PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe this week intensified his behind-the-scenes engagement with senior Zanu PF and government leaders, including Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko as well as First Lady Grace Mugabe, in a bid to douse succession fires threatening to engulf him and tear his party asunder.
Owen Gagare/Elias Mambo
High-level official sources revealed Mugabe met Mnangagwa, Mphoko and Grace at State House on Monday to discuss the political and security situation in the country in the wake of a rally held by his wife in Chiweshe last Friday which triggered tensions in government and army.
At the rally, Grace tore into Mnangagwa and the army accusing them of wanting to topple her husband. She also insinuated that Mnangagwa wanted to kill her children with the help of some senior military officials.
The rally came after Mnangagwa was publicly ridiculed by Women’s League treasurer Sarah Mahoka at a rally organised by the group ahead of last Wednesday’s politburo meeting. The Women’s League organised the rally to thank Mugabe for championing the cause of women during his tenure as African Union chairperson, but Mnangagwa’s backers felt it was meant to embarass him.
There has been a serious backlash from war veterans and Mnangagwa’s allies in the aftermath of the rally.
At the Monday meeting, Mugabe is understood to have raised concern about the infighting and factionalism in the party.
He indicated that senior party officials like the vice-presidents and his wife, who is the Women’s League secretary, had a responsibility of leading and uniting the party.
Mugabe, like he did when he addressed the Women’s League rally ahead of the politburo meeting, said if party officials had differences they should resolve them amicably using laid down procedures.
Before Mugabe spoke, Mnangagwa had reportedly voiced concern over the manner he was treated at the Chiweshe rally. He pledged his loyalty to the President, chronicling how he had worked closely with him for about 50 years and said it was unfair for him to be publicly ridiculed.
“Grace repeated that she had respect for Mnangagwa, but was concerned about reports that he was angling to replace the President. She also said there were party officials who were claiming to be loyal to the vice-president and questioned why some youths were wearing T-shirts inscribed Team Lacoste at the funeral of Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga’s uncle,” said a senior government official.
Mugabe then asked Mnangagwa to control the people acting on his behalf and ensure that they are disciplined.
Mnangagwa also wanted Grace’s rallies to be stopped but the request was declined on the grounds that they were meant to distribute tractors and food.
Mugabe also rebuked Mphoko and asked him to be responsible and avoid making statements which encourage tribalism. This followed statements the VP made in Chiweshe where he said it does not mean that after Mugabe, who is a Zezuru, the presidency will go to a Karanga.
After the meeting Mnangagwa reportedly had a meeting with Chiwenga at a private residence in Borrowdale.
Prior to the Monday meeting, Mnangagwa had on Saturday met Mugabe to discuss the explosive situation in the party.