RELATIONS between Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction and the group that had coalesced around President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, ahead of the party’s acrimonious congress in December last year which led to the ouster of former vice-president Joice Mujuru are fast deteriorating.
By Elias Mambo
This comes amid revelations Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere is locked in an explosive turf war with a key Mnangagwa ally Joram Gumbo, Zanu PF’s chief whip.
A letter written by Gumbo to Kasukuwere dated June 18 exposes their fierce clashes.
Since Mujuru’s ouster, Zanu PF fights have shifted to a new terrain where Mnangagwa and his allies are waging a vicious war of attrition against Grace’s associates, particularly politburo member Jonathan Moyo and Kasukuwere.
Latest details show that Grace could now also be distancing herself from the clique she closely worked with to remove Mujuru as she seeks to occupy middle political ground to position herself to succeed Mugabe.
Events within Zanu PF and Mugabe’s remarks against his Vice-Presidents, Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko and Grace’s disclosures they report to her as she sets the agenda, betray the First Lady’s presidential ambitions.
Moyo’s current freeze out of cabinet indicates renewed tensions with Mugabe and possibly with Grace as post-congress realignments take place in the succession context. Recently, Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao launched a blistering attack on party secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo, openly accusing the fourth highest ranked party official of working to undermine his uncle despite the fact that the team worked together to oust Mujuru.
Sources in Zanu PF told the Zimbabwe Independent this week Kasukuwere believes Mnangagwa is fighting him by proxy through his Midlands allies in parliament, notably Gumbo and vocal Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment chairman Justice Mayor Wadyajena.
Kasukuwere has been summoned — for the second time in less than a year — to appear before the Wadyajena-chaired committee to clarify how he administered the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust Scheme between 2009 and 2013 when he was in charge of the portfolio. Previously, he was taken to task over shady indigenisation deals.
Kasukuwere reportedly confronted Gumbo over the matter resulting in the chief whip responding with an angry letter last month.
The letter, dated June 18, highlights a number of issues which have become a new source of conflict between Mnangagwa’s allies and those once seen as Grace’s close associates.
“I wish to unequivocally protest that your accusations are unfair, untruthful and totally misdirected,” Gumbo fumed in the letter to Kasukuwere.
“You are accusing Midlands province and promising that ‘we will see’ if we do not cooperate with you as a province because you come from Mashonaland Central province.
“The utterances you make are based on Honourable Mayor Wadyajena’s committee operations which have nothing to do with me or Midlands province. Your insinuation is that Midlands Province conspires against you, which is totally unfortunate and unfounded.
“For your information, we totally support you as our national commissar and your utterances now become a cause of concern and worry. Parliamentary committee matters have nothing to do with a province. You were once a chairperson of a committee and you know very well how the committee operates.”
In an interview yesterday, Gumbo said there was nothing sinister about his exchanges with Kasukuwere.
“It was just something internal and there is no bad blood between me and him. He had approached me so I was just responding and clarifying our duties,” he said.
Wadyajena has been militant in his oversight role regarding indigenisation deals, management of youth funds and operations around government’s community share ownership schemes.
However, those close to Kasukuwere say Wadyajena is using parliament to settle personal and political scores at a time when the succession battles have been re-ignited fiercely as Mugabe becomes frail.
Last year Wadyajena summoned Kasukuwere, but was blocked by the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and then clerk of parliament Austin Zvoma who ruled that it was improper for the minister, who has left the office, to speak on any matters when there was a sitting successor unless it was in criminal investigations.
The attacks on Kasukuwere are a result of his growing political influence and ambitions which have gained momentum since being appointed national political commissar.
“Kasukuwere has been vicious in his restructuring programme as the party heads for provincial polls and this has caused friction in the party. The Mnangagwa faction is livid at his activities,” a senior Zanu PF official said this week.
The provincial executives are crucial in the succession battle as they would even be more critical in the new process of electing Mugabe’s party successor through a national primary poll via secret ballot.
However, in recent weeks Kasukuwere has been trying to assuage factional tensions and hostilities by singing Mnangagwa praises.
While addressing a rally in Hurungwe West recently, Kasukuwere said the constituency had been honoured by the presence of “the face of the liberation struggle in the form of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa”.
The same also happened in Headlands and Mutare where Kasukuwere took the Zanu PF supporters through a history lesson of Mnangagwa’s war credentials and heroic escapades.
As Zanu PF’s deadly factional and succession wars continue raging on, Mugabe seems to becoming anxious about the renewed fights, hence his remarks at last week’s national youth assembly meeting warning forming alliances around Mnangagwa and Mphoko was unacceptable and futile.
“If you are choosing between my two vice presidents you are beginning your own Gamatox. They (VPs) occupy equal sphere. If you say you want this one to succeed you are already bringing divisions with the people and this so soon after our election,” he said.
During the closed door briefing with the youths, Zanu PF sources said Mugabe forthrightly attacked his deputies over exacerbating factionalism and succession wrangling.