HARARE – As the factional and succession wars devouring President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF get nastier and messier, two of its purged stalwarts — former Vice President Joice Mujuru and ex-Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa — say they are content watching “the sad circus from the terraces”.
At the same time, outspoken war veteran Margaret Dongo told the Daily News yesterday that it would be a “fatal political mistake” if the likes of Mujuru and Mutasa rejoined the post-congress Zanu PF — particularly now.
This comes amid claims earlier this week that Mugabe no longer believed that Mujuru and Mutasa plotted to oust and assassinate him, and suggestions that some post-congress Zanu PF bigwigs were actively working to lure the former VP back to the warring party.
Contrary to ill-founded expectations in some quarters, the post-congress Zanu PF has not known peace since it expelled Mujuru, Mutasa and other top officials from within its ranks — with the party subsequently splitting into two distinct and bitterly-opposed formations.
Speaking in a brief interview with the Daily News yesterday, and after being asked how she viewed the worsening factional and succession ruckus within Zanu PF, Mujuru said, “Ndiri kuonawo zviri kuita vamwe, and it’s interesting (I’m just watching what others in the party are doing and it’s interesting)”.
She also added that she was content watching these shenanigans from the “terraces” and declined to answer any further questions — including whether she was prepared to rejoin her erstwhile comrades in the post-congress Zanu PF.
But Dongo was emphatic that it would be a mistake if Mujuru and her allies rejoined Zanu PF as Mugabe was “back to his old cunning ways” and would only seek to use them.
“It is obvious that if they make a mistake to go back, he will use the divide and rule strategy by punishing those who were against Mujuru to please her and her group. It is not just talk by Mugabe, it is a public apology. It is only a question of time before this happens,” Dongo said.
Mutasa, the former minister of State Security, who turned 80 on Monday, said the “circus” in his former party was “tragic” — as people were putting their personal interests and the pursuit of power before the interests of Zimbabweans.
“I sometimes wonder whether this is the Zanu PF that I once belonged to. If what is happening now is what was happening when we were in Zanu PF, then it is really sad and we regret that it ever happened.
“I would like to apologise profusely to the people of Zimbabwe for having been part of this system that is just after power,” Mutasa said.
Expelled from Zanu PF last year, along with a coterie of other senior party officials, on untested allegations of pushing for Mugabe’s demise and the ascendancy of Mujuru to the top post, Mutasa has since turned into a fierce critic of the ruling party.
Insiders told the Daily News earlier this week that Mugabe apparently no longer buys into the “contrived narrative” that Mujuru had plotted to oust and assassinate him — a clear indication that some ambitious ruling party bigwigs expediently “manufactured” the fib for their political benefit.
Apart from the two major Zanu PFs that now obtain, Mugabe’s post-congress faction is also further divided along two main factions — one allegedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the other fronted by the party’s ambitious Young Turks, the Generation 40 camp that includes the likes of the party’s political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko.
Mugabe recently told party youths, in a rare and unusually candid address, that he had received intelligence to the effect that the party was polarising around Mnangagwa and Mphoko — adding ominously that people who were pushing for either of the two men to succeed him needed to stop doing so forthwith.
And while the factional fights are getting all of the party’s attention, this is happening at the expense of the country’s comatose economy — with most Zimbabweans now shamefully poorer than they were when the country attained its independence in April 1980.
Commenting on this yesterday, Mutasa said the only way out for Zimbabwe was for Zanu PF to “stop its ongoing madness”.
“If Zanu PF listens to voices that are calling on them to stop the madness and accept Zimbabweans coming together in rebuilding this nation, then we will be able to face these challenges,” he said.
Sources within both the post-congress Zanu PF led by Mugabe, and its rival formation fronted by liberation struggle stalwarts — the “original” Zanu PF that uses the slogan People First — claimed in interviews with the Daily News on Tuesday that with Mujuru seemingly prevaricating about her association with the People First movement, this was encouraging some of the nonagenarian’s lieutenants to court the former VP “to return home”.
A politburo member said with factional and succession wars worsening within the ruling party despite last year’s brutal purges of Mujuru and dozens of her close allies, some bigwigs were now actively campaigning for the former VP to be readmitted into the ruling party.
“If she keeps her silence and stops waffling like what (former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus) Mutasa and (People First spokesperson Rugare) Gumbo are doing, there is a good chance that she will be readmitted.
“Remember, she has a constituency and enjoys a lot of support from the grassroots. She is not a person one can simply wish away. So it makes sense to rope her back in,” the senior Zanu PF official said.
But Gumbo dismissed the likelihood of this happening, as well as growing fears within the ranks of the “original” Zanu PF that the party had been infiltrated.
“That is just talk. I will tell you when the time comes. At the moment, we are still working towards forming a party,” he said.
Asked whether Mujuru or anyone in the People First could rejoin Zanu PF, Gumbo — a close ally of the widowed ex-VP — said “she cannot abandon the people”.
“As far as we are concerned right now, there is no way we are going back to Zanu PF, unless if the allegations they made against us are withdrawn. But even so, what we stand for is different. We want democracy, we want a corruption-free society.
“They (in the post-congress Zanu PF) know she has support and may want to use her, but how will she explain to the people that she is going back to the party that made her suffer.
“I know they are desperate to have her because she has grassroots support, but it is not possible to imagine that right now,” Gumbo added.