End of the political line for Moyo

Jonathan Moyo (56) faces an uncertain political future after losing his parliamentary seat

Jonathan Moyo (56) faces an uncertain political future after losing his parliamentary seat

Political turncoat and Zanu-PF strategist Jonathan Moyo (56) faces an uncertain political future after losing his parliamentary seat in Tsholotsho to Roselene Sipepa-Nkomo, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The once fiery minister of information and publicity’s bid to overturn Sipepa-Nkomo’s victory of 4 874 votes against his 4 646 votes by forcing a recount in Tsholotsho was blocked by the high court, which ruled that the poll in the constituency had been conducted properly.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has set September 11 as the date for a fresh round of voting in other disputed areas, including Kadoma, Kusile and Mutasa.

On Tuesday, Sipepa-Nkomo took the oath of office as the Tsholotsho MP, effectively putting an end to Moyo’s 13-year reign in Tsholotsho.

Moyo’s position has been made even more precarious after President Robert Mugabe said that he would not include in his Cabinet anyone who lost their constituencies during the elections. Mugabe is expected to announce a Cabinet soon.

On the sidelines of the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which was held in June, Mugabe said the unity government had been wrongly composed of both winners and losers.

Doggy past follows Moyo
“Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara had lost. They had been beaten, but they came in as honourable ministers who had been dishonoured by the people. It won’t happen again,” Mugabe said.

A dodgy past has followed Moyo, who has been accused of embezzling funds. In 1993, he was accused of misappropriating $88 000 when he was the programme director for the Ford Foundation in Kenya.

In 1998, while in South Africa at Wits University, where he was working on a project sponsored by the WK Kellogg Foundation, the university claimed that he absconded with part of the R100-million research grant for the project. He denies both allegations.

Moyo’s political fall, however, has been linked to his censure by Zanu-PF for allegedly being the mastermind of an ill-fated November 2004 meeting that was held in Tsholotsho.

It was held with the intention of blocking the rise of Joice Mujuru to the post of vice-president in favour of Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Moyo was unceremoniously fired from the government by Mugabe in February 2005. Media reports at the time indicated that he was given 48 hours to vacate his government house.

After his dismissal, Moyo wrote in an open letter that he would not challenge his axing by Mugabe, and instead gloated about how he had saved Zanu-PF from defeat.

'Better to be with the people'
Part of the letter said: “It is notable and I am sure history and posterity will record the fact that my service to the President started at a time when the presidency, the ruling party and our nation were individually and collectively facing an unprecedented onslaught from a number of hostile foreign interests and powers. I had the honour and privilege to be one of the very few in the ruling party and the government that played pivotal roles in the fight to preserve, defend and protect Zimbabwe’s sovereignty and democracy.”

In the letter, Moyo also said that it was better to be “with the people and to work for them than to be hostage to the whims and caprices of the ­politics of patronage”.

Moyo went on to win as an independent candidate in 2005 and was re-elected in the 2008 election as Tsholotsho MP. Moyo, however, described his experience as an independent candidate as a “horrible and miserable” one. He then returned to the party.

Before that fallout, Moyo was Mugabe’s blue-eyed boy, and played a critical role in the party by leading the offensive against the MDC and also by hounding the ­private media.

As the information minister, Moyo, is widely believed to have been the architect of Zimbabwe’s draconian media laws — the Broadcasting Services Act, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act — that among other things require media houses and foreign and local journalists to register with the government-controlled Media Commission.

The pinnacle of Moyo’s fight with the private media has been epitomised by his tug-of-war with the Daily News. When the newspaper was shut down in 2003 during his tenure as minister, Moyo said: “It [the Daily News] is a victim of the rule of law, which it had been preaching since 1999.”

Moyo sues
His clashes with the paper ­re-surfaced again in 2011 when he sued the Daily News for $100 000 over two articles that it had published linked to WikiLeaks cables.

The paper had reported how Moyo had allegedly advised the United States government to send “positive signals” to Zanu-PF in order to encourage Zanu-PF members to abandon Mugabe ahead of the 2008 elections.

Moyo is also alleged to have told the former US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Christopher Dell, that Mugabe feared being hanged.

In 2009, Moyo repented and returned to Zanu-PF, but he has never appeared to be in his element.

Viewed suspiciously as a “sell-out”, other party members have been wary of his quick acceptance into the party’s politburo, which is Zanu-PF’s highest decision-making body.

A key strategist in crafting Zanu-PF’s election manifesto this year, Moyo also appeared to have taken the back seat during Zanu-PF’s election campaign.

A Zanu-PF insider explained this week that the politburo had given the responsibility to campaign to the presidium, resulting in the likes of Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, the indigenisation minister, being asked to take a back seat.

Politburo's resolution
“The politburo resolved that only the presidium would have the responsibility to campaign for the party to prevent personal ambitions from being pushed by other members. It’s a pity that Moyo was kept so busy with party business that he forgot he had to fight to keep his constituency. It’s a sad ending,” said the insider who asked to remain anonymous.

But political analyst Trevor Maisiri from the International Crisis Group said Mugabe was likely to step in and help save Moyo’s political career.

“Having been the trouble-shooter of the party during the unity government, in the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee, the constitution-making process and in crafting the party’s election manifesto, he will somehow be rescued,” said Maisiri.

“Moyo’s prospects, however, seem to be vested in Mugabe’s continued leadership of the party. Beyond that, Moyo will be alone and he has also made so many enemies within the party.”

Rashweat Mukundu, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, intimated that Moyo’s poor showing at the polls marked the end — an end that was not only being celebrated by the MDC supporters in Tsholotsho, but also within Zanu-PF.

“Mugabe and Zanu-PF might as well have been looking for a way to ease Moyo out. His shelf life with Zanu-PF has expired and I don’t see him featuring in the future plans of the party,” said Mukundu.

“Mugabe never forgets and I doubt he ever forgave Moyo, who once said a donkey would win an election over Mugabe. But being a shrewd politician, Mugabe wooed him back in a show of the classic rule of keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Moyo had not responded to questions by the time of going to press.

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu

Ray Ndlovu has been a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian in Zimbabwe since 2009. His areas of interest include politics and business. With a BSc honours degree in journalism and media studies, Ray aspires to become a media mogul.   Read more from Ray Ndlovu


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