THE plot within Zanu PF to oust Vice-President Joice Mujuru from her position and change the dynamics of President Robert Mugabe’s fierce succession battle ahead of the party’s elective congress in December is thickening amid indications she is slowly losing ground in critical structures, including the decision-making politburo.
Elias Mambo/Owen Gagare
There are also growing indications the faction led by her long-time bitter rival, Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa will field a candidate to challenge Mujuru in December where all positions in the presidium — those of the president, the two deputies and chairperson — are up for grabs.
This comes at a time when everything within government and party seems to be interpreted to have a factional dimension.
This week Mujuru found herself in hot soup over allegations which would have ordinarily been ignored outside the succession race.
Official sources say a clique in Zanu PF and the Office of the President and Cabinet has accused Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri of openly backing Mujuru and giving her “presidential treatment” as reflected by an invitation she received to attend a pass-out parade at the Morris Depot Green Square last week.
Whereas there is nothing wrong with Mujuru, cabinet ministers or senior government officials presiding over police graduation parades, officials say the invitation card sent out to
graduation parades, officials say the invitation card sent out to Mujuru for the occasion was designed for the head of state.
The invitation card, dated September 25, was colourful and reflected the gold and blue police colours. It had Mujuru’s picture, the Zimbabwean flag, the Zimbabwe Republic Police flag and police emblem, although other officials normally receive ordinary blue cards with no pictures and emblems on them.
The officials said in the past such invitations were reserved only for the president.
“Mujuru was elevated and given the same status as the president, which is a very big statement from the police,” said one government official.
However, the police denied Chihuri or anybody in their senior ranks was linked to the Mujuru faction. The incident showed how Mujuru is now being pressured at every turn ahead of congress in December.
Ever since First Lady Grace Mugabe entered the Zanu PF political fray, after she was nominated by the Women’s League to be their boss, Mujuru has been on the back foot with Mugabe increasingly siding with Mnangagwa.
Sources said even in the politburo on Wednesday, Mugabe showed willingness to agree with the Mnangagwa faction on the former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono issue even if the ex-central bank boss is thought to be his banker, family friend and close advisor.
Zanu PF insiders say the Mnangagwa group is currently discussing who to field to run against Mujuru at the congress. Three candidates being proposed include Mnangagwa, former Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri and, remotely, Grace Mugabe herself.
The party insiders say Mnangagwa will only challenge Mujuru if he sees greater prospects of winning. This, they say, can be achieved if Zanu PF agrees to a secret ballot system which Mnangagwa himself is personally demanding.
“Mnangagwa will only enter the race if he sees that there are greater prospects of clinching that post; only if he is sure and if they agree to use the secret ballot system at the congress,” a top party official said.
Mnangagwa announced last month Zanu PF congress elections would be held through secret ballot.
“That is what the constitution says. If you read the constitution, it says delegates at the congress will vote through the one-man-one-vote system. That is what the party has been doing since 1963,” Mnangagwa said.
However, the Zanu PF constitution does not say that. The Mujuru faction fears this is part of plans to rig Mujuru out of the race.
Muchinguri is reportedly more than willing to challenge Mujuru. Things have changed from 2009 when she received one nomination from Masvingo province for the vice-presidency. The ground has since shifted in her favour after she led the campaign for Grace’s endorsement as the Women’s League boss.
Some in Mnangagwa’s camp are openly suggesting Grace should be elevated to the presidium. Former deputy Youth League secretary Edson Chakanyuka, Zanu PF MP for Gokwe-Nembudziya, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, and Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha, are leading calls for the First Lady to occupy a senior position in the party.
At a meeting in his constituency last month, Wadyajena said: “As a party we are delighted that she has attained the highest level (her PhD degree) of education expected and she has done so at a time the Women’s League has endorsed her to be their boss. The sky should be the limit for her. No one should stand in the way.”
Dinha said in Mazowe recently: “Come December, take any position of your choice!”
It seems Grace is not just eyeing the Women’s League position, but something even higher. Yesterday, she formerly launched her campaigns in Chinhoyi raising suspicion she could be gunning for a higher electable position, not the Women’s League one in which she will be appointed by the president.
In addition to the aggressive onslaught from the Mnangagwa faction, Mujuru is getting a hammering from the state media, especially Zimpapers’ daily flagship, the Herald, which is openly hostile to her camp. The issue of the Herald and other state media outlets has been discussed in Zanu PF politburo meetings, including on Wednesday even though no title was mentioned by name.
Compared to 2012 and last year when she had little trouble pushing her positions through the politburo, Mujuru now appears to have her back against the wall.
While she faces a rebellion in Mashonaland Central where politburo member Saviour Kasukuwere is openly fighting her, her kingpins in Harare and Mashonaland West, including chairpersons Amos Midzi and Temba Mliswa respectively, are under fire. Her biggest ally, Didymus Mutasa, and politburo member Tendai Savanhu are also in the firing line.
A senior politburo official said: “President Mugabe (at the politburo meeting) took a swipe at Savanhu, Midzi and Christopher Chigumba over Harare provincial issues.”
Last month, the Harare Zanu PF provincial leadership was accused of trying to block Grace after she was endorsed to take over the Women’s League top post at congress.
Upon his return from a state visit to China, Mugabe fumed at the provincial leadership led by Midzi for trying to frustrate his wife menacingly asking, “where this emperor from Harare is getting his powers?”
At the peak of her power, for instance in 2012 ,when she successfully pushed for the disbandment of the district co-ordinating committees and last year when she managed to have the controversial results of provincial executive elections marred by irregularities upheld, Mujuru seemed shoo-in to replace Mugabe, but now things appear tough-and-go.
Wednesday’s politburo meeting was the first time her faction failed to get its way on the Gono issue in which Mutasa fought hard without success. The Mujuru faction was pushing for Gono to replace former politburo and cabinet member Kumbirai Kangai who died in August last year. Initially, the Mujuru faction forced a politburo resolution for Gono to become senator, but the Mnangagwa camp blocked the move, showing the Vice-President could be losing control in the body where she used to rule the roost.
However, party insiders say despite all these manoeuvres by Mnangagwa, it may be too late to mount a successful campaign against Mujuru who still has a strong grip on party structures.