ONE of Zimbabwe’s most decorated ex-combatants, army officer and long-serving diplomat, Agrippah Mutambara has crossed the floor to join Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF) led by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
Mutambara, whose Chimurenga name was Dragon Patiripakashata, joined the struggle in 1975 and trained in Mozambique under Zanla forces.
He held various positions including member of general staff, instructor in guerrilla tactics, director of politics in Zanla, operations commander and chief representative of Zanu in Ethiopia.
After independence, he was commissioned as a colonel of the Zimbabwe National Army and appointed the first commandant of the Zimbabwe Staff College. He served as Deputy Brigade Commander in Masvingo and Bulawayo before he served as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Cuba (with multiple accreditation to Guyana and Nicaragua), Russia (with multiple accreditation to Ukraine, Belarus, Khazakstan and Poland), and Mozambique (with multiple accreditation to Swaziland) between 1993 and 2014.
He is still in government employment, but has submitted a request to be retired after he joined ZimPF, where he is a member of the party’s external affairs committee. NewsDay Chief Reporter Everson Mushava (ND) caught up with Mutambara (AM) to understand why he has abandoned Zanu PF and severed ties with President Robert Mugabe.
Below are excerpts of the interview.
ND: Ambassador Mutambara, you worked in President Robert Mugabe’s government for many years. What influenced your decision to leave Zanu PF for ZimPF? Was the decision voluntary?
AM: The decision to join the armed struggle was mine alone, motivated by the injustices I saw around me.
The decision to leave Zanu PF is mine alone, motivated by the injustices I see around me.
Unlike other comrades, I have not been suspended, dismissed or influenced to leave Zanu PF. My conscience forbids me from remaining in Zanu PF given its track record of intimidation and violence that run against the ethos and values of our revolutionary armed struggle.
The manner in which Mujuru was removed on unsubstantiated allegations is a disgrace to Zanu PF.
Mugabe had the power to remove her on grounds of poor performance. It did not require First Lady Grace Mugabe — holding an unelected and ceremonial position — to undress her using language unbefitting of any mother, to force her to resign or be dismissed.
Even today, the language used against Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa is deplorable. Slogans such as “Pamberi neMazoe Crush” — an individual’s product being made a national slogan — is an affront to what the revolution taught us. To add insult to injury, the youths have come up with the slogan “Munhu wese kunaMai”. What exactly does this mean?
To me, it meant a significant shift in policy. It meant the one centre-of-power was now shifting from Mugabe to Grace.
In broad daylight Mugabe has been robbed of his authority and there is now a new boss in town — Grace.
ND: Can you describe your relationship with Mugabe?
AM: Initially, my relationship with Mugabe seemed good as evidenced by the senior responsibilities I was assigned to during and after our liberation struggle. However, at a later stage the relationship seemed to taper off.
ND: You said your relationship with Mugabe has tapered off, can you explain why?
AM: I used to write to Mugabe criticism of what I considered was going wrong both in government and in Zanu PF. I believe my well-intended criticism did not go down well with him, particularly, my criticism of the modus operandi of the then Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, Gideon Gono and the manner in which the party’s commissariat department conducted itself.
ND: In your assessment, what type of person is Mugabe?
AM: The Mugabe I knew during the struggle is different from the one I know today.
The first Mugabe was a man of principles, a visionary, teacher and an orator, an inspirational guru, who I grew to know, to love and who the struggle had turned into a blood brother, a man who did not forget those he had been through difficulties with. In my book entitled The Rebel in Me, I appeal for forgiveness for any minor indiscretions attributable to him.
The second Mugabe is the complete opposite of the first. He is a despot for whom the struggle was fought so that he could rule until death, even if it means he has to rule from a wheelchair. He has distanced himself from the comrades, who loved him and were prepared to die for him.
He surrounds himself with relatives and views those who are not related to him as a threat to his being. He listens to gossip and is being manoeuvred by those close to him to create a dynasty.
The party that he assiduously fought to build, for which many comrades sacrificed their lives, will go down in history as the party that survived one leader.
The indiscretions attributable to the second Mugabe, unless arrested now, go beyond the bounds of being minor.
ND: You wrote a book, The Rebel in Me, may you briefly describe what your book is about and why you gave it that title? Do you describe yourself as a rebel and why?
AM: You are encouraged to read my book to appreciate the full significance of choosing such a title. I rebelled against the injustices of the Rhodesian regime and that’s why I joined the armed struggle. I am rebelling against the injustices of Zanu PF and that’s why I have joined ZimPF.
ND: Why do you think ZimPF is the party that can remove Mugabe from power?
AM: ZimPF is a people-centred party. Our president will not have authoritarian power. The culture of hero-worshipping even our president is barred by our constitution.
The eulogising of a president using totems does not reflect a national character and should only be used at family or tribal gatherings. In ZimPF, there are no negative slogans as “Pasi na … (down with…).” The culture of violence is totally disallowed by our constitution.
ZimPF is founded on good morals and respect of the dignity of every citizen. We do not view differences in political thinking as reason for having antagonistic relations.
ND: Critics of ZimPF say your party is made up of rejects from Zanu PF, people who have been fired from Zanu PF — what is your comment?
AM: ZimPF is an all-inclusive party. No person is considered a reject even though there might be differences of opinion. Every Zimbabwean is welcome to join ZimPF.-Newsday