Zim: 'Weevil' Moyo walloped but wriggles free

Nine lives: President Robert Mugabe spared Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo. Several Zanu-PF senior officials are upset that the president has not shown the 'divisive' minister the door. (Shepherd Tozvireva)

Nine lives: President Robert Mugabe spared Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Jonathan Moyo. Several Zanu-PF senior officials are upset that the president has not shown the 'divisive' minister the door. (Shepherd Tozvireva)

Jonathan Moyo, the information, media and broadcasting services minister, may have survived the chop after infuriating President Robert Mugabe, Cabinet ministers and intelligence bosses but Zanu-PF insiders say the daggers are still out for him.

Many party officials, most of whom are linked to Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s faction, are angry with Mugabe for pardoning the minister when all the indications were that he would be fired from the Cabinet for the second time in 10 years.

Moyo drew Mugabe’s wrath after an intelligence report chronicled how he was allegedly destabilising the party. Insiders say the Mujuru faction, particularly the party’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, who is also presidential affairs minister and in charge of intelligence, had a hand in drawing up the report.

Moyo was accused by his colleagues of behaving like a super minister by interfering in the affairs of other ministries.

They allege that he hosted diplomats, which they say is not part of his mandate; attacked other ministers including his seniors, such as Mujuru; employed editors and reporters who have been anti-Zanu-PF in the state-controlled media; and used state media to settle political scores.

They slammed Moyo for using the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry to build his profile and to woo editors to his side as he battles the Mujuru faction.

Spared by Mugabe
In a vitriolic three-day attack that started in the politburo, Mugabe publicly called Moyo a fool, a devil incarnate and a weevil, resulting in widespread speculation that Moyo’s days in the Cabinet were numbered.

But Mugabe spared the minister after a meeting on Monday last week, which was also attended by Mutasa and Central Intelligence Organisation director general Happyton Bonyongwe – angering those who were calling for Moyo’s head.

“It appears Moyo managed to wriggle himself out of a tight corner because Mugabe appeared to have been very angry [and] Bonyongwe and Mutasa were eager to see him and his editors out,” said a politburo member who is also a Cabinet minister.

“He was strongly rebuked in the meeting and in the end he apologised and pledged to work well with others by not interfering in matters that have nothing to do with him. But this is not the outcome we were hoping for and certainly this is not the outcome the public was expecting after such a strong rebuke from the president. To say the president’s decision to keep Moyo angered a number of officials is an understatement. People are bitter and he [Mugabe] knows it.”

While burying national hero Nathan Shamuyarira, Mugabe said: “Even in Zanu-PF, we have the weevils. But should we keep them? No!” That statement was largely viewed as a signal that Moyo would be fired.

Mugabe fired Moyo from Zanu-PF and the government in 2005 after a falling-out that started when Moyo allegedly organised a meeting in Tsholotsho in 2004. The meeting, attended by six Zanu-PF provincial chairpersons, was allegedly designed to catapult Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa into the presidency.

As punishment, Zanu-PF stopped Moyo from contesting parliamentary elections and he was fired by Mugabe in February 2005, but in March that year he stood as an independent candidate and won the Tsholotsho parliamentary seat.

‘Every step he takes is being monitored’
Zanu-PF officials said, despite Moyo’s new lease of life, they would keep monitoring him and the state media to ensure he and they toe the party line.

“The pressure is still on, and he knows that every step he takes is being monitored, but the ideal situation for a number of reasons was that he should have gone,” said one.

Moyo, who is close to some security sector bosses, especially in the army, is believed to have asked the generals to intervene on his behalf but the Mail & Guardian understands that the generals are divided on the issue.

The commander of the Zimbabwe air force, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, denied that the military mediated.

The Zanu-PF Cabinet minister and politburo member said: “Moyo is close to a number of generals like the commander of the defence force, general Constantine Chiwenga, but he has also ruffled the feathers of seniors such as Bonyongwe and the commissioner general of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Augustine Chihuri.

“In 2008, he was quoted by WikiLeaks [as] saying Bonyongwe was doctoring reports for Mugabe and feeding him with wrong information, while more recently he blasted the police for stopping a press freedom march, a move which was seen as one of his attempts to win friends in the private media while also portraying himself as a champion for human rights.”

Moyo issued a hard-hitting statement after anti-riot police stopped journalists from marching on Press Freedom Day on May 3, saying the actions of the police were “patently unconstitutional and without any transparent, rational and constructive justification”.

Although government officials maintained Moyo was under severe pressure, he has increased his public appearances following the falling-out with Mugabe.

He was one of the ministers who was at Harare airport to see Mugabe off when he went to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on June 12 for the G77 summit. And he was one of the ministers who welcomed Mugabe when he returned this week.

Moyo is scheduled to have a meeting soon with editors at the state-controlled Zimpapers, where sources said he is likely to tell them to tone down their criticism when writing about senior officials.

Since Moyo was appointed last year, the state media has played a crucial role in exposing corruption and salary scandals in government and parastatals. But the move has not gone down well with some senior state officials, who say he was behind most of the exposés.

Most of the state institutions that were exposed in the media reported to ministers in the Mujuru faction, hence the allegation that the embarrassing exposures were meant to derail Mujuru’s allies.“To say [Mugabe’s] decision to keep Moyo angered a number of officials is an understatement. People are bitter”

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