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Zimbabwe politicians make a play for control

Both faction leaders — party secretary for legal affairs and former defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and party first secretary and vice-president Joice Mujuru — allegedly jostled to get their faction members into the speaker of parliament position.

In the end, it appears Mnangagwa has gained the upper hand, after thwarting Mujuru’s nominations at a politburo meeting last week, and pre-politburo meeting lobbying and meetings with President Robert Mugabe.

The Mail & Guardian can reveal that Mugabe had a meeting with Mujuru at his offices before last Thursday’s politburo meeting, where she suggested that it was in the interest of the party to have party information secretary Rugare Gumbo as national assembly speaker.

For the position of party chief whip, Mujuru suggested politburo member and Masvingo legislator Dzikamai Mavhaire.

Insiders say the strategy was to elevate Gumbo to an influential parliamentary position that will push him closer to the party national chair­person position at Zanu-PF’s December special congress.

A source within the politburo privy to details of the meeting told the M&G that Mugabe “just listened and didn’t suggest any names”.

Legal background needed
In another private meeting, again before the politburo meeting, Mugabe also sought Mnangagwa’s view, who apparently suggested that the party needed a very senior party person with a legal background, preferably from the Matabeleland province, who could lead the national assembly and suggested former Matabeleland North governor, party provincial chairperson and lawyer Jacob Mudenda.

Mnangagwa also suggested to Mugabe that, for continuity purposes, Joram Gumbo should be retained as party chief whip.

When Mugabe chaired the politburo meeting, he initially allowed for nominations for the national assembly positions.

Joram Gumbo’s nomination was not seconded and the late Kumbirai Kangai’s nomination for president of Senate was not favoured.

A politburo member from Masvingo, who was part of the proceedings, said Mugabe told the meeting that he had consulted widely with the party presidium and would want Mudenda to become the next speaker.

“We were surprised by the name, but Mudenda’s political credentials are difficult to question,” he said.

Back from political wilderness
Mabel Chinomona’s name was nominated, and seconded, before Mugabe agreed to it.

Mugabe advised the meeting that for the Senate, former senate president Edna Madzongwe would be retained, and proposed former information minister Chen Chimutengwende as her deputy.

Both Mudenda and Chinomona were suspended from the party in 2005 for being part of a controversial meeting held in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North, which was allegedly convened to campaign for Mnangagwa’s elevation.

For five years, they were in the political wilderness, and Mudenda embarked on his legal studies at the University of Zimbabwe.

Both have made a dramatic political comeback in the past five years — Mudenda has been appointed as the chair of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson, and Chinomona retained a position in the party’s central committee.

Both Gumbo and Mavhaire’s nominations for speaker and chief whip positions respectively failed to garner enough support to land the portfolios.

Need to develop Matabeleland
During the proceedings in Parliament on Tuesday, after the election of Mudenda, Mujuru spoke passionately about the need to develop Mudenda’s Matabeleland home area.

Speaking in Shona, Mujuru said Mudenda’s appointment was a “wake-up call for the government to develop the area, where internet facilities hardly existed”.

There was an emotional moment after former mines minister Obert Mpofu shed tears, congratulating his political colleague from his home province.

National Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo admitted that there are people with different opinions in his party, which has resulted in the party being regarded as having separate factions.

He said he did not know whether the president had sought Mnangagwa’s opinion.

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