Ray Matikinye/Augustine Mukaro
THE death last week of Josiah Tungamirai has removed a stabilising factor in Masvingo politics and is poised to test the political acumen of the current leadership in the facti
The Zanu PF leadership, with the maverick Dzikamai Mavhaire as political commissar, has a daunting task to choose a successor with the mettle to maintain a check on Zezuru hegemony and retain plausible Karanga relevance in national politics.
The late Tungamirai, a close ally of retired general Solomon Mujuru in the succession dogfight, teamed against Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to the vice-presidency last year and continued to provide crucial Karanga presence in the Zanu PF.
Retired army general Vitalis Zvinavashe is tipped to take over the Gutu North constituency and enter mainstream politics.
He appears the frontrunner among the list of possible candidates because of the need to come up with a recognised political heavyweight who has appeal among the warring factions in the province.
Mavhaire says finding a successor to Tungamirai’s role as a godfather posed no problems.
“No one doubts Zvinavashe’s credentials as the most senior politician in the province,” Mavhaire said.
“But there is still the daunting task to select who will take over the Gutu North constituency as well as choosing senatorial representatives.”
Mavhaire said the provincial executive had formulated a foolproof system to avoid the party sliding into factionalism.
“We are a taskforce, given a mandate to restructure and unite Zanu PF supporters in this province in the next two years before fresh provincial elections. And we are quite clear on how to go about it without allowing division to rear its ugly head again,” Mavhaire said.
He added: “There are no divisions, there are no factions because people have realised how costly factionalism is and what a setback it is. Ordinary party supporters have never been divided on factional lines but the leadership has sought dominance using petty cliques.”
Masvingo province has been trying to come to terms with a reconfigured landscape following the ouster of a provincial executive led by Daniel Shumba earlier this year.
One of the dominant political groups ghosting for the late vice-president Simon Muzenda that includes Gutu South MP Shuvai Mahofa, Masvingo North MP Stan Mudenge, and former governor Josaya Hungwe, has been seriously hog-tied by its involvement in the ill-fated Tsholotsho meeting of December 18 last year.
Its political muscle has been greatly weakened by a shift of influence and power through exclusion from the interim provincial executive structures that prescribe the political pace.
Shumba took over the reins in a palace coup engineered by self-proclaimed Independence war veterans at the behest of a protégé faction of the late Muzenda. But he was sucked into the Tsholotsho clique, famed for clandestinely seeking to challenge the untenable tenets of guided democracy in Zanu PF.
Those who attended the meeting, representing a frightening chunk of Zanu PF support, sought to derail Joice Mujuru’s ascendancy to the vice-presidency.
Mavhaire said strangers and newcomers might want to buy their way into the contest but stood little chance.
“It would simply be an intention but the electorate is much wiser. They have come to accept that people must reap where they sow,” Mavhaire said.
The late Tungamirai had assumed the godfather role after the death of Vice-President Muzenda in September 2003.
Zvinavashe commands a lot of respect in the province. Last year the retired commander of the defence forces turned down an invitation by the Gutu South leadership to run as the candidate in the March parliamentary election.
Zvinavashe had been approached to replace Mahofa who had fallen out of favour with Gutu South traditional leaders. Mahofa was implicated in the death of war veterans leader Misheck Maseva and then arrested after diverting maize from the Masvingo Grain Marketing Board depot for personal profit.
Zvinavashe opted to play an advisory role. “What they need to understand is that I am a retired commander of the defence forces. I have been serving the country at national level so structurally I can’t go back to represent a district or province,” Zvinavashe said.
Zvinavashe said then that there were young people in the constituency that should be given a chance and he would play an advisory role.
“People are not wrong,” he said. “I know what they want. I am not refusing to help them. I will help them but not as they expected. I will not take up that post but only advise those who will be on the post,” he said.
But this time, Zvinavashe could have a change of heart given the void left by his comrade-in-arms Tungamirai and apparent Zezuru clannish tendencies to dominate Zanu PF politics.
Prior to his retirement from the army, Zvinavashe had been linked to the late Muzenda’s Gutu North constituency, which was later taken over by the late Tungamirai.
After his retirement in December last year, there was speculation that Zvinavashe would be appointed vice-president to replace Muzenda.
What could also spur Zvinavashe to take up the challenge is the possibility that the Mahofa trio could want to test its popularity given the fickle nature of the rural electorate in the province.
The choice of a candidate could revolve around trying to regain lost pride and bruised egos among rival leaders in the province, with the Mahofa, Hungwe and Mudenge axis throwing in Gutu district council chairman Silas Matuke in the ring.
They could also come up with candidates for the senatorial seats from those of their staunch followers who lost pre-poll primary elections.
If Zvinavashe maintains his position and turns the offer down again, the current Samuel Mumbengegwi-led provincial executive has Gutu businessman Dzimba Madondo to fall back on.