ZANU PF yesterday handed three-year suspensions to War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa, his wife Monica, the women’s league national secretary for administration Esphinah Nhari and expelled 16 youth league members in a clear backlash by President Robert Mugabe over their insults against his wife Grace.
Mutsvangwa has been in the eye of a storm after allegedly insulting First Lady Grace when he had a verbal showdown with Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
The expelled youth league members include Godfrey Gomwe (Harare), Godfrey Tsenengamu (Mashonaland Central), Vengai Musengi (Mashonaland West), Khumbulani Mpofu (Bulawayo), Edmore Samambwa (Midlands), Tamuka Nyoni (Matabeleland North) and Washington Nkomo (Matabeland South).
Mpofu, Samambwa, Nyoni and Nkomo were youth league provincial chairpersons before the expulsion, while Gomwe, Tsenengamu and Musengi were ousted after a vote-of-no-confidence in their provinces last year.
All the expelled and suspended persons are loyal to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is engaged in a bitter succession battle with a faction led by Grace.
Mutsvangwa immediately told the Zimbabwe Independent in an interview that he would contest his suspension.
“The disciplinary committee misdirected itself. It was accuser in a court of first instance. It should actually be reviewed,” Mutsvangwa said.
“Mashonaland West never ever called me for a hearing so there was never due process and natural justice.
“Finally, my politburo ticket is from war veterans’ constituency after my election in Masvingo. Zanu PF has an obligation to rule in a just manner as per national constitution. It is also its call as a revolutionary party. I fought for justice in war and peace. I am ready to take up the gauntlet once again,” he said.
Mugabe, in an address to the nation a fortnight ago, savaged Mutsvangwa in what many saw as a signal of his looming fall in both government and the party. This was after he allegedly organised war veterans to protest against Grace’s verbal attack of Mnangagwa and military commanders at a rally in Chiweshe. The war veterans were dispersed by riot police using tear gas and water cannons.
“For him (Mutsvangwa) to have called a meeting about which we knew nothing, about, in circumstances in which he had not clearly sought permission from the authorities in violation therefore of the law, and he being a minister, he cannot at the end after the law and order officers have taken action against the meeting and the war veterans complain that he was ill-treated. He must bear the responsibility,” Mugabe thundered, adding that Mutsvangwa would pay for his misdemeanours.
And in yet another revealing hint of how Zanu PF’s deadly succession brawls may pan out, Mugabe sprang to the defence of his influential wife and excoriated Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies who had been attacking Grace over the past few weeks. Without mincing his words, Mugabe also accused Mutsvangwa of having misled war veterans into trooping into Harare for meetings and protests. In a heated exchange of words with Kasukuwere late last year, Mutsvangwa challenged the commissar to stop abusing the “institution of marriage” by dragging the First Family whenever he is cornered. Many saw his statement as an attack on Grace.
“We will always respect the institution of marriage and he is confused and conflating the institution of marriage and that of the state,” Mutsvangwa said.
Mutsvangwa said Kasukuwere had failed as a commissar, adding that since the latter became head of the party’s commissariat, Zanu PF had experienced a yawning ideology deficit.
Grace, in her ‘meet-the-people rallies, also took the war to Mutsvangwa’s doorstep, accusing war veterans of boasting and abusing the role played by freedom fighters during the 1970s liberation war.
At the 2015 Zanu PF annual conference in Victoria Falls, Mugabe also took a swipe at state security service chiefs for dabbling in the succession battle engulfing Zanu PF as he seems to suport his wife and her allies.