Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
As President Mnangagwa turns 79 today, experts agree that pragmatic policies that have become the benchmark of his rule will inevitably transform the country to become an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
This is not surprising for someone who has espoused the spirit of nationalism which saw the gallant sons and daughters of the country taking up arms leading to the independence the country is enjoying.
This was said by one of the President’s friends, Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe, a Zimbabwean historian and first vice-chancellor of the Midlands State University (MSU).
Prof Bhebhe served as the vice-chancellor of MSU from 1999 to 2016.
He said the President who was born on September 15, 1942, in Zvishavane District, has transformed Zimbabwe in less than four years.
In an interview on the eve of President Mnangagwa’s birthday, Prof Bhebhe described the President as one of the freedom fighters who after the first Zanu congress of 1964 held at Mtapa Hall in Mtapa suburb, Gweru, initiated a major fight against colonialism in the country.
Prof Bhebhe said President Mnangagwa is a victim of the regime’s brutality because when he was arrested and tortured in 1965 after helping blow up a train near Fort Victoria (now Masvingo). He was sentenced to death, but eventually spent the following 10 years in prison.
“President Mnangagwa before independence played a pivotal role in causing the uprising against colonialism.
Following the Zanu congress at Mtapa Hall in Gweru, President Mnangagwa who was nick-named ‘Ngwena’ due to his crocodile style in sabotage activities against the colonial government and was part of the Crocodile Gang, an elite group of guerrilla fighters during Zimbabwe’s war of independence from white minority rule, carried out massive sabotage activities against the colonial government starting the armed struggle against white regime,” he said.
Prof Bhebhe, who is writing President Mnangagwa’s biography, said the history of the locomotive bombing in Fort Victoria must record that a black security guard was sleeping inside the locomotive when the President walked in. He was armed with a dagger, ready to stab the guard.
He said as President Mnangagwa was about to deliver the fatal stab, the man suddenly woke up and the President saw that he was a fellow black man, before ordering him off the locomotive which they then blew up using explosives.
“That part of history is important because during the trial, it was also considered that no one had been killed in that sabotage. If the man had been killed, it would have been a different case. The defence also proved that he was under age, resulting in him escaping the hangman’s noose,” said Prof Bhebhe.
Prof Bhebhe said after independence, he was to be introduced to President Mnangagwa by the late Cde Richard Hove who was working with the likes of late Vice-President and National Hero Cde Simon Muzenda, and Cephas Msipa as members of the first committee that resulted in the birth of MSU.
He said President Mnangagwa is the one who was their conduit to the late former president, Cde Robert Mugabe.
“Anything we needed for MSU to be established, it was President Mnangagwa we asked to make things happen. Even fund raising for the MSU, it was always him. I remember one day he came with Cde July Moyo and we went around former Gweru Teachers College premises and Zimbabwe Military Academy (ZMA) shooting range as possible places or areas for the new MSU,” said Prof Bhebhe.
He said President Mnangagwa’s life has been one of unwavering, selfless dedication and humility, having taken up arms at a tender age to fight an unjust colonial system.
“The birth of MSU also led to the establishment of other State universities across the country. This just shows the kind of a leader His Excellency is. He is pro development, committed, humble and values human life,” said Prof Bhebhe.
“As the nation celebrates his birthday, we are also celebrating this humble person who is mostly misread by the people from a distance. When you work with him, you will understand him as a principled person, a team player, a father figure to many people and an advocate for human rights. I wish him a happy birthday and wish him many more prosperous years filled with his goal to see a developed Zimbabwe. May he live to see his Vision 2030 come to fruition.”
Gweru businessman, Mr Enock Size said he has known President Mnangagwa as a person who is dedicated to the development of the country.
He said from the time when he was a minister to when he became Vice-President, President Mnangagwa has always been pro development.
“I have known him and interacted with him over the years and have grown to see him as a unifier, a servant leader who is also soft as wool,” said Mr Size.
He said under the President’s wise stewardship, the Second Republic continues to scale new heights paving the way for socio-economic development.
He said as a businessman, the Second Republic was bringing in new investment such as the new iron and steel company set for Mvuma which is a potential economic game changer for the country.
“As we celebrate His Excellency’s birthday, we can only pray to the good Lord to grant him many more years. We have a beautiful and free Zimbabwe which he and other gallant sons and daughters of the country fought for and he is today leading us to the promised land, the land of milk and honey towards the attainment of Vision 2030. That vision will see a prosperous and knowledge-driven upper middle-income society,” said Mr Size.
Zanu-PF Midlands provincial chairperson Engineer Daniel Mackenzie Ncube said President Mnangagwa has been and is still committed to unity and prosperity of all Zimbabweans.
Eng Ncube said he has grown to know the President as a unifier, a person with astute leadership qualities, who will lead Zanu- PF and the country to socio-economic development.
“We appreciate President Mnangagwa first as a province because it was through him that we managed to have our own provincial conference centre called Winery. I believe we are the only province with such a conference centre and we owe it to him. As a country at large, look at the Beitbridge-Harare Highway for starters, Gwayi- Shangani Dam construction. That just shows how efficient he is as a leader and we wish him good health as we celebrate his birthday,” he said.