THE Zanu PF succession soap opera, which for many years has been playing out behind the scenes only to recently spill into the public domain as it reaches boiling point, is now showing some hilarious, serious and sometimes tragic scenes as the party draws ever nearer to its crucial elective congress in December.
As striking events unfold with increasing intensity, spurred on by growing belief that President Robert Mugabe (90), at the helm of Zanu PF since 1977, may not have the stamina to last until his term ends in 2018 due to combined effects of old age and ill-health, Zanu PF hawks have literally been at each other’s throats in the full glare of the public.
The consequence of the acrimonious public fights is that factional alliances, often hidden, are now glaringly open and almost common cause.
It is no longer a secret, for example, that Vice-President Joice Mujuru and outgoing Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri do not see eye to eye, nor is it a secret that the Vice-President and Mugabe’s wife Grace are not quite in each other’s good books.
Similarly, it’s now clear that the party’s secretary for legal affairs Emmerson Mnangagwa — leader of the faction tussling for power against Mujuru’s camp — is no longer close to the party’s secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, and that the rift between Mnangagwa and party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo is widening.
Both Gumbo and Mutasa are key members of the Mujuru faction.
It is also now evident the Mujuru faction is suspicious of Information minister Jonathan Moyo and that the minister is fighting those aligned to the Vice-President.
Although factional fights are raging countrywide ahead of central committee nominations which precede congress, the issue of the so-called “The Dirty Dozen” legislators, who have allegedly been getting funding from America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is currently taking centre-stage.
According to the state media, the legislators, most of whom are aligned to the Mujuru faction, have been allegedly getting funds to carry out projects in their constituencies “in return for selling out party secrets”.
The legislators have denied this with fiery Mashonaland West party chairperson Temba Mliswa, also Hurungwe West legislator, becoming sharply scathing in his response.
To add comic relief to the drama, Mliswa held a press conference on Monday where he sensationally alleged that “The Dirty Dozen” story was planted in the state media by Moyo, before accusing him of being a bigger spy.
“Moyo is more CIA agent than all of us combined; it is in his blood. Who is a CIA agent, the one who controls the fund or the one who receives? …,” Mliswa said in reference to Moyo, who once worked at the American-funded Ford Foundation in Kenya in 1993.
He claimed the party had been infiltrated by CIA agents and “gay gangsters”, some of whom were cabinet ministers. He attacked several ministers, among them Moyo, Mnangagwa, Water minister Saviour Kasukuwere and politburo member Patrick Zhuwao while also questioning Moyo’s suitability for a ministerial post.
“You have a situation clearly where we belong to a party which is run by a leader who is very constitutional, but some of us within the party are starting to wonder whether the party has been hijacked. Is the party now under the control of gay gangsters?” queried Mliswa.
“We know who Professor (Moyo) is, but when the time comes we will begin to ask the questions; what is this man doing amongst us? He lost an election, has a position because people like myself and others who won so the President is empowered to appoint him.
“We have a group of people who have resorted to being power brokers. It is a syndicate of gay people, what would you be doing shopping in New York with a man and not with your wife.”
Mliswa then rubbished the Mnangagwa faction saying it was made up of power-hungry people, seemingly confirming his allegiance to Mujuru in the process.
“Young as we are, we are now starting to question the leadership and saying may they please rein in these errant comrades. I have asked Minister Mnangagwa, as a clan brother, if he has seen it fit to trust Kasukuwere who denied him the (vice-presidency) seat that had been lobbied for him by all provinces. I have asked if he now trusts Moyo. It makes a grouping of three power-hungry people and one wonders who will lead the other when they get power,” he said.
To add on to the drama, Zhuwao’s wife, Beauty, on Monday reportedly slapped Mliswa at a Mashonaland West provincial executive meeting in Chinhoyi, while in the run-up to the Women’s League congress, Oppah Muchinguri alleged party members were being abducted.
The public spat between Moyo and former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono, over the Manicaland senatorial seat after the former RBZ boss alleged factional detractors were behind the disqualification of his nomination by the party as a senatorial candidate, has also shown the ugly face of infighting.
Gono said: “No amount of blackmail though can change my stance of remaining out of all factions except that of and led by the President and first secretary of our party, Cde RG Mugabe and all that he stands for.”
But Moyo pounced on Gono’s statement and attacked him for claiming Mugabe led a faction.
“It is preposterous and objectionable in the extreme for Dr Gono to claim that he is ‘remaining out of all factions except that of and led by the President,” said Moyo.
“President Mugabe does not have and does not lead a faction. The President leads Zanu PF, the gvernment and the nation of Zimbabwe. In other words, President Mugabe leads not some, but all of us Zimbabweans.”
The fights have also been tragic. Muchinguri apparently hit Mujuru where it hurts most during the official opening of the Women’s League conference in August when she made remarks many interpreted as an allegation that Mujuru was responsible for the death of her husband retired General Solomon Mujuru in a fire in 2011. Muchinguri said Zanu PF did not want women “who burn their husbands in homes”.
Muchinguri made the comments during the month Mujuru was commemorating the death of her husband and the irony was not lost on the public.
Retired General Mujuru died in a mysterious inferno at his Beatrice farmhouse. Although the cause of the fire was not established, the family suspects foul play.
Not to be outdone though, Mujuru broke into song: “Amongst us, someone will betray us”, when she took to the podium at the official opening of the Women’s League conference. The song was seen as targeting Muchinguri.
In an unprecedented move, which showed how messy the succession issue has become, deputy Foreign Affairs minister Chris Mutsvangwa recently rubbished claims that Mujuru shot down a helicopter during the war of liberation, suggesting Zanu PF political commissar Webster Shamu had “fabricated” the story to boost her war credentials.
“Let me finish by putting down the lies about downing an enemy helicopter which were developed by Webster Shamu in a bid to shore up (Mujuru’s) war credentials and elevate her above fellow comrades. Let’s be careful not to be misled by ordinary people and war cowards we only started working with after the liberation war. No war cadre carried two guns by themselves; we all had one gun each,” he said.
Mutsvangwa also said Mujuru had no exceptional talents which made her Vice-President but should be thankful for Mugabe’s enduring grace.
“A word of advice to her: We all know each other as comrades from the shared war effort. She should not be deceived by the post-Independence titles of office. She was accorded them much later in our shared lives,” said Mutsvangwa.
He also took aim at Mutasa, the party’s secretary for administration, whom he said was masterminding a conspiracy aimed at undermining Mugabe while propping up Mujuru. Mutsvangwa also questioned Mutasa’s liberation war credentials.
“This conspiracy is directed at the man (Mugabe) who has given VP Mujuru post-Independence high offices from the onset of the Republic (of Zimbabwe), an honour and recognition that has not been accorded to (any) of her peers.
“Mutasa is busy misleading the gullible and the ambitious that he is kingmaker. Yet he only has his vacuous war record to offer. He will surely fail and the blinking followers will only end up in trouble courtesy of their folly.”
In-between all this, Grace, who has called herself a “monya (bouncer) for hire” also entered the treacherous waters of Zanu PF politics, bringing a fair share of controversy as rules had to be broken to accommodate her given that she was not in the party structures for 15 consecutive years as demanded by the party’s new rules for election into the central committee.
Like a true bouncer, Grace has been on a warpath, attacking Justice Deputy minister Fortune Chasi for attempting to stop her from grabbing more land in Mazowe. She also promised to take the fight to her detractors, whom she said believed she was weak.
She said her rivals wanted to drag her down the road when Mugabe was no longer in power. The drama looks set to continue unfolding ahead of congress with all its comical, sad and tragic scenes playing out in the public.