VICE-President Phelekezela Mhoko was prevented from addressing the Bulawayo provincial coordinating committee meeting last Sunday due to clashes between warring Zanu PF factions.
By Owen Gagare
This was a well-calculated move aimed at embarrassing him, while also dismantling what is considered the outpost of resistance to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential bid. Mphoko was scheduled to address the Bulawayo PCC to praise the province’s acting chairman Dennis Ndlovu for his “principled stance and for professionally running the province”, sources said.
The Bulawayo PCC refused to pass a vote-of-no-confidence on Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere last month, at a time all other Zanu PF provinces called for his ouster on allegations of plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe. Mphoko and Kasukuwere are key members of the G40 faction which has coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe.
The faction has been engaged in a war of attrition with the Mnangagwa faction, which is now strategically well-positioned to assume power should the ailing President Robert Mugabe fail to complete his term or run for elections next year. Youths and war veterans who stormed the meeting, resulting in bloody clashes, accused the Ndlovu-led executive of supporting Kasukuwere and holding an unsanctioned meeting.
“Tension between the factions has been building up in Bulawayo for sometime now, but the trigger of the violence in this case was the determination from some war veterans and youths to stop the acting president (Mphoko) from addressing the PCC. The idea was to disrespect, embarrass and show him that he has no real power,” said a senior Zanu PF official. “Mphoko was supposed to address the PCC, but did not come to the venue after being informed of the violence. “The Bulawayo PCC, with the support of Mphoko, is pro-Kasukuwere, hence the decision not to pass a vote-of-no-confidence on him. But there has been tension between the Bulawayo provincial executive and some youths and war veterans aligned to Mnangagwa, which degenerated into violence on Sunday.” The physical confrontation resulted in Zanu-PF Bulawayo City Centre district youth chairperson, Magura Charumbira, a Mnangagwa ally, being stabbed.
Anti-riot police were called in to restore order, resulting in the arrest of several war veterans and party youths.
These include Bulawayo provincial war veterans’ chairman Cephas Ncube and fellow ex-combatants: Juliet Sibanda, Luke Mpofu and Abigail Nyamunda. Charumbira and some youth activists, Davies Muhambi and Mabutho Moyo, were arrested in the aftermath of the skirmishes. They appeared in court on Tuesday. Senior Zanu PF officials told the Independent that the likelihood of more physical fights was likely to increase given that Mugabe appears to have lost control of the party. “The issue is that the factions know that Mugabe is no longer the same. He is now very frail and does not have control of the party he used to have. The situation is getting worse with each passing day, so the factions are trying to cover as much ground as possible in the fight to control party structures,” said one official. “The fights are now everywhere in the party and have spilled into government, including in cabinet. The recent row between Mphoko and Mnangagwa in cabinet highlights how bad the situation now is.”