PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s to visit ailing ex-prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday has set social media abuzz with both praise and scorn over the surprise call.
While Tsvangirai’s deputy Nelson Chamisa thought Mnangagwa had demonstrated Ubuntu, others thought the president’s move was “un-African” and was meant to win the Zanu PF leader some political mileage ahead of the 2018 elections.
Mnangagwa was accompanied by one of his deputies, Constantino Chiwenga, the just retired military commander who once vowed never to salute a Tsvangirai who had no liberation war history.
The visit, hitherto unthinkable in Zimbabwe’s often spiteful nature of politics, also allowed the country’s new leader to pledge what was an elusive prime minister’s retirement package under former President Robert Mugabe.
These included confirmation the embattled MDC-T leader was keeping his plush Highlands government mansion, government paid medical bills and a few other sumptuous perks which include monthly pay-outs during his retirement package as premier.
Since coming out public about his colon cancer ailment, Tsvangirai has withdrawn from public life to concentrate on treatment which often takes him to South African hospitals.
During the high profile visit, images of a disease spent Tsvangirai were splashed on social media, throwing a conspicuous juxtapose between two men of contrasting fortunes who are set to face off in a presidential election set for mid-year.
Others saw an inconsiderate Mnangagwa who was out to expose a visibly wasted Tsvangirai to media cameras when the veteran opposition leader had apparently chosen to stay out of the glare of an inquisitive public.
These include exiled former Higher and Tertiary Minister Jonathan Moyo who said on twitter that Mnangagwa’s visit to Tsvangirai was a propaganda mischief as the Zanu PF presidential candidate evidently sought to score political points using images of his ailing challenger.
“This is no PR coup & no history. It’s ambulance chasing propaganda for the optics of exploiting the poor health of a terminally ill political rival,” Moyo said.
“The propaganda is cynical, crude, desperate & un-African. It intrudes into & violates a constitutionally protected right to privacy.”
Others saw the silver lining in a Mnangagwa showing empathy to a sick and broke old rival whose once shiny political sun looked setting.
However, some said by visiting a bitter rival to Zanu PF, Mnangagwa had posted a famous diplomatic coup which casts him as a reformist and national leader who was determined to pull a divided nation out of a bitter past while also trying to reverse strong perception Zanu PF was a terror party.
Publisher and political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said while it was very proper for the new President to give Tsvangirai his dues, albeit belatedly, he also saw Mnangagwa trying to execute a diplomatic coup.
“Yes it was so choreographed and even the (Nelson MDC-T vice president) Chamisas fell for it, until it sinks. Hope both the Chamisas and their party can recover from an act or event over which they had little or no control,” Mandaza said.
Takura Chengeta, a South Africa based Zimbabwean closely following events back home, saw a calculative Mnangagwa displaying political ingenuity in attempts to attract political goodwill from across the political divide.
“Mnangagwa has undoubtedly been Mugabe’s hatchet man if it came to exterminating political opponents,” he said.
“His name is enmeshed in bold letters as the hangman in Zimbabwe’s two biggest post-liberation violence epochs starting with Gukurahundi and the orgy of political violence of 2008.
“It is not difficult to notice his charm offensive falls in line with his current bid to pacify those he has wronged. And these, ironically, now include Mugabe himself whom he overthrew only weeks ago and before he (Mugabe) could understand what had hit him, Mnangagwa was at his doorstep again to pamper him with retirement perks and immunity.
“Mnangagwa faces a crucial election and knowing he is not the most popular politician in town, he would try every avenue to give a good picture of himself. Whether this would last, it’s debate for another day.”