ZANU PF is in turmoil ahead of the party’s congress in December as rival factions fight to control the central committee, the party’s supreme decision-making body, and other critical structures.
The escalating power struggles in Zanu PF have left the party further divided and weakened.As the infighting intensifies, the battle for power has shifted to Mashonaland West, the latest theatre of political warfare in the party.
The Mashonaland West provincial executive has now threatened to resign if politburo members Ignatius Chombo and Webster Shamu succeed in imposing their candidates in the Women’s League, particularly for the powerful position of secretary of finance. This has raised the stakes in the jostling for control.
According to minutes of a meeting held by the provincial executive on September 28, the executive agreed to resign if the politburo members continue to interfere and bulldoze their way through.
“Instead of our politburo members discussing the fate of the party in the province, they are suspending the workhorse of the party like (Sarah) Mahoka (Hurungwe East MP),” the minutes say.
“If they want to rule this province alone, we are prepared to surrender all our party provincial positions and go back to the cells. Who is the leader of the province? Is it the chairman or politburo members who were appointed by the president or the chairman who was elected by the masses?”
The meeting reversed a decision by the party’s coordinating committee in the province to suspend central committee member Jimayi Muduvuri and Mahoka.
The suspensions were announced at a meeting attended by senior officials who included Chombo and Shamu. The meeting was attended by only two of the six top provincial members. The minutes say Mashonaland West provincial chairman John Mafa did not call for the coordinating committee meeting and thus it was null and void.
The power struggle in the province has become vicious ahead of congress in December and is becoming increasingly explosive due to rising tribal tensions. Politburo members such as Nathan Shamuyarira, Shamu and Chombo were accused by rivals of trying to flush out Karangas from the provincial executive and district levels to replace them with Mugabe’s Zezuru cronies.
A legislator in that province, who preferred not to be named, told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that at a recent meeting held in the province, Shamuyarira and Chombo allegedly told them to remove all the Karangas from top positions in the executive.
The main targets, he said, were Mafa, Mahoka and Muduvuri, as well other influential Karangas.
“Shamuyarira and Chombo told us to remove the Karangas — Mafa, Mahoka, Muduvuri and others in the districts. They said that they did not want the Karangas there and provinces like Mashonaland Central had already removed them, while Mashonaland East was in the process of doing so.”
The MP claimed politburo members Saviour Kasukuwere and Nicholas Goche were leading the campaign for ethnic purges in the region. Paul Mangwana was hounded out of Mashonaland West because he is Karanga and was forced to retreat back to Masvingo.
The September 28 minutes quote Mashonaland West provincial secretary for lands Themba Mliswa as saying Goche and Kasukuwere had confirmed “they dislike the Karangas and the Ndebeles”. He said for example in Hurungwe District Council a Karanga was elected chairman but Chombo kicked him out.
The legislator said there was a plot to replace Mafa, who is linked to Karangas, with Patrick Zhuwawo, a Zezuru, to ensure Mugabe’s nephew becomes a member of the central committee.
The Chombo camp is accused of trying to block Mahoka, a Karanga, from becoming the Women’s League finance secretary to pave way for Zezurus, senator Ratidzo Gava, Zhuwawo’s wife Barbara or Virginia Muchenje. Sources said Chombo has approached Mugabe to seek support for their candidates.
Tensions between the Karangas and the Zezurus trace back to the liberation war where ethnic purges were common.
Chombo and Shamu are said to belong to retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru’s camp, while most of the current Mashonaland West executive members are aligned to the Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) faction. Mujuru, who is behind his wife Vice- President Joice Mujuru’s ascendancy to the presidium, is seen as a Zanu PF kingmaker.
The two Zanu PF main camps mirror the political divide between Mugabe’s Zezuru sub-Shona group, which occupies Mashonaland Central, East and West provinces in north and northern-eastern Zimbabwe and the Karanga ethnic group, the biggest Shona sub-group, which occupies mainly Masvingo and Midlands provinces in the south.
For many in the Zezuru faction, the Karangas headed by Mnangagwa are seen as political rivals.
Since power fell into the hands of Mugabe and Zezurus, the Karangas have been complaining of political marginalisation.
After the 2004 congress, none of the top five party posts were occupied by Karangas, despite the fact they make up 35% of the population, with Zezurus accounting for 25%. Mugabe has also been accused of loading cabinet and other state institutions with Zezurus. This has all combined to create serious ethnic tensions in Zanu PF which are now playing out in Mashonaland West province.