Constantine Chimakure/ Dumisani Muleya
VICE-PRESIDENT Joseph Msika reportedly remonstrated with President Robert Mugabe at the high table where they were sitting la
st week during the closing session of the Zanu PF congress as tempers flared over militant war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda’s bid to address the gathering against the party’s decision to bar him.
This came as more evidence emerged this week that Mugabe was unprocedurally endorsed as the party’s presidential election candidate next year.
Senior politburo members who were seated close to the scene of the drama in which Msika and Zanu PF chair John Nkomo almost walked out of the congress in protest at Sibanda’s actions said the fiery ruling party deputy leader lashed out at Mugabe in remarks that left him shaken. The public brawling by officials also shook onlookers.
When Sibanda tried to hijack the congress, Msika turned to Mugabe and said: “This is your rubbish, we warned you that this boy is undisciplined and look at what has happened. I can’t take this rubbish, I’m going. John let’s go.”
Those who witnessed the unprecedented incident — which was broadcast live on state television — at close quarters said Msika and Nkomo then hastily left their seats and walked a few steps as they tried to leave the congress. Members of the politburo and other dignitaries who were seated close to Mugabe had stood up as the congress descended into pandemonium.
Sensing danger and furious at the chaos, Mugabe jumped out of his seat and charged towards where Nkomo had been sitting while conducting proceedings. He grabbed the microphone and ordered: “All of you sit down.” Silence quickly descended.
Sources said last week’s extraordinary congress was unconstitutionally convened by the politburo which has no powers under the current Zanu PF constitution to do so.
Zanu PF legal affairs secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa told his party’s politburo on November 28 that last week’s congress was convened by the politburo apparently in May. In terms of the Zanu PF constitution, the politburo has no powers to convene an extraordinary congress.
This was compounded by revelations last week that provisions of the annual Zanu PF conference were deliberately “mixed up” with those of congress through Article 6 (30) (3) of the constitution to secure Mugabe’s confirmation.
It was also said congress had unprocedurally “endorsed” Mugabe through a confirmation process without the usual nomination procedures. This was said to be clearly unprocedural and unconstitutional.
Exhibiting fury and shock after intervening to prevent Msika and Nkomo from walking out, Mugabe then addressed the congress, saying what was going on was unacceptable.
“What a terrible ending to a harmonious, beautiful, absolutely proper, legal congress…What will the media say?” Mugabe said. He said the media would report there was chaos and confusion at the congress. Mugabe also said the party would not tolerate indiscipline and narrated developments around the Sibanda saga.
However, he was also at pains to avoid an outright attack on Sibanda, prompting senior party officials to claim that there was a plot — after Zanu PF officials had agreed the war veterans leader would not speak — to allow him to make an address through the back door.
It is understood Zanu PF leaders, including politburo members such as Emmerson Mnangagwa and Didymus Mutasa, wanted Sibanda to address the congress despite the party’s decision to block him. Sources said Mugabe by an act of commission or omission was also responsible.
Mugabe and Mnangagwa had of late been defending Sibanda who organised the “million man” march to secure the president’s endorsement as candidate in next year’s elections. Msika and Nkomo, among other top party officials, have been attacking Sibanda. They even boycotted his march.
The sources said Nkomo and Msika were further irked by Sibanda and the women’s league’s attempts to have them and other politburo members censured by Mugabe for failing to turn up for the march.
War veterans and the women’s league reportedly convened a meeting at the Zanu PF headquarters on December 5 to review the million man march and agreed that the ex-PF Zapu leaders were against the endorsement of Mugabe.
“The meeting took close to two hours and it was agreed between the war veterans and the women’s league that the failure by Msika and Nkomo to turn up for the march reflected that there were divisions in the presidium on Mugabe’s candidature,” one of the sources said. “Sibanda made it clear that Msika and Nkomo were against the president and as such should be disciplined for being disrespectful to Mugabe, the politburo and the central committee.”
The sources said a series of meetings were held last weekend to pacify Sibanda and the disgruntled war veterans.
At one of the meetings in Harare on Friday night, the sources said, Mnangagwa reportedly assured Sibanda of Mugabe’s backing and told war veterans to continue campaigning for the re-election of the octogenarian leader.
“Mnangagwa made it abundantly clear that Mugabe was happy with the work of the war veterans,” one of the sources said. “The war veterans were told not to make public announcements denouncing Nkomo and Msika and to remain loyal to Mugabe.
Mnangagwa roped in Sibanda and the war veterans in September to spearhead Mugabe’s campaign to win the party’s endorsement.
This week, Sibanda placed an advertisement in The Herald pledging the war veterans’ loyalty to Mugabe and congratulating him for his endorsement.
“This endorsement comes on the heels of the million men/women march which visibly and successfully showed that President Mugabe enjoys the total support of the people of Zimbabwe,” read the advertisement. “We affirm our support for your candidacy and pledge total mobilisation of the people to turn out in their numbers in the March 2008 elections to ensure your and Zanu PF’s resounding victory.”
Zanu PF divisions over Sibanda were clearly manifested in the party’s politburo meeting on October 24 when the issue was discussed at length.
The Zimbabwe Independent — which was discussed at the politburo meeting on September 5 because of exclusive stories it is getting from Zanu PF meetings — at the time reported on politburo clashes over Sibanda.
More evidence on this was provided to the paper this week showing the divisions were more serious than initially thought. At the October 24 politburo meeting, Mutasa introduced the Sibanda issue, saying there were questions regarding campaigns and “procedural correctness” of the war veterans.
Mugabe quickly came in and said Sibanda was leading the war veterans across the country to demonstrate their solidarity with him. He said he had addressed one of their gatherings. Mugabe said Sibanda was however linked to various party activities in Bulawayo, but he was not sure about the status of his case as the war veterans leader claimed to have appealed against the recommendation to expel him from the party.
Msika told the same politburo meeting that the Sibanda issue was “very delicate and disturbing”. He said he preferred it should not be discussed. Msika also said he was not aware of Sibanda’s appeal against expulsion and as a result he stood expelled. He said Sibanda was “causing a lot of confusion” in Bulawayo and splashing money like confetti. Politburo member Solomon Mujuru said Sibanda was being funded by government to wreak political havoc.
Dabengwa, Mujuru, Thenjiwe Lesabe, Angeline Masuku and Sikhanyiso Ndlovu also condemned Sibanda’s activities, while Vitalis Zvinavashe and Naison Ndlovu supported him.