A Zanu PF faction linked to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa has suffered a major setback as its strategy to weaken the Vice-President Joice Mujuru and then to force her to resign before the December elective congress has hit a brick wall.
The faction, which had roped in First Lady Grace Mugabe, is now pinning hopes on proposed amendments that seek to allow Mugabe to appoint the two VPs and the party’s national chairman.
Under the current Zanu PF constitution, the three positions are contested.
Zanu PF sources said yesterday the Mnangagwa faction had tried different strategies in a bid to topple Mujuru without success and was now clinging on their last option; to manipulate the constitution.
The first option, according to Zanu PF insiders was to rope in Grace to spearhead their anti-Mujuru campaign and at the same time promoting Mnangagwa as a potential VP candidate, but that has since backfired.
“The strategy by the Mnangagwa camp was to use Grace to stop the Mujuru camp but she went ballistic in overdrive, well beyond what they expected and the strategy has backfired. The Grace factor has in effect inadvertently reinforced the Mujuru camp,” a Zanu PF insider said.
He said that the Mnangagwa camp’s attempt to move towards suspending and firing all Mujuru aligned chairpersons across the country had fallen foul of the party constitution, further putting the plot against Mujuru into disarray.
“Their next strategy is to amend the constitution to allow Mugabe to appoint the VPs and the national chairman. That can only be done through the central committee which will sit before congress,” said a Zanu PF official loyal to Mujuru.
“The constitution might be amended soon to give powers to the President to appoint the Presidium. As it stands, the post of the two VPs and the national chairperson is contested for at congress but with the proposed amendments, this would change,” said a politburo member.
The move, sources said, was meant to stifle Mujuru who apparently fell out of favour with Mugabe following reports that she had met American diplomats under the cover of darkness, an allegation made by whistle-blower website, WikiLeaks.
While some Politburo members confirmed the plans to change the constitution, party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said he was not aware of such a development, noting it would not succeed.
“It’s yet to come to us in that form. The amendments brought to us deal with the abolishing of districts, adding of central committee figures and how things are supposed to be done,” he said.
“The appointment and voting at congress, those ones we haven’t received them. However, appointments will not do because the constitution demands that the President, two VPs and now chairman are contested posts. We don’t see it [the change] happening. We will wait and see.”
Other Zanu PF insiders alleged yesterday that there were attempts by Mugabe to isolate Mujuru ahead of congress.
The execution of the plan involved summoning key Mujuru allies and sweet-talking them into dumping her. They said so far Zanu PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa had been called by Mugabe who allegedly promised him the party chairmanship. Sources within the Mnangagwa faction said several other powerful party cadres in the Mujuru camp were also been courted — the plan being to “convert” them and leave Mujuru in the cold.
Mutasa, Mujuru and Mnangagwa could not be reached for comment Saturday.
But Zanu PF insiders said Mujuru was likely to remain Vice-President, even after the congress.
“Her advisors have told her to hang on. She is riding the storm; she has nothing to worry about. First, Grace’s intention was to make the President fire her or to force her to resign and that did not happen. She wanted her prosecuted on allegations of corruption but Mugabe can’t have her prosecuted on the basis of hearsay,” said a source.
With only three weeks to go before the congress, the party is yet to start nominations with party sources saying these would begin a few days before congress. Meanwhile, the two Zanu PF factions have taken their fights to the provinces where they are trying to outdo each other with suspensions and votes of no confidence being thrown all over.
It remains to be seen however whether this flurry of suspensions and votes of no confidence that have become the order of the day will stick at all.
The fights are for the control of provinces that are crucial in securing key nominations at congress.
In Harare Saturday, a faction of Zanu PF youths lambasted provincial youth chairman Godwin Gomwe for allegedly causing divisions in the party.
Gomwe is said to have engineered Thursday’s attempted vote of no confidence on provincial chairman Amos Midzi. The following day youths aligned to him barricaded the venue that the former diplomat was supposed to hold a press conference to speak on attempts to oust him.
The fights escalated Satuday when demonstrators, apparently from a rival faction, carried placards that read: “President please save us from corrupt Gomwe, Midzi haaende, mvura nemagetsi ndozvinoenda, pasi naJonathan Moyo and First Lady ndevedu tose.” [Midzi is not going anywhere . . . down with Jonathan Moyo and the First Lady is for us all.]
“The First Lady united Cdes Gomwe and Midzi in a bid to thwart factionalism but he [Gomwe] vowed to fight on. This proves he did not heed the First Lady’s ‘unity accord,’” said Tendai Diwa, Harare youth league commissar.
Diwa said Gomwe had been served with papers of suspension and his deputy, Eddison Takataka, had been appointed acting chairperson.
Gomwe Saturday hit back, rubbishing his supposed suspension saying he could not be fired by a handful of people when he was elected by thousands of party members.