AS factionalism tears Zanu PF apart in the Midlands province which has become an epicentre of the theatrical succession debacle in the race to succeed ageing President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe Independent political reporter Elias Mambo (EM) interviewed the provincial political commissar, Makhosini Hlongwane (MH), who is also Sports and Recreation minister who, together with two other ministers, are in the eye of the storm. Hlongwane and the two ministers, who are also provincial executives, Tapiwa Matangaidze and Annastacia Ndhlovu, wrote a scathing letter to the Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere citing intimidation and harassment in the province. The letter ignited factional fires. Below are excerpts of the interview.
EM: You wrote a letter to the party’s national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere citing intimidation and harassment, why did you not raise the issues with the provincial leadership?
MH: We did not just a write a letter without raising the issues with our provincial leadership. I raised this issue of harassment more than three times in the provincial executive meeting as well as in the management committee because allegations that we are members of G40 (Generation 40) and that our appointments were G40-motivated, caused a lot of ructions with our colleagues. So we raised these issues with the provincial leadership, but it seems there was no appetite to resolve the issue.
I was accused of selling out to other provinces and when I sought clarification on this, we were not given. It was after the secretary for administration, Tapiwa Matangaidze, was hounded out of the provincial conference by Owen Ncube who is the self-proclaimed leader of Al Shabaab group that we decided to write to Kasukuwere. We were deliberate about our choice because Kasukuwere is the right person to resolve political problems since he is the national political commissar.
EM: After you wrote the letter, what was the response from Kasukuwere?
MH: Kasukuwere referred the matter to the disciplinary committee and on the 6th of December, a disciplinary committee was set up and chaired by honourable John Holder. But that committee did not do anything because of the culture of fear of this Al Shabaab terror group. They were given leads to investigate but nothing happened. On January 8, we convened another meeting where another disciplinary committee was again set up. Daniel Mackenzie Ncube presided over the new disciplinary committee as the new vice-chairperson. We were told that we will be invited to come and give evidence. We obliged but before that we raised a red tape over the composition of the disciplinary committee.
EM: What were your objections?
MH: Ncube who presided over this issue is from Kwekwe and is a friend to Owen Ncube, one of the accused as well as July Moyo. They meet everyday in Kwekwe at places we know, and that is why we are saying the whole process is a travesty of justice. Whatever verdict that came out is a charade and they are lying to the nation. The accused are not clean and that is why we are taking this issue forward.
EM: So you were not happy with the way the process was handled?
MH: Ncube told us that the hearing was to be in two parts, that is, investigations and then we come to submit evidence and also our witnesses to come, but to our surprise we were not invited to submit our evidence.
I was shocked that last Saturday a PCC (provincial co-ordinating committee) meeting took place and a verdict was announced without us giving evidence. Our case was rubbished and we are also worried with the manner the hearing was conducted because there are no records of investigations and hearings.
EM: How were you informed of the verdict and what was your reaction?
MH: The Saturday PCC was a theatrical one where intimidation and threats came out. We were told that we are selling out to other provinces, but the question that begs for answers is what agenda do we have that does not agree with other provinces. We only go outside our province to do our ministerial work and not the political errands.
EM: So what will happen from now going forward, now that you are appealing to the national disciplinary committee?
MH: Look, they have declared war and we cannot just sit back and relax. We respond the way they want. They cannot be allowed to lie to the PCC and the nation.
EM: But the provincial disciplinary committee is now accusing you of lying and failing to bring evidence to substantiate your claims.
MH: As I told you, we have evidence and each and every case we raised has witnesses. It is them who are lying. We will respond to them because we know they are wrong. We have evidence on intimidation and we can bring that but they never asked for it. The disciplinary committee leaked the discussion in the media and we cannot be attacked without responding. Ncube has admitted to me and to Kasukuwere that there are problems in Midlands but he is scared to deal with them. This will help him to come out in the open and clear these matters.
EM: What does this say about your relationship with other provincial members?
MH: We have a good working relationship with several members in the province. But the four accused are now hiding behind the province. The culture of fear of Alshabab makes people not to speak out. All that was needed is that we sit down and resolve our problems but they went to the media and complicated matters. The province is clear that we have a problem with the four accused and they are not the province. We are not accusing the whole province but them. They cannot hide behind the province and we will deal with that. The four are just hiding behind a collective energy and we will not accept that.
EM: Then lastly what really happened when you discovered a bullet in your room a few weeks ago?
MH: That was shocking and I can tell you it was my wife who discovered that bullet not the nonsense that was being reported.
EM: Does this mean the bullet was planted by those you are accusing of harassing you?
MH: I cannot say yes or no. Police are dealing with that.