, with some going to Zambia. Sipho actually has a crocodile tattoo on his arm,” Chipoyera said.
Taitezvi added that he and Ndangana, who led the Crocodile Gang, had once done a documentary on the activities of the crocodile group and Mnangagwa’s name had not featured in the narrative.
“We went to Manicaland with Cde Ndangana where the Crocodile Group operated from. They gave me names of the members and there is no mention of Mnangagwa’s name.
“Ndangana led the group. We went to all places where the white man was killed,” Taitezvi who once worked in Zanu PF’s commissariat department said.
He added that the only time that he had met Mnangagwa during the struggle was during the Geneva conference.
“I saw him come to sit with us at the Zambia International Hotel where we stayed. He was in the dark about how the liberation struggle was being waged because he was actually enquiring from us.
“From there, we heard he was heading the security department, so I am saying from the documentary evidence we got from Cde Ndangana, Mnangagwa was not there,” Taitezvi said.
Chipoyera said there had never been “a single day” that Mnangagwa visited party offices while he was studying at the University of Zambia, adding that the VP did not even join the Zanu branch at the institution of higher learning.
“Cde (Hebert) Chitepo was there in Zambia and domiciled at party offices. Cde Kumbirai Kangai and others used to come to the party offices. The likes of Fay Chung, Sam Geza and others used to come attending conferences but he was never there maybe because he knew he would be interrogated about the circumstances surrounding his deportation from Zimbabwe,” he said.
According to the veterans, this was notwithstanding the fact that Zanu had had other students in Zambia who included Frederick Shava, Joseph Masangomai and Tungamirai Midzi.
The wartime commanders further claimed that Mnangagwa had allegedly refused to help guerrillas move out of a camp in Zambia, following an attack, saying he wanted to concentrate on his school work.
“We approached Cde Mnangagwa officially and said can you help us engage the Zambian authorities to cause the release of the comrades so that they can go to Zambia if they were no longer needed in Mozambique?
“He replied that he could not help us because he wanted to concentrate on his thesis. That left us dejected because we did not understand what was happening after Ndabaningi Sithole had also refused to help us saying he wanted to attend to his sick daughter in America,” Beta said.
He also questioned why, if Mnangagwa had played such a central role in the liberation struggle, he never made it to the top echelons of the military ranks during the war.
“The likes of Rugare Gumbo came all the way from America where they were students, were promoted into the Dare Rechimurenga, and one wonders why Mnangagwa, if he was in the thick of things, was never elected into the council or the general staff for that matter.
“He never associated with the party until he was taken to Mozambique by Cde Tongogara,” Taitezvi said. – Daily News