THE administrative Zanu PF politburo has failed to contain the intensifying battle for the heart and soul of the party in the aftermath of the chaotic Youth and Women’s League conferences as it became clear the centre is no longer firmly holding, senior officials who attended Wednesday’s crucial meeting have said.
Zanu PF officials said in off-the-record briefings that while President Robert Mugabe showed at the meeting he was well-disposed towards the faction led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, he was unable to bulldoze demands by that camp to reverse results of the controversial Youth League elections won by Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s allies amid allegations of vote-buying and fraud.
The politburo meeting came in the midst of brutal infighting and suspensions following the two conferences held ahead of the party’s congress in December.
Top of the politburo agenda was the growing internal strife, intra-party attacks against senior officials, suspensions of youth leaders in provinces, use of the state media to fight factional wars and First Lady Grace Mugabe’s unexpected plunge into politics, among other issues linked to Zanu PF’s leadership succession conflict.
“The meeting was about what has been happening in the party of late in the aftermath of the youth and women’s conferences and Grace’s ambitions — in other words the power struggle in the party,” a senior politburo member said.
“The two contentious issues to be debated and determined were the conduct and results of the youths and women’s conferences, particularly the youth, in view of vote-buying allegations and manipulation, and suspensions of youth leaders as well as associated disciplinary issues. It was resolved the results stand, meaning the Mujuru faction secured what it wanted, although the Mnangagwa camp also scored a major victory by getting the suspensions reversed.”
Politburo insiders said in-between these resolutions, there were nasty clashes between senior party officials where accusations of treachery and counter-accusations were traded during the meeting which ran for close to 10 hours.
While Mujuru’s faction was on the back-foot, it managed to hang onto controversial victories it secured in the Youth League elections just as it did after the provincial elections last November despite allegations of vote-buying, ballot-rigging and intimidation.
The Mnangagwa faction managed to block calls to discipline its members, who included Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Chris Mutsvangwa and youth provincial chairpersons from Harare, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central whose suspensions were reversed.
It is said for the first time in a long period, Mugabe almost openly showed he was on Mnangagwa’s side, mainly to protect his wife whose endorsement as the Women’s League boss was met with resistance mainly from the Mujuru faction.
After both factions failed to get their way, the meeting degenerated into a show of broadsides. Insiders said Mugabe set the tone of the meeting. He reportedly asked the politburo members to be frank and candid as he sought to resolve challenges which have rocked the party in the last few months.
Sources said the outgoing Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri and her allies had no kind words for Mujuru and members of her faction whom she accused of causing divisions in the party.
“Muchinguri frontally attacked Vice-President Joice Mujuru and asked her to come clean on allegations levelled against her by the youths,” the source said.
Three weeks ago, the Zanu PF youths told Mugabe at State House he was increasingly being isolated and is surrounded in the party presidium by leaders plotting to topple him.
“Muchinguri said members of the politburo wanted Mujuru to explain and come clean on the allegations. She said what Mujuru was doing is demeaning to the position of the President,” said one politburo member.
In response, Mujuru reportedly threw down the gauntlet, challenging those who want her position to contest her at congress in December.
“Mujuru said she was tired of being insulted by some people (a reference to Muchinguri) who are going around saying they campaigned for her when she was elevated to the vice-presidency.
She then challenged them to throw their names in the ring if they wanted to contest her at the forthcoming congress.”
The sources said Muchinguri, a key Mnangagwa ally supporting Grace’s manoeuvres, was on a warpath as she had been of late insinuating Mujuru was behind the death of her husband, the late army commander Retired General Solomon Mujuru.
“Muchinguri also attacked Tendai Savanhu whom she said is not supposed to be in the politburo after all because he was once a treasurer in the Zimbabwe Unity Movement led by (the late Edgar) Tekere,” one insider said.
This is not the first time Muchinguri has attacked politburo members whom she accuses of having dodgy pasts. A month ago, she picked on Olivia Muchena whom she insinuated belonged to Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s UANC during the liberation struggle.
Savanhu’s attacks come on the backdrop of allegations that he is working with provincial chairperson Amos Midzi to stop Grace’s ascendancy in the Women’s League.
The insiders said Cleveria Chizema charged that Midzi and Savanhu were behind the chaos in Harare because they were opposed to Grace’s endorsement as Women’s League boss.
Savanhu fired back at politburo members, Patrick Zhuwao and other Grace supporters, accusing them of causing the problems in Harare.
“Savanhu challenged Zhuwao and his allies to produce a video showing that Mai Mujuru said Mugabe was too old and that she wanted to topple him.”
Jonathan Moyo was also reportedly in the spotlight when Mujuru’s allies complained about being attacked by the state-owned media, the highlight being Mutsvangwa’s recent barrage of assaults on Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
The insiders further said Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo brought heaps of newspapers as evidence the state media was being used to advance factional interests.
The explosive meeting also saw daggers being drawn out between Mnangagwa and Mutasa.
“Mnangagwa accused Mutasa of holding meetings aimed at attacking him and accuse him of being a divisive figure in the party,” an insider said.
In one of his meetings with the youths in June, Mutasa accused Mnangagwa, whom he has attacked repeatedly, of being divisive, calling all party members to eradicate factionalism using the deadly pesticide Gamatox on “weevils” bent on destroying the party from inside.
This was after Mugabe launched an unprecedented attack on Moyo — who ironically is now supporting Grace — calling him a “weevil”.
Mnangagwa’s faction wanted six provincial chairpersons disciplined for interfering with the Youth League elections.
“Mnangagwa and his allies said only Bulawayo and Midlands chairpersons, Callistus Ndlovu and Jason Machaya, respectively, were not involved in the Youth League fiasco,” another politburo member said. “The other six, in fact eight, were involved.”
Officials said events at the politburo further showed Mugabe, despite being calm and measured, as well as benefitting from factional battles, is increasingly being unable to control the party as would be shown by events towards congress despite Wednesday’s no-holds-barred meeting which was meant to be cathartic and to help the party close ranks.