It never rains but pours for President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu (PF), with well-placed sources telling the media on Saturday that two of the nonagenarian’s most trusted lieutenants are at each other’s throats over the selection of party candidates for forthcoming by-elections, among other differences.
The sources said the new fissures had generated “unwelcome tension” in a party that is already reeling from an ugly internal rebellion and deadly factionalism that have seen many senior officials, including former vice president Joice Mujuru and her allies, being purged ruthlessly.
In the new hara-kiri, former allies and alleged members of the powerful Gang of Four — Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Saviour
Kasukuwere — have apparently crossed swords over candidates to participate in the forthcoming Headlands by-elections.
The two senior politburo members worked together in support of controversial First Lady Grace Mugabe and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in the run-up to Zanu (PF)’s disputed congress that was held in Harare last December, which is now a subject of court action by Mujuru’s allies, including former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa.
Kasukuwere holds the influential politburo post of political commissar and is driving the party’s divisive restructuring exercise which has put him at odds with rival groups who suspect he could be quietly cultivating his way to the presidency in 2023 or even 2018.
The party insiders who spoke to the Daily News On Sunday on Saturday also said Muchinguri-Kashiri was miffed by Mnangagwa’s apparent lack of “appetite” to reward her for the role she had played in Mujuru’s ouster, and that she was desperately trying to reach out again to the party strongman after falling out with Kasukuwere.
Kasukuwere, the sources claimed, was leading a party faction calling itself Generation 40 (G40), comprising mainly young, but ambitious politicians angling to position themselves for higher office in future.
It is further claimed that Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwawo are members of the G40 — even though Moyo is way older than the other members of the group.
What had particularly irked some of Kasukuwere’s party detractors was that many G40 members affectionately, but inappropriately — in Zanu PF parlance — referred to him as Obama, comparing him to the sitting American president, Barrack Obama, and inferring that he was a future Zimbabwean president in the making.
“It is this suspicion that is at the centre of the bickering which has been amplified by the short-listing of candidates for by-elections and the deployment of politburo members to oversee Zanu PF’s restructuring exercise,” one of the sources said.
The source added that Muchinguri-Kashiri’s recent claims that there were still people campaigning for Mugabe and Mnangagwa’s ouster were a result of “her tiff with Kasukuwere”.
“Her allegations are aimed at Kasukuwere and Moyo who are pushing hard for their candidates in the by-elections, taking advantage of Kasukuwere’s strategic position in the party. She is saying those things just to please ED (Mnangagwa) after realising that she no longer has a place in the G40.
“She feels terribly used by Moyo and Kasukuwere,” another insider told the Daily News on Sunday.
On the other hand, Kasukuwere’s camp was apparently accusing Muchinguri-Kashiri of seeking to block their candidates from contesting in the crucial by-elections.
One of Headlands’ by-election candidates, Dakarai Mapuranga, has since been barred from contesting the poll, despite being in the Manicaland provincial youth league executive.
The sources said Mapuranga was being blocked on the basis that when he transferred from Harare to Manicaland he had not been cleared by his former district.
Mapuranga, who is believed to be aligned to the Kasukuwere camp, has since written to the party’s national elections directorate appealing against the decision to bar him from the election.
Kasukuwere declined to comment on Muchinguri-Kashiri’s statements yesterday, as well as their alleged fall-out.
“Why do you ask me about what Muchinguri said as if you do not have her number? Ask her, she will tell you,” Kasukuwere said.
Muchinguri-Kashiri was said to be in a meeting most of the day yesterday.
Hesitant party spokesperson Simon Khaya-Moyo referred questions on Mapuranga’s issue to Kasukuwere.
But another well-placed source said Kasukuwere was set to reverse the decision to bar Mapuranga from the election on Monday.
“He (Kasukuwere) wants to ensure that he has total control of the process of choosing candidates in these by-elections because Mnangagwa’s group is also pushing for its own candidates.
“If it has nothing to do with the seemingly unending struggle for mastery in the party, then how do you explain the fact that Mapuranga is allowed to sit in the provincial executive but cannot contest for a position in the same province,” said an executive member from Manicaland Province.
Mnangagwa’s camp on the other hand is reportedly livid that most of the politburo members deployed to oversee the party’s restructuring exercise in the provinces were sympathetic to the G40 camp.
“Kasukuwere made sure that the exercise left out party supporters known to be loyal to Mnangagwa. The matter was even raised at a recent meeting at the party’s Midlands provincial headquarters. The war is not over,” said a Mnangagwa loyalist.
Last week former party spokesman, Rugare Gumbo — who was sacked from Zanu PF in the run-up to the shambolic December congress — revealed that his group, which includes Mutasa, had made overtures to MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai and join hands with them in an endeavour to extricate Zimbabwe from its current economic and political crises.
Mujuru, while not known to be publicly involved in Mutasa’s and Gumbo’s overtures, recently told of her bitterness for having been used by Mugabe for 42 years.
All this has attracted some veiled threats from Zanu PF against the camp, through shadowy but well-informed Herald columnist — Nathaniel Manheru — who is widely believed to be Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba.
Daily News On Sunday