THE rift between Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the G40 faction coalesced around First Lady Grace Mugabe emerged days after he was appointed as President Robert Mugabe’s deputy following the ouster of vice-president Joice Mujuru, the Zimbabwe Independent has established.
Sources said the two factions which fought in the same corner to remove Mujuru began to quarrel soon after G40 kingpins approached Mnangagwa to share the spoils of victory and establish how to work together going forward.
Mnangagwa was, however, non-committal in his response and gave the impression he wanted zero-sum politics in his strategy to succeed Mugabe.
“What happened was that in the aftermath of Mujuru’s removal and Mnangagwa’s appointment, G40 power brokers went to see Mnangagwa to ask how to share the spoils of victory and come up with a strategy, structure and matrix of working together going forward,” a senior Zanu PF official said.
“However, Mnangagwa, who is surrounded by his own self-interested dadvisors and foot soldiers, did not promise anything. That marked the beginning of hostile postures and crystallisation of new factions beyond the traditional Mujuru-Mnangagwa divide.”
In the minds of most Zanu PF supporters and officials it appeared Mnangagwa’s rise to power had become fait accompli following his appointment.
Choruses of praise-singing and hero-worshiping shifted from Mugabe and the First Lady to Mnangagwa, prompting a counter refrain “Munhu wese kuna amai” by G40 members. But Mnangagwa’s supporters went into overdrive, with long-time ally Josiah Hungwe Mnangagwa describing him “The Holy Son of Man” at a celebration party in Zvishavane.
He claimed his rise was ordained by God.
The G40 officials, including Grace, who had spearheaded the attack on Mujuru were not invited to Mnangagwa’s celebration parties, creating a rift which would later widen and end up in fierce factional rivalry and brutal infighting.
A G40 official said Mnangagwa gave then the impression that their marriage of convenience had ended with Mujuru’s ouster.
The G40 faction then deployed its chief strategist Jonathan Moyo – who was involved in initial attempts to forge a working relationship between the two groups – in May 2015 to publicly challenge Mnangagwa on BBC’s HardTalk programme. Moyo said Mnangagwa was not Mugabe’s successor as suggested by his allies, but merely an appointed assistant.
Moyo, then Information minister, also used the public media to attack the vice-president.
Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko also joined fray, challenging the Mnangagwa faction and its narrative that he was the heir apparent.
At a rally in Masvingo, Mphoko denounced the late women’s league national executive member Esphinah Nhari who had said “pasi neG40 (Down with G40).”
Mphoko also told Hungwe that he was equal to Mnangagwa as there was a claim the former was a second vice-president and the latter the first.
“I want to make a correction before I proceed. As a Vice-President, I am still referred to as honourable. Again, we do not have a first and second Vice-President in our structures. We just have two Vice-Presidents,” Mphoko said.
“We have the first secretary of the party, who is President Robert Mugabe and two second secretaries of the party who are vice-presidents. That is the correction that I wanted to make.”
By July 2015, the factional contradictions had morphed into a full blown crisis, but Mnangagwa appeared to be in the driving seat as he managed to force a cabinet reshuffle which saw Moyo removed from the Information ministry where he was using his influence to attack the vice-president.
Moyo was shunted to Higher Education, but instead of keeping quiet he opened a Twitter account to shell Mnangagwa even more aggressively and publicly.
The G40 faction, however, rallied at the end of the year when Grace resumed her meet-the-people rallies which culminated in
her attacking military commanders and war veterans in Chiweshe in February 2016 for supporting Mnangagwa’s presidential bid.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa was particularly targeted.
However, the war veterans, who had the backing of the military, refused to be intimidated and fought back viciously in Mnangagwa’s corner. On one occasion they gathered at an open space between Rainbow Towers Hotel and the Magistrate Courts in Harare to demonstrate against Grace, but were stopped in their tracks by riot police.
This precipitated a crisis, in which Mugabe intervened as an emergency.
In March 2016 Mutsvangwa, his wife Monica, women’s league secretary for administration Espinah Nhari were suspended from the party, dealing a heavy blow to the Mnangagwa faction. Mutsvangwa was later fired as a war veterans minister.
A series of suspensions and expulsions also followed.
On April 7 2016, war veterans met Mugabe at the City Sports Centre to defuse the crisis. War veterans demanded Saviour Kasukuwere’s removal, an issue which would explode a year later into public demonstrations and protests.
After the meeting, the war veterans released a stinging communique where they said Mugabe had abandoned the ideals of the liberation struggle, while accusing him of running down the economy and failing to tackle corruption. They announced that they had withdrawn their support for him.
Mugabe reacted angrily to that, calling them “dissidents”.
War veteran leaders Victor Matemadanda and Douglas Mahiya were later arrested and expelled from the party.
Mugabe and his allies were also incensed by Mnangagwa’s interview with a United Kingdom-based political and cultural magazine, New Statesman, in December 2016, arranged “through unofficial back channels”.
“It was not in his interest (Mnangagwa) to be hostile – not at this time. He is determined to succeed Mugabe and he will need Western support to rebuild his shattered country if he does, which is presumably why he gave me an almost unprecedented interview,” the story said.
In the interview, Mnangagwa denied responsibility on Gukurahundi atrocities where more than 20 000 people were killed in Matabeleland and Midlands regions for political reasons soon after independence, effectively blaming Mugabe, Defence minister even at the time Sydney Sekeramayi and the late army commander retired general Solomon Mujuru.
Mnangagwa said: “How do I become the enforcer during Gukurahundi? We had the president, the minister of defence, the commander of the army and I was none of that. The article also projected Mnangagwa as a reformist who “might offer Zimbabwe economic recovery”, reinforcing the view he saw himself as the heir apparent.
The reporter also says he met Mutsvangwa who boldly declared” that “he was 100% sure that Mnangagwa would be the next president.”
Mutsvangwa’s comments in the New Statesman were seen as evidence that Mnangagwa was plotting to topple Mugabe.
The New Statesman article also said the reporter was given “a secret document which emanated from Mnangagwa’s camp”.
The document further said plans were afoot to make sure that strategic positions within party organs are headed by Mnangagwa loyalists. It also said G40 leaders must be targeted on corruption allegations. Moyo was later targeted over alleged abuse of Zimdef funds. Kasukuwere was also targeted.
From there, it became a tug-of-war between the Mnangagwa and Grace factions until a stage where the vice-president appeared to have virtually taken over before the current G40 fight back started on June 1. It now remains to be seen how Mugabe’s succession battle, full of dramatic twists and turns, will end.