Editorial

Mnangagwa’s Queen Bee puzzle: Is he captured?

It does not make good optics for the President that a person so proximus to him is accused of such a crime as State capture and corruption. But is Mnangagwa in Tagwirei's pockets?

By Nqaba Matshazi

SOME way into their Press conference on Monday, where they were supposedly berating corruption and “State capture”, Zanu PF youth league leaders, Lewis Matutu, and Godfrey Tsenengamu — perhaps as an afterthought — declared that President Emmerson Mnangagwa was beyond capture.

No one, they claimed, had the capacity to capture the President.

This little nugget betrayed either who the power behind their statement was, or whose backing or protection they needed if they are to continue their dalliance with Zanu PF.

It was Temba Mliswa-esque in execution, where everyone is accused of some wrongdoing, but the President, despite his inertia on accusations against his top lieutenants, somewhat remains blameless.

While the plan is to show Mnangagwa as beyond corruption, inadvertently questions have to be asked why he continues to associate with people accused of State capture and corruption.

I will not go into the accusations raised by Matutu and Tsenengamu, which I think are another pointless sideshow, but rather there are some pertinent questions that I think ought to be directed to Mnangagwa, even if we are to believe that he is beyond “capture”.

Towards the end of 2018, political activist Acie Lumumba claimed that there was a “Queen Bee” who had captured Zanu PF and the government, pointing all fingers at businessman Kudakawashe Tagwirei, who is once again in the eye of the storm following the Zanu PF youth league leaders’ Press conference.

Lumumba did not mention who the alleged Queen Bee was, but the inferences were clear and many concluded it was Tagwirei.

The drama surrounding these accusations had barely died down, when three or so months later Mnangagwa named Tagwirei as one of his advisors in the Presidential Advisory Council (PAC).

I am not accusing Tagwirei of anything, but there was no need for Mnangagwa to hurry in making this appointment considering the accusations that were floating about.

Mnangagwa could have first demanded that Tagwirei clear his name first and then appoint him to the lofty body, so as not to undermine its integrity, but instead there was no such patience nor due diligence.

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The drama surrounding the Queen Bee saga did not last long, and we moved on, just as Zimbabweans are wont to do.

We have been inured to scandals, we prefer ephemeral titillation and barely go beyond the obvious.

With the black market rates going haywire, the authorities decided to intervene and shut down the bank accounts of individuals and companies that they thought were responsible for the local currency’s collapse on the black market.

One of the accounts that were shut belonged to Sakunda, which is controlled by Tagwirei.

At this point, he had been on the PAC for a little more than eight months and surely if the RBZ is to clamp down on the accounts of a person who is Mnangagwa’s advisor, the President should have known in advance.

If he did not know, then he should have demanded an explanation from Tagwirei and in the spirit of accountability, a statement should have been released to the public.

It does not make good optics for the President that a person so proximus to him is accused of such a crime.

Again, accusations are just that until they are proven, but the President is exposed to some contagion and there was a desperate need for the presidency or other top bureaucrats to offer an explanation as to how the issue was being handled, but all we got was radio silence.

Towards the end of last year, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee indicated that it wanted an audience with Tagwirei over the allocation of Command Agriculture funds.

Zanu PF’s response was to boycott the committee’s meetings ensuring that there was no quorum and that neither Tagwirei nor Sakunda could appear before the parliamentary body.

The convenient and disingenuous excuse was that the committee’s chairman, Tendai Biti was a member of the MDC, a party that did not recognise Mnangagwa’s election and so the Public Accounts Committee members from Zanu PF would also not recognise him (Biti).

Never mind that there should be a clear separation between the executive and the legislature on one hand and that Biti’s election to Parliament was never challenged in court nor in public, Zanu PF legislators simply refused to play ball.

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This was the perfect chance for Tagwirei, Zanu PF and the government to prove that Command Agriculture was not a scheme to siphon public funds, but ruling party legislators ensured that this opportunity went begging.

If the government is transparent, accountable to citizens and above all true to its stated goal of fighting corruption, then petty differences with the MDC would have been ignored in the name of putting Zimbabwe first.

But it seems that this is expecting too much.

Mnangagwa could also have stepped in and ordered his party members to ensure Tagwirei appeared before Parliament, but, once again, he held back.

If Matutu and Tsenengamu had broken rank and spoken out then, I would probably have taken them seriously. Now they sound like a jilted lover; their Press conference on Monday might not have been about corruption, but rather it could have been a microcosm of the factional wars that are at play in Zanu PF.

Many people and entities have appeared before parliamentary portfolio committees, but suddenly an excuse had to be found to ensure that Sakunda’s appearance did not happen.

Mnangagwa needs to take leadership here because this is not just an ordinary person, but his own advisor and the threshold for integrity is higher. If there are questions about the integrity of his adviser, then the onus is upon Mnangagwa to act, but so far he has not.

I am not saying he has been captured, but if he is too big to be captured, as the youth league leaders proclaim, then he ought to do something about his adviser who has been accused of all sorts of misdemeanour.

 Nqaba Matshazi is AMH’s head of digital. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback: [email protected] Twitter: @nqabamatshazi

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