President Emmerson Mnangagwa has denied reports suggesting that all is not well between him and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, the Daily News can report.
Speaking to journalists at an informal media briefing at Munhumutapa Building — the citadel of government power — Mnangagwa said there was no rift between him and Chiwenga, who led the military intervention that ousted former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
“That is democracy; there is freedom of speech including freedom of lies. Those who are saying this, I said come with examples to show that we are fighting. They had nothing to show for their claims,” he said.
“We went to war with Chiwenga and they were still young boys. They know that vane kamudhara kavo,” Mnangagwa said, tongue-in-cheek.
He also said he has one Twitter account, amid a festering row between his spin-doctors who are battling for control of his communications.
“I have one Twitter account — that’s my official account. I know there are many fake Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. For the issue of my spokesperson (George Charamba) and the ministry, I told them come and ask me first, I am the principal.”
Charamba has been trading barbs with officials at the ministry of Information over tweets posted from Mnangagwa’s official account which he strongly felt were not reflective of the official thinking.
Mnangagwa also spoke about prospects of dialogue between him and MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, saying his rival must first recognise him as the legitimately elected president before beginning any talks.
This comes as calls for national dialogue aimed at mitigating Zimbabwe’s myriad crises have reached a crescendo following ugly disturbances that erupted countrywide during protests against a fuel price hike announced by Mnangagwa last month.
The subsequent government crackdown against opposition officials and pro-democracy groups has also seen Mnangagwa coming under intense domestic and international pressure to reach out to Chamisa in talks aimed at ending the country’s decades-long political and economic crisis.
Before the chaos, Chamisa, writing on social media, had reiterated his desire for dialogue with Mnangagwa — whom he referred to as “my brother”, in a welcome move which signalled the abandonment of his once- militant approach to talks.
While Mnangagwa said he is not against talks, he said any such dialogue with Chamisa can only happen on the strict understanding that the 40-year-old lawyer and pastor recognise the Zanu PF leader as the legitimate winner of the hotly-disputed July 30 presidential election.
“There is no time. I said I am not anti-people, I always said my door is open and I am a listening president,” he said.
“I cannot talk to somebody who said I don’t recognise you because you are an illegitimate president, so then the talks will be illegitimate. I have met the churches, industries, women, youth, university students, traditional leaders and I will do it again. Even some political parties I met them here.
“I have never received any single letter from Chamisa. I don’t want to see myself exchanging words with Chamisa, I don’t want to sink to that level. I leave all this to you.”
This comes after Chamisa told a news conference at the party’s Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House headquarters in Harare on Tuesday that Mnangagwa’s legitimacy must form the agenda of the talks.
Asked about the brutal crackdown by security forces as the army moves to crush all possible opposition to the ruling Zanu PF party, Mnangagwa said: “The army was reacting to restore order but you hear some saying its excessive force. If someone burns a police station, the tollgate and we think the police must stop and watch this happening? The western media want to develop an image where the developing countries are vilified, where they want to glorify the perpetrators of violence. You have to stop people who destroy properties. However, people just mention the reaction of the police and the army without looking at the perpetrators.”
Across the country, the protests left charred car frames and tollgates, shattered shop windows and looted supermarkets and vandalised police stations — as well as a presidency in crisis.
There was widespread anger against the Zanu PF leader, with many slamming what they perceived as his out-of-touch leadership and the rising cost of living.
Mnangagwa said the people of Zimbabwe did not understand his administration’s austerity measures, introduced in October last year to reduce government debt and stabilise the economy, saying the fruits of the programme would be seen in the near future.
The austerity measures have seen government spending being slashed and new taxes introduced with Finance minister Mthuli Ncube saying there would be “pain and sacrifice.”
Mnangagwa told reporters: “I don’t think people are so happy with austerity measures which are there. Very few understand that these austerity measures will bring good life tomorrow, people don’t see this. You must be a president and leading a nation where the country ought to go, and not where people desire to go. We are in the right direction. I am committed to do things that will better this country.”
He shirked responsibility for the price hikes that partly sparked the protests, instead blaming business for not doing enough to earn sufficient foreign currency.
“Government is not business. It is supply and demand that will regulate all these things. People must identify opportunity and increase the supply side. As a president I will not regulate that,” he said.
Mnangagwa said government planned to introduce a new currency. He did not state when.
“I think the minister said we are working on fundamentals for them to be able to introduce our own currency. No country can succeed without own currency, so we must work on this issue. We must work on the production of gold, diamonds and our exports,” he said.
Mnangagwa acknowledged that the rising repression has put off western powers, undermining Zimbabwe’s efforts to re-join the international community.
“In the past two weeks, we have many questions coming from the western countries, but we explain to them what actually happened,” Mnangagwa said.
“We also said the question of us going to Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and China, that’s where we get assistance. Recently, we have never got any significant investment from the West.”
Amid the festering protests home, Mnangagwa — who was touring central Asia, Russia and Europe in a bid to drum up investment for the country’s crippled economy — was forced to cut short his trip to return home instead of attending the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Mnangagwa denied that he had been denied a bailout package from China, amid reports Zimbabwe has failed to honour loan repayments as Beijing tightens its lending terms and expects debtors to be more accountable.
“Who asked for bailout package from China?” Mnangagwa asked rhetorically. “We never asked for bailout package from China. We want investments not bailout package from China, then it’s a win-win situation.”
Mnangagwa also denied that South Africa is considering a bailout for Zimbabwe saying the country was borrowing from the African Union (AU)’s Nepad economic development agency, headed by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“When we had cooking oil shortages, we said we have Nepad fund. The Nepad fund is structured to assist members who find themselves with a problem and is administered by South Africa but you must pay back,” Mnangagwa explained.
“We told South Africa can you give us a line of credit that’s why there have been discussions between the minister of
Finance and the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for a line of credit from South Africa.”
Mnangagwa also acknowledged that there was escalating corruption in Zimbabwe, which he said must end.
This comes as Zimbabwe has just been ranked 160th out of 175 countries on the Transparency International index, which measures public perceptions of corruption in public institutions.
“We now need the mindset change of our people, corruption must end,” Mnangagwa said. “I discovered that it is difficult to fight corruption because you are fighting corruption with people who are involved in corruption, but we don’t want to relent.”
Speaking about the amnesty window for the return of public funds illegally stashed abroad by individuals and companies, Mnangagwa said:
“From $1, 2 billion which was externalised, $860 million was brought back. What is remaining now, the persons come forward to us saying they have bought properties and agreed to pay it in certain time the initial amount.
“Some are going to be prosecuted, those who didn’t come forward. However, all the big guys who had externalised the money came forward and brought back the money.”
Speaking on reports he was on the verge of restructuring that Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), Mnangagwa said: “For Zacc, icho chakaora kare, kare (it’s a rotten institution). I am going to make a statement on the issue of Zacc next week.”