PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has played down reports of a serious turf war between him and his deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, saying no one has so far brought to him substantial evidence to back the claims.
This comes amid widespread reports that the two are at loggerheads, with Chiwenga angling to remove Mnangagwa in a plot to assume the top post.
Chiwenga orchestrated the rise of Mnangagwa through a military coup in November 2017 at a time he was commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
In the period up to July 30 2018 when general elections were held, Chiwenga appeared to enjoy tremendous influence and power. But tables seem to have turned after Mnangagwa won the presidential election, giving him some semblance of legitimacy.
With new-found power, Mnangagwa clipped Chiwenga’s wings when he took away the Defence Ministry portfolio and gave it to his most loyal ally, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri. He also denied perceived Chiwenga loyalists cabinet posts. But in an interview with sections of the private media, including the Zimbabwe Independent on Wednesday this week, Mnangagwa dismissed the reports of a rift as untrue.
“People have the freedom of speech, including the freedom of lies. When you ask those people and ask them to bring evidence of those rifts, not a single person comes forward. We grew up together during the war with Chiwenga. He was a very young man then. I know the boys very well and they know I am their elder,” he said, adding that when he was in Russia two weeks ago, he heard and dismissed outright rumours of a possible coup against him.
“We were called by some people who said, I was not going to be allowed back in the country, and I laughed and advised that person to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep,” he said.
The Zanu PF annual conference last year resolved to endorse Mnangagwa as the party’s sole candidate for the 2023 election, a development which reportedly peeved Chiwenga loyalists.