Simba Makoni takes on Robert Mugabe
He’s been branded an “opportunist” by some, and a “saviour” by others. A few suspect him of being in collusion with Mugabe to water down the potency of the MDC; others see Makoni’s move to fracture Zanu-PF. Zimbabwe’s state-controlled media dismisses his ambition as nothing more than “a loud fart” casting the former finance minister and businessman as having being planted in the election by Western governments to overthrow President Robert Mugabe and install a regime of “Western puppets”. Mahon’a-hon’a indeed. kuState House kure.
Simba Makoni, who is looking to topple President Robert Mugabe next month, has never been afraid to speak out against Zimbabwe’s long-term leader despite once serving as one of his chief lieutenants.
Makoni, who left government four years ago but is still a member of the ruling party’s powerful politburo, announced Tuesday said he would challenge Mugabe at nationwide polls on March 29 “following consultations with party members and activists countrywide and also those outside the party”.
Known for his outspoken approach, Makoni has made no secret of his disillusionment with the Zimbabwean leadership and publicly castigated the government’s handling of its controversial land reform programme.
“The old [Mugabe] I knew was there for service. The new one is only there for privilege and to be served,” he lamented during an interview in December in the privately-owned Financial Gazette.
“The new [Mugabe] has become arrogant, rude and greedy.”
Born Simbarashe Herbert Stanley Makoni in the eastern Rusape district on March 22 1950, Makoni studied chemistry and was among the student activists who were expelled from the then University of Rhodesia for their opposition to the minority white rule of Ian Smith.
He proceeded to Leicester Polytechnic and Leeds University in England where he obtained a doctorate.
Between 1977 and 1980, Makoni was the chief representative in western Europe of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) which was waging a liberation war against Smith’s regime.
At the country’s independence in 1980, he was elected as the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) member of parliament for the eastern Manicaland province at the age of 30.
He served in various portfolios in Mugabe’s government from deputy minister of agriculture in 1980, minister of energy and industry, minister of youth sport and culture and twice as finance minister until he fell out with Mugabe in 2003 over the devaluation of the local currency.
Mugabe denounced Makoni as “a saboteur” for suggesting devaluation of the dollar which the president said was meant to protect large corporates at the expense of the poor.
Makoni had a stint as secretary-general at the regional economic bloc Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC) which later changed its name to Southern African Development Community.
He also served as chief executive of the state-run Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers) from 1994-1997.
In 2003 he lost a bid for presidency of the African Development Bank.
Veteran politician Edgar Tekere who was expelled from ZANU-PF for opposition to plans to have a one-party state told AFP Makoni could provide the leadership to mend Zimbabwe’s strained relations with its former allies in Europe.
“He is the man who made lots of friends for us in Europe,” Tekere said.
“We have lost lots of friends and Simba Makoni will help us to restore those friendships.
Bornwell Chakaodza, a former state director of information who worked with Makoni in government, said that the former minister was a man who knew his mind and was not shy in expressing it.
“He is an eloquent man, but a bit abrasive. I would like to think that abrasive might have been reduced over the years with him becoming much more mature,” he said.
“He is a very articulate and eloquent man and has a quick grasp of issues.”