Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa signs copies of his biography during the launch today.

Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa has launched his biography, and spin doctor Nick Mangwana claims over 50 000 copies have already been sold. Veteran editor DUMISANI MULEYA isn’t buying it.


IT’S great to see economist Eddie Cross, a former opposition MDC MP, has written  some biography on Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

In a country and continent where political leaders, especially those from the liberation struggle generation, hardly write about their interesting life histories, well-researched and contextualised biographical works may provide insights into the wider historical context in which the person under study lived. 

Conversely, biographies may demonstrate the influence of that historical epoch and context over the persona. 

The influence of the persona and those of time, setting and space act in various ways; historical forces attendant to that are not uni-dimensional.

Biographical works usually offer a unique opportunity to get an understanding of how ontologies – the existence, being, becoming, and reality – have emerged as a product of interaction between environment, context and individuals.

 Such writing allows insight in the process of searching for meaning in broad fields of study such as the political, economic and religious in different historical settings, contexts and contemporary realities.

So Mnangagwa’s prosopography is most welcome in that regard, but it will fall or stand on the courage of the author and that of his subject to confront difficult issues at stake.

That’s the litmus test.

Hopefully the book provides new insight and understanding on his role as an individual and as part of the collective in the history of the liberation struggle and post-colonial Zimbabwe.

At that point, let’s hope the elephant in the room is tackled: Gukurahundi.

It is not possible for any serious biographer to write about Mnangagwa without talking about Gukurahundi.

Mugabe was the architect of Gukurahundi, a shorthand for genocide, and Mnangagwa the executor-in-chief.

It’s inflection point in his political career.

In life, people are not only remarkable and outstanding for what they have achieved, they are also notorious for their nefarious deeds.

They are distinguished or known, for better or worse, by how they have also influenced history (conventional biography). 

Further, they may also be remarkable for ontological reasons, their philosophy and actions, and how they have been shaped by the dynamic interface between structure and agency. 

Let’s hope the Mnangagwa book is not a hagiography, but an enlightening biography, which particularly gives us new insight into Gukurahundi. 

Without that – and indeed various other key episodes of human rights abuses, aspects of Mugabe’s rule, relations with apartheid SA and also international powers during the Cold War, geopolitics, the Mozambican and DRC wars, elections theft, especially 2008 polls, and corruption issues, among many other issues- it wouldn’t be worth the paper it is printed on.


Muleya is managing editor of NewsHawks, an independent investigative journalism outfit in Harare.