HARARE, January 13 – Zanu PF Midlands provincial executive member and Sports Minister Makhosini Hlongwane could be quaking in his boots after finding a live bullet in his hotel room Monday in what is suspected to be part of the ongoing succession wars rocking the beleaguered party.
President Robert Mugabe, who turns 92 next month and well in the twilight of both his career and life, has refused to reveal his choice of a successor.
But this has ignited bitter tensions within his party as party hawks align themselves with two distinct camps both angling to succeed him.
After the dramatic ouster of former Vice President and Zanu PF secretary Joice Mujuru in 2014, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose political power base is said to be in the midlands, has been linked to a very ambitions grouping that wants him to assume the reigns in Zanu PF apparently in direct confrontation with another referred to as G40 linked said to be rooting for Grace Mugabe.
Hlongwane and two other recently appointed ministers in the volatile Midlands province are said to be linked to G40.
The bullet incident comes hardly a week after the three wrote to the Zanu PF leadership complaining bitterly about political victimisation ostensibly by the Mnangagwa camp, claiming they were being forced to rally behind “an alternative” centre of power in the party.
Insiders in Zanu PF claim Hlongwane’s ministerial appointment to replace former minister Andrew Langa who was linked to the Mujuru camp is courtesy to G40, much to the chagrin of Mngangwa’s supporters, who all along have taunted the Midlands strongman as Mugabe’s natural heir apparent.
But Zanu PF insiders claimed Wednesday it is just a matter of time before body-bags turn-up as the internecine fights in the party reach a deadly crescendo.
“When one gets a bullet (delivered) what it simply means is that he or should stop what they are doing, or they would be killed. Remember (Martin) Dinha received a similar parcel in July last year and coiled back and stopped his open support to Grace (Mugabe),” said a Zanu PF insider.
“In this particular case, its likely gooks with liberation war credentials telling the youthful minister that they are not hesitant to take him down should he continue on his path. A bullet is meant to kill, and the writing is on the wall,” the source told VOP.
Police spokesman Charity Charamba confirmed Tuesday police were investigating the matter after Hlongwane made a formal report but political analysts and the opposition are adamant the succession battles are turning deadly and just a matter of time before someone got killed.
Ricky Mukonza, a South African-based political analyst closely following the goings on in Mugabe’s party, says the likelihood of people in ZANU PF killing each other is not far-fetched.
Mukonza said ambitious politicians in Zanu PF are prepared to kill primarily because the succession issue has been handled in a shabby manner by the party leader Mugabe.
“There is no clear indication on who is coming after President Mugabe, thus all the factions in ZANU PF consider themselves to be in a good position to succeed him and would consider any means to ensure that they gain advantage over their competitors,” he said. “This also includes physically eliminating each other.”
Speculation has been rife in some circles Mugabe wants to create a dynasty by parachuting his wife to the leadership of Zanu PF and country although party apologists vehemently deny the claims.
Maxwell Saungweme, a respected Zimbabwe political analyst based in Afghanistan, weighed in, saying in its current state, everyone in Zanu PF has to watch over their shoulders always to see if no one was coming from the back to stab them.
“There is too much paranoia and too much contestation and rivalry for power within the organisation such that relationships change rapidly from being friend to foe and vice versa. It’s not surprising that some Lacoste (Mnangagwa) aligned gooks see him (Hlongwane) as aligning with G40 and hence want him eliminated. Its politics- no permanent allies, no permanent foes,” said Saungweme.
But other critics suspect Hlongwane is probably playing politics and playing to the gallery.
Jacob Mafume, the spokesperson for the opposition People’s Democratic Party, said: “I do not see for what reason Makhosini seems to have a flair for the dramatic and wants Hollywood attention. The question should be, what are all these ZANU people doing in hotels.”
The power wars within Zanu PF were Wednesday given yet another dimension when VP Mnangagwa’s Government Complex offices were broken in by unknown burglars.