HARARE – War veteran and former diplomat, Agrippa Mutambara, was yesterday named the new leader of the Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) — amid chaotic scenes which threatened to derail the meeting which had been called to announce the party’s new leadership; according to local press.
Mutambara, whose Chimurenga name was Dragon Patiripakashata, joined the struggle in 1975 and trained in Mozambique under Zanla forces.
He held various positions including member of general staff, instructor in guerrilla tactics, director of politics in Zanla, operations commander and chief representative of Zanu in Ethiopia.
In the allegations in former Education Minister and opposition leader David Coltart’s book Mutambara is accused of rapping ex-Rhodesian government Prime Minister’s daughter Judith Todd in 1983. What shocked many the most was the lack of a sense of wrongdoing in the Brigadier’s response when he admitted to raping Judith Todd and many other women!
He seemed surprised that he was being asked about this, he said that a lot of women were raped during the war, and after: it was not anything new and everyone did it. The Brigadier admitted that rape was used as a weapon of war, so what is to stop them from using it again?
At the stormy meeting held in Harare, ZPF founding fathers, Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo, were also relegated to peripheral roles — with Mutambara taking charge of the fledgling party in an acting capacity.
Fearless former war veterans’ leader, Jabulani Sibanda, came out of his long political hibernation to be elected the party’s commissar.
But the gathering was marred by ugly scenes which rocked the troubled outfit, with angry supporters besieging its headquarters and causing the cancellation of a press conference that had been scheduled to announce the party’s new leadership.
The supporters were protesting the party’s failure to appoint a substantive president.
ZPF acting spokesperson, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, was forced to chase away the journalists who had turned up for the scheduled media briefing — although he did apologise for the chaotic scenes.
“I want to apologise to you. We are going to call you later. For now we are still having our meeting,” Bhasikiti told reporters.
But the irate supporters accused Bhasikiti of trying to mask the party’s problems and challenged him on why he was turning away journalists when he was the one who had invited them for the briefing.
“Why did he invite journalists to come here in the first place? … We want to elect the president. Takazviramba kwaMai (former vice president Joice) Mujuru tichiti vaakuita zvechi-thug. Ndizvo zvavava kuita (They are behaving in the same thuggish and unacceptable manner which happened under Mujuru’s leadership).
“Bhasikiti is trying to impose a leader on us and we don’t want that. We need to go to a congress and elect a leader of our choice,” said one angry supporter who declined to be named.
Bhasikiti later phoned journalists to announce the party’s new interim leadership.
“We have agreed that Mutambara becomes the interim president and he will manage the affairs of the party in association with the steering committee.
“We have also resolved that Gumbo and Mutasa remain advisors, but with no dealings in the day-to-day affairs of the party, while Jabulani Sibanda will be in charge of the commissariat department. Munacho Mutezo will be secretary for finance,” he said.
Until yesterday, ZPF did not have a leader following the highly-publicised fallout between Mujuru on one hand, and Gumbo and Mutasa on the other, which led to a nasty split in February.
In that stunning development, Mujuru later announced that he had fired Gumbo, Mutasa and five other high-ranking officials over a slew of allegations which included claims that the stalwarts were Zanu PF spies.
“Having done extensive consultation within the rank and file of the party and also in my capacity as the president with the executive authority to ensure its wellbeing, I hereby announce the expulsion of the following members from Zimbabwe People First with immediate effect: Rugare Gumbo, Didymus Mutasa, Margaret Dongo, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, Luckson Kandemiri, Munacho Mutezo and Claudious Makova.
“We assure Zimbabweans that more heads are going to roll in this revolutionary exercise. We remain committed to the democratisation of Zimbabwe. We remain committed to a coalition of progressive forces to fight and remove Zanu PF from office,” she said.
But before the dust had settled down on the staggering development, Gumbo and Mutasa held their own press conference later in the day where they also announced Mujuru’s summary expulsion from the party.
Mujuru eventually left the party to launch her own outfit, the National People’s Party (NPP), which last week signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai ahead of the make-or-break 2018 elections.
After independence, Mutambara was commissioned as a colonel of the Zimbabwe National Army and appointed the first commandant of the Zimbabwe Staff College. He served as Deputy Brigade Commander in Masvingo and Bulawayo before he served as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Cuba (with multiple accreditation to Guyana and Nicaragua), Russia (with multiple accreditation to Ukraine, Belarus, Khazakstan and Poland), and Mozambique (with multiple accreditation to Swaziland) between 1993 and 2014.