EVENTS dramatically unfolding within Zanu PF indicate serious panicking in President Robert Mugabe’s family, particularly his wife Grace, and bigwigs of the party amid disclosures that the First lady and heavyweights fear that the veteran politician is now at the end of his tether.
Owen Gagare/Elias Mambo
This came as Zanu PF’s warring factions, engaged in a fierce battle of position and manoeuvre, yesterday came face to face in a crunch politburo meeting at the party’s headquarters in Harare and sprang at each other’s throats. The meeting, however, practically ended in a deadlock as no faction turned the tide decisively.
Zanu PF insiders and those close to Mugabe’s family say events in the party, including Grace’s dramatic burst onto the scene, are a sign that her husband is now at the end of his rope — so tired, worried
and paranoid over the succession conundrum that he now feels unable to orderly deal with it any more, hence a plot for a smash-and-grab raid on the Mujuru camp by Grace backed by the Mnangagwa faction.
Mugabe has virtually endorsed the machination whose trump card is eventually manipulating the constitution to get rid of Mujuru at congress from December 2-7.
“We are witnessing Mugabe’s political endgame. This will be his last scheduled congress. Unless there is an extraordinary one after this, it would be a miracle for him to attend the scheduled 2019 congress as party leader and president,” a senior Zanu PF official said this week. “In chess it’s a stage when there are few pieces left on the board.”
After at least nine hours of debate in the politburo yesterday — Mugabe went out for a while to address and disperse a rented anti-Mujuru crowd of protestors camped at the party’s headquarters — the main resolution was that a commission of inquiry should be formed to investigate rampant factionalism and infighting.
The politburo also resolved Grace’s sensational “Pasinegamatox” slogan should be banned, while it upheld a vote of no confidence against Mashonaland West chairman Temba Mlisa, a Mujuru ally, after an endorsement of the decision by the party’s disciplinary committee.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said in an interview the party resolved to form a commission of inquiry to probe factionalism. “We discussed the report presented by the secretary for the Women’s League which detailed the extent of factionalism in the party,” Gumbo said. “The president said he has been informed that there are two factions in the party, one led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and another one by Mujuru.”
Gumbo said Mliswa’s removal as provincial chairman was finally upheld by the politburo after an endorsement by the disciplinary committee.
“We spent a lot of time discussing problems facing the party before congress and we came up with resolutions and the way forward,” he said. “The resolutions are to set a commission of inquiry to investigate factionalism, upholding of the vote of no confidence in Mliswa and stepping up of preparations for congress.
Mujuru will today be guest of honour at a fundraising dinner at Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare where the admission fee is US$300 per person and tables range between US$3 000 and US$100 000 as the party seeks to raise US$8 million for congress.
Officials also said the “Pasinegamatox” slogan was banned.
“Mugabe was forced to see reality and not just pander to Grace and her Mnangagwa faction backers’ plots,” one senior politburo member said. “There is a lot of misinformation, propaganda and conspiracy theories floating around.”
The politburo had been convened to discuss a report on the Women’s League activities compiled by its outgoing chairperson Oppah Muchinguri amid expectations Mujuru would be grilled and her fate sealed as a result of Grace’s allegations of abuse of office, subversion, extortion, underworld diamond dealings, coercing corporates to cede 10% equities, corruption and a plot to topple Mugabe.
Grace, who has hysterically demanded Mujuru must resign, has openly said “this woman” is a “liar”, “corrupt” and “incompetent” as she sought to stampede her out of office. Mujuru’s allies have, however, resisted, saying Grace is not a party official, and has no constitutional and legal basis to push for her ouster.
Senior party officials said members aligned to both Mujuru and Mnangagwa’s factions held forth accusing one another of fanning the flames of factionalism ravaging the party.
This came after Muchinguri tabled her report as requested by the politburo last week on Women’s League activities, particularly Grace’s rallies and meetings that have left the party in shreds.
Politburo sources said Muchinguri’s report exposed how deep-rooted factionalism is in the provinces. “Muchinguri related how the First Lady came face to face with factionalism in Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Manicaland and Masvingo,” a senior politburo member said.
However, members sympathetic to the Mujuru faction hit back, saying if there is a faction belonging to them, it means there is also another one. Mugabe later referred to the Mujuru and Mnangagwa factions, indicating a different picture from what Grace painted.
Grace left a trail of destruction in her wake after her rallies because of her reckless attacks on Mujuru which fuelled conflict.
Although the Mnangagwa faction appears to be on the ascendancy due to the tacit support from Mugabe, the Mujuru camp was not intimidated yesterday and spoke strongly and candidly against Grace and factionalism, another official said. “Provincial leaders, including Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire (Masvingo) and Angeline Masuku (Bulawayo) suggested Grace’s rallies had created serious problems because now people are more divided than before,” the official said.
Virtually all prominent leaders and usually quiet ones like Masuku, Cephas Msipa and Herbert Murerwa spoke in a meeting full of emotional intensity.
“Members of both factions pointed fingers at each other in Mugabe’s face. Those aligned to the Mnangagwa camp accused the Mujuru faction of trying to topple Mugabe, while the Mujuru camp responded by accusing them of fuelling factionalism through divisive rallies they held with Grace,” the official said.
Politburo members said while Mugabe was earlier on full of bluster and bravado when addressing the protesters where he suggested Mujuru is being given time to pack her bags and go at congress, and blasted war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda and Mashonaland East provincial chairman Ray Kaukonde, he was restrained at the politburo.
At a parliamentary luncheon on Tuesday Mugabe appeared to be against Mujuru, a positioned he reinforced while addressing hired demonstrators yesterday.
Grace appears to have moved in to take charge of the Zanu PF succession battle and insiders say her action is an indication that her influence has been steadily growing over the years, as Mugabe’s ability to run the affairs of both the country and party diminishes.
Over the years senior Zanu PF officials eyeing cabinet positions have been going overboard to curry favour with Grace. In 2009, for example, during the swearing-in ceremony of inclusive government cabinet ministers at State House Webster Shamu — who was appointed Information minister — knelt before Grace in full view of hordes of journalists and cameras to thank her for his appointment.
Shamu’s kowtowing indicated Grace has huge influence, although officials say with each passing year her sway has grown as Mugabe’s power waned.
She has joined forces with the Mnangagwa faction which for years has been in a tussle with the Mujuru camp for control of party structures, with the aim of seizing strategic ground to ensure when Mugabe goes they take charge.