Mnangagwa feels the heat

HARARE – Analysts say Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s unusual move on Wednesday to disown disgruntled war veterans, as well as his veiled swipe at maverick businessman Energy Mutodi, betray his anxiety to remain on President Robert Mugabe’s good books as Zanu PF’s escalating tribal, factional and succession wars get uglier.

By Tendai Kamhungira

The Midlands godfather’s surprising move came as his Zanu PF enemies piled pressure on him and his supporters in the wake of the much debated “Cupgate” storm which followed the surfacing of pictures last weekend of the VP holding a coffee mug inscribed with the words “I am the boss”.

This saw Mnangagwa’s party opponents going to town and interpreting, rightly or wrongly, the pictures as confirmation of the VP’s mooted presidential aspirations and his Team Lacoste party faction’s alleged plot to take power irregularly.

However, Mutodi — who ignited the brawl after he posted the pictures of him and Mnangagwa posing with the mug — was still sounding bullish yesterday despite the storm, further suggesting that the VP was now allegedly unstoppable in his quest to succeed Mugabe.

“However, the time has come to tell the G40 (Zanu PF’s Generation 40 faction, which is rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe) that they will not be able to dislodge Vice President Mnangagwa from his position or stand in his way as they did to former Vice President Joice Mujuru.

“President Mugabe has managed to stay this far in power owing to the work of Mnangagwa and the security forces and not owing to (Higher Education minister) Jonathan Moyo’s tweets,” Mutodi wrote on his Facebook wall.

“We all know that the genuine Zanu PF cadres are the war veterans who were prepared to die to liberate Zimbabwe and not small-brained professors who see treason on tea cups.

“Furthermore, Zanu PF members are aware that Jonathan Moyo and his G40 associates are misleading the president and continue to isolate him from his support base and if this continues, it is a sure case that Zanu PF will emerge from the 2018 elections as an opposition party.

“A revolutionary is known by his willingness to peacefully hand over power to another party cadre and not to continue holding on for selfish reasons until the party loses elections,” Mutodi added.

The brawl over the coffee mug comes as Mnangagwa has been increasingly touted as a front runner to succeed Mugabe, who turns 93 next month.

At the same time, a large section of the war veterans and some members of the uniformed forces security have also thrown their full weight behind Mnangagwa, with the former publicly endorsing the Midlands godfather repeatedly and  warning that blood could be shed in the country if their man doesn’t succeed the increasingly frail nonagenarian.

It was in this light that many were taken by surprise when Mnangagwa attacked the war veterans who are led by former Cabinet minister Christopher Mutsvangwa on Wednesday, in an uncharacteristic rant which some insiders claimed was a tactical ploy to distance himself from the former freedom fighters’ increasing attacks on Mugabe.

This, the insiders told the Daily News yesterday, was more so since Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF detractors such as women’s league secretary for finance, Sarah Mahoka, and Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene, had previously accused the VP of remaining silent while people who claimed to be his supporters denigrated Mugabe.

In his attacks on the war veterans, Mnangagwa aped Mugabe’s line, re-iterating that it was politics which led the way, not the other way, in remarks that the analysts said were meant to put a distance between him and the vocal ex-combatants, who stunningly fell out with Mugabe in July last year, after penning a damning communiqué against Zimbabwe’s long-ruling leader.

And in a veiled dig at Mutodi, in the aftermath of what is now derisively referred to as “Cupgate”, Mnangagwa said there were many people who were abusing his name for their selfish interests.

“Against this background of many utterances and activities, all of them unsolicited but claiming or seeking association with my person, my family and or my position both in Zanu PF and in government, I want to make it clear that there are elements on the loose who talk and act as if they support me and or the party, Zanu PF, when in fact they are being handled and managed from elsewhere by hostile forces.

“These elements are against the president, are against the party and its leadership. In other instances, they have a history of disloyalty to the party and hostility to the president, which is well-documented,” Mnangagwa said in his indirect attacks on Mutsvangwa and Mutodi.

UK-based analyst and Kent University Law School lecturer, Alex Magaisa, said Mnangagwa was moving to douse the fire which had been ignited by the coffee mug storm.

“The mug incident brought too much attention and suspicion and he knows his boss gets tetchy about such things. The fact that he has been forced to make a statement suggests it caused unnecessary trouble.

“Mugabe is growing paranoid and any show of haughtiness from his lieutenants could invite trouble,” Magaisa said.

Afghanistan-based political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said what had happened was to be expected from Mnangagwa, because he was “a smart tactician”.

“He is a typical politician. With this politics of patronage in Zimbabwe who would masquerade as a surrogate for someone without their blessing? He is just trying to be smart, but people are not politically naïve.

“We all know dogs bark to protect their owner. If you beat the dog hard, the owner will come out. Those (war vets and Mutodi) are bonafide Ngwena’s political running dogs.

“If you believe Mugabe’s statement during Sona (State of the Nation Address) where he said the economy was picking up, then you can be forgiven for believing Ngwena’s claims that he has nothing to do with those barking political running dogs of his,” Saungweme added.

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