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Could Makoni's challenge to Mugabe be genuine?

By unknown | Feb 08, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

If Simba Makoni and Ibbo Mandaza are trying to pull the political wool over the Zimbabwean voters' eyes, then this has to be one of the most Byzantine plots ever played on any electorate.

If Simba Makoni and Ibbo Mandaza are trying to pull the political wool over the Zimbabwean voters' eyes, then this has to be one of the most Byzantine plots ever played on any electorate.

Both men are dyed-in-the-wool Zanu-PF zealots. At one time or another, they prayed at the shrine of their leader, Robert Mugabe, the man whose endurance compares favourably with the nine lives of that famous animal whose curiosity proved fatal in the end.

Makoni standing against Mugabe in the presidential stakes next month? Die-hard Zanu-PF watchers are sceptical. This has all the ingredients of a classic Zanu-PF tamba wakachenjera ploy: never let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, or keep your cards so close to your chest that people will not see even your chest.

Makoni's self-proclaimed ambition to challenge Mugabe has struck many cynics as rather unusual, to say the least. His political pedigree may be impressive, but his political skin may be something else entirely.

His first brush with Mugabe was when he was minister of finance, courageously insisting that if the government would not let him devalue the tottering dollar, then he would quit.

He did quit, but then lay low for quite a while, still belonging to the party, sitting in its all-powerful politburo.

Even when he announced he would try and beard the lion in its den, he still insisted that he would do it as a member of the party, for which he could be expelled - as another presumptuous young man, Jonathan Moyo, was a few years ago.

But Makoni's profile is much more solid than Moyo's.

His profile compares well with that of another young luminary in the region, Vernon Johnston Mwaanga, the Zambian politician who became an ambassador in his early 20s - at independence in 1964.

Mwaanga, like Makoni, was once touted as a politician destined for big things in his country. An American magazine predicted he would become president of Zambia, as others have predicted about Zimbabwe's Makoni

Mwaanga rose to become foreign minister, again at a tender age, and distinguished himself. He had got that plum job after serving briefly as editor-in-chief of the government-owned Times newspapers, during which time I worked under him.

Today, Mwaanga's political career has hit rock-bottom. His slight consolation could be that the man who clipped his wings, his former mentor - former president Kenneth Kaunda - has fared no better, ousted in an election in 1991 after 27 years in the saddle.

Makoni doesn't belong to the largest ethnic group in Zimbabwe, as Mwaanga did. He is a Tonga, the largest group in Zambia.

Makoni is from Manicaland, and they number less than the Karanga and the Zezuru. Moreover, compared with the God-fearing Kaunda, Mugabe is something entirely different.

Some of Mugabe's political scalps include Ndabaningi Sithole, Joshua Nkomo, Eddison Zvobgo - and Edgar Tekere, who is still alive.

Incidentally, Mandaza, Makoni's facilitator, played Boswell to Tekere, publishing his autobiography last year.

Most hard-nosed analysts are wary of giving Makoni any credibility on the basis of his reliance on Mandaza. Yet, the fact cannot be denied that if Makoni still enjoys the support of the Mujurus - Joice and Solomon - then perhaps he could be presenting a definite challenge to Mugabe.

Still, most of the evidence is tilted against him. If he is not in alliance with the divided MDC, his candidature will hurt both Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.

If that doesn't play into Mugabe's lap, then we must all have our sums wrong.


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