Mnangagwa on the ropes

HARARE – There was widespread agreement yesterday that Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is walking a tight rope following Wednesday’s dramatic events in which his Zanu PF enemies put in motion plans to have him censured by President Robert Mugabe, over a festive season gathering that the VP hosted at his rural home.

BY FUNGI KWARAMBA AND MUGOVE TAFIRENYIKA

This comes as the highly-opinionated and avowed supporter of Mnangagwa, Energy Mutodi, has said that he will not hold back on his withering criticism of Mugabe, as Zimbabwe’s political and economic rot continues to deepen.

At the same time, the Daily News learnt yesterday that Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF allies were also fearful of an impending party restructuring exercise which could decimate the Midlands godfather’s support base, placing his mooted presidential aspirations in jeopardy.

Insiders also said that the party’s Generation 40 (G40) faction, which is strongly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, was planning a meeting with Mugabe upon his return from his month-long holiday in the Far East, to raise its concerns over the VP’s alleged plotting and the infamous “Cupgate” saga.

“We will have an opportunity to explain to the president what has been happening while he was away, and this we will do right at the airport when Gushungo (Mugabe) returns. Just wait and see,” a top party official linked to the G40 warned.

But political analysts said while Mnangagwa appeared to be on the ropes, it was premature to conclude that he was “heading for the exit doors”, as Zanu PF’s seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars had thus far proven to be complex and unpredictable.

Academic Ibbo Mandaza was among those who said that although Mnangagwa appeared to be in trouble, he was “too big a fish” to be overwhelmed too easily.

“It does appear as though he (Mnangagwa) is going the same direction as (former vice president) Joice (Mujuru). As you know, there is the Mafios resolution, there was the Masvingo conference and the meetings in Mapanzure, all of which is slowly whittling those around him.

“They (the VP’s Zanu PF foes) will move to expel those who attended the (Zvishavane) meeting and they now want to go frontal,” Mandaza told the Daily News.

“Emmerson made the mistake of dumping these people and when it emerges that he was dining with them, it will have serious repercussions. On the other hand, his supporters are getting impatient. They want him to stand up, but he knows Zanu PF more than anyone else.

“However, I don’t think that he will go the same way as Mujuru because of his linkages with the army who have done work for the old man. They are not as dispensable as Joice was,” he added.

Afghanistan-based analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the statement that was released by the party’s provincial chairpersons and political commissars on Wednesday was yet another sign that Zanu PF was imploding.

“2017 will see Zanu PF factional fights making headlines in very dramatic ways. This is just but the beginning. This is a campaign year and the patronage system in Zanu PF is at play.

“Everyone wants to be as close as possible to a possible Mugabe heir. This is purely power, money and politics at play. However, this will lead to the implosion of the party.

“I don’t really see him (Mugabe) acting on all this fast. He will continue enjoying the factional fighting and retain the facade of being the political arbiter, as his subordinates continue to fight each other,” Saungweme said.

“This makes him look stronger, as it diverts attention from the real issues of bad governance, economic collapse and succession which he wishes to delay.

“The more they (his minions) fight, the more Mugabe’s position as life president of Zanu PF and Zimbabwe is secured. So let’s not expect Ngwena (Mnangagwa) to go anywhere soon,” he added.

Mnangagwa has been under the cosh in recent days for hosting sacked Zanu PF officials at his rural home during the festive season, with his party foes alleging that this was in fact a meeting organised to plot the ouster of Mugabe from power.

On Wednesday, a G40-linked group, comprising provincial chairpersons and regional commissars met at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare, issuing a statement in which they called for a probe into Mnangagwa for hobnobbing with war veterans’ leader Christopher Mutsvangwa and Mutodi.

Apart from the provincial chairpersons and regional commissars, the meeting was also attended by representatives of the youths, the women’s league and sections of the war veterans’ corps.

But a defiant Mutodi hit back at the G40 yesterday, vowing not to hold back on his critical views regarding Zanu PF’s succession and rampant factionalism.

“I am not against Mugabe, and neither do I have any personal grudge with any Zanu PF official. However, I am suggesting that at the age of 94, Mugabe is good enough to remain as the party’s first secretary but not a candidate to run for office of president,” Mutodi told the Daily News.

“Secondly, even if Mugabe was to win the vote in 2018, there is no hope that the current economic hardships facing the nation will end as no investor would choose to invest in a country being led by a 94-year-old.

“All these people who are calling themselves provincial chairpersons know that they were not elected, but were rather imposed by the G40 faction. The elected Zanu PF chairpersons are being persecuted and accused of unfounded allegations.

“It’s a charade, a travesty. There is a lot of injustice in the party. There is regionalism, tribalism and endless factionalism. These are the signs of a failed leadership because they no longer can unite people. You are busy fomenting divisions so that you can go on and on without regard to the interests of the majority,” the unrepentant Mutodi added.

Mutodi also challenged Zanu PF’s national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who are alleged to be G40 kingpins, to present themselves as alternative party leaders.

“Some shallow minds are saying that by demanding leadership renewal, I am campaigning for Mnangagwa. This is a misconception. I am on record saying Mnangagwa is a potential successor due to his loyalty to Mugabe, his experience and his patience.

“However, anyone who feels is better and would want to compete with him is free to come forward and contest . . . Moyo, . . . Kasukuwere or any other Zanu PF person is free to present themselves for election to decide who finally succeeds our long-serving president,” he said.

The maverick musician-turned politician appeared to make things worse for Mnangagwa when he said this week that Zanu PF should hold an extraordinary congress to install Mnangagwa as Mugabe’s successor.

Mutodi also claimed that Mugabe, who turns 93 next month, had become so unpopular in Zanu PF that “99 percent” of the party’s members now wanted him to resign before the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections, as there was allegedly no way that the nonagenarian could win elections against popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa allies fear that the impending Zanu PF restructuring exercise, in preparation for the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections, could be used by the G40 to sideline the VP’s supporters.

The term of office for the ruling party’s leadership of the lower structures, the cell and the branch, expire at the end of each year while that of the  district and provincial  leaders come to an end after three and five years respectively.

Party insiders told the Daily News that the G40 faction had allegedly since made plans to ensure that junior party officials loyal to Mnangagwa were purged before the Zanu PF primary elections, to prevent MPs backing the Midlands godfather from returning to Parliament.

Zanu PF Mashonaland West deputy provincial chairperson Keith Guzah confirmed that Kasukuwere had given all provinces until the end of March to complete the exercise, that will see new leadership for the party’s cells and branches.

“We will be holding our provincial coordinating committee (PCC) and provincial executive committee (PEC) meetings next week to inform the province on the call by the national PC when we met him recently,” Guzah said.

However, senior Zanu PF officials aligned to Mnangagwa remain suspicious that the G40 group will take advantage of their control of the commissariat department to make sure the party’s grassroots structures are dominated by its allies.

“Kasukuwere will do anything to make sure that the people who are in the cells and branches will be willing to block the candidature of MPs and councillors he deems to be pro-Lacoste,” an official from Masvingo province claimed. – Daily News

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