A publication based in the United Kingdom has added to the mystery around President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s offspring by claiming the 76-year-old former Zanla combatant has a total of 18 children.
The crafty politician, who loyally served under former president Robert Mugabe for nearly six decades before a wedge was drawn between them at the height of Zanu PF party squabbles over his succession, is known for keeping to himself details about his family.
The only time he shared information about his family was in March when his publicists published a biography on his official website, claiming Mnangagwa had nine children, sired with two wives — Jayne and Auxillia.
Curiously, the list of children was later deleted from the website amid indications that it was not conclusive.
In an interview with Mnangagwa’s most prominent son, Emmerson Junior, the UK’s Sunday Times boldly stated in its latest edition that the Zanu PF leader has 18 children.
The paper quotes Emmerson Jnr as saying: “So my brothers and I told him (Mnangagwa) it’s not safe for you to be here. Usually he didn’t take us seriously, but to our surprise he said, ‘OK, let’s get in the car and go.’”
Without directly quoting Mnangagwa’s son, the Sunday Times goes on to state: “They took temporary shelter in an unfinished house one of their other brothers — Mnangagwa has 18 children — was building in a Harare suburb. Plans to escape in a private jet fell through. Plan B was medical evacuation”.
The report is certain to add to the mystery given that Mnangagwa’s official website only listed nine children; six form his late wife Jayne and Auxillia’s three boys.
With Jayne, the couple was blessed with six children, Farai, Tasiwa, Vimbayi, Tapiwa, Tariro and Emmerson (junior) Tanaka, while Mnangagwa and Auxillia have been blessed with three children – Emmerson (junior), Sean and Collins.
The president’s portal describes Mnangagwa as “a father and family man, ED Mnangagwa is dedicated to the education of his family, and has educated all of his children without exception”.
“Most are now employed or run their own businesses and are independent of their father, with degrees ranging from diplomacy, business studies, marketing, law, sound engineering, nursing, creative advertising design, psychology and actuarial science. He has more than a dozen grandchildren and he is very close to all of them.
“He is known as a unifier in the immediate and extended family, a humble man with a keen sense of humour, he always has time for the children. He is dedicated to his family and to the wider family that is his country, Zimbabwe,” the website notes.
Whenever there is talk around Mnangagwa’s children, friends and foes alike do not seem to know with certainty how many offspring he has.
This is not really uncommon among Zimbabwean men, especially those in polygamous relationships.
At a rally in Rushinga before her downfall, former first lady Grace Mugabe sensationally claimed that Mnangagwa, who had become her subject of ridicule, had more than 70 children.
Jonathan Moyo, an ally of the former vice president who later turned into his fiercest critic, also claimed at some point that Mnangagwa had at least 41 children.
“Well in the spirit of the so-called new dispensation allegedly based on truths and transparency, the public awaits confirmation of whispers that Emmerson has at least 41 children,” Moyo wrote on his Twitter account while in exile.
Revelations by the Sunday Times put Mnangagwa in the same league with both serving and former heads of state known to have large families.
Closer home, former South African president Jacob Zuma has over 22 children. Zuma became the first polygamist leader South Africa has ever had, having married six times. Hate him or like him, Zuma does not make any apologies for it.
In one of his television interviews, Zuma said: “There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children that they hide so as to pretend they are monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I am proud of my children.”
Beyond the African continent, John Tyler, who served the United States from 1841 to 1845, is listed as having the largest family.
He had 15 children between the years 1815 and 1860.
He had them with two different wives.
Eight were with his first wife, Lettia Tyler, and the other seven were with his second wife, Julia Gardiner.
Some of the children became doctors, veterans of the civil war, and powerful politicians.
Others died at a young age, and some of them vanished into history virtually unknown. However, all of them were able to point to their father as one of the presidents of the US.