THE Zanu PF succession race to replace the late Vice-President Joseph Msika has become messy with senior party officials trying to outmanoeuvre each other in a bid to block national chairman John Nkomo’s ascendancy.
The struggle over Msika’s replacement took a new twist yesterday, widening divisions in Zanu PF ahead of the crucial congress in December.The fight over who will take over has become more confusing with plots and subplots emerging.
The Zanu PF politburo last night intervened and resolved to bring all 10 provinces into the fray to ensure that Msika’s successor is nominated alongside other members of the presidium bringing a new dimenson to the race.
Prior to this, the battle to succed Msika had been fought only in the Matabeleland provinces. The politburo decision — which emphasises seniority in the party hierachy — will give Nkomo a major boost.
The politburo agreed that the vice-president and chairperson’s posts will go to ex-PF Zapu officials.
The provinces were given a deadline of November 14 to submit their nominees to the party.
Naison Ndlovu, Cain Mathema, Ambrose Mutinhiri and Obert Mpofu have publicly declared their interest to succeed Msika, while Nkomo has said according to Zanu PF’s constitution, a person is nominated by the provinces.
While some senior politicians are trying to stop Nkomo from taking up the shared number two spot in the party, others want to form an alliance with him in exchange for his position if he gets the six or more nominations from the 10 provinces.
However, forming such an alliance, Zanu PF insiders said, could lose him the support of those in the Matabeleland provinces and former PF-Zapu members who feel there is an unwritten agreement stating that the chairman’s position is reserved for the former PF-Zapu.
Zanu PF insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent that the faction led by retired army commander Solomon Mujuru asked Mutinhiri to throw his hat into the ring to scuttle Nkomo’s efforts, while another group which was part of the so-called Tsholotsho plot is campaigning for Naison Ndlovu to take up the post.
Mpofu is said to be more of a spoiler than a serious contender.
The fight has also taken a new twist with former senior PF-Zapu officials this week disowning Mpofu.
The senior members, who occupied top positions in PF-Zapu at Independence and before the 1987 Unity Accord, told the Zimbabwe Independent in separate interviews that as far as they were concerned, Mpofu allegedly deserted the party during the liberation struggle in the 1970s.
Mpofu, the senior officials said, was never a member of PF-Zapu at Independence in 1980 and therefore he should not even be eyeing the vice-president post as it was reserved for the most senior surviving member of that party.
One official in the Zanu PF politburo, who preferred anonymity, challenged Mpofu to produce his PF-Zapu membership cards from before Independence and after.
The official said they did not know much about Mpofu until 1987 when he was appointed non-constituency MP by Mugabe.
“We didn’t know him after Independence,” said the top official. “Some of us can produce our cards we got in Lusaka and also after Independence. Where are his cards? It is clear that he joined Zanu PF in 1980 and we were in Zapu and we didn’t know him, we knew our members.
“He is just a spoiler who knows that he does not qualify. He was just a small boy when we joined politics. By shouting at senior Zapu members, he is creating enemies and digging his own grave.”
Another senior member, who also preferred anonymity, said Mpofu allegedly disappeared in the 1970s when he went to India and only emerged after Independence.
“As far as we were concerned, he deserted the struggle and he left Zapu in the 1970s. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that he was elected into the Zanu PF provincial membership in Matabeleland North in 1980?” he said.
The official said Mpofu should not vie for the vice-president’s post.
“The question is where was he after he went for his Zipra training and where was he after India? The ones that were sponsored by Zapu came back and we had a list of them. He hides behind (retired army commander General Solomon) Mujuru because he trained with him,” he said. “But where did he go after that training? Maybe he can tell us which highest position he held while in Zapu. I think the general public will be interested to know this.”
What irked former senior PF-Zapu members were statements made by Mpofu at a Zanu PF election victory celebration in Nyamandlovu when he attacked some of the candidates vying for the post. He said they never won a ward election in the constituencies and do not even have the support of their wives.
However, when the Zimbabwe Independent contacted Mpofu, he said he never threw his hat into the race but only said that if people wanted him to be vice-president, he would gladly take up the post.
He declined to give a short profile of his political life. He also declined to react to assertions that he was never a PF-Zapu member after 1980.
Mpofu said: “No one has said anything to me about it. How can I talk about something I cannot determine — which I cannot also pre-empt? I don’t want to discuss these issues — I am not a Zanu PF spokesperson.”
According to his curriculum vitae he submitted to parliament, Mpofu said he joined the liberation struggle in 1967 and went through military training in Morogoro in Tanzania in 1968. He said he operated in (Sipolilo) Guruve, Deka, Binga, Kazungula, Hwange, Tsholotsho and Lupane areas.
There is a gap in his political career from there until 1987, when he was appointed non-constituency MP.
But according to a profile by an online publication, which said it interviewed Mpofu, the minister was quoted saying Zapu awarded him sponsorship in 1973 to pursue academic studies up to 1980.
In 1980 Mpofu was reportedly elected onto the Zanu PF Matabeleland North provincial executive and rose to become a member of the central committee and the politburo.
Mpofu worked as a line manager at Zimbabwe Newspapers in Harare in the mid-1980s. He was then appointed general manager of Zimbabwe Grain Bag (Pvt) Ltd, a manufacturing company established by Zanu-PF in Bulawayo.
Meanwhile, the former PF-Zapu officials also said people like Mathema might expose themselves after declaring an interest.
They said Mathema allegedly rebelled against the Zipra command and was rescued by the British High Commission and sent to London where he was based until 1980.