VICE-PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa last week reportedly challenged his adversaries in the ongoing Zanu PF succession fight to publicly proffer evidence of his plot to topple President Robert Mugabe.
In an impassioned defence of his political life, Mnangagwa sources claimed, told the Zanu PF central committee meeting last Thursday that he had spent the better part of his life defending Mugabe and would never “think of deposing him”.
“During the closed door session, a lot of people, including (Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister) Mandi Chimene, took turns to berate Mnangagwa, accusing him of having a secret agenda to remove the President (Mugabe). They, as always, accused him of leading a faction that is planning to push the President out of office before the 2018 elections,” NewsDay heard.
Contacted for comment, Chimene curtly said: “Write whatever it is that you have heard. I do not want to talk about it.”
Party insiders said Mnangagwa went on the offensive after party officials relentlessly threw brickbats challenging him to come clean on the issue.
“I spent over 16 years sleeping outside protecting this man (pointing at Mugabe) while he slept on a bed. I cannot then turn around and plan against him. I know there are mapete (cockroaches), who might want to fathom the idea of trying to remove him. My job is to defend him and if I catch one of the cockroaches, then I will crush them before informing the President because it is part of my job,”
Mnangagwa reportedly told his stunned audience, who included Mugabe and his wife, First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo declined to discuss the matter.
“Where did you get that from? Let your sources give you more details,” he said before he hung up his mobile phone.
But party sources insisted Mnangagwa kept fighting to save his skin in the process, taking some of his backers by surprise.
“The VP also said the Presidency is aware of plans by reactionaries to set them up against each other,” a source said.
“He told the central committee that they are aware, but were only holding back because the reactionaries have not really threatened the throne, adding they would be crushed.”
Mnangagwa spoke after an angry Mugabe lashed out at war veterans, who have declared that the VP was their preferred candidate to take over from the ailing 92-year-old Zanu PF leader.
Mugabe described the former freedom fighters as dissidents and threatened to crush them.
Central committee member, Esau Mupfumi was said to have tried to record Mnangagwa’s response, before being admonished by Grace.
The sources also said Grace, who has been pitted against Mnangagwa as adversaries for Mugabe’s throne, applauded the VP for his candid talk.
Zanu PF has for years been at war with itself over who should take over after Mugabe.
The internal fights resulted in Vice-President Joice Mujuru being kicked out of the party on allegations of plotting to unseat Mugabe although she has rejected the claims, challenging her accusers to bring evidence.
Mnangagwa took over Mujuru’s position as VP in 2014 and former freedom fighters have since rallied behind him as their preferred candidate to succeed Mugabe.
However, the G40 faction has been fighting hard to stop Mnangagwa’s ascendency and Mugabe seemed to have thrown the cat among the pigeons after his public rant against the former freedom fighters.
It is not the first time Mugabe has lashed out at his lieutenants over the issue, despite also publicly encouraging the party to pick his successor.
Academic and political commentator, Ibbo Mandaza said Mnangagwa had probably played “a 2004 on his followers” referring to the events that followed what is known as the Tsholotsho Declaration that sought to catapult him into the presidium, but failed.
“It is a replay of 2004, but it is a whole new ball game when it comes to whether his colleagues buy his claims. I am not really sure what it means in the bigger scope of succession,” Mandaza said.
But another analyst, Pedzisai Ruhanya had a different view.
“Mnangagwa was part of the team that created the current State that we call Zimbabwe. He knows the blind corners and is probably Mugabe’s best student. He understands him and would not want to do what the public expects him to do,” he said.
“Until such time he comes out and openly rejects war veterans, then it might be premature to say he has dumped anyone. Some people are seducing Mnangagwa to rebel against Mugabe, but he will not. Mugabe has both de jure and de facto power in the State and party and can use that against anyone. Mnangagwa is aware of that.”