ZANU PF political heavyweight Dumiso Dabengwa, now emerging as the main dissenting voice, on Wednesday confronted President Robert Mugabe at the party’s heated politburo meeting over war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda’s controversial activities.<
The meeting also witnessed an attack by retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru on Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono over his remarks last month that Zanu PF chefs were corrupt.
Gono was also attacked at the Zanu PF Youth League meeting last week, although the league’s leader Absalom Sikhosana assured him of support this week.
There was a wrangle between senior officials Simba Makoni and Elliot Manyika over the party’s election manifesto, sources said.
However, the sources said, it was the Sibanda saga which caused a stir. The issue drew the battle lines between Mugabe and Dabengwa who has of late been defiant against his party leader. Dabengwa was supported by Mugabe’s deputy Joseph Msika, party chair John Nkomo, and other former PF Zapu leaders. Ex-Zapu officials also fought from the same corner on the Sibanda conflict at a politburo meeting on October 24 last year.
Msika and Nkomo last month almost walked out of the Zanu PF congress over the issue, causing chaos at the meeting. Msika had reportedly told Mugabe that the Sibanda issue was his “rubbish”.
Dabengwa has upped the ante in the intensifying Zanu PF power struggle by creating ructions in meetings. This has raised speculation that he wants to challenge Mugabe for the leadership. It was also said Dabengwa was positioning himself to take on Mugabe on a different political platform if his fight from inside fails.
Reliable politburo sources said Dabengewa, jailed by Mugabe’s regime from 1982-87 despite acquittal over unsubstantiated treason charges, frontally tackled his boss over Sibanda’s continued political manoeuvres.
“Dabengwa confronted the president in the meeting by firing a question, saying ‘Mugabe, what’s happening? Jabulani Sibanda is wreaking havoc and is destroying the party,” a source said. “He went on to aggressively deal with the matter in great detail.”
Dabengwa spent the whole of last year challenging Mugabe internally. At a politburo meeting on November 28, ahead of the party’s extraordinary congress last month, Dabengwa questioned the way Mugabe was being endorsed as the party’s presidential candidate. He told the party’s legal affairs secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa that he was acting unconstitutionally in pushing that agenda. But Mnangagwa defended his action, claiming it was lawful.
However, Dabengwa’s complaints triggered protests at the congress that Mugabe was unconstitutionally and unprocedurally endorsed. This view still holds sway in the party.
Inside sources said that Mujuru attacked Gono over his remarks at the Zanu PF congress that party officials were corrupt. Mujuru complained that Gono’s remarks that senior party officials were “thieves” were unacceptable and demanded action should be taken against him, it was said.
Contacted for comment, Gono said reports of an attack on him by Mujuru were unfounded.
“Those are laboratory-type lies that seek to misinform the public and generate unnecessary and non-existent conflicts between the governor and the supreme body of the ruling party,” Gono said.
“I’m tired of these epidemic theories of conspiracies, lies and deceptions.” — Staff Writer.