TWO army generals attended the infamous ‘Mug Declaration’ at Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zvishavane home on New Year’s Eve, casting fresh doubts on his claims that it was a family gathering.
New Zimbabwe.com has been told by at least two sources that Major General Engelbert Rugeje and Brigadier General Exsebios Vusa Tshuma were the most senior of military officials that joined a motley crew of more than two dozen Mnangagwa allies, among them expelled or suspended Zanu PF officials, at the hush-hush event where it is claimed they planned to stampede President Robert Mugabe out of power before April.
Zimbabwe National Army Chief of Staff Maj Gen Rugeje, it is claimed, was representing Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantino Chiwenga, while 4 Brigade commander Tshuma stood in for Zimbabwe National Army commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda.
The new details will deepen the intrigue around the Zvishavane meeting, now dubbed the ‘Mug Declaration’ after Mnangagwa was seen drinking whisky from a mug inscribed, ‘I’m the Boss’.
Mnangagwa, who was Acting President at the time, has claimed in the state media that the event was a family gathering where he opened his Christmas presents, among which was the mug.
The vice president was also at pains to distance himself from the controversial Zanu PF activist Energy Mutodi, who posed for pictures with him, just hours after he wrote an acerbic article attacking President Robert Mugabe and Acting President Phelekezela Mphoko.
Mutodi, it was claimed, arrived uninvited at around 10PM and posed as an MP to gain access to Mnangagwa.
But The Standard revealed on Sunday that far from being a family gathering, the ‘Mug Declaration’ was attended by Mnangagwa loyalists, among them five youth leaders expelled by Zanu PF and selected journalists.
New Zimbabwe.com has also heard that on December 30, Mnangagwa met for three hours at his Harare home with Christopher Mutsvangwa, the leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association who was jettisoned from Zanu PF last year.
Mutsvangwa, who declared in an interview with the British magazine, The New Statesman, that he was “100 percent sure” that Mnangagwa would be the next President, was driven to the meeting by one of Mnangagwa’s sons.
Mnangagwa’s secret meeting with Mutsvangwa, and subsequently expelled or suspended Zanu PF officials who have publicly made disparaging remarks about Mugabe and his wife, Grace, make his attacks on “rogue war veterans” at a rally on January 5 ring hollow.
While publicly attacking Mutsvangwa and his group, Zanu PF insiders say, Mnangagwa is privately encouraging their attacks on Mugabe hoping the 93-year-old leader throws in the towel and hands him the reins before the watershed 2018 elections.
Mugabe, currently on his annual vacation in the Far East, used the Zanu PF conference in Masvingo last year to declare that all leaders must be elected – effectively setting the stage for a bruising leadership fight among his lieutenants.
When Mugabe returns later this month, Mnangagwa may find himself answering difficult questions over how he ended up in the same room with Zanu PF outcasts like the former Matabeleland South youth chairman Washington Nkomo, his Mashonaland Central counterpart, Godfrey Tsenengamu, Edmore Sambambwa from Midlands, Tawanda Mukodza (Manicaland) and Vengayi Musengi from Mashonaland West.
The five, who were all expelled from Zanu PF, were joined by other Zanu PF exiles like Ezra Chadzamira, the suspended former Zanu PF chairman for Masvingo and Ziyambi Ziyambi who is serving a two-year suspension in Mashonaland West.
Also in attendance, according to sources, were Lovemore Matuke, the Zanu PF Chief Whip and Gutu Central MP; Larry Mavima, the NRZ board chairman; Prosper Machando, the youth chairman for Midlands Province; Albert Nyakuedzwa, a businessman and Zanu PF politician from Manicaland and Prof Paul Mavima, the Deputy Minister for Primary and Secondary School Education.
Mnangagwa’s Media acolytes … Caesar Zvayi and Tichaona Zindoga
Caesar Zvayi, the editor of the stridently pro-Mnangagwa Herald newspaper and his political editor Tichaona Zindoga were also seen at the shindig where expensive whisky flowed well into New Year.
Two reporters from the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent were also reportedly part of the small group of selected journalists in attendance.
Zindoga later posted a picture on Facebook with Zvayi, commenting that they were “plotting how to run the paper this year”.
And as if to show his contempt for Acting President Mphoko, Zindoga wrote on January 9: “Those into corporate branding stuff pane vamwe vakuru so who is urgently looking for coffee mugs akanzi, ‘I Am The Boss Now’.”
The post, which he later took down, was a reference to Mphoko who had just taken over as Acting President for the last half of Mugabe’s leave days, replacing Mnangagwa who has now taken his own vacation.
Mnangagwa’s loyalists want to stop Mugabe from running for President in 2018. The strategy, according to insiders, will be to increase pressure on the Zanu PF leader to give up power and allow Mnangagwa a few months at the helm to position himself for a run at the presidency in 2018.
But Mnangagwa’s opponents in the G40, apparently with Mugabe’s backing, want a leadership contest – possibly at an extra-ordinary congress – to find the veteran leader’s successor.
On Wednesday, eight of the ten Zanu PF provincial chairmen, provincial political commissars, the Women’s League and the Youth League turned up the heat on Mnangagwa, questioning his decision making over his dalliance with the Zanu PF outcasts.
“This kind of behaviour puts doubt on those leaders’ commitment and loyalty to decisions that are made by Zanu PF collectively, as party leaders should not be seen to be associating and entertaining people who were expelled from the party for indiscipline, which involved disrespect of the party leadership,” they said in a statement.
The unprecedented statement, described as a “vote of no confidence in Mnangagwa” by one Zanu PF insider, will alarm the Vice President’s allies whose memories are fresh with the Midlands godfather’s demotion by Mugabe in 2004 following the so-called ‘Tsholotsho Declaration’ where a plan had been mooted to elevate him to Vice President at the expense of Joice Mujuru. – Newzimbabwe.com