Mugabe mops up the blood
Relations in Zanu-PF, particularly between Vice-President Joice Mujuru and the outgoing Zanu-PF Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri, continue to deteriorate, as factional fights take their toll on Zanu-PF.
Divisions in the ruling party manifested themselves at a heated politburo meeting last Wednesday, which lasted for about 10 hours.
The stormy meeting was called by President Robert Mugabe to address, among other things, the growing internal strife, intraparty attacks on senior officials, the suspension of youth leaders in the provinces, the use of the state media to fight factional wars and first lady Grace Mugabe’s unexpected entry into politics.
Mugabe set the tone for the meeting by insinuating he would deal with anyone attempting to block Grace from getting a political position in the Harare provincial structures, but he had to take on the role of peacemaker after officials went for each other’s throats.
The meeting turned into a shouting match between senior officials, with Muchinguri in particular going on the warpath against Mujuru, who has been in a long-running battle with Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe.
The two could square up at the Zanu-PF congress in December, after Muchinguri, who challenged Mujuru in 2009 for the vice-presidency, voluntarily relinquished her post to accommodate Grace, although the indications are that she is seeking a higher office.
When given the floor by Mugabe, Muchinguri tore into Mujuru and expressed her regret for her part in facilitating Mujuru’s ascendancy to the vice-presidency.
“She [Muchinguri] came out guns blazing, saying Mujuru was ungrateful and showed her true self-serving nature once she had landed the vice-presidency.
“She accused Mujuru of plotting to sideline her and others who had worked to facilitate her rise, saying her actions only furthered her personal interests ahead of those of the party as a collective,” said a politburo source who was present at the meeting.
“Muchinguri reminded the president how it had been her, not Mujuru, whom the women’s league had initially wanted to assume the vice-presidency, only for Mugabe to object on the grounds that she was still too young to take up the position.
“She then said she had worked hard to scuttle Mnangagwa’s plans to ensure that Mujuru landed the post.
“Mnangagwa had the support of six out of 10 provinces in his bid to win the position, before the women’s league moved a motion for a woman to be awarded the post in the wake of the Tsholotsho declaration, where Mnangagwa was accused of plotting to usurp power.”
The declaration is the infamous Zanu-PF meeting of six provincial chairpersons and senior officials, allegedly convened by Jonathan Moyo in Tsholotsho in 2004, to mastermind Mnangagwa’s rise to the presidency.
Muchinguri, according to the politburo member, shocked everyone when she apologised to Mnangagwa for blocking his vice-presidential bid. She said Mujuru had revealed her true colours after ascending to the vice-presidency.
Mujuru became vice-president at the party’s congress in 2004, succeeding the late Simon Muzenda, but the circumstances were acrimonious and six party provincial chairpersons were handed five-year suspensions for supporting Mnangagwa’s bid.
The politburo sources said Mujuru did not say much in response but attempted to draw sympathy by insinuating that Muchinguri and others were taking advantage of the fact that she had been widowed, following the mysterious death of her husband Solomon in a fire-related incident.
But she showed her exasperation with her fellow party members who trumpeted their roles in facilitating her rise and dared them to challenge her at the congress.
Swipes at Mavhaire, Gumbo
After attacking Mujuru, Muchinguri reportedly turned on other party members, including Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire and party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.
“She labelled Mavhaire a sell-out for demanding Mugabe step down back in the late 1990s.
“But Mavhaire protested against this, saying the matter was dealt with and he had been punished enough.”
Mavhaire, who is a key Mujuru ally in Masvingo, famously charged that Mugabe was a spent force and should give up the leadership, comments that saw him being ostracised, spending years in the political wilderness.
He bounced back into government after Mugabe made him a minister, reportedly for helping Zanu-PF to win in Masvingo province in last year’s elections.
“Muchinguri also took a swipe at Gumbo, who she said had always been treacherous together with his former partner Fay Chung, even during the days of the liberation war.
“She even recounted an incident where she [Muchinguri] physically beat up Chung for selling out,” said another politburo source.
In the meeting, Gumbo accused Information Minister Jonathan Moyo of using the state media to settle factional political scores.
Moyo responded by saying that he did not interfere with the editorial policy of any of the state papers.
He also said it was better for the state papers to report on the on-going internal fights within Zanu-PF because, in any event, the private media would still carry the stories, as a party clique led by Gumbo himself was in the habit of leaking information.
“They are in the habit of running off to the private media to spill the beans about infighting,” Moyo reportedly said, adding: “What they don’t know is that the same private media journalists reveal the sources of their information.”
The usually quiet Mnangagwa allegedly also had a go at Didymus Mutasa, the party’s secretary for administration, accusing him of neglecting his responsibilities while waging vendettas against him.
“Mnangagwa told the meeting how Mutasa had failed in his position because of his obsession with plotting against him, [a] development which had resulted in the party’s workers going for several months without being paid.
“He said, during his time as secretary for administration, it was unheard of that party workers would fail to receive their salaries, but now it has become the normal practice.
“Mutasa tried to interject, saying Mnangagwa was a crook who is not as honest as he wished to portray himself.”
Zanu-PF has a history of financial problems, with workers sometimes going unpaid for several months.
The party often aggressively raises money from companies, organisations and ordinary workers to fund party functions, elections and President Robert Mugabe’s birthday bashes.
Majuru, Mnangagwa and Muchinguri could not be reached for comment.
Gumbo refused to discuss the clashes in the politburo, saying Zanu-PF had taken a position not to discuss its “internal challenges in the media”.
“The position of the party is that we never discuss our internal challenges to the media, whether it’s the public or private media,” he said.
“The minutes of the discussions are the preserve of the party and whatever challenges [we have] will be dealt with and resolved within the party and not played out in the media.”
Asked specifically to comment on allegations that he was selling out by leaking details of the infighting, Gumbo asked: “Do you believe all this yourself?”.