MEMBERS of the ruling party’s supreme decision-making body in between congresses, the Politburo, last week begged President Robert Mugabe to take decisive action before the infighting in ZANU-PF could degenerate into a state of paralysis, the Financial Gazette can report.
In 2004, the factional fights broke into the public domain when Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa went toe-to-toe in their bid to land the vice presidency, which had become vacant following the death of Simon Muzenda in September 2003.
While Mnangagwa lost the vice presidency to Mujuru after the party leadership brandished the women quota system to tilt the scales against him, their rivalry lived on.
The divisions were to take a nasty turn last year when Mujuru suffered a humiliating ouster from ZANU-PF and government for plotting to unseat her boss, resulting in Mnangagwa taking her place.
Instead of the factional fights dying with Mujuru’s exit, the situation is getting worse as cunning political hawks are devising all sorts of tricks to succeed the incumbent whenever he retires from active politics.
More than three factions are currently scheming and skulking at their perceived rivals, with their political skulduggery undermining prospects of an economic recovery.
Even worse, the factional fights have stalled ZANU-PF’s restructuring, meant to rejuvenate the party ahead of the 2018 elections.
With Mujuru signalling her intentions to challenge her former boss at the 2018 polls, ZANU-PF cadres now want President Mugabe to personally get involved in dousing the factional fires to enable his party to confront rivals at the polls as a united force.
There are fears in ZANU-PF that Mujuru might join forces with other opposition leaders, who seek to profit from her liberation war credentials in order to give the ruling party a good run at the 2018 polls — a prospect that has plunged the governing party into panic mode.
During last week’s Politburo meeting, one of President Mugabe’s closest allies, Sydney Sekeramayi, implored him to intervene and save the situation.
Sekeramayi’s sentiments were also echoed by Kudzai Chipanga, the party’s deputy secretary for youth, who launched a tirade at Oppah Muchinguri, one of the most powerful politicians in Manicaland.
While not many people gave much thought to what Chipanga said in view of his known rivalry with Muchinguri, it was Sekeramayi’s interventions that led many to appreciate the gravity of the situation.
The Defence Minister, considered as one of the few voices of reason in ZANU-PF, has largely remained untainted by corruption and other vices.
Sekeramayi, who also sits in the influential Joint Operations Command, has been part of a team supervising the restructuring of one of ZANU-PF’s political hotspots, Manicaland.
He told the Politburo last week that the problems in Manicaland were getting out of hand and only President Mugabe could pull the province from the brink.
Ructions in Manicaland took the centre stage after ZANU-PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, presented a damning report on the sluggish pace of the ongoing restructuring of party organs that were left in shambles following the ouster of Mujuru and her cabal.
Kasukuwere told the meeting that progress on the restructuring was painstakingly slow owing to internal squabbling in all provinces but singled out Manicaland as the worst affected.
The province is still to re-organize its branches while other districts are still stuck at the cell.
The branch is the second lowest organ of the party after the cell.
He highlighted in his report that leadership in Manicaland was not concentrating on restructuring the lower organs but was already canvassing for support for provincial posts against party instructions that say restructuring should start at cell going up.
“Sekeramayi said he personally witnessed the confusion saying the situation has become so bad that at meetings, it is impossible for party members to do the simplest things such as saying an opening prayer or give closing remarks without stating first their inclination. To do so, one must state which side he or she belongs to,” said a Politburo source.
The Politburo meeting came in the midst of brutal infighting in Manicaland where Muchinguri, who did not attend last week’s meeting, is accused of campaigning against fellow Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandi Chimene; the interim provincial chairman, Samuel Undenge; Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa; and Chipanga.
Muchinguri’s plots were given away in an audio tape leaked in July.
Chipanga, who according to the leaked audio tape is one of Muchinguri’s principal targets, is reported to have given the sharpest criticism of Muchinguri.
In his contribution, Chipanga accused Muchinguri of authoring problems in Manicaland by refusing to work with the provincial executive led Undenge.
Chipanga also said Muchinguri was now disposed towards former provincial chair, Mike Madiro, to lead the province again.
Muchinguri is said to be working closely with the provincial chairperson of the women’s league, Happiness Nyakuedzwa, using Muchinguri’s Middle Poles farm in Rusape as a command centre where they have their meetings and make deployments.
He further said there was no longer the element of trust among party members in the province.
He alleged that Muchinguri and Nyakuedzwa were chasing away any member believed to be unsympathetic to their cause.
At that point, sources who attended the meeting said, Chipanga turned to address President Mugabe directly saying: “Your Excellency, on the very day that you were addressing mourners at the burial of the late Justice (Andrew) Mutema, Muchinguri was busy deploying youths to Chimene’s constituency (Makoni South).
“He then went on to propose that since the position of provincial chairman has proven to be very divisive in various provinces, the President should be given authority to single headedly appoint the provincial chairs as was done to the positions of vice president and national chairman,” one official said.
After Chipanga’s submissions, President Mugabe is said to have openly declared that Muchinguri was wrong as the party rests with the authority to selects provincial leaders, not her.
“I hear she is also interfering with (Mandi-Manicaland Provincial affairs minister) Chimene’s work and does not want Undenge,” President Mugabe reportedly said.
“I hear she is also having clandestine meetings with party members at her home. She should be summoned and be told that what she is doing is wrong. She should be counselled so that she knows that leaders come from the people and stop interfering with electoral processes. She needs to be cautioned before it is too late,” he reportedly further said.
Sources said after President Mugabe’s take, Christopher Mutsvangwa, whose wife Monica is a very close friend of Muchinguri, felt compelled to defend Muchinguri saying the whole problem lay with the ZANU-PF Youth League member who recorded and leaked the scandalous audio tape because it was wrong for them to have acted that way.
But President Mugabe countered Mutsvangwa saying that there was nothing wrong with the recording because even him gets some security briefings from such recordings.
Mutsvangwa is then reported to have attempted to cool tempers when he assured the President that he would handle the case as it involved “my war veterans”
This did not go down well with Vice President, Phelekezela Mphoko, who then tore into Mutsvangwa
“Who told you they are your war veterans. This is not the first time I have heard that you move around claiming that the war veterans are yours. They are not yours. They came from the party and they belong to the party
“You were a junior officer in the war. We put you into that position (of war veterans chairman) only so that you coordinate them, but that doesn’t mean that they are your people. While you were a junior officer, I, for example, was a commander and the President here is a war hero, so do you mean that you own us,” fumed Mphoko according to Politburo insiders.
Mphoko is said to have also chronicled his role as a commander to show Mutsvangwa that he was just junior.
ZANU-PF’s Manicaland province had been on fire for the past three months due to the fight for the control of the province between Chimene and Muchinguri, who has reportedly imposed herself as the Manicaland political godmother.
Muchinguri, who was unreachable this week, was absent from the Politburo meeting for as yet unknown reasons.
In July, Muchinguri walked out of the Politburo while President Mugabe was in the middle of his opening address.
She is reportedly unhappy with the party position (secretary for transport) she was allocated and reportedly blames the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, for frustrating her.
Muchinguri relinquished her powerful position of secretary for women affairs, stepping aside for the First Lady reportedly in the hope she would be handsomely rewarded.
She is reported to have eyed either the position of national chair or secretary for administration, but President Mugabe instead abolished the former and appointed Ignatius Chombo to the latter. – FinGaz