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Mawere rejects Zanu PF’s poisoned chalice

Itai Dzamara

IN what is seen as a blow to Zanu PF’s efforts at self-renewal, business mogul Mutumwa Mawere this week refused to be co-opted into the ruling party on the grounds that his current responsibilit

es rule out a political role. “Successful businessmen do notalways become successful politicians,” he told the Zimbabwe Independent.

Mawere was last week elected in absentia as Zanu PF secretary for economic affairs for the volatile Masvingo Province alongside TeleAccess boss Daniel Shumba who was chosen as chairman. On Monday Mawere turned down the position.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mawere said he wasn’t a Zanu PF politician and wanted to remain a businessman.

“No, I am not a member of Zanu PF or any other party. I have never been in politics. I am only a businessman,” said Mawere.

“I am convinced that my contribution to national development is enough through my business interests. I have chosen business as one of the nation-building planks that will further the gains of political freedom,” he said while paying tribute to “those who struggled to make me relevant as a black man”.

Ruling-party sources say efforts to revive the party include the co-option of business people and academics.

Mawere said he understood that Zanu PF members had hoped to include him in their attempts to buttress the party, but he wasn’t able to take up the offer.

“They were looking for people who can help them solve their problems and had hoped that I could contribute. There is nothing wrong in people electing you to a political position. However, I have advised them to look for someone else because I can’t take on the responsibility,” he said

Mawere is said to have been approached last month by Zanu PF leaders with an invitation to join its structures and he requested time to look into the issue. However, elections were held last week when he was in India. He returned on Monday this week only to be informed he had been elected as the party’s provincial secretary for economic affairs.

Zanu PF holds its annual conference in Masvingo next month at which the contentious issue of choosing a successor to President Robert Mugabe could feature prominently.

Sources said Zanu PF secretary for administration, Emmerson Mnangagwa, considered Mugabe’s heir apparent, was behind the election of both Mawere and Shumba who are seen as his protegés in the province.

Mnangagwa can solve the Masvingo challenge by dealing a blow to Samuel Mumbengegwi’s faction that would deny him key votes in the succession battle.

Mawere denied allegations that Zanu PF’s patronage system had helped him grow his business empire.

“Do my services or products produced by my businesses appeal to customers because of a Zanu PF identity?” he asked. “The people who work in the companies where I have shares are defined as Zimbabweans, not Zanu PF. How does one justify the claim that I benefited from Zanu PF patronage?”

Despite his denial of links with the ruling party in the past, Mawere raised eyebrows when he formed the National Development Assembly to counter the Lovemore Madhuku-led National Constitutional Assembly, a civic rights organisation.

Mawere, owner of Africa Resources Ltd, has under his wings Shabanie Mashaba Mines, a major producer of asbestos.

Meanwhile, Mawere has confirmed that his business entities have a major shareholding in Media Africa Group (MAG), publishers of the Business Tribune and the Weekend Tribune.

“It is not true to say Mawere owns MAG. I don’t have a personal interest in the group. My interest is a corporate one. My companies have major shareholdings in the group,” he said.

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