A SENIOR Zanu PF official and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti wept at a heated politburo meeting last Saturday, amid emotional scenes as the two rival factions in the party slugged it out in front of President Robert Mugabe who had to endure aggressive interruptions during his presentation.
Report by Faith Zaba
After addresses to the meeting by Mugabe and Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who frequently interrupted her boss when he spoke, Information minister Jonathan Moyo came in, saying from a media point of view, he was having a torrid time managing the succession issue.
Moyo said he had read numerous stories which quoted senior Zanu PF officials recently giving hostages to fortune by subtly or openly confirming the ongoing provincial elections were intertwined with the succession race when the party had all along been denying it.
Politburo insiders said Moyo indicated that due to party officials appearing all over the media talking about succession, he was having a serious challenge trying to explain that provincial polls had nothing to do with that as they were held only because they were constitutionally due, not to ensure a power transfer.
Moyo presented more than five articles to buttress his point, including one written by the British Independent foreign service correspondent Peta Thornycroft, headlined Mugabe’s deputy aims for top spot.
When asked about her ambition to be president, Mujuru was quoted as saying: “If the chance comes, then no one would refuse.”
Moyo, amid interruption from Mujuru and her supporters, indicated it was such things which made it difficult to manage communication, particularly on provincial polls and the divisive succession issue.
Sources said Moyo noted this was a challenge because in reality there is no succession issue in the party as there was no vacancy in the presidency after Mugabe won a new five-year term in the July 31 general elections with 61% of the vote.
Instead of fighting each other, Moyo urged party members to close ranks to celebrate their election victory at the annual conference in Chinhoyi next month, while rallying the nation behind them to address problems facing the country.
Upon finishing his remarks, insiders said, an emotionally-charged Bhasikiti immediately jumped into the fray and confronted Moyo, making disparaging comments about “professors” in general and him in particular.
A politburo insider said: “After Moyo spoke, Bhasikiti, drenched in overflowing emotions and looking agitated, came in. He claimed that Zanu PF does not need professors because the party’s future and issues were not about intellectuals and academic jargon. He said that is not what people want; what they want was very clear and they will get it.”
Bhasikiti said people like Professor Yusuf Kironde Lule are not wanted in Zimbabwe. Lule was a Ugandan president who served the shortest term — just 68 days. He was the first post-Idi Amin president on April 13 1979.
Another politburo member said: “Bhasikiti insisted people will get what they want and that is what will happen. He said we fought the war and won, no-one will stop this revolution (to put Mujuru in power).”
Speaking seated directly in front of Mugabe after he had to leave his chair to use a microphone, Bhasikiti left no-one in doubt that he was defending his principal, Mujuru, and attacking her rivals in the camp reportedly led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Towards the end of his address, emotions overcame him and tears ran down his cheeks.
“Bhasikiti’s last words were delivered in a pool of tears,” one official said. “By the time he finished speaking, some people were whispering and asking: ‘Saka arikuchemeyi’ (so why is he crying)?”
The official went further: “Bhasikiti got so emotional during his presentation, much to the embarrassment of some members and shock of others. Those from Mujuru’s camp who appreciated his point were rather embarrassed by the weeping, while members from Mnangagwa’s camp were shocked by him as they neither appreciated his point nor his tears.”
As result of that, Bhasikiti — whose weeping demonstrated the intensity and gravity of the succession battle in Zanu PF — has become the butt of every joke told about succession in the party’s circles. At a Zanu PF meeting held on Wednesday to deal with logistical issues for provincial elections, one minister reportedly remarked in jest to Bhasikiti during deliberations: “Please don’t cry today!”
When the Zimbabwe Independent called Bhasikiti yesterday for comment on his emotional breakdown in the politburo, he kept shouting “hello, hello, I can’t hear you” before cutting off the phone. Subsequent numerous attempts to get in touch with him were futile as he did not answer his phone.
Insiders said after Bhasikiti spoke, Mnangagwa told him off, saying he should not pretend to be a war veteran as he was merely a mujibha (war collaborator) during the liberation struggle.
They said Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs minister Cain Mathema also added his voice, reminding Bhasikiti the politburo was a forum for rational and mature debates, not a meeting for ranting and raving as well as emotional outbursts.
Mathema said he was surprised Bhasikiti expected people to endorse issues before thoroughly debating and examining them.
“Mathema said Bhasikiti’s remarks were good for nothing and insulting,” a source said.
Mathema is said to have pointed out Bhasikiti’s claim that Zanu PF did not need professors or intellectuals was false as the party needed them and had in any case had such people in the past who proved useful.
The extraordinary politburo meeting was opened by Mugabe who spoke about the need for unity in the party and that elections should be conducted without allegations of vote-rigging, manipulation and imposition of candidates.
He castigated polls held in the three provinces, saying it was undesirable and unacceptable to engage in disenfranchisement of voters, vote-buying and ballot rigging.
Mugabe expressed anger at what was seen as a plot to hold provincial elections on Saturday last week while he was away on official business in Kuwait, Singapore and Dubai. To pre-empt the move, he called for the extraordinary politburo meeting on the same day.
Mugabe is said to have indicated he had heard there was a certain faction manoeuvring to impose candidates in the remaining provinces.
He gave an example of Harare where he said he was informed there were attempts by a certain faction to impose current chairperson Amos Midzi. He also wondered whether that was happening everywhere, insiders said.
All the while, sources said, as Mugabe spoke, Mujuru kept on interjecting.
It took Transport minister Obert Mpofu, who in the past has referred to himself as Mugabe’s “most obedient son”, to face up to Mujuru, complaining on the president’s behalf she was being disrespectful.
Insiders said in response to Mugabe’s charges, Mujuru at one point used a parable of a cow called Nice, which always chased away other cows to impress the owner of the cattle who always found it alone in the kraal after it had forced out the whole head.
“She said Nice was always the only cow in the kraal, not because it was obedient and loyal, but because it was actually the problem although appearing as nice to the owner.” She meant that those people telling Mugabe stories and appearing to be nice to him, were the real mischief-makers and treacherous members causing problems and divisions in the party.
Others who spoke in Mujuru’s corner were Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Labour minister Nicholas Goche, although they quarrelled with the latter over the Mashonaland Central situation. Mnangagwa spoke very strongly about the need to hold elections in districts that did not vote in the three provinces, while highlighting irregularities. Others who concurred with him included Water minister Saviour Kasukuwere.
Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo were unsuccessful as he was in China.