CRISIS-TORN ZANU-PF could be headed for another root-and-branch shake-up, which might result in a new wave of expulsions of key party functionaries ahead of the Victoria Falls annual conference scheduled for December, the Financial Gazette can report.
ZANU-PF has failed to return to stability ever since a protracted tussle for power boiled over in December last year, leading to the dramatic ouster of a coterie of government and party stalwarts linked to former vice president Joice Mujuru, who also suffered the same fate.
Mujuru and her allies had fought a brutal factional war for over a decade against a rival camp, linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. And when all her ducks seemed to be in one single file, the rug was unexpectedly pulled from underneath her feet, resulting in her nemesis, Mnangagwa, taking over from her soon after the eventful December 2014 congress.
But as predicted by Mnangagwa in a recent interview with a London-based New African magazine, the journey to State House (President Robert Mugabe’s official residence) is proving to be much longer than a trip to China, especially for those who wish to take-over from the ZANU-PF leader.
Indications are that more heads are likely to roll especially at provincial level in the same way Mujuru and her acolytes were stampeded out of the party for plotting to unseat the incumbent, unless President Mugabe himself intervenes to stop the purge.
There is a strong feeling among those who claim to be President Mugabe’s loyalists that one of the members of the Presidium, comprising the President and his two Vice Presidents, wants to perform “a Mujuru” on the incumbent — a euphemism for attempts to stage a palace coup on the ageing ZANU-PF leader.
In response, the loyalists are taking no prisoners and giving no quarter.
The party’s national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, last week struck in his home province of Mashonaland Central by dismissing three members of the provincial executive.
The controversial dismissal of provincial youth league chairman, Godfrey Tsenengamu, provincial youth secretary for administration, Paul Rwodzi and secretary for security, Batsirai Musani has sparked fears of a fresh wave of purges countrywide.
The trio was booted out of the party at a Provincial Coordinating Committee (PCC) meeting on Saturday after they were accused of inviting Mnangagwa to a function organised by an apostolic sect in Madziwa on October 4 without Kasukuwere’s knowledge.
None of the 10 political provinces is likely to be spared by the purge, with tremors still being felt in Mashonaland Central, where the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, was expected to read the riot act to those who are angling to succeed her husband.
President Mugabe was last year re-elected ZANU-PF leader, a mandate that will expire after five years in 2019.
He will therefore be the party’s candidate in the 2018 elections.
Despite having seen better days, President Mugabe has not indicated any desire to retire before serving his sixth-term, which was renewed only about two years ago, at the July 2013 harmonised polls.
Whenever pressed to anoint his heir, the ZANU-PF leader has deftly avoided the question by saying his successor will come from the people.
But that has not stopped ambitious bigwigs within the party’s ranks from strategically plotting over each other.
And as the rifts in ZANU-PF continue, new forces are emerging under the cover of darkness to challenge for top political office in the event that the President relinquishes power.
Despite strenuous denials, Kasukuwere is being linked to a faction operating under the tag of Generation 40 (G40), which is fighting for the First Lady to succeed her husband, whenever he so chooses to retire from politics.
Mnangagwa, the most senior politician in ZANU-PF after President Mugabe, is therefore being seen as the man to beat in the succession race.
Sources in Mashonaland Central claimed this week that the national political commissar was furious at Mnangagwa’s invitation, which had not been sanctioned by the provincial leadership.
What has, however, raised eyebrows is the fact that the dismissal of Tsenengamu and his colleagues seems to contradict President Mugabe’s recent directive that disciplinary processes be adhered to in handling any suspected breaches of the party’s constitution.
The incumbent gave the directive at a Politburo meeting held last month soon after the organ endorsed the ejection of party’s Mashonaland West acting provincial chairman, Ziyambi Ziyambi from the seat.
Ziyambi was also suspended from the party for two years.
ZANU-PF’s constitution stipulates that an errant party member who is in provincial structures should be brought before the provincial disciplinary committee for hearing. The case is then taken to the provincial executive, which will then reach a decision and make a recommendation to the PCC.
The PCC will then write to the national disciplinary committee chaired by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko and in which Kasukuwere and the First Lady sit.
Mphoko’s committee will then look into the matter and pass a recommendation to the Politburo for action.
Any action taken by the Politburo does not take effect until ratified by the Central Committee, ZANU-PF’s policy-making organ.
Tsenengamu confirmed on Tuesday that he was never summoned to a disciplinary hearing, declaring his ouster a non event as he was even yet to receive official communication to that effect.
“No procedure was followed, no prohibition order was given as is required, there were no formal charges pressed against us and no official communication to me. It was only a verbal suspension. It’s null and void,” he charged.
Asked what course of action he would take, Tsenengamu said: “We await official communication and we will respond using party processes. I am ready to pay the maximum price for our party and for the President.”
A group rooting for Mnangagwa to rise to the top office has reacted by declaring the purge in Mashonaland Central an act of defiance against President Mugabe on the part of Kasukuwere and his brothers, Dickson Mafios – who is the provincial chairman of the main wing – and Tongai Kasukuwere, who is the national secretary for legal affairs in the Youth League.
“Everyone is shocked by that decision (to expel Tsenengamu and others), which is happening only a few weeks after the President openly directed that the culture of summary dismissals must end,” said a Politburo member who declined to be named.
“We now wonder where do they get the guts to defy the President so openly like that? Are they trying to create another centre of power?” he quizzed.
Kasukuwere could not be reached for comment but his young brother, Tongai dismissed Tsenengamu’s claims saying he snubbed a hearing he had been summoned to.
“The man was given a vote of no confidence by the youths and then was given a prohibition order to appear before the provincial disciplinary committee which he refused to do. The PPC endorsed the vote of no confidence on that basis,” he said.
A hesitant Mafios confirmed that Tsenengamu was not subjected to any disciplinary hearing, but said it was because he ignored repeated notices sent to him.
“I normally don’t discuss administrative issues of the party with the Press, but I will give you the benefit of doubt. Tsenengamu was asked to respond to charges pressed against him, but he refused to comply. So the PCC decided that he was in contempt of the whole party process and hence, it resolved to suspend him. When you are charged by the courts, you do not question that charge. You appear before the magistrate to answer to the charge and not abscond,” he said.
He could, however, not commit himself to producing documentary evidence of preliminary injunctions against Tsenengamu.
On Monday, Kasukuwere was quoted in a State-owned daily claiming that Tsenengamu was ousted for abusing party funds, holding secret meetings with people from other provinces without his knowledge and engaging in criminal activities.
He added that Tsenengamu’s warm relation to Mnangagwa would not save him.
“Trying to bring themselves closer to individuals will not save them because the party is larger than any individual,” he was quoted as saying.
Tsenengamu shot back at Kasukuwere in the Tuesday interview with the Financial Gazette saying the minister was punishing him and his colleagues for refusing to join his G40 outfit.
“Kasukuwere confided unwittingly in me and Musona on his presidential ambitions and schemes during the days we were fighting Mujuru thinking we would support him. We have a lot of information and evidence to expose his schemes and he is determined to deal with us in any way possible at any cost,” he retorted before throwing a rejoinder: “Why is he panicking if he knows his cupboard doesn’t have skeletons?”
Concerned party insiders fear developments in Mashonaland Central were only a tip on an iceberg as a full blown nationwide blitz is about to kick off in Mashonaland East, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and the Midlands.