A CABAL can generally be defined as a group, a faction, a gang, a set, a confederacy or a junta. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary refers to a cabal as the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot, while the English Collins Dictionary defines it as a clique, a set, a party or a league. Whichever definition one decides to pick, the underlying message is that a cabal is a malignant clique with an aptitude for evil schemes and desires.
By Luke Tamborinyoka
Ever since the militarily-orchestrated fall of former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017, the new administration has constantly referred in disparaging terms to what it calls “the G40 cabal”, a clique that it accuses of holding hostage the former President. This G40 cabal was reportedly fronted by former Cabinet ministers Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and the former First Lady and Zanu PF women’s league boss, Grace Mugabe, among others.
The aim of this treatise is to show that notwithstanding the very valid framing of these close acolytes of the former President as a cabal, the very real and dangerous cabal is Team Lacoste as reflected by the unrepentant, anti-democracy and long-time associates that have conveniently regrouped and now make up President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s so-called “new” administration.
Indeed, as this piece will show, the real cabal is this team in government; with its like-minded characters that have a long history of standing between the people and their hope for democracy. This cabal — the Lacoste cabal — is replete with scheming characters strewn across all sectors from the military, the criminal underworld, the civil service and business.
At the centre of this team has always been July Moyo, who those in the know claim has always been the chief strategist of Mnangagwa’s Lacoste faction and its enduring agenda to grab power at whatever cost. He is now Local Government, Public Works and National Housing minister.
It is important to state from the outset that I hold no brief for Mugabe and his G40 cohorts. I have my own issues with almost all of them.
First, as the elected secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, I was the first person to take then Information minister Jonathan Moyo to court way back in 2002 when I challenged what we regarded as unconstitutional and undemocratic provisions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), whose negative effects the media industry still feels to this very day.
As Zanu PF commissar and women’s league boss respectively, Kasukuwere and Grace victimised and traumatised my sister, Dorothy Mashonganyika, a war veteran in her own right. The two conspired to hound her out of her elected position as Zanu PF women’s league chairperson for Mashonaland Central province. Among the reasons for their excoriation of my sister at their party meetings was her relationship to me. Our late fathers were blood brothers. The two G40 protagonists mistakenly thought that she was MDC simply because she is my sister, despite her having been on the war front as a Zanla combatant when Kasukuwere was still wetting his pants at the mere sound of gunfire and helicopters!
I have told Kasukuwere the few times we have bumped into each other that ours is not a barbaric family; that my sister and I respect each other and our common parentage, notwithstanding the fact that we belong to different political parties. We value our blood relationship more than we do our party cards. We co-exist very well, despite our stark ideological and political differences.
As proud Africans, we have not allowed our different party cards to tamper with our blood bond which we both regard as more enduring and more important.
Indeed, that is the inclusive and tolerant political dispensation that some of us aspire for and which she, as my sister, fought for when she spent over two years in the bush fighting for the liberation of this country. I am proud of her, as well as my other late sister, Acquelinah. The two Chiheras left Tamborenyoka village in Domboshava to join the war of liberation in the summer of 1978.
As for Mugabe, I was arrested for the first time in my life on trumped-up charges of criminally defaming him — during my other life as a journalist — on January 21, 2001. His government was to orchestrate several bombings on the offices and the printing press of The Daily News, the then audacious newspaper where I was political editor before I became the newspaper’s chief news editor, a position I left to join the MDC as the party’s director of information and publicity on October 28, 2005.
So this treatise on this Lacoste team now in government as the real cabal is in no way an expression of support for G40 and its luminaries, who have all been a source of trouble for me personally and professionally over the years.
The point is, I have my own issues with the G40, but I posit here that the real and more frightening confederacy is the Lacoste cabal; this alliance of callous characters now in government; indeed this close-knit amity of personalities with a relationship that spans many years as they plotted together for the ultimate kill (both literally and metaphorically).
This piece will show how far back the alliances between the characters now in government have endured and will make obvious why the appointment of officials into Mnangagwa’s administration is not a mere coincidence.
The first indictment on the Mnangagwa administration as a cabal is the United Nations Report on the Plundering of the Democratic Republic of the Congo natural resources, a report done by the UN Panel of Experts (S/2002/1146). The report names what it calls an “elite network” of politicians that was at the centre of plundering the resources of the DRC.
Named in the report are Mnangagwa, then the Speaker of Parliament, as well as Sibusiso “Busi” Moyo, then the director-general of COSLEG, a Congo-Zimbabwe joint stock company that was a vehicle of the military-backed commerce involving mostly diamonds, banking and timber in the government-backed areas. The report also names Perrance Shiri, now Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement minister.
The damning UN report reads in part: “The key strategist of the Zimbabwe branch of the elite network is the Speaker of Parliament and former National Security minister Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa . . . A long-time ally of President Robert Mugabe, Air Marshall Perrance Shiri has been involved in military procurement, and organising air support for the pro-Kinshasa armed groups fighting in the eastern DRC . . . Other prominent members of the elite network include Brigadier-General Sibusiso Busi Moyo, who is director-general of COSLEG. Brigadier Moyo advised both Tremalt and Oryx Natural Resources which represented covert Zimbabwean military and financial interests in negotiations with State mining companies of the DRC.”
Given this association in what the UN alleges to be criminal activities in the DRC some 16 years ago, it is no wonder that Mnangagwa picked Moyo to be the Foreign Affairs minister in his Cabinet. This is the same Moyo who became a news anchor overnight and announced the military take-over on State radio and television in the last hours of Mugabe’s reign. Shiri is also now a minister in the new administration and one begins to get a feel of what amounts to the regrouping of a cabal.
If one adds other shadowy characters named in the UN report — personalities that are friends with our current President, among them Ahmed Said Thamer al Shanfari and John Arnold Bredenkamp — then the cabal becomes a full cast!
The same UN report also implicates the then Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi. It was Sekeramayi who wrote a memorandum to Mugabe in 2002 proposing that a joint company between the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the DRC be set up in Mauritius to disguise the nefarious military activities in the Congo.
Given the revelations in the UN report and his links with this junta, it is by no means surprising that despite being touted as the G40 presidential candidate after Mugabe, Sekeramayi has been spared any form of arrest or harassment by the junta now in charge of the country.
Sekeramayi, despite losing his ministerial post, remains a troublesome, but delicate irritant, like a mosquito perched on the scrotum, you have to be careful how you squash it or else you injure yourself.
Sekeramayi knows a lot and he can’t be harassed, even though the G40 team had framed him as a presidential frontrunner after Mugabe.
Thus, Mnangagwa has an enduring relationship with the army and some of the military characters who stopped a transition in 2008. After all, the rabid war cry of “27 June vaMugabe muoffice” when Mugabe lost the 20008 election was a military operation fronted by Mnangagwa as the Defence minister and as Mugabe’s chief election agent. It is this cabal that has reunited in the current administration and is desperate for some semblance of legitimacy in the forthcoming election. They have waited too long for this!
It must not be forgotten that while Mugabe was holding a Press conference at State House on Friday July 30, 2013 on the eve of the last election, it was Mnangagwa who pitched up on the State House lawn, while the presser was taking place, with none other than Emmanuel Antebbi. Antebbi was the chief executive of NIKUV International, the Israeli company at the centre of the pilferage of the people’s will in Zimbabwe’s last election.
It is anyone’s guess why Mnangagwa had brought this mysterious man to Mugabe on the eve of an election!
Reports say NIKUV International had been paid by proceeds from diamonds extracted from the army’s claims given to the military by one Obert Mpofu, then Mines minister. Mnangagwa was the Defence minister and it is no wonder that Mpofu, who himself bought a bank for $23 million with a salary of less than $5 000 when he was Mines minister, is now the Home Affairs minister in the current administration.
Talk of the regrouping of a cabal!
Notwithstanding Mpofu’s murky and shady past, it is him who is now charged under the Mnangagwa administration with policing and arresting “the criminal elements around the former President”!
Talk of expecting a mosquito to cure malaria!
From 2008 to the current dispensation, there is a sonorous chorus for media reforms as a key condition for a free, fair and credible election. The only constant human factor at the ministry charged with the responsibility of ensuring these reforms take place is one Information secretary George Charamba, my brother and totem-mate. Charamba has played hardball in implementing these reforms.
The man has a long history with the Lacoste faction which stretches back to the Tsholotsho debacle in 2004. It is now public knowledge that it was Charamba, as the accounting officer and permanent secretary in the Information ministry, who hired the helicopter that transported the Zanu PF chairpersons to Dinyane Secondary School, the venue of the attempted putsch in 2004
His former boss, Jonathan Moyo, later told us that it was Charamba, as the accounting officer in the Information ministry, who authorised the payment of $9 780 750 for the helicopter and even helped secure clearance for it. According to Moyo, it was Charamba who authorised the hiring of the helicopter for two days after he had reportedly written Mnangagwa’s speech, which was eventually delivered in Tsholotsho by Patrick Chinamasa on November 18, 2004.
No wonder my brother until very recently occupied three powerful posts. Until the appointment of an acting minister late last week, Charamba was (and could still be) the de facto Information minister, the permanent secretary as well as the presidential spokesperson.
He has a long history with the Lacoste cabal which is why some of us wondered aloud whether he was a Mugabe emissary or a representative of the interests of the military junta in the Father Fidelis Mukonori-led negotiations in the last hours of the former President’s tenure. Mugabe may have regarded his spokesperson as his man, but, as I wrote a few weeks ago, Charamba was running with the hares and hunting with the hounds!
Also in Mnangagwa’s office is his nephew, one Misheck Sibanda, who has continued to be the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet.
If you add Mnangagwa’s associates in the military, which military has gone beyond the barracks and is now in the presidium, in Cabinet, in the party commissariat and at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, among other strategic institutions, you have a full-fledged cabal that has regrouped in the so-called new dispensation.
In short, the new administration is a regrouping of sorts, with relatives and long-time friends across the sectors re-uniting to form a formidable cabal that is desperate for legitimacy in the next election.
The multi-million dollar question is, if this cabal could steal it for Mugabe when it was several feet away from real power, how far can they go in the current scenario, where they are set to be the immediate and direct beneficiaries of any electoral theft?
Indeed, there is every reason for the electorate to be very, very afraid!
Yet I do not wish to frighten my fellow countrymen — and women.
The only consolation is that the people of Zimbabwe are a heroic people who have a history of tenacity against oppressors and kleptocrats whenever they manifest.
As the nation stands on the cusp of a watershed election, hope springs eternal among the people of this great country that the future can only be bright.
Indeed, the worst appears to be over.
If through sheer tenacity we survived and politically outlived Mugabe, we can survive this regrouped cabal!
Without sounding complacent, the person of Mnangagwa has never been votable and his electoral chances will always lie somewhere between nil and zero, in the absence of the whiff of condign power.
As Zanu PF prepares to field him in the next election, the MDC is equally considering throwing into the fray one Blessing Chebundo, the man who twice defeated Mnangagwa in Kwekwe until he sought political succour and comfort in the rural safety of Chirumanzu-Zibagwe.
Indeed, Mnangagwa’s peer in the MDC is Chebundo.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai will be an overkill. Fielding Tsvangirai against Mnangagwa, in a truly free, fair and credible election, would be akin to sending a college principal to a workshop of ECD teachers.
Moreover, in what might appear a trifle statistical coincidence, this election in 2018 and the figure 8 has always been kind to Tsvangirai and the MDC.
The MDC leader’s late wife, Susan Nyaradzo, was born in 1958.
The former Prime Minister’s current wife, Elizabeth Macheka-Tsvangirai, was born in 1978.
In 1988, at the watershed Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) congress in Gweru, Tsvangirai was elected secretary-general of the country’s national labour confederation.
In 1998, as secretary-general of the ZCTU, Tsvangirai showed he was a force never to be ignored in his political life when he successfully called for nationwide stay-aways that virtually shut down the country’s industries.
In 2008, he defeated Mugabe in a presidential election before condign power stepped in to stand in the way of the people’s will.
Whatever the case, the people of Zimbabwe are ready to consign this regrouped cabal to the annals of history!
Luke Tamborinyoka is the presidential spokesperson and director of communications in the MDC led by Morgan Richard Tsvangirai. He writes here in his official capacity. You can interact with him on Facebook and on Twitter.