Daddy’s shoes prove too big to fill for Zvobgo Jnr

LIKE father, like son, so it’s said.

BY TATENDA CHITAGU

But for the late national hero and charismatic Zanu PF politician, Eddison Mudadirwa Zvobgo and his eldest surviving son, Eddison Jnr, this old dictum does not ring true.
Yes, Zvobgo Jnr is a lawyer like his father. But beyond that, he is very far from being his daddy’s shoo-in.

Famed for being in the extraordinary, exclusive league of the sharpest legal brains to emerge from Zimbabwe, the late Mudadirwa must be turning in his grave.

A witty wordsmith, he was a colossus and many in Zanu PF contend that he is the president that the ruling party and Zimbabwe never got.

The larger-than-life character was not only a Harvard-trained lawyer, but also taught at the top-notch university, a citadel of knowledge ranked among the crème-de-la-crème globally.

In Masvingo, where he hailed from, he was known through the length and breadth of the province, and was a celebrated power broker, who manoeuvred through the political pitfalls that befell him.

His political exploits did not only end in Masvingo.

Born in October 1935, Zvobgo Snr was one of the founding members of Zanu and spokesperson of the Patriotic Front at the Lancaster House negotiations in late 1979.

He was instrumental in the Lancaster House negotiations that ushered in elections in 1980 to end the gruesome war of liberation between the former coloniser, Britain and the locals.

An astute politician and genius par excellence, Zvobgo Snr was outspoken yet a darling of the media for his famous, well-thought quotations that made him the go-to source for commentary and analysis.

In the 1980 elections, he won a seat in Parliament for Masvingo, which he continued to hold until his death.

He heralded Zimbabwe’s first Cabinet and headed key portfolios until his demise.

Among them are the Local Government and Housing ministry until 1982, and the Justice ministry until 1985.

When he was appointed Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs minister in 1987, he tinkered with the Constitution and gave absolute power to the President reportedly in anticipation that he would take over from then Head of State, Robert Mugabe.

When the promise of him taking over was not fulfilled by Mugabe, Zvobgo Snr fell out with his boss and was bold enough to publicly challenge the Zanu PF stranglehold on civil liberties.

Zvobgo Snr’s frankness came at a price. In 1992, an outraged Mugabe demoted him to a less strategic position of Mines minister.

In 1996, Zvobgo Snr broke his legs in a car accident. After the accident, he was again demoted to Minister Without Portfolio and Mugabe thought he would tame him and buy his loyalty.

Still, he continued criticising Mugabe and in 2000, he was dropped from the Cabinet.

Zvobgo Snr died in 2004 at the age of 69 after being ill for sometime and was buried at the National Heroes’ Acre.

And even in his death, his impact is being felt. He left a thriving business empire with the major highlights being Chevron and Flamboyant hotels and the famous Ritz Night Club in Masvingo; several farms, as well as Fairmille Motel in Gweru.

But the hotels, adopted by Zvobgo Jnr, need some sprucing up.

On the contrary, Zvobgo Jnr is nowhere near his father and has failed to ride on that rich political legacy even in Masvingo South constituency, a seat held by his father.

Twice he contested in Masvingo South — in 2008 and 2013 — but was beaten hands down by fellow businessman Edmund “Tsungai” Mhere, who is the current legislator.

Mhere sailed through uncontested in the recently-held primaries after Zvobgo Jnr moved to Masvingo Urban.

And in Masvingo Urban, Zvobgo Jnr was again trounced in his third consecutive bid to become an MP by Bernard Mazarire in a race that was too close to call.

However, Zvobgo Jnr, who pulled a surprise from being an underdog to a strong contender for the seat, also petitioned the party, saying there were irregularities that cost him his much-needed win.

Asked if he felt that Masvingo Urban was a “safe seat” after losing in his home area twice (Masvingo South), Zvobgo Jnr, who did the greater part of his upbringing and schooling in the Diaspora, said he felt he resonated well with the urban electorate.

“I did not chicken out of Masvingo South, but I feel I can best serve well the urban electorate,” he said while addressing journalists at an elections reporting workshop for scribes last week.

When called to comment on his future in politics, as well as his political barrenness, Zvobgo Jnr said he would only comment when the party decides on whether or not it will do a re-run in Masvingo Urban following the chaotic primary elections held recently in which he disputed the results in a petition.

“I cannot comment on anything at the moment. Let us wait for the party’s decision on the re-runs my brother,” that was all he could say repeatedly despite several attempts to draw him into commenting.

It remains to be seen if the party will concede to do a re-run for the man who is currently giving the Masvingo Zanu PF staff free office space at his premises.

Observers say it would be unfair to compare Zvobgo Jnr with his late father, who had set the bar too high for him.

They also agreed that it does not follow that a child may do better or worse than his late parents.

Zvobgo Jnr is not the only child of a Zanu PF stalwart from Masvingo who failed to tap on their parents’ political capital.

Fungai Masendeke, the daughter of late hero and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa, also failed to follow her mother’s footsteps in Gutu South constituency — a seat long held by her mother — after being defeated in the recently held Zanu PF chaotic primaries.

However, other children of prominent Zanu PF bigwigs from Masvingo managed to capitalise on the political base set by their late parents like late Vice-President Simon Muzenda’s last born Tongai, who was the Deputy Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, and his sister Tsitsi Muzenda (Gweru Chirumanzu Senator).

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