Tshinga Dube: Courage of one's convictions

HARARE - The ruling Zanu PF party’s behaviour has often been likened to that of baboons, which fight over food, but close ranks whenever there is danger.

Another distinctive characteristic of the ruling party is that while it prides itself on being a democratic formation, it brooks no dissent within its rank and file.

There are so many examples to illustrate the latter.

Perhaps the most familiar was that of Dzikamai Mavhaire, who was summarily dismissed from Zanu PF in 1997 for calling on President Robert Mugabe to resign during debate in Parliament.

Years later, Mavhaire was re-admitted into the party, having undergone “rehabilitation”, only to be fired for the second time in 2014, for allegedly aiding and abetting former vice president Joice Mujuru’s alleged plan to unseat Mugabe using unconstitutional means.

There is now an unwritten rule in Zanu PF to the effect that talk about succeeding Mugabe is considered anathema.

Nonetheless, it is the most topical issue at the moment only that it is being discussed in some dark corners, far from eavesdroppers.

Still, there are a few Zanu PF cadres with the courage of their convictions that do not mind getting punished for speaking out their minds.

History records luminaries such as Edgar Tekere, now late, and general Solomon Mujuru, also late.

There is also something history should never miss about successive ministers of Welfare Services for War Veterans that makes them go where others dare not tread.

To some in and outside Zanu PF, the case of War Veterans’ minister Tshinga Dube, and his predecessor, Christopher Mutsvangwa, are classic cases of the demonstration of rare courage in Zanu PF. Not many have been as daring as Dube and Mutsvangwa who have earned their stripes for being among the few who dared tread where angels hide.

As War Veterans minister, Mutsvangwa openly declared last year that the former freedom fighters preferred Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe, now 93, when talk about the Zanu PF leader leaving office had been declared a shut case.

Before his controversial remarks, former freedom fighters had issued a stinging communiqué in Harare, denigrating Mugabe’s leadership. A few of them were arrested for undermining Mugabe’s authority and are currently out on bail.

The war veterans had also tried to meet with Mugabe to air their grievances, but were displaced by heavily armed police from an open space where they had gathered, just outside Harare’s central business district, through the use of force, and tear smoke.

For his role in organising the unsanctioned meeting, Mutsvangwa earned himself marching orders from both government and Zanu PF, but remained chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA). His chairperson’s position had come under threat from a rival grouping led by Mandi Chimene, the Provincial Affairs minister for Manicaland, but Mutsvangwa survived after a court delegitimised the other group.

His successor at the War Veterans ministry, Dube, also threw caution to the wind about a week ago by backing the war veterans in their calls for Mugabe to appoint a successor. His remarks stoked a backlash from a section of the former liberation war fighters, led by Chimene and George Mlala, who now want Dube fired from his position in Cabinet.

They declared that Dube should not have a place in Mugabe’s government but left the decision to fire him to the appointing authority.

“Cde Dube, senior as he is, should understand the Zanu PF constitution which says the party president is elected by not less than six provinces and according to our constitution we will go for congress in 2019,” said Mlala.

“There is nowhere in the constitution where it says the President should appoint a successor as Dube is now saying…”

Dube has not been without backers. He is enjoying the support of ZNLWVA, ironically led by Mutsvangwa. The State media, which often lampoons Mugabe’s critics, has also been uncharacteristically quiet, implying “he is their man”.

The security sector, which came out guns blazing against Jonathan Moyo and other critics of the Command Agriculture programme, has also not said anything about Dube’s remarks.

And on Tuesday, after a Cabinet meeting, Mugabe had a tete-a-tete with him, making it clear to Dube that the selection of a successor was the prerogative of congress, held once in every five years.

Dube was to later convene a press conference at which he humbled himself before his commander-in-chief, Mugabe.

Many are, however, still wondering where Dube got the guts from and if Mugabe will punish Dube for his remarks.

But it should be realised that both him and Mutsvangwa were cut from the same cloth of the country’s liberation war stalwarts.

Political analysts, Eldred Masunungure, said what Dube did was clearly unprecedented and it suggests that he does not see himself as dependent on the job he has.

“It is a taboo subject that is now being brought to the public domain,” he said. “He is releasing the cat among the pigeons. This is like a breath of fresh air that you have someone who can stand up and make pronouncements about the need to discuss the issue. We know that factionalism in Zanu PF is triggered by that issue, I don’t know how the prince will take it but many in Zanu PF are celebrating. What is lefty now is to see whether he is going to be punished,” he added.

Born Tshinga Judge Dube on July 3, 1941 was a leader of Zapu’s military wing Zipra during war for independence and is one of Mugabe’s favourites as evidenced by the tasks he was given after retiring from the army.

Former Zipra intelligence supremo, Dumiso Dabengwa, who was also a Cabinet minister and Zanu PF politburo member told the Daily News last week that Dube was never active as a politician pre-independence.

“What we know about him is that he was in the Zipra military wing but never held a post in the Zapu political structures as he was always in the military even after independence where he worked for the Zimbabwe Defence Industries (ZDI) before he became a member of the Zanu PF central committee,” Dabengwa said.

Dube who has since developed into a polished politician, being the Member of Parliament for Makokoba, is a man whose life is a microcosm of some of the trials and tribulations that Zimbabwe has gone through both pre and post-independence.

Apart from being in the thick of things when the guerrilla war was executed to dethrone the ruthless Ian Douglas Smith regime, Dube also leapt into a new era when the once warring Zipra, Zanla and the Rhodesian armies were integrated into one formidable force, the Zimbabwe National Army.

In the military, he was director of signals before retiring and joining the ministry of Defence as a deputy secretary and director of research and development.

Asked during an interview with a local daily when he intended to retire, Dube said:“I always joke with my colleagues saying while I might appear to be too old to work, I am actually too poor to quit.

“It is unfortunate that I, along with some of my colleagues in both government and the private sector, started work late because we had to take up arms to free Zimbabwe from the clutches of colonialism. I am happy that we managed to achieve the ideals of our liberation struggle and have gone on to participate in rebuilding our economy as an independent people. But after 30 years of hard work, it is not going to be long before I retreat to my farm to concentrate on writing my memoirs”.

Dube became MP for Makokoba in June 2015.

Before his appointment to head the ministry in March 2016, Dube had been deputy to Mutsvangwa since September 2015.

The Makokoba legislator had also served previously as a Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) board member for eight years and deputy board chairperson of TelOne for seven years.

Dube holds an MSc in Electro-Tech from MADI Institute of Technology in Moscow and has once been an advisory board member to the secretary-general of the United Nations (UN) on disarmament.

He can also recount the economic revulsions of the 1990s that inspired the introduction of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme; the impatience that followed after Britain refused to fund Zimbabwe’s land reforms despite having pledged to do so at Lancaster, culminating in the 2000 land reforms.

Above all, he is also a successful farmer and businessman who, despite his many achievements remains humble and loyal to his beliefs and acquaintances.

He is credited for organising a music concert ahead of the Makokoba by-election that featured popular South African musician Freddie Gwala and Platform One.

One of the lows of his political career though is when in July 2015; Dube struggled to read his prepared maiden speech in Parliament and was forced to sit down after his extended time ran out.

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