PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Wednesday attempted a balancing act to pacify feuding factions in Zanu PF who are locked in a cut-throat succession battle after he skirted around the contentious issue of factionalism despite berating bigwigs for igniting an unprecedented fight in the party, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Politburo sources said the 10-hour long meeting saw sparks flying from warring members as Zanu PF tried to resolve widening fissures that have seen Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, presidential spokesperson George Charamba and War Veterans minister Chris Mutsvangwa hurling invectives at each other in public.
Sources said Moyo spent close to two hours presenting his defence after Mugabe asked him directly to respond to allegations of attacking other party officials using social media and the private press.
“When the meeting started discussing issues to do with abuse of the media, the President said to Professor (Moyo) ndimi munenyaya yese taurai tinzwe (please give us your side of the story on the allegations being raised)?” said one politburo member.
The war of attrition escalated after Charamba granted a radio interview to ZiFM Stereo where he issued a stern warning to those fighting Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and abusing the First Family’s name. Charamba warned that those fighting the leadership appointed by Mugabe would soon fall by the wayside.
Moyo then took to Twitter to attack Charamba and those aligned to Mnangagwa, calling them successionists.
Zanu PF is divided along two major rival factions, one led by Mnangagwa and the other known as Generation 40 (G40), which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe. Moyo is a key member of G40 together with Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
“Moyo, who had a big file which contained print outs and other newspaper cuttings, said he had taken to social media because he was not being given the opportunity to air his views in the state media,” another politburo member said.
“Moyo also accused some officials aligned to Mnangagwa of launching a systematic attack on him hence his response on Twitter.”
Moyo maintained that Mnangagwa was working to succeed Mugabe and singled out top party officials such as July Moyo, Patrick Chinamasa, Josiah Hungwe, Joram Gumbo and some top military officials for backing his bid.
Mnangagwa’s “machinations”, Moyo said, were continuing despite the fact that Mugabe had been endorsed as the party’s 2018 presidential candidate.
“Moyo said Mnangagwa is still harbouring ambitions which date back to 2004 when many chairpersons were suspended after being involved in what became to be known as the Tsholotsho Declaration,” the source said.
Ironically, Moyo who was a key Mnangagwa ally then, was dismissed from the party and government after the Tsholotsho Declaration.
Another politburo member said: “He also accused Charamba of dragging the military into the succession debacle when he said the information permanent secretary claimed he was sent by the service chiefs to tell Moyo to back Mnangagwa.”
As the tensions heightened after Moyo’s presentation, Zanu PF secretary for security Kembo Mohadi, who is in Mnangagwa’s camp, chipped in saying people accusing Mnangagwa of being a successionist, had no hard evidence.
Mugabe also asked Mutsvangwa to explain his position following his spirited attack on Moyo and other G40 members in the state media. Mutsvangwa, according to sources, said he “was just responding to attacks against him and the war veterans”.
“After being asked why the attacks degenerated into personal attacks, Mutsvangwa said he was pushed to that stage by the persistent attacks on him by the G40 proponents,” the politburo source said.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi joined in the discussion, fighting in the war veterans’ corner and accused G40 of trying to purge liberation war fighters. Mugabe, it emerged, also gave Kasukuwere a chance to explain events around Wednesday’s gathering, which many felt was organised outside the party’s normal structures.
Zanu PF supporters, mainly from the Women’s League, gathered at the party headquarters in what was dubbed a “thank you rally” to Mugabe for advancing the women’s issues during his tenure as the African Union chairperson.
However, the rally degenerated into a factional fight which saw members of the Women’s League aligned to G40 taking a swipe at Mnangagwa and Charamba.
The Mnangagwa faction felt the rally was in fact meant to advance the G40 cause by among other things demonstrating against Mnangagwa, hence some youths stopped some buses from attending. Kasukuwere distanced himself from the demonstrations and said the rally was organised by the Women’s League, at short notice, to thank Mugabe for the work he had done.
“Kasukuwere also said the commissariat chipped in with financial support since the Women’s League had no money to hire buses,” said a party insider.
Sources, however, said G40 organised the rally to counter a plan by war veterans, loyal to Mnangagwa, who wanted to bar Moyo and Kasukuwere from attending the politburo meeting.
During his address to thousands of the party supporters, Mugabe expressed concern over the discord in arranging the rally stating that “I was only told three days ago”.
In the politburo meeting, sources said, Mugabe said such an event needed to be organised through the right party channels. He said the secretary for administration should have been informed while the secretary for information would have been the one to make an announcement to avoid discord and suspicion.
In interviews with the Independent on Wednesday some party members who were part of the crowd at the party headquarters said they were not sure of the reasons why they were there.
“We were only told that First Lady Grace Mugabe had said all women should come and has dispatched buses to each and every province,” said a woman from Bulawayo.
Despite discussing the on-going succession fights, the politburo also deliberated on the outstanding disciplinary cases and appeals.
“Mugabe urged the members of the disciplinary committee to call upon members who had appealed their cases to bring evidence and be given a chance to be heard,” a senior party official said.
Several party members were either suspended or expelled without being given a chance to argue their case.
“Examples include the case of Women’s League secretary for administration Esphenah Nhari who was booted out for saying ‘down with G40’ at Grace Mugabe rally in Masvingo,” said a senior politburo member. “The Manicaland Women’s League provincial executive also passed a vote-of no-confidence on provincial chairlady Happiness Nyakuedzwa accusing her of fanning factionalism and disrespecting the First Lady Grace Mugabe.”
The source also said in Mashonaland Central the Youth League boss Godfrey Tsenengamu was also suspended for five years without being given a chance to be heard. At the end of the meeting, Mugabe implored officials to be united and avoid publicly attacking each other whether on conventional media or through social media. He also said officials should develop “shock absorbers” and be able to withstand criticism without rushing to the media.
He emphasised the need to follow proper procedures when aggrieved.