This comes after Mnangagwa recently told the Zimbabwe Independent he was now “ready to rule”, although the minister is now backtracking.
During a tense extraordinary politburo meeting chaired by President Robert Mugabe at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare on Wednesday, insiders say Mujuru warned that the party should not tolerate people who undermine senior leaders and destabilise structures through ambitious agendas.
The politburo meeting, as first reported in the Independent recently, was called by Mugabe to tackle growing factionalism and infighting in the party triggered by hotly-contested District Coordinating Committee (DCC) elections. The polls have left a trail of divisions, wrangling and bitterness.
Politburo sources told the Independent yesterday Mujuru fought “like a tiger” in defence of her political territory and fiercely attacked senior officials in her camp, mainly Nicholas Goche, Saviour Kasukuwere and Zanu PF Mashonaland Central chairperson, Dickson Mafios, for working against her during DCC polls. Goche and Kasukuwere viciously hit back.
Mujuru later turned her wrath to the Mnangagwa faction, which she tongue lashed in a fit of rage, warning she would descend on them if they continued undermining her. She also attacked mafikizolos (newcomers) and “sell-outs” who collaborated with Ian Smith while others were fighting his regime. Senior politburo members said while she read the riot act, not all her remarks helped her to re-assert authority.
“Mai Mujuru spoke very strongly against what is happening,” a senior politburo official said. “She was like a tiger. She spoke about the need to follow the party structures and to respect and recognise the leadership and party hierarchy.”
Sources said after Zanu PF commissar Webster Shamu had presented his report on the DCC elections process and attendant problems, Mujuru took over the show and started by slamming Goche, Kasukuwere and Mafios as well as other party officials in her province who did not support her candidates during the recent district polls.
This provoked a backlash, especially from Kasukuwere whose reaction was said to be have been firm and stinging. Mujuru was in the process accused of vote-buying and other irregularities.
The situation deteriorated in chaotic scenes when Mujuru’s alliesstarted lambasting the Mnangagwa faction. Mujuru herself blasted the Mnangagwa camp and warned as deputy president she would not tolerate their machinations anyone. She said she has never campaigned for positions but got them and would exercise her authority firmly.
In the end, Mujuru’s remarks left the politburo divided, with some saying she had reasserted her authority, while others said her lack of restraint and brawling with juniors undermined her claim to seniority and standing as potential successor to Mugabe.
However, Mujuru made the remarks while Mnangagwa had already left the meeting for Mozambique with State Security minister Sekeramayi and co-Home Affairs minister KemboMohadi. The three are attending the sixth Zimbabwe-Mozambique Defence and Security Permanent Joint Commissionmeeting with their Mozambican counterparts in Maputo.
Mnangagwa’s absence during Mujuru’s remarks prevented a potentially explosive meeting. Sources said even though Mnangagwa was no longer there, Mujuru and her allies were still aggressive in their contributions.
In terms of the pecking order, Mujuru is far higher ranked than Mnangagwa who is number 12 in the politburo order of precedence. Insiders say Mujuru’s position would give her a head start in the race to succeed Mugabe if the veteran leader quits or dies.
“The hierarchy is only an order of precedence, important in stating who will act in what position if seniors are not there. Remember politburo positions are appointed and not elected, so the mandate of officials in those posts, except the presidium, is not derived from the electorate but from the president. So while hierarchy is important, it does not make it automatic when it comes to succession in terms of who will take over from the president,” the senior politburo member said.
“Every party member, regardless of position, has a right in terms of Article 3, section 17, sub-section (2) of the constitution to be elected to any office in the party, subject to such rules and regulations as determined by the Central Committee. What this means is that hierarchy and precedence don’t always matter. In fact, that’s why vice-president Mujuru skipped the pecking order when she assumed her current position after a constitutional amendment, saying one of the party’s second secretaries shall be a woman. Mnangagwa is senior and can easily ascend to the top depending on the circumstances and the support he commands.”
However, Mujuru’s allies insist her position makes her the frontrunner to succeed Mugabe.
The party insiders said most politburo members who spoke at Wednesday’s meetingcriticised the divisions along factional lines, which they said threatened to tear the party apart ahead of the elections.
The criticism, said the sources, was directed mainly atMnangagwa, widely seen as leading the dominant faction in Zanu PF at the moment against Mujuru’s camp.
Sources said when the debate started on Wednesday, politburo members spoke generally about imposition of candidates and factionalism. They only opened up when Mugabe told them to be specific and frank and to name people involved.
“President Mugabe was open and vivacious,” said another party official.“He encouraged people to be more specific and to talk about their own challenges. He told people to cough up their grievances.”
Another official said: “After that everyone was free to talk about the challenges they were facing. Most people spoke about the anti-party line that is being pursued by some ambitious people and felt that this should come to an end and we should organise the party and work as a team ahead of elections.
“People were talking about people who want the presidency. They said these people are organisingsupporters on factional lines and werea destabilising force.”
Some of the politburo members who spoke strongly against factionalism and imposition of candidates werespokesman Rugare Gumbo, DzikamaiMavhaire, KudakwasheBhasikiti, Francis Nhema, Flora Bhuka and TsitsiMuzenda.
Another politburo member said: “There is a party hierarchy – the presidency with the president and his two deputies, and the presidium that includes the chairman and secretary for administration. That is the way things stand and you can’t talk about factions as things stand.
“But there are other forces at the bottom; here I am talking about people like Mnangagwa who want to get to the top. We are not saying that people should not aspire to get to the top but they must recognise the structures of the party and these people should not denounce Mai Mujuru because doing so goes against the party and the president. It destroys the party.”
Contacted for comment, Gumbo, the Zanu PF spokesperson, said the discussions were frank and open.“People were looking at principles and issues that have been violated and how people were campaigning for power and looking at whether there is excessive use of money – like people buying supporters vehicles,” he said.
“This is the kind of thing that the president took exception to and encouraged people to be focused and understand why they are where they are and the challenges we face here and internationally.”
Describing the mood in the meeting, Gumbofurther said: “People were anxious to get answers. Discussions were lively and people were really honest and were able to air their views freely. We agreed that divisions are a threat to the party and these must end and people should close ranks. People who are fanning divisions were told to stop forthwith. We spoke about the need to strengthen the party ahead of elections”.