Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, Zimbabwe’s president-in-waiting is nicknamed “the crocodile” — in reference to his reputation for ruthlessness as former president Robert Mugabe’s “enforcer”.
But a report surfaced in social media in the past week suggesting that the man linked with massacres of political opponents in the 1980s — and alleged election rigging and violence in 2008 — claims to be a born-again Christian.
This report piqued my interest — especially as I came across it just days after I was sent a video clip of Pastor Marc Bredenkamp prophesying on television (Faith Television Network) in November 2014, saying: “Zimbabwe, there is one who shall be removed in the next three years and shall be no more, just like it shall be in South Africa, says God.”
Bredenkamp also went on to say the removed president would be replaced by one who has God’s Spirit in him.
With Mugabe’s dramatic “removal” from power three years after the prophesy — to the month — I wondered about the part about being replaced by a Christian president (not to mention the South Africa part!).
Knowing that Mnangagwa, who had been sacked by Mugabe as vice president two weeks previously, was in line to become interim president, I wondered whether the prophecy might not refer to a future president to emerge after elections next year. During the early 1980s while reporting in Zimbabwe for South African newspapers I saw mass graves in Matabeleland where an estimated 20 000 Ndebele people were killed while Mnangagwa was minister of state security and head of the feared Central Intelligence Organisation.
But then I received a Whatsapp, with an article which had apparently been posted on the Facebook page of a Christian public figure, suggesting that despite his dark past, Mnangawa had been changed by God. I made contact with the public figure who confirmed posting the piece on Mnangagwa which she took to be true. But she could not direct me to the original writer of the article — as, so often is the case with reports that spread via social media.
God certainly can turn around the lives of the most notorious people, and all of us are saved by grace through faith in Jesus who atoned for every sin on the cross. I remembered a story we posted in 2013 of an ex cannibal warlord from Liberia, General Butt Naked, who had murdered many men, women, and children, who was saved by Christ and now serves as a preacher and evangelist.
God can change anybody. Look at the apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament. But Emmerson Mnangagwa? I started reading reports on News 24 and other platforms which skeptically alluded to the president-in-waiting of Zimbabwe having at some point claimed to have become a born again Christian. But columnists are warning that he is a hardliner who may continue in the repressive mould of Mugabe. Several writers point out he is more flexible than his predecessor and has a reputation for business savvy, which he will surely need to tackle the rebuilding of Zimbabwe’s tattered economy.
In a conciliatory address at Zanu PF headqaurters in Harare yesterday after his return from a short period of exile, Mnangagwa pledged to be the people’s servant and prioritised unity, economic growth, peace and “jobs, jobs, jobs”,
According to the “Christian Mnangagwa” article that has been doing the social media rounds, he may be the perfect choice for president in this season as he has the respect of the army, war veterans, Zanu PF and much of the opposition and is rumoured to have been engaged in negotiations towards achieving a unity government to bring change.
Digging around on the internet I found a 2010 report in News Day which confirms the authenticity of key sections of the social media article. An excerpt of the News Day report reads: Minister of Defence Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has made a startling confession, that he was taught to destroy and kill, but in the same breath immediately said he had turned a new leaf and had found comfort in the arms of God.
Mnangagwa, one of the most shrewd politicians in Zimbabwe who is referred to by those that know him well as Ngwena (the Crocodile), told mourners at his brother’s burial on Monday that he had turned to Jesus and changed, from being a destroyer to a man of God.
Another excerpt of the same news report says: Mnangagwa, once touted a presidential candidate in the Zanu PF’s succession matrix, says he is now a born-again Christian and has of late preached the Word of God with passion.
At the burial, Ngwena opened the Bible and preached from Proverbs, with such intensity mourners were left confused that such a man could be linked to the brutal political violence that his party was widely accused of in the bloody 2008 elections.
Even as he preached, partners in the inclusive government were accusing him of deploying army personnel in various provinces ahead of what is feared to be another violence-ridden election touted for mid-next year.
But Mnangagwa maintains he is a gentleman as “soft as wool”.
I also found a more recent report in Zimbabwe’s Sunday Mail on a speech Mnangagwa made to hundreds of Christian leaders at a prayer breakfast in Harare in September this year, in which he says: “If we, in leadership positions, as the people of influence within our nation, conduct ourselves with righteousness, continue upholding justice, honesty and peace, then the entire nation will be transformed for the better.
“We have a crucial role to play in our constituencies. There is a need to be guided by He who created humanity. I say this: Be guided and encouraged by Philippians Chapter 2 Verse 3, which says, ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.”
There is no reason to doubt that Emmerson Mnangagwa spoke the words in the above articles. The question is, is that the real man? Has the leopard changed its spots? Or the crocodile shed its scales?
Let us continue to pray for Zimbabwe — as she enters a new era. Do also pray for the soon-to-be interim president, that he holds on to the words of faith in Christ that he has proclaimed and that he grows in the grace and knowledge of God and is led by His Spirit at this key time in Zimbawe’s history. Pray too that Christian leaders reach out to him.
Also read Tshego Motaung’s insightful article on God’s plan to restore Zimbabwe.