Zimbabwe vice president Joice Mujuru’s grip on Zanu-PF has been severely weakened, along with her presidential ambitions, after the party’s politburo on Thursday night purged senior party officials who supported her.
The purge included vocal party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, who was suspended, and the expulsion of militant war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda.
The move now paves the way for first lady Grace Mugabe, who recently entered politics, but does not see eye to eye with Mujuru, to strengthen her position in the party.
Sibanda, a strong Mujuru ally, was expelled at the marathon meeting that ended at 11pm on Thursday. Jabulani had called on Zanu-PF members to resist President Robert Mugabe’s move to impose his wife Grace as head of the party’s women’s league. Sibanda equated the imposition of Grace to a “bedroom coup”.
Chairpersons who got the boot
The politburo is the party’s highest decision making body outside of congress. The politburo meeting, chaired by Mugabe, upheld the dismissal of four provincial chairpersons: Amos Midzi (Harare), Jason Machaya (Midlands), Callisto Gwanetsa (Masvingo) and Andrew Langa (Matabeleland South) after accusing them of fanning factionalism and plotting to oust Mugabe.
Mashonaland West chairperson Temba Mliswa’s expulsion was approved by the politburo last month, bringing to five Mujuru-aligned chairpersons to be removed.
The politburo resolved that Manicaland chairperson John Mvundura should receive a written warning. Mvundura also supports Mujuru.
Mashonaland East chairperson Ray Kaukonde, Bulawayo chairperson and Mashonaland Central chairperson Luke Mushore, who are all aligned to Mujuru are also facing the boot.
War veterans and youths have held two demonstrations, against Kaukonde in an attempt to force him out of the party.
The purges were announced by Zanu-PF national chairperson Simon Khaya-Moyo, who ironically is in the Mujuru faction, and was until recently a favourite to land the vice presidency.
Khaya-Moyo has assumed the party spokesperson’s duties until the party’s congress in December.
“After extensive discussions by members of the politburo, some far reaching decisions were taken by the politburo as follows; comrade Rugare Gumbo has been suspended from the party with immediate effect for five years. Comrade Enock Porusingazi, who was a member of the central committee, has been suspended for five years from the party and comrade Jabulani Sibanda has been expelled from the party, ” said Khaya-Moyo in a briefing to journalists after the meeting.
The politburo also endorsed the votes of no confidence in Masvingo women’s league boss Shylet Uyoyo, youth league chair Oliver Huruva and a youth league official Tongai Mangomana. Uyoyo is understood to have been campaigning against Grace’s taking over of the women’s league while Huruva, angered the First Lady when he snubbed her at her rallies.
While addressing party supporters in Mujuru’s home province of Mashonaland Central last month, an angry Grace lashed out at Huruva and youth chairpersons from Mashonaland East and Manicaland for the snubs.
A blow for Mujuru
The purging of Mujuru’s allies follows Grace’s countrywide rallies last month, which she used to savagely attack Mujuru and her backers. She accused Mujuru of being an incompetent leader who piggybacks on Mugabe while adding no value to the presidency.
Grace also accused Mujuru of abusing her office, subversion, extortion, underworld diamond dealings, corruption and a plot to topple Mugabe and called on her to resign or risk being fired by her husband.
The suspensions are a blow for Mujuru and her allies ahead of the congress, which will elect party leaders, including the president and two deputies, for the next five years. Mujuru had in recent months appeared on course to retain the vice-presidency at the congress, after managing to seize control of the party’s structures, including provinces.
The Mujuru faction had won control of nine of the 10 party provinces during provincial elections last year, leaving the faction well placed in the succession race given that the provinces are crucial in electing top leaders.
The provinces nominate party leaders and provincial leaders have a huge say in how their provinces vote. Since Grace joined hands with a faction led by justice minister Mnangagwa in August, after women’s league secretary Oppah Muchingura invited her to lead the wing, Mugabe has come out in support of his wife and the Mnangagwa faction, tipping the scales against Mujuru.
Politburo sources who spoke to the Mail & Guardian said Mugabe openly sided with the Mnangagwa faction during Thursday’s politburo meeting where he accused the vice president and her allies of wanting to oust him. Mugabe was said to have been particularly vicious on Gumbo, who last week told state broadcaster the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation that the December congress should bring finality to the succession debate.
Mujuru’s rivals used Gumbo’s comments to confirm there was a plot to unseat Mugabe, resulting in the public media going into overdrive this week attacking Mujuru and her allies.
Members of the Mnangagwa faction are said to have used Mugabe’s stinging attack on the Mujuru faction to push for Gumbo and other senior officials’ ouster. “It’s (the purges) a significant development ahead of the congress. It has sent a strong and clear message to those on the other side and those who are sitting on the fence, on who is in the driving seat.
The tone for the congress has been set,” said a politburo member aligned to the Mnangagwa faction. Zanu-PF will hold its elective congress in December on a date yet to be announced.