POLICE have put on hold an investigation into the discovery of a bullet found in Sport and Recreation minister Makhosini Hlongwane’s hotel room a fortnight ago after fresh evidence ruled out the possibility of intrusion in his room, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Police sources said the closed-circuit television (CCTV), also known as video surveillance, showed that no other person except a hotel cleaner had entered the minister’s room. This dismisses widely reported rumours that the incident was linked to the internecine succession fights that have rocked Zanu PF since the December annual conference.
The discovery of the bullet came as divisions in Midlands province were escalating with Hlongwane, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister Tapiwa Matangaidze and Tourism deputy minister Anastancia Ndhlovu allegedly being intimidated and harassed by a clique allegedly backing Vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rise to the presidency.
Sources at the hotel said the cleaner who was on duty on the day was picked up by police for questioning and the case was later dropped.
“She had cleaned the room and in the process found the bullet on the floor. She placed it on the table so that the occupant of the room could easily see it,” the source said.
“During investigations, police requested for the CCTV playback which showed no one (intruder) entering the room.”
Police spokesperson Charity Charamba could not be reached for a comment as she was said to be in a series of meetings.
The incident has, however, further strained Hlongwane’s relationship with Mnangagwa’s allies who accuse the Sports minister of betraying the same person who pushed for his ascendancy.
“Mnangagwa has played a crucial role in making sure Hlongwane gets to where he is politically. He even helped him start his small business in Bulawayo and this is the way to say thank you,” said a close Mnangagwa ally.
“Hlongwane wrote a letter to the national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and the Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko accusing Zanu PF officials from the Midlands province of forcing him to support Mnangagwa.
“This is strange and unacceptable because he (Hlongwane) wants to strain President Robert Mugabe and Mnangagwa’s more than 50 year old relationship,” said the source.
Reports of the bullet escalated fears of succession war spreading to other provinces as Zanu PF officials positioning themselves to succeed Mugabe are reportedly at each other’s throats.
Zanu PF faction known as Generation 40 (G40), which is reportedly close to First Lady Grace Mugabe, is keen to derail Mnangagwa from succeeding Mugabe. Hlongwane is understood to have switched allegiance last year from Mnangagwa to G40.
Zanu PF insiders said the matter had ignited renewed fear in the party. In December 2014, Mnangagwa’s office was laced with suspected cyanide which caused the hospitalisation of his secretary for months, and again no arrests were made, a development that has raised anxiety within the ruling party.