Andrew Kunambura and Tendai Makaripe
THE much-hyped ZANU-PF Politburo meeting built up to an anti-climax as President Robert Mugabe, who had been expected to wield the axe, deftly avoided delving into specific issues in his address to hundreds of party supporters who gathered at the ruling party’s national headquarters ahead of the meeting yesterday.
Some party bigwigs have been calling on President Mugabe to act decisively on some of his top officials fighting a bitter verbal war which threatens to bring the whole country to a standstill and had many waiting for the meeting with bated breaths.
Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo and Minister of Welfare Services for War Veterans, War Collaborators, Political Detainees and Restrictees, Chris Mutsvangwa, have been publicly exchanging harsh words in both the mainstream and social media.
While details of yesterday’s meeting were still sketchy at the time of going to print, analysts doubted if the warring camps would be able to find each other in what has become a high stakes game.
They said while President Mugabe was doing everything to whip them into line, relations between them have irretrievably broken down.
This puts ZANU-PF on a slippery slope going into the elections in 2018.
ZANU-PF is still to recover ever since the expulsion of former vice president Joice Mujuru and her cabal last year on allegations of plotting to unseat the incumbent.
Efforts to restructure the party after getting rid of Mujuru and her acolytes have run into serious problems with the ghost of factionalism rearing its ugly head again.
With Mujuru having been banished from the party, only one faction had remained, that linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The latest bouts of factionalism point to the emergence of another group that is rallying behind the name Generation 40 (G40), which is now competing against the Mnangagwa camp in the succession race.
As the two groups savage each other, plots have been thickening fast, with the ultimate objective of weakening key members who might stand a good chance of succeeding the incumbent.
But President Mugabe, in his address yesterday, did not pay heed to calls on him to take immediate action on Moyo and Mutsvangwa.
It was still not clear by the time of going to print whether the issue had been put on the agenda of the Politburo meeting, convened immediately after President Mugabe’s speech.
Party supporters, bussed mainly from Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Harare provinces, had been called ostensibly to celebrate his tenure as chairman of the African Union (AU), which ended two weeks ago when he surrendered the chair to Chadian President, Idriss Déby Itno.
However, some of the gathering supporters claimed they did not even know what they had been called to do, while others said the event was organised by the party’s political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, who reportedly also financed the trips.
Kasukuwere is linked to G40, which is locked in a nasty succession wrangle with the other camp fronted by Mnangagwa.
In an unprecedented move, Women’s League secretary for finance, Sarah Mahoka, who reportedly is a key member of G40, was allocated a lot of time to speak.
Mahoka shocked the gathering when she challenged President Mugabe to bring Mnangagwa to order.
She also confronted Mnangagwa, calling on him to openly declare his alleged presidential ambitions which she said were crippling the party.
“You should today declare your ambitions because a lot of people are said to be in support of you and when we were even organising this event, we were told some people, especially those from your province (Midlands) were barred from coming. This is destroying the party. Baba (President Mugabe) you should speak about that here today so that it becomes clear. We don’t want you to be like a duck which keeps calm when an eagle is swooping on its children,” she charged.
But President Mugabe only laughed off Mahoka’s calls in his address which was mainly a chronicle of his AU chairmanship.
He, however, indicated that on Tuesday, he brought Mutsvangwa and Moyo together soon after the weekly Cabinet meeting and ordered them to stop denigrating each other in public.
Both men are Politburo members.
President Mugabe said he ordered the duo to bring reports of their grievances to the Politburo for deliberation, rather than rush to newspapers.
“We are worried; our ministers and Politburo members who have been scolding each other publicly like little children. That is not how we do things in ZANU-PF. If we do that, we bring shame on ourselves and on the party.”
“So after the Cabinet meeting yesterday (Tuesday), I sat down with them and told them: Stop it.
“We don’t want that. These are Politburo members, why should they be shouting at each other like that? If someone has a grievance against the other, he or she should bring it to the leadership of the party. We have structures to handle such issues and we should utilise those,” President Mugabe said.
He then immediately diverted attention to opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, saying a continuation of such infighting was giving him false hope that his day was nigh.
“That is giving even people like Tsvangirai to start thinking we are destroying ourselves and he can now start to dream about power not knowing he is only left with a little fraction of a party after it broke up into multiple fragments. We should by now be digging his political grave,” he said, much to the delight of the crowd before stepping down the podium.
Stakes were high leading to the event as, first, war veterans threatened to picket at the ZANU-PF headquarters to block Moyo from attending the Politburo meeting.
This forced G40 to hastily come up with a counterplot and gather women under the pretext of wanting to celebrate the President’s AU chairmanship.
The war veterans ended up deciding not to come.
The president himself admitted that he had not been informed of the gathering to commemorate his AU chairmanship until Monday this week.
Moyo, however, timed his arrival to coincide with President Mugabe’s address – when everyone had settled and calmed down.
There was also a pocket of a handful of supporters who stood in a corner, constantly shouting the names of Mutsvangwa and presidential spokesman, George Charamba, who ruffled furthers with an onslaught on Moyo and G40.
Mahoka had also called on President Mugabe to discipline Charamba over the matter, but the ZANU-PF lynchpin paid a deaf ear to it.
And as if to make an impression, Charamba importantly stepped up to the podium in the middle of President Mugabe’s speech and started to adjust the microphone which he spoke into despite the fact that it had not shown any problems.
He also adjusted his tie, meeting hymning displeasures from what appeared to be a pocket of rented would-be hecklers.
Mutsvangwa, at arrival, avoided limelight, sneaking through the crowds at the back before his Cabinet colleagues virtually unnoticed.
The anticipation of violence also attracted an unprecedented interest from the Police, army and the intelligence which each deployed quite a good number of its details.
ZANU-PF is facing probably its sternest test ever since the nation transited to majority rule in April 1980 with yesterday’s meeting of its most influential organ – the Politburo – seen doing very little to end internal fissures that are undermining government business.
Internecine infighting in President Mugabe’s party has left ZANU-PF in disarray with what started as behind-the-scenes succession fights, bursting into the open as officials tear each other apart.
Going into yesterday’s Politburo meeting, the highlight was supposed to be the report of the party’s National Disciplinary Committee (NDC).
The NDC, chaired by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, has been kept busy by the high incidents of indiscipline across provinces.
Mutsvangwa, the War Veterans Minister and chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) has his case before the committee, and was hoping for lady luck yesterday to escape censure.
Members of G40 have been baying for Mutsvangwa’s head, and have been within reach of achieving their objective after his home province, Mashonaland West, passed a vote of no confidence in the ZNLWVA chairman for undermining the First Family.
Another case before the NDC is that of Midlands executive committee members – July Moyo, Justice Mayor Wadyajena and Owen ‘Mudha’ Ncube – who are accused of fomenting factionalism.
The trio are said to be aligned to Mnangagwa and have been waging a turf war against Cabinet Ministers, Tapiwa Matangaidze, Makhosini Hlongwane and Anastasia Ndlovu for not aligning to what they believe in.
ZANU-PF spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo had also been quoted saying the party would discuss the abuse of the social media by party chefs.
This item appears to have been targeted at Moyo who has turned to his twitter to respond to verbal tirade from Mutsvangwa and Charamba, the presidential spokesman.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette