Mutasa said the decision by the politburo to task the three Matabeleland provinces to nominate a candidate was reached after realisation that there was no clear senior leader to take up the second vice-presidency of Zanu PF.
However, this was dismissed by senior Zanu PF officials in the party’s provinces who said it was Mutasa who was unaware of former PF Zapu’s leaders’ seniority.
An irritated Mutasa told the Zimbabwe Independent that when Vice-President Joshua Nkomo died, it was clear that the late Joseph Msika would take over.
“In fact the nomination is going to come from all the 10 provinces. We never said we wanted a nomination — what we wanted was a selection of a candidate and that is different from nomination,” said Mutasa. “All we are saying is that in the past “mukuru wavo aizikanwa” (it was clear who the senior leader is).
“It was clear who the leader was after VaNkomo died and it was also the same when VaMsika took over, they were not challenged.”
But now, he said the situation was different and because of the absence of a clear leader to succeed Msika, there was a scramble for power in the provinces.
“Currently, which we never did in the past, we have got to engage. There is need for this exercise to select one person from Matabeleland provinces who will take over,” said Mutasa.
Senior members of the party based in Matabeleland are opposed to his views, saying the position of vice- president should not be regionalised.
One politburo member based in Bulawayo, who preferred not to be named, said the way the selection was being done was causing unnecessary conflict in the region and in the party.
He said such statements by Mutasa were dangerous and uninformed.
“Statements by Mutasa are coming from someone who is not clear himself about who is senior or not. It is him who is not clear, not us,” the official said.
The Matabeleland provinces resolved recently at a meeting in Bulawayo attended by central committee members from the region that the nomination should be done by all the party’s 10 provinces.
Mutasa refused to reveal which provinces had submitted names, saying he would release such information to his boss, President Robert Mugabe and the politburo.
He said as far as he was concerned the politburo decision still stood and the provinces’ decision to go national had not been communicated to him.
“I am not going to tell you. Are you my president, are you in the politburo? Why should I tell you (names submitted by provinces)?” Mutasa demanded to know. “They (Matabeleland provinces) have not told me.
(Richard) Ndlovu (acting political commissar) is not the secretary for administration. He is not in the provinces in Matabeleland. He is just a member of the politburo and he has not communicated to me. Zvinhu Zvataurwa nepaper (these are newspaper reports) — that is not our position. Our position remains the same.”
Another politburo member in Bulawayo said Mutasa cannot speak on behalf of the politburo without convening a meeting.
“He is speaking on his own behalf. Has he convened a meeting with the politburo? It is the politburo that makes that kind of pronouncement. Our position is very clear, that this position is that of a national leader not a regional leader and the nomination has to be done nationally,” the politburo member said.
“We convened a meeting with all people involved, central committee and politburo members. We don’t want to tribalise Zanu PF because there are other PF-Zapu members in other provinces, why just members from Matabeleland provinces? We, as the region, are just going to play an advisory role, whilst we go national.”
Mutasa has warned that the politburo would select a candidate for nomination to the post of vice-president if the three provinces fail to agree on a single candidate by Wednesday.
The provinces failed to meet the Wednesday deadline for the selection process and the three provinces are still to submit their names.
Matabeleland North has not yet met but is said to be backing politburo member Obert Mpofu, whilst politburo member Sikhanyiso Ndlovu has confirmed that Bulawayo’s choice is John Nkomo and reports say Matabeleland South has also thrown its weight behind the party chairman.
The politburo member was adamant that Mpofu should not even be up for consideration because he was not a member of PF-Zapu at the time when the Unity Accord was signed in 1987.
“That person was never in PF-Zapu since Independence. He is just someone who just emerged after PF-Zapu and he now wants to be Vice-President representing PF-Zapu. When was he in PF-Zapu?” he said.
In terms of the 1987 Unity Accord, the Vice-President’s position is reserved for former PF-Zapu and in an unwritten understanding so is the chairman’s position.