ZANU PF factions are sucked in a race to capitalise on the swelling popularity of Mines minister Obert Mpofu in Matabeleland following the Umguza legislator’s attraction of a huge crowd at his weekend birthday and graduation party in Nyamandlovu last Saturday.
Over 10 000 people attended Mpofu’s party, indicating that he could inherit the popularity of the late nationalist Joshua Nkomo in the region. Mpofu’s influence has been dramatically increasing since he splashed donations to his political party, musicians and the region’s soccer giants Highlanders Football Club.
However, the presence of Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is believed to be leading a faction to succeed President Robert Mugabe, raised speculation that the two were forming a formidable alliance. Mnangagwa rarely visits Matabeleland.
In 2009 Mpofu displayed his ambitions when he challenged Vice-President John Nkomo in the race to succeed the late Joseph Msika.
The Nyamandlovu party, where Mpofu reportedly spent several thousands of dollars, also attracted Zanu PF bigwigs Nkomo, Youth and Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere, deputy secretary in the office of the President and Cabinet, and Retired Colonel Christian Katsande, among top business people and service chiefs.
Mpofu had all along been linked to Mnangagwa’s rival faction led by the late General Solomon Mujuru until recent revelations that the Umguza MP was not happy with the treatment he received after the Tsholotsho debacle of 2004. The Tsholotsho meeting was described as a coup gathering to change the Zanu PF leadership.
Mpofu reportedly played a central role in busting the Tsholotsho declaration that saw the then Information minister Jonathan Moyo and several top officials being suspended.
The declaration was against the ascendancy of Mujuru to the post of vice- president.
“After the Dinyane issue was scuttled, Mpofu and the Mujuru faction’s relationship soured as Mujuru discarded Mpofu after all his hard work. Despite being linked to the Mujuru faction, Mpofu has been in the middle,” said a senior Zanu PF official.
“The past experience with the Mujuru faction could give Mnangagwa an upper hand though selling him might prove a bit difficult because of his denialist stance on the Gukurahundi issue.’’
There have been reports that Mpofu and Moyo, linked to the Mnangagwa-led faction, were working together to become the legitimate voices of Matabeleland.
The first signs that the two were working together was when Moyo made a surprise appearance in 2009 at a party to celebrate Mpofu’s appointment as Mines minister in Nyamandlovu.
While introducing Moyo, Mpofu was full of praise for the former university professor — a move that shocked many people.
In November 2010 when Zanu PF Matabeleland North passed a vote of no confidence in provincial party chairman Zenzo Ncube, the sacked party boss accused Moyo, Mpofu, Zanu PF politburo member Jacob Mudenda and central committee member Fati Mpofu of being behind the move because “he was poor”.