THE leaked audio recording where Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri is allegedly heard plotting against other Zanu (PF) officials, including Manicaland Provincial minister Mandi Chimene, all but confirms the long-standing frosty relationship between the two, insiders have said.
In the audio tape, Muchinguri is allegedly heard attacking Chimene, describing her as “always high on dagga” and claiming President Robert Mugabe was reportedly unhappy with how the provincial minister was conducting herself in the province.
She also describes herself as a shrewd politician who has always survived political storms.
However, officials close to the two politicians said that Muchinguri and Chimene had never been the best of friends. That is despite the two having allegedly connived to plot the demise of former Zanu (PF) secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa.
“The two ministers have some similarities in that they are both senior Zanu PF members, they are both war vets and they are influential in terms of controlling structures in Manicaland province,” one official said.
“It also happens that the two worked in the same Mutasa district at one time; first Muchinguri as an MP while Chimene was in the intelligence in the province and then secondly when Chimene later became a Senator in 2005.”
The official said Chimene tried to convince people that Muchinguri was not doing her best to uplift the constituency.
“During their tenure as both legislators in Mutasa it was plot after plot against each other. Ultimately, Muchinguri started to push Chimene out of the district. She won on that because Chimene later moved to Makoni district where she is MP for Makoni South,” said the official.
The two have however publicly denied reports that there was bad blood between them.
Another senior Zanu (PF) official said ego had come between the two politicians.
“The problem that I see between the two is that of ego. None of them listens to the other and they both claim to be close to the President. The problem is that the time Chimene was appointed provincial minister was the same time Muchinguri was unofficially declared the political god-mother of Manicaland,” said the official.
“It’s clear that they each don’t know their boundaries and their fights are far from over. This puts us [officials] in an awkward position because we now fear being seen with either of them or in the company of another.”
He said the two appeared to have equal support among central committee members.
“Chimene might have an upper hand in that she is trying to be closer to the First Lady Grace Mugabe at a time when there are reports that Muchinguri has crossed swords with the President’s wife,” added the official.
Muchinguri and Chimene are accused of backbiting each other in a bid to paint each other in bad light.
Muchinguri’s supporters said they felt Chimene was overstepping her mandate and that she was mixing government business and party politics to build her own base.
“Muchinguri has been a governor for Manicaland before and she never acted in the manner that Chimene is going about business. I think she lacks full appreciation of her new role and thinks she can use that to punch at her perceived enemies,” said another official.
“Look at how she is threatening everyone and taking other people’s farms. Of course Mutasa is our enemy, but Chimene has gone into overdrive in trying to prove a point.”
Last month it was alleged that during a belated 21st February Movement celebrations at 22 Miles business centre on the outskirts of Mutare, Chimene left the function soon after the arrival of Muchinguri without the two greeting each other.
In most of her meetings with stakeholders and party supporters, Chimene has emphasised that she was the person in control of the province and she has been reminding the people that she was sent by the President.
At one point during a press club session in Mutare ahead of the 2013 harmonised elections, the former Zanu (PF) strongman, Didymus Mutasa indicated that Chimene was saying all the bad things about him because he had refused to use influence to get her nominated as Zanu PF’s candidate for Makoni South.
He also told journalists that Muchinguri hated him to the extent of having engineered a fake petition to President Mugabe to have him sacked.
Both Muchinguri and Chimene jointly played a critical role in de-campaigning Mutasa in the central committee elections last year before scheming to have the former presidential affairs minister expelled altogether.
Mutasa seemed uneasy to discuss the two’s behaviour.
“I can’t talk about them because they are not my people now. I really don’t want to be involved in a discussion that involves them because we are now totally different,” he said.