GWERU-Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa reportedly came to the rescue of Sports, Arts and Recreation Minister, Makhosini Hlongwane, after an overwhelming majority of the Zanu PF Midlands provincial executive voted for his ouster at a Provincial Coordinating Committee (PCC) meeting held in the Midlands capital at the weekend.
Hlongwane’s colleagues in the province have been clamouring for his head after he was accused of aligning himself to a faction in the ruling party called Generation 40 (G40), which is thought to be working to frustrate Mnangagwa’s reported presidential ambitions.
The war against the Mberengwa East legislator started when he featured at First Lady Grace Mugabe’s Chimanimani and Rushinga rallies.
G40 is believed to be agitating for the First Lady to succeed President Robert Mugabe ahead of Mnangagwa.
An earlier attempt to boot Hlongwane out of the party’s provincial structures did not materialise because he was out of the country on government business and some members felt he needed to be present to give his side of the story.
Hlongwane, who is the province’s current political commissar, appeared to have been off the hook until last week when furious party members discovered that the First Lady would be addressing a rally in his Mberengwa constituency tomorrow.
Sources, inside Zanu PF, said this week that many in the party believed that the recently appointed Minister had invited Amai Mugabe without consulting his seniors in the Midlands province.
“It is for this reason mainly that Hlongwane was nailed on the cross for at the meeting. People said he had sold out since the province agreed that Midlands is a no go area for G40, but he is inviting them,” said a source from the province.
A Zanu PF official who attended the meeting told the Financial Gazette that there were heated exchanges between Hlongwane and his top accusers, who included chairman, Kizito Chivamba.
Hlongwane is said to have vehemently denied any links to G40. He also reportedly denied playing a role in inviting the First Lady to Mberengwa, but still found his nemeses determined to get rid of him.
“It was at this point that he openly wept in the meeting, while pleading his innocence,” said a senior party official who attended the meeting.
Mnangagwa is said to have given the order through his close lieutenants, who then relayed the message to Chivamba, prompting him to prematurely end the discussion.
“It was the Vice President who came to his rescue. He directed that since the President urged (members) to desist from purging each other without following proper disciplinary procedures, the vote of no confidence against Hlongwane should not stand,” said a top party official within Mnangagwa’s inner circle.
But sources said, while Hlongwane appears to have survived for now, there could be renewed attempts to oust him depending on how the First Lady’s rally in Mberengwa goes.
“Everyone has their eyes and ears on the event. The aftermath of that meeting will, therefore, be a crucial factor in determining his fate,” added the official.
Also under fire are Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare deputy minister, Tapiwa Matangaidze, and Tourism and Hospitality Industry deputy minister, Annahstacia Ndlovu, who are also accused of dining and wining with the “enemy”.
Another PCC meeting, whose sole agenda item was the First Lady’s visit, was convened in Gweru Wednesday. Details of the meeting were not immediately available.
Zanu PF Midlands provincial spokesman, Cornelius Mpereri, confirmed Wednesday’s meeting, but denied attempts to get rid of Hlongwane.
“That is a fabrication. We actually had a nice PCC meeting which never attempted to oust him. He is our commissar and we have no intention of doing so,” he said.
But, even though the provincial spokesman denied the plot to oust Hlongwane, top officials from the region maintained that the Sports Minister, who could, however, not be reached for comment, was walking a tight rope