By Prince Tongogara
The dramatic suspension of Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo on Friday three weeks shy of a watershed congress that will determine the party’s leadership succession battle reaffirms the long held view that President Robert Mugabe is a tyranny who brooks no challenge.
Gumbo was suspended for five years on charges of plotting to topple Mugabe during the December congress and perceived pushing of factional interests. In the same meeting four other provincial chairpersons’ votes of no confidence were upheld. These are Kalisto Gwanetsa (Masvingo), Amos Midzi (Harare), Jason Machaya Midlands) and Andrew Langa (Matabeleland South).
While Manicaland chairperson John Mvundura was at first given a written reprimand by the Politburo,he was later given a vote of no confidence in his province. On the other hand Ray Kaukonde (Mashonaland East) is still reeling on the ropes.
And outspoken war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda was summarily expelled from the party on the same night for his ‘bedroom coup’ statement on Grace activities.
Ironically all the suspended persons are accused of fanning factionalism in the party and blocking Mugabe’s wife meteoric ascendancy in the party.
The Thursday politburo was preceded by an unusual quietness beguiling the seething anger in Mugabe that erupted later that night. The events reminded us of the age old saying that ‘still water run deep’.
Every other Zanu PF meeting prior to this meeting was accompanied by demonstrations, media interviews and live updates from the state media to an extent that Zimbabweans knew in advance what was going to happen. However, Thursday meeting was different.
Gumbo despite having a rough ride so far from the state media and stage managed demonstrations looked like a man who would survive till the watershed congress.
Mugabe’s reported unprovoked outburst against Gumbo, accusing him of harbouring intentions to stage a palace putsch, can now be understood with the benefit of hindsight. The attacks on all persons perceived to be Joice Mujuru allies by Grace at her nationally rally shows the President’s complicity in the savage attacks.
Gumbo has become the biggest scalp claimed in the Zanu PF ongoing leadership battles. It started with provincial chairpersons who were thought to be on Mujuru’s side. Temba Mliswa (Mashonaland West) was the first to bite the dust in engineered vote of no confidence.
The unprecedented sacking of chairpersons, suspensions of politburo members and the hanging threats against all perceived enemies prove that Mugabe is a scared man. He is not taking any chances to go to a congress with people who may spring a surprise on him.
Mugabe wants to neutralize any possible challenges at the congress before hand and secure his life-presidency of the party and country.
Engineered expulsions and suspensions at crucial moments in the party’s history have become Mugabe’s signature in retaining a stranglehold on the liberation movement.
Gumbo and others like Dzinashe Machingura, Augustine Chihuri, Saul Sadza, James Nyakadzinashe and Parker Chapowera suffered in the Mozambican dungeons for challenging Mugabe’s leadership just before the end of the liberation struggle.
After independence in 1980, Mugabe has sacked others like late Patrick Kombayi, maverick Edgar Tekere and steely Margaret Dongo when they opposed him on matters of principle or policy.
It remains to be seen if Mujuru would get to the congress still as vice-president with mounting calls for her resignation and Mugabe’s subtle hints. Or, will Mujuru and her persecuted allies take the bold decision to challenge Mugabe at the congress or form a splinter party? Either decision is hard but Zanu (PF) will never be the same again after the December congress.