VICE-President Joice Mujuru threw down the gauntlet at President Robert Mugabe in the heat of the moment at the tension-filled politburo meeting last week to come out in the open if he wanted to remove her from her post ahead of the Zanu PF elective congress in December, instead allowing his wife Grace and her political gang to publicly abuse her.
In private briefings with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, senior politburo insiders said Grace was effectively also attacked at the explosive, no-holds-barred meeting which lasted more than nine hours.
During exchanges, party heavyweights from opposing factions were at each other’s throats amid accusations and counter-accusations of plotting against Mugabe.
The politburo sources said Mujuru, who has been savagely attacked by Grace and her allies through the public media lately, reminded Mugabe about the good old days when they worked closely together during the 1970s liberation struggle and her rise after Independence to the vice-presidency under his guidance.
“Mujuru spoke about her history — how she went to war in 1973 and met with Mugabe in 1975 (Mujuru welcomed Mugabe and Edgar Tekere in Mozambique) and how from there she was under the guidance of Mugabe throughout. She said she considered Mugabe like her father because hers had died and Sally was like her mother and she called her mai (mum) and that she also calls this one who is there (Grace) mai,” said one politburo member.
“She said at Independence it was Mugabe who deployed her at the Mt Darwin parliamentary seat although she initially replied that she had dropped out of school at Form Two and not qualified to be MP. She said she was also appointed deputy minister and again she still told him that she was not qualified for that position, but Mugabe insisted that he would teach her.”
He added: “She said she was later appointed governor of Mashonaland Central during which time she did ‘O’ and ‘A’ Levels after which she said she was also appointed to head different ministries. She said there was not a day when she lobbied Mugabe for those appointments. Then she said it was Mugabe in 2004 who actually said she should take up the vice-president’s post.”
This was part of Mujuru’s blunt rejection of claims she wants to topple Mugabe and a challenge to him to come out in the open on whether he still wants her or not.
Mujuru was debating a report by outgoing Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri on the First Lady’s meet-the-people rallies, which torched a storm in Zanu PF and deepened factional lines.
“Mujuru said she had been VP for 10 years and if Mugabe no longer wanted her to be VP he should just tell her that he wants to remove her and she would go. She also said if Mugabe wants her to resign, he should simply say so and she would do that,” said the source.
Mugabe all but endorsed calls by his wife for the removal of Mujuru when he said last week “when a marriage breaks down, a divorced wife is given time to pack instead of chasing her on the spur of the moment”.
He said this while addressing a rented anti-Mujuru crowd at the party headquarters last week on Thursday after attending the crucial politburo meeting for about an hour.
Mugabe said Mujuru must be given time, just as a “divorced wife” is given an opportunity to pack her belongings to prepare for a different life after marriage.
This came a week after his wife declared war on Mujuru, telling her to resign or risk being “baby-dumped”— meaning booted out — at the party’s watershed December congress.
The politburo insiders said those who fought in Mujuru’s corner during the meeting included party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa, Tshinga Dube, Angeline Masuku, Cephas Msipa and Herbert Murerwa.
Another politburo source said: “Gumbo, when they were debating that Mujuru wants to oust Mugabe, asked Mugabe if he seriously believed that she (Mujuru) wanted to remove him from power.
“Gumbo then told Mugabe Mujuru was just a pawn in the game of power, the target was him. He warned him that he was the main target and one day he would realise this.
“Gumbo went further to say the source of the problem was Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and Oppah Muchinguri. He pointed out that they were the ones who have misled the First Lady and the First Family because they have access to them. He told Mugabe that the four were misleading, misinforming and abusing the First Family, telling them lies.”
Another politburo member said Mutasa queried how Mugabe could after all these years of working closely together with him think that they were planning to oust him and how he could trust Moyo, Kasukuwere and Zhuwao ahead of them.
Masuku said she took great exception to what Grace said in Matabeleland attacking people during her tour.
“She told the President that his wife came to Bulawayo and insulted them yet she sees her like her daughter, while Tshinga Dube complained Mujuru’s husband (late retired general Solomon Mujuru) was eliminated and now people were attacking her on spurious grounds. Victoria Chitepo said Grace’s behaviour was not befitting a First Lady as she should behave in a proper way.”
The politburo resolved that a committee be set up to investigate factionalism in Zanu PF.
“The president said he has heard that there are two factions — one belonging to Mujuru, which has the backing of Gumbo and Mutasa, and another headed by Mnangagwa with the backing of Kasukuwere, Jonathan Moyo, Josiah Hungwe. That’s when he said the party should set up a committee to investigate the factions,” said the politburo source.
Mugabe later said Mujuru and Mutasa had made sound contributions to the meeting.