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Mujuru camp cornered

Constantine Chimakure

THE arrest of Attorney-General Sobusa Gula-Ndebele this week is part of President Robert Mugabe’s succession battle and signals the beginning

of an onslaught on the faction that was backing Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s presidential aspirations.

Impeccable sources said the crackdown on the camp led by retired army general Solomon Mujuru was timed to take place before Zanu PF’s five-day special congress starting on December 11 to coerce the camp’s members to rally behind Mugabe.

Gula-Ndebele became the first casualty as Vice-President Mujuru made a dramatic announcement that she had never harboured presidential ambitions.

The sources said Mujuru was compelled to make the announcement after it became clear that members of her camp were under sustained attack from the pro-Mugabe faction.

Inside sources said yesterday that Mugabe and his backers in the ruling party were turning up the heat on the Mujuru faction to demolish it before the congress in December where it initially planned to challenge Mugabe to prevent him from standing as the party’s candidate in next year’s elections.

Despite Joice Mujuru’s latest denial, her group has since February been working behind the scenes in a bid to force Mugabe out. Numerous strategic meetings were held at various places and plans of action were devised to seize the leadership of the party, the sources said.

The sources said before last month’s politburo and central committee meetings, members of the Mujuru camp were reportedly told that if they continued to press for Mugabe’s retirement they would lose their individual businesses and farms.

Addressing Mashonaland Central provincial leaders on Wednesday in Bindura, Mujuru reportedly said: “If there is a person who wants to succeed President Mugabe, it’s not me. A-a, aya mashura andirikutonzwa muno (These are ill-omens I am hearing here).

“The presidium is made up of four people and I am already in the presidium. I am not going anywhere.”

She reportedly backed Mugabe saying reports that she intended to oust him were lies meant to tarnish her image.

Before the politburo and central committee meetings Mujuru was reportedly eyeing Mugabe’s post and was being challenged for it by Rural Housing and Social Amenities minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The sources said Gula-Ndebele had become the latest casualty of Zanu PF’s succession politics because he is reported to belong to the Mujuru faction.

The arrest of Gula-Ndebele and top NMBZ banker James Mushore, also linked to the Mujuru faction, is said to be part of a campaign to destroy the group.

“We are under siege at the moment,” a senior official in the Mujuru camp said. “The arrest of Gula-Ndebele and Mushore is part of a campaign to destroy us. Last week they harassed some of our guys at the airport and it seems the crackdown is systematic. The moment you try to challenge Mugabe for power all hell breaks loose. Mnangagwa’s faction learnt it the hard way, now it’s us (the Mujuru camp) on the receiving end.”

The camp, the sources said, was suspected of trying to forge an alliance with the MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai. There have been reports that the Mujuru camp had struck a deal with the Tsvangirai faction on a power-sharing arrangement in the post-Mugabe era. Gula-Ndebele is believed to be linked to Mujuru because of their shared military background.

The Mujuru camp, riding on the crest of a wave of success against Mugabe at the party’s Goromonzi conference in December last year where it blocked his 2010 plan, thwarted Mugabe’s bid for endorsement, forcing party spokesmen to cover up the embarrassing failure. Mugabe was not endorsed to be the Zanu PF candidate at the meeting. He was only endorsed last month.

However, the Mujuru faction was defeated during the politburo and central committee meetings last month.

Mnangagwa was the first to back Mugabe and allegedly roped in war veterans to rally support for the veteran leader through solidarity marches throughout the country.

Gula-Ndebele was arrested on Tue day on allegations of conduct contrary or inconsistent with duties of a public officer after he reportedly met former NMBZ deputy managing director James Mushore while he was on the police wanted list.

The AG was charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for the meeting he held with Mushore when he visited Zimbabwe in September.

The president was also reportedly angered by the failure by the AG’s office to successfully prosecute 35 MDC activists who were arrested in March on allegations of terrorism.

The case against the opposition activists has collapsed after the state indicated that there was no evidence to successfully prosecute the alleged petrol bombers.

Gula-Ndebele, the sources added, was also at loggerheads with National Security minister Didymus Mutasa whom the AG’s office wanted prosecuted on charges of political violence.

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