U.K. Telegraph appoints Mnangagwa as Mugabe's successor

Apr 8, 2012

'Robert Mugabe strikes secret deal to hand Zimbabwe power to Emmerson Mnangagwa' is the kind of headline that is impossible to ignore when it appears on a news alert in your email inbox. Noticing it is from an article in the Mugabe-obsessed, generally Africa-unfriendly British Telegraph immediately reduces the newsworthiness and punch of the sexy-sounding heading. The Telegraph has had a few of what can be considered Mugabe/Zimbabwe scoops, but it has also cooked up many unlikely conspiracies and dubious stories around the person of Mugabe. The British paper makes its bitterness against Mugabe for his treatment of Zimbabwe's British-derived white farmers clear, and its main jump-off point for its Mugabe/Zimbabwe reportage. But even if this latest Mugabe story turns out to be as thin as many of the Telegraph's previous ones, the typically heavily anti-African readers' comments are sure to be revealing of a particular British mindset on the very emotional-for-them subjects of Mugabe and Zimbabwe.

'The succession issue' is a constant subject of discussion for Zimbabweans and foreign Zimbabwe-philes like the Telegraph. Zimbabweans' future is obviously closely linked to who will lead the country after 87 year old president Mugabe leaves the scene. In far off Britain, feelings against Mugabe run so deep that there seems almost similar levels of interest in the Mugabe succession issue, with the main driver being the hope that the next president will be less anti-British than Mugabe, and that perhaps dispossessed white farmers might at least get some compensation. These are all heatedly emotional issues for a surprising number of Britons, if the comments on any Mugabe story in the British media are any indication.

Before one digs into reading the article, one notices below the photo of Mugabe and Mnangagwa together that the story, within hours of its publication on a typically news-slow Easter weekend, has already attracted 140 comments. Goodness gracious, one can't help but smile and marvel, how deep is the interest in Britain in the purported political future of distant Zimbabwe!

It must be because the story really has some new revelations on the long-running speculation on what would happen in Zimbabwe after the long-reigning Mugabe.

Alas; no, the article is merely the recycling of thousands of similar stories over the years.

Defense minister Mnangagwa, along with vice president Joice Mujuru, have endlessly been speculated on as rival contenders for the post-Mugabe throne for many years. The Zimbabwean media, and British media like the Telegraph that have decided they have an emotional stake in Zimbabwe, never tire of looking for any excuse to spin almost any happening into speculating on what it says about who has the apparent succession upper hand between Mnangagwa or Mujuru.

The thousands of such succession stories are almost always about who between the two contenders Mugabe apparently favors at any particular moment. The 'evidence' for such stories is invariably in the writer's lively imagination.

In this particular example of the succession story/speculation, Mugabe promised Mnangagwa the throne way back in 2008, just after the former had been forced into a run-off presidential election with Morgan Tsvangirai, now prime minister. According to the Telegraph article ,'the embattled Mr Mugabe offered Mr Mnangagwa the future presidency if he could help ensure that things went Mr Mugabe's way in the second round.'

The run off was so violent that Tsvangirai felt forced to withdraw, allowing Mugabe to 'win' unchallenged. The ensuing political and diplomatic mess forced Mugabe and Tsvangirai and their  parties into the coalition government that unhappily exists today.

The implication of the Telegraph article is that Mnangagwa effectively delivered his end of his purported deal with Mugabe. The Telegraph says the implementation mechanism will involve Mugabe standing for election one more time, and then handing over power to Mnangagwa.

Except that this is a very, very old story. Or rather, it is very old speculation about how Mugabe and ZANU-PF are planning a succession that prolongs the party's hold on power. The only new angle here is the purported detail of an actual 'secret' pact between Mugabe and Mnangagwa having been made in 2008.

The dubious, thin nature of the story is strengthened by it being part-written by the Telegraph's dynamic duo on Zimbabwe, Peta Thornycroft and Aislinn Laing. These two ladies' many Zimbabwe articles reveal a thought-leaning which is very much in sympathy with the old white order. That is their right, of course, but for one reader, almost any reportage by these two on Zimbabwe, and on Mugabe in particular, long ago mostly crossed over from what can be called 'reporting' to expressing wishes and opinions.

Unusually for the Telegraph's Zimbabwe coverage, the African/Zimbabwean name of one Itai Mushekwe is given as the co-author of the article, along with Thornycroft and Laing. This speculative, mostly recycled story took the Telegraph three people to write.

Mnangagwa is indeed very much one of a few well-placed contenders in ZANU-PF for possible Mugabe successor, whether under the Telegraph's purported scenario or one of many others. The main point here is that the Telegraph posits one of such previously, constantly discussed possible scenarios, building it up as if it were a new revelation, but fails to add any real meat to its attention-grabbing headline. As the article itself points out, even if such a Mugabe-Mnangagwa pact did actually exist, "there are considerable hurdles" to it being implemented, including resistance from other camps within ZANU-PF.

For the Telegraph, proof of Mnangagwa's ascendance in the succession stakes is his having recently been sent on a high-level mission to Iran, with which Zimbabwe's economic and military links are growing. For the Telegraph, this mission, one of hundreds that Mnangagwa and many other Mugabe ministers routinely undertake at Mugabe's behest, or merely as part of their portfolios, "is the clearest sign yet that he is being groomed for the top job."

But who else but the defense minister would travel to another country on a mission with a heavily military component? How and why is defense minister Mnanganwa's going to Iran to discuss military cooperation necessarily or obviously a sign of his being the current favorite to succeed Mugabe? The Telegraph makes no attempt to provide any sort of credible linkages between the two in a speculative article attempting, and failing, to pass as a hard news story.

As always, the comments of Telegraph readers on a Mugabe story are passionate, many of them also being border-line or outright racist. The paper's readers find the Telegraph a comfortable forum in which to vent not only anti-Mugabe, but also significantly anti-African, anti-black opinions. Not at all unusually, many of the comments are not about the article as such, but the general issues of the links between colonization, race matters, and Mugabe's controversial version of post-independence transformation.

If there was indeed a succession pact in 2008 between Mugabe and Mnangagwa, it would be mildly interesting. But four years after that purported 'gentleman's agreement' between the two men, the Telegraph provides precious little evidence of it, and even less useful new analysis or speculation on what is already a long rumored, much discussed scenario.


The Zimbabwe Review


Anonymous said...

How can he strike a secret deal . Zimbabwe is not private property. What about the constitution?

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