… as Mugabe dribbles organ
ZANU-PF’s Politburo meeting last week was tense and highly emotional, clearly separating members on factional lines as suspended war veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa’s fate was being discussed, sources said this week.
Mutsvangwa, who was facing charges of undermining President Robert Mugabe and fomenting divisions in the party, stirred the hornet’s nest after launching a scathing attack on one of the party’s factions generally known as Generation 40 or G40.
The faction is battling to thwart Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa from succeeding the incumbent. Mnangagwa’s allies are countering this plot through their faction called Team Lacoste.
At last week’s Politburo meeting, discontent emerged after members were asked to debate a report by the National Disciplinary Committee (NDC) presented by the party’s secretary for legal affairs, Patrick Chinamasa, on behalf of Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, who chairs the organ.
The NDC also handled dozens of other cases that were tabled at the meeting.
The NDC report focused on cases handled the previous week, principally those of Mutsvangwa, his wife Monica and Espinah Nhari who was ousted from her position as national secretary for administration in the Women’s League last year for chanting “pasi neG40 (down with G40)” at First Lady Grace Mugabe’s rally in Gutu.
The slogan was deemed divisive, though Mphoko and his allies have said G40 is a myth.
The sources said sharp divisions emerged between the two camps during the Politburo meeting, with G40 members calling for the outright expulsion of the Mutsvangwas and Nhari.
Mnangagwa’s sympathisers leapt to his defence, arguing that expulsion was a harsh and unjust punishment considering the nature of the accusations levelled against the trio, particularly Mutsvangwa.
Charges against Mutsvangwa arose after he attacked national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, saying: “We always respect the institution of marriage and he is confused and conflating the institution of marriage and that of the State.” The statements were read by G40 members as an attack on the First Family.
Mphoko, who has been heavily linked to G40, is the one who moved the motion for Mutsvangwa’s expulsion.
A Politburo member who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mphoko tried to justify the sanction by alleging that Mutsvangwa was a troublemaker since the liberation war days. He is said to have gone as far as alleging that Mutsvangwa had plans to topple President Mugabe if left unchecked.
“Mphoko was pushing hard. He told the meeting that Mutsvangwa should be expelled because he has a tradition of being a nuisance dating back to the days of the liberation struggle. He even alleged that Mutsvangwa harboured presidential ambitions and if left unchecked, could topple the President,” the source said.
Mphoko is also said to have indicated that getting rid of Mutsvangwa was the best way to identify the forces behind him, giving the party an opportunity to nip factionalism in the bud.
“He gave the illustration of the relationship between a cow and a calf, saying if someone wants to know which among a herd of cattle was the mother of the calf, the best possible method was to grab the calf and the mother would come charging,” added the source.
Kasukuwere, Higher Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, deputy secretary for women’s affairs, Eunice Sandi Moyo and deputy secretary for youth affairs, Kudzanai Chipanga, all vigorously agitated for Mutsvangwa’s expulsion, the source said.
Kasukuwere reportedly accused Mutsvangwa of undermining the NDC by refusing to answer allegations of attacking the First Family. He further told the meeting that this was clear indication that Mutsvangwa had committed the offense and therefore should be expelled.
The source said Moyo, who had also been previously attacked by Mutsvangwa, equated the charges against Mutsvangwa to those preferred against Jabulani Sibanda who was expelled from the party for suggesting that there was a bedroom coup in ZANU-PF.
The statements insinuated that the First Lady was usurping President Mugabe’s executive powers and effectively running the country and ZANU-PF.
The source, however, said, Mnangagwa’s backers refused to be cowed, launching a spirited defence for Mutsvangwa.
They also allegedly got the backing of nationalists such as Defence Minister, Sydney Sekeramayi and Kembo Mohadi.
“The two, however, received backlash from the First Lady when they tried to speak against expulsions and they kept quiet thereafter throughout the meeting,” said the source.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, reportedly led the defence of Mutsvangwa.
A lawyer by profession, Mudenda produced a copy of the ZANU-PF constitution adopted at the December 2014 congress and used it to argue his case.
“Mudenda was of the opinion that Mutsvangwa committed no offense at all and should be cleared of any charges. He pointed out that the party constitution does not have a provision which renders Mutsvangwa’s sentiments (of conflating the institution of marriage) as a punishable offence,” the source said.
Mudenda also urged the Politburo to abide by the constitution and according to the source, President Mugabe agreed with him, saying: “…you are right there Mudenda, let us follow the constitution.”
“Mudenda went on to say the issue of conflating the institution of marriage did not come out as some members wanted it to be, adding that unless there were other words he said which everyone else was not aware of, in terms of the charges, punishing him (Mutsvangwa) would be far too severe,” the source said.
Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, reportedly told the meeting that the charges against Mutsvangwa were baseless, adding that the severest punishment he deserved was a reprimand.
At that juncture, G40 members somersaulted from their earlier call for expulsion and recommended, through Chipanga, that Mutsvangwa should be suspended from the party for three years.
Still, Mudenda countered the suggestion.
“He again went through the constitution, reading the sections spelling out each offense and its punishment. He argued that even that suspension is not appropriate given that the charges against Mutsvangwa were not enshrined in the party charter,” a Politburo member who attended the meeting said.
But G40 members kept pushing for the suspension until Mnangagwa backers capitulated, but put a caveat which said Mutsvangwa should be allowed to retain his Cabinet position and his Norton legislative seat.
The suggestion came from Transport Minister, Jorum Gumbo — another politburo member believed to be a key Mnangagwa backer who had defended Mutsvangwa — and was agreed to by everyone, even President Mugabe.
The Politburo also agreed that the punishment given to Mutsvangwa should be applicable to both his wife and Nhari.
But they would get the shock of their lives only the following day when President Mugabe dribbled the Politburo by firing Mutsvangwa from government and quickly replaced him with retired colonel Tshinga Dube.
“We were shocked when we then heard that the President had fired Mutsvangwa and was replacing him with his deputy only hours after we agreed that that was not going to happen. We understand that he was pressured into making such a decision by some party members close to him after the Politburo meeting. They want to isolate him for their own ulterior motives, but they are not doing the President any favour. We should all feel sorry for him because every leader surrounded by such ambitious people would act in the same manner that he is doing,” the source said.
Sixteen members of the Youth League, including seven provincial chairpersons of the organ, were expelled from the party at the same meeting while four other members were reprimanded as the war to succeed President Mugabe intensifies, with players keen to depopulate the political field.
ZANU-PF spokesman, Simon Khaya- Moyo, refused to comment.
“I gave a statement already on what transpired in the Politburo.
“I only comment on official positions of the party and not rumours you get from moles,” he said when contacted for comment yesterday.
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