Supporters of Vice President Joice Mujuru on Thursday started fighting back against attacks directed at the beleaguered widow and Zanu PF number two, that have lately been fronted by First Lady Grace Mugabe.
In tense and volatile twists to the ugly factional wars currently ripping the ruling party apart, Mujuru’s supporters defiantly stood up to her detractors and those of the equally embattled party secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, at Grace’s last “Meet the People” rallies held in Marondera.
In the first incident, a war of words erupted between youths loyal to Mujuru and Mutasa and those opposed to the duo who were provocatively chanting the controversial and politically loaded Pasi neGamatox (Down with Gamatox) slogan. Mujuru and Mutasa’s supporters immediately started fighting back, chanting the equally insulting Pasi nezvipfukuto (Down with Weevils) slogan.
The escalating chaos was only brought to a stop when law enforcement agents, who barred journalists from covering events unfolding among the warring youths, intervened.
In the second incident, Ray Kaukonde, the Zanu PF Mashonaland East provincial chairperson, openly defied Grace after snubbing a contrived unity pact that the First Lady attempted to foist on Kaukonde at the emotive rally where President Robert Mugabe’s wife again stepped up her thinly-veiled attacks against Mujuru, also alleging that Kaukonde was at the forefront of spearheading factionalism in Mashonaland East.
While other provincial chairpersons, believed to be loyal to Vice President Joice Mujuru’s faction have silently and meekly borne the brunt of Grace’s acerbic attacks, Kaukonde flatly refused to bow down to the First Lady’s strong arm tactics, including the staged call to come to the podium to enter a unity pact with her.
“Here in Mash East, I asked about factionalism and they said there is none here, but I told Kaukonde kuti urikunyepa, achingosekerera zvenhema ndikamuti urikuziva mari dzirikuita (that you are lying, smiling wickedly. I told him that you know that there are monies) exchanging hands, it’s a fake smile iyi ,” Grace said.
“Kaukonde uyu ndakambomudeedza (I once called him) in 2008. I almost punched him ndamuudza kuti (after telling him that) Kaukonde siya (leave) factionalism. The moment of reckoning shall come,” Grace said to cheers from an island of supporters among the crowd.
Sources also told the Daily News that earlier on, Kaukonde had similarly refused to kowtow to the dictates of Mugabe’s wife in a closed door meeting, maintaining that he was duly elected to lead the party in Mashonaland East.
In the baking sun, Grace attempted, albeit with no success, to have Kaukonde — one of the alleged sponsors of the Mujuru camp — to stand up.
“Urikuda kuti tiite (Do you want us to have our own ) mini Unity Accord here?” Grace asked as she vainly tried to have the businessman join her on stage.
But he steadfastly refused to join her.
“Ah, arikuramba. Ramba wakadaro uone (Ah, he is refusing. We will see where that will get you),” a miffed Grace said.
As the ruling party continues with the brinkmanship game, fault lines were apparent, with supporters gathered at the rally clearly divided along factional lines.
While some chanted the Pasi neGamatox slogan, a thinly-veiled attack on Mutasa — a key Mujuru ally, many others fought back with the Pasi nezvipfukuto (Down with Weevils) slogan, a derogatory chant referring to Information minister Jonathan Moyo and others who are allegedly working to destroy the party from within.
As Grace got more animated and agitated, she claimed that the MDC and Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn were formed in the house of an unnamed “senior Zanu PF official”, to which came howls of disapproval from the vast majority in the crowd.
Mujuru’s late husband Solomon Mujuru, whose nom de guerre was Rex Nhongo, was killed in a mysterious fire in August 2011. He was linked to Simba Makoni’s MKD.
Tensions were visibly high at the top table yesterday as party leaders ignored each other and in some cases sat as far from their rivals as possible.
Ministers Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Josiah Hungwe, Ignatius Chombo, Joseph Made sat in one tent, while the likes of Health minister David Parirenyatwa sat in another tent with Kaukonde joining them later.
As the youths from Mashonaland East demanded an end to the slogan Pasi neGamatox and denounced “weevils”, the irate Grace sent Kaukonde to silence them but to no avail.
When Kaukonde returned to the top table, harsh words, accompanied by a lot of gesticulating, were exchanged — with Women Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri attempting to play the peacemaker role.
Police, who came out in their droves, had to intervene repeatedly as youths aligned to the vice president played drums and sang revolutionary songs denouncing their counterparts whom they alleged had been bused to the rally by the “weevils” to denounce their leadership.
Analysts say Grace now faces mounting resistance from angry party officials who have silently watched her attacking persons she perceives to be opponents of her 90-year-old husband.