A tale of nephews: Chiyangwa, Zhuwao, Leo Mugabe and the Bob Potato

By Hubert Sithole

A hot potato is a sensitive situation or controversial issue that is difficult to handle and thus gets passed from one person to the next (like a potato that is too hot to hold). When the hot potato is a person, in this case a former President, it becomes, for the purposes of this article only, a bob potato.

In April this year, Khuluma Afrika co-Editor Maynard Manyowa wrote that, sinking in Zanu has astounding similarities with sinking in quicksand.”

“And true to the nature of quicksand sinking, those near you will move away quickly and if they benevolently opt to assist, they will do so at arm’s length because if they come too close, they will sink with you.” he added.

Robert Mugabe was fired as leader of Zanu PF, demoted to a card-carrying member, and promptly resigned as head of state. As his troubles mounted, before his resignation, his nephew, former cabinet minister Patrick Zhuwao said his uncle Bob and his wife Grace were willing to die for what was right.

As for the Zimbabweans who had braved the streets in thousands, demanding Mugabe step down, Zhuwao called them “nincompoops”.

Zhuwao himself spoke from the comfort of exile. Too afraid to return home, his trip from Argentina ended in South Africa. His whereabouts are unknown, amid certain arrest if he ever set foot in Zimbabwe again.

Zhuwao’s defiance during his uncle’s most trying moments is honourable. His uncle was sinking, but he chose to stand by his side until the very last moment. Many of Zhuwao’s close friends, jumped ship and deserted the man. But Zhuwao is family, so he remained firm by his Uncle.

Following Mugabe’s fall, another nephew, Leo Mugabe, famous for running the country’s football governing body ZIFA into the ground, stood firm by his uncle, amid reports Mugabe cried as he stepped down, was miserable and depressed.

“He is actually looking forward to his new life — farming and staying at the rural home. He has taken it well,” the son of Mugabe’s late sister, Sabina, said.

On Grace, he said, “I like the spirit she has, she is with him all the time. She is an amazing person. She wants to continue planning the Robert Mugabe University so that they have something to do.”

None of what these two nephews said is credible. A picture of Mugabe after he stepped down showed a broken man plucked from the levers of power and on the brink of tears. Grace herself carried a betraying smile, of a team that conceded deep into extra time, with the final kick of the game.

The expression on their faces read “so near, yet so never”

Patrick’s assertion that Zimbabweans are stupid was also defeated by a very smart coup, one which he mocked on twitter by juxtaposing a tin of koo baked beans, and declaring that “koo baked beans is the only coup in Zimbabwe”.

He spoke too soon, and hours later his uncle was detained for his own safety, tanks were on the streets, and our news anchor wore camo!

But one can only marvel at such loyalty. Standing by a sinking uncle. Knowing well that in quicksand you sink together. Nearly defeating the assertions of our co-editor that help will only come at arm’s length.

But there is one nephew who deserted his uncle. His name is Philip Chiyangwa, a flamboyant businessman long believed to be Mugabe’s nephew. (Spoiler: Zhuwao savaged Chiyangwa in December 2015, stating that the latter was no their relative)

His relations with the Bob Potato have never been confirmed, but are matter of public assumption, and because he is believed to be a nephew, i insist that he is one.

After the new President, Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in, a video showing Chiyangwa rushing to congratulate the former quickly surfaced. In the last days of Mugabe’s reign, Chiyangwa had dissociated himself from Mugabe’s wife Grace.

Social media has a long memory, and a video of Chiyangwa declaring “munhu wese kuna Amai (Grace Mugabe” was soon uploaded as reference.

Several other small clips emerged.

Chiyangwa is quite frankly refusing to clutch the bob potato. He has deserted his uncle, and is trying to identify himself as a Lacoste member (the faction that was loyal to Mnangagwa).

The reasons are understandable. The man has long been accused of being a land baron. He is thought to enjoy a cosy relationship with Ignatius Chombo, a former cabinet minister whose corruption is the stuff of legend.

Once Chombo was arrested, rumours swelled that Wicknell Chivayo, Pokello Nare, and Philip Chiyangwa would follow. Whether that happens or not is a different matter, for another day altogether.

What is the matter being the lack of integrity from Chiyangwa: a man who for so long sang songs of praise for Mugabe, but now attempts to shift allegiance at the very last moment?

The other nephews clutched the hot potato. Chiyangwa is having none of it, throwing integrity to the wind, and refusing to catch the Bob Potato.

That demonstrates how shameful the man is.

He benefitted from a relationship that was assumed to exist but did not, now he has no guts to take the fire. Dumping his “uncle conveniently.”