'Mnangagwa cannot rewrite war history'

HARARE - Last week, I received a call from Goodson Nguni, a self-confessed loyalist of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

What was particularly bizarre was the salutation, “Hesi (Hie) Mutoda” that he used to address me.

Politely, I asked him why he had chosen to address me like that and who was Mutoda.

He quickly justified himself by accusing me of penning a column in the Daily News on Sunday called “Shooting From the Hip, by Freddy Mutoda”.

Immediately, I sensed that something must have jolted Nguni into action and that someone in the high echelons of Zanu PF might have been stricken hard by the political pebbles that this Mutoda guy was throwing through the Daily News on Sunday column.

Despite my honest dissociation from this Mutoda columnist, I could see that Nguni was adamant I was Mutoda and he had to delve into the area of discourse analysis and literary appreciation, including analysis of the syntax in the few articles I have been writing and comparing them with Mutoda, to justify his accusations.

I found his explanations and fervent attempts at making me Mutoda quite intriguing, at best, and very frightening when read with his zealous politicisation of both the contents of Mutoda’s article that he was referring to and the object behind its publication.

He insisted I was Mutoda whom he insisted falsified the liberation war narrative by pointing out that Mnangagwa was not part of the Crocodile Gang which the vice president claimed to have led in his interview with the NewAfrican magazine.

Resignedly, I told Nguni he was free to believe what he wanted but told him that we in the People First movement, are not in the habit of attacking political opponents on the basis of their non-participation in the liberation war or “the peripheral roles” they played during the war for we know that participation in the war of liberation alone, does not make one a good Statesman.

We are equally aware that there are many people who did not participate in the  war who are very patriotic, dependable nationalists who can be useful in pushing the development agenda in this country in just the same way we believe that among the many war veterans, we have a few who are now ripe to lead the country.

While my conversation with Nguni that hot afternoon was generally not pleasant, it had the net effect of developing my interest in the Crocodile Gang, its history and the work it did during the liberation struggle for Nguni, in that curt interaction, had insisted Mutoda and the Daily News on Sunday were lying that Mnangagwa was not part of this group.

Thanks to technological advancements and the readiness with which information is available, I immediately got down to research on the group and found out that indeed, Vice President Mnangagwa was never a part of this group and that his propagandists had their work cut out in trying to justify his claims in the NewAfrican interview that he was not only part of the group but its leader.

The desperation that the propagandists are exhibiting, which includes publishing his pictures during the 1980 Zanu campaign trail as part of his “liberation story in pictures”, indicates that there is some significant battering that Mnangagwa is encountering as a result of the inaccurate information he gave about the Crocodile Gang and his role therein.

There are two significant sources of information, if not three, that Mnangagwa has to dismiss that clearly tell the real story about the Crocodile Group, its activities, area of operation and modus operandi.

There is a journal article by one Baxter Tavuyanago, a lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University, in which the University of Pretoria PhD candidate clearly traces the operations of the group in his attempt to correct a historical inaccuracy that the Second Chimurenga started with the 1966 battle of Chinhoyi.

Tavuyanago did research for the journal article which included interviews with the real leader of the Crocodile Group, William Ndangana, and Solomon Gwitira and Amos Rwizi in 1985, two elders from Melsetter who voluntarily joined the Crocodile Group on its first mission to attack Nyanyadzi Police Station on July 1, 1964.

Tavuyanago clearly states that the Crocodile Group “was a five-member Zanu commando unit deployed in the Melsetter district of Manicaland in 1964 following the first Zanu Congress held in Gwelo in May 1964” and that “the CG was led by William Ndangana and included James Dhlamini, Victor Mlambo, Master Tresha Mazwani and Amos Kademaunga.”

Nowhere in the article or the interviews that Tavuyanago did was the name of Mnangagwa mentioned as part of the Crocodile Gang.

In fact, Tavuyanago is so detailed in his description of the members of the gang further positing that “at the time of their recruitment, William Ndangana was the deputy secretary of Zanu’s youth league in Lusaka.

“James Dhlamini was employed at the Luxury Tearoom in Kitwe. Victor Mlambo worked in the Zambian mines and was at the same time a member of the Kabushi Branch of Zanu in Ndola while Amos Kademaunga and Master Mazwani were general labourers and also youth league members of the Masala Branch in Ndola.”

Tavuyanago cites a court record during the trial of two members of the group for the murder of Pieter Johannes Andries Oberholtzer (File 6.4.9F No.10665 [Regina vs. James Dhlamini and Victor Mlambo, High Court, Salisbury, 12.12.64]) as the source of his information.

Apart from Tavuyanago’s journal article, I spoke to Amos Kademaunga, the then 16-year-old and youngest member of the group who is still alive and farming in Mashonaland West Province.

Kademaunga corroborated Tavuyanago’s description of the group’s membership and area of operation, insisting that Mnangagwa was never a member of the gang.

He said that the only member of the group, among the three that were arrested, who was saved from the gallows because of age, was Kademaunga himself.

Kademaunga also explained that the Gang operated for a very short time between July, 1 and 22, 1964.

He was the first to be arrested in Mutare while Dhlamini and Mlambo were also arrested days later in Chipinge. Ndangana and Mazwani escaped back to Zambia. It is interesting to note that all this was happening during the same period that Mnangagwa tells the NewAfrican that he was in China.

“I went to school in China in 1963-64 and we were taught about the Chinese revolution,” he told Baffour Ankomah, the so-called Editor-at-Large of the magazine.

In fact, the more Mnangagwa propagandists have tried to defend his membership of the group narrative, the more they have exposed him as an impostor.

The fable that Mnangagwa was 16 years old in 1964 does not add up to his current age, 73 years.

Someone who was 16 years old in 1964 is now 67 years old not 73. If Mnangagwa is 73, it means he was 22 in 1964 and 23 in 1965 when he was arrested.

It then means he was not under the legal age of majority (21 years) when he was arrested in 1965, making the narrative around his escape from the gallows on the basis of being younger than 21 dodgy.

It gives credence to claims that there was more to the arrangement that got him sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for a crime that carried a death sentence than the feeble explanation that he was underage.

There is also another source of information, President Robert Mugabe, who can accurately give us detail on who the Crocodile Group members were for Tavuyanago argues that the five were, “on arrival in Salisbury, briefed on their assignment by the party’s secretary-general (Robert Mugabe) and secretary for defence (Noel Mukono)”.

It is evident from available information, from written records and oral interviews by a living member of the gang, that trying to force Mnangagwa into the group is falsifying history and the liberation war narrative in a way, and for a purpose, only known by the vice president’s propagandists.

Tavuyanago does not dispute, in his journal article, the role played by Mnangagwa during the war as he clearly maintains that the vice president was inspired by the Crocodile Gang to also participate in some sabotage activities in Masvingo Province but it should be made clear that the inspiration did not make him part of the Gang.

Tavuyanago contends that “the hanging of Dhlamini and Mlambo were clear setbacks to the struggle but in a way served as an inspiration and a political booster to the party.

“Their activities and subsequent execution helped advertise the party internationally.

“Other youngsters such as Emmerson Mnangagwa were inspired to follow suit when in 1965 his group blew up a goods train along the Fort Victoria-Chikwalacuala.”

Kademaunga, as does Tavuyanago in his journal article, argues that Mnangagwa’s group petrol-bombed a goods train in 1965.

By this time, three of the CG members were in prison while the other two had escaped back to Zambia. This puts Mnangagwa and his group’s “heroic act” outside the operational time zone of the Crocodile Gang.

While it is good that historical facts are put in their correct perspective, I maintain here that whether Mnangagwa was or was not a member of the Crocodile Group, does not make him a better or bad leader.

What is important is to look at him now and put him on a leadership scale that he should tip to his favour.

What, however, militates against him is the fact that if he lies about his role in the liberation struggle to an extent of claiming what he is not, very few people would trust him on anything else that he says.

A leader should pass a morality test that puts him above petty fibs and lying in order to boost one’s self-importance is the last thing that the electorate expects of a leader.

I was not part of the war and I certainly would not trust leaders who lie to me about their roles during that time simply because I was not there.

In fact, what the vice president should honestly tell us is the role that he played in the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.

Was he responsible? What role did he play? Is he proud of his role? What needs to be done to the victims?

These are pertinent questions that the electorate needs answers to, from one who is alleged to have been part of the Gukurahundi operation.

Rather than lie about membership of the Crocodile Gang, the vice president needs to tell us what really transpired in that sad part of our post-independence history, or better still, as he is Justice minister, help the government  release the report on the Gukurahundi commission of inquiry.


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