AS President Robert Mugabe’s succession battle rages on, his spokesman George Charamba has been caught up in the web of political intrigue. He is accused of working with a faction which Mugabe accused of plotting a palace coup against him in 2004.
High-level Zanu PF sources said Charamba was reeling from his headlong plunge into the eye of the Mugabe succession storm through the damaging Tsholotsho episode which has claimed a number of high-profile political casualties.
The Tsholotsho meeting was held on November 18 2004, apparently to block Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s ascendancy to her current position. Mujuru, in the camp led by her husband, retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru, only won after Mugabe’s intervention.
Emmerson Mnangagwa had tried to outmanoeuvre her. Mnangagwa and Mujuru’s camps were locked in a bitter power struggle in the run-up to Zanu PF’s congress in December 2004.
Charamba, sources said, was still floundering in the succession quagmire amid growing suspicion about his role in the incident which has left Zanu PF divided down the middle. His situation was worsened by his clash with ZBC workers and government officials whom he allegedly accused of being responsible for his failure to become information minister.
Sources said Zanu PF propaganda chiefs want Charamba removed from his position for his links to Mnangagwa. This explains the party’s deputy information and publicity secretary Ephraim Masawi’s proposal during Zanu PF’s conference at Esigodini last December to have one spokesperson for the presidency — Mugabe and his two deputies — and another for government in a new information set-up.
Information which filtered through this week showed Charamba was an important actor in the Tsholotsho drama. Sources said Charamba met Mnangagwa, then speaker of parliament whose supporters met at Dinyane High School, Tsholotsho, in mid October 2004, at his offices at Parliament Building for talks about the succession. It is said Charamba organised the meeting with Mnangagwa through the clerk of parliament, Austin Zvoma. That marked the beginning of Charamba’s role as a Mnangagwa advocate until he defected. He hired a plane for the Tsholotsho meeting.
Charamba’s former immediate boss in Mugabe’s office, Jonathan Moyo, who was Information minister, revealed in an article in the Zimbabwe Independent of December 23 2005 that the presidential spokesman was deeply involved in the Mnangagwa faction.
“It is common cause among those who know what happened that Charamba, Mugabe’s press secretary, actually drafted Emmerson Mnangagwa’s speech that was delivered by (Justice minister Patrick) Chinamasa at Dinyane School on November 18, 2004,” Moyo wrote.
“I still have the original copy of Charamba’s draft speech with his handwritten cover note attached!”
Charamba has not denied this although he was not available for comment this week.
The state security agents are said to be concerned about reports which claimed last year Charamba might have been the one who told New African magazine editor, Balfour Ankomah — after his visit to Harare and living with him in his house — that the CIO was the architect of the widely condemned Operation Murambatsvina.