VICE-PRESIDENT Joice Mujuru will have nightmarish holidays after sinking deeper into political trouble this week following a foiled campaign at the recent Zanu PF conference for leadership renewal in the party.
Informed sources said the situation, coming in quick succession to accusations that she collaborated with Finance minister Tendai Biti in a failed bid to usurp President Robert Mugabe’s exchange control regulatory powers, has put the Zanu PF heavyweight in a sea of trouble.
The sources said Mugabe’s security agents intercepted fliers at the conference — some written “We want Leadership Renewal!” — from a group of political activists connected to the Mujuru faction. The activists were picked up at different places and whisked away for interrogation after which they revealed they were members of the Mujuru camp.
An intelligence source confirmed that state security operatives had foiled a “political plot” to instigate an internal revolt in Zanu PF against Mugabe. The source said Mujuru was linked to the political manoeuvring.
“We picked up some political activists in Mutare central business district and around the conference who had an agenda to cause trouble,” the source said “They wanted to agitate for leadership renewal in the party and had some placards written ‘We want Leadership Renewal’.”
“We took them to different places and some of them to Chimoio in Mozambique and they told us that they were campaigning for Mujuru to take over as leader of Zanu PF. The plan was to distribute the posters all over the place and create a tension-filled, politically-charged environment at the conference.”
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said he did not know anything about the incident. “Frankly speaking, I haven’t heard anything about it. If there were people who did that, it must have been outside the venue of the conference. You can’t rule out mischief but I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
Mujuru could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press last night.
However, sources insisted that there were fliers and placards which were mopped up and sent to Mugabe and those around him.
The issue, sources said, had ruffled Mugabe’s feathers while further alienating Mujuru from the Zanu PF leader who was still fuming after she was linked to an alleged plot by Biti to strip Mugabe of critical regulatory powers under the Exchange Control Act.
“The president is now aware of Mujuru’s ambitions and her manoeuvres,” another source said. “He feels she has damaged her case with these recent events and has ruled her out of the race to succeed him unless she could pull it off on her own.”
Sources said a report on the issue had been compiled for Mugabe and this has now convinced him that Mujuru was on a crusade to take over as Zanu PF leader.
The situation has been exacerbated by a recent failed bid by the Mujuru faction to push for an extraordinary congress just before the conference to choose the party’s candidate for the next elections. Conference endorsed Mugabe as the party’s presidential candidate. Mugabe this time managed to easily secure the endorsement after a bruising struggle ahead of the 2008 elections.
Sources said the Mujuru faction tried to use the central committee to push for an extraordinary congress. In terms of the Zanu PF constitution, an extraordinary congress, which only deliberates on those matters for which it has been specifically called, may be convened at the instance of the central committee or the president of the party.
In the run-up to the conference, sources said, the Mujuru faction wanted an extraordinary congress to decide who would be the party’s candidate in the next elections. The Mujuru faction succeeded in 2007 in forcing Mugabe to accept an extraordinary congress which was designed to remove him from the party’s leadership position. Former Zanu PF politburo senior members, Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni – who were aligned to the Mujuru faction – led the campaign.
The two later confirmed that they had wanted to push for “leadership renewal” in the party. Dabengwa and Makoni quit the party soon after their failed bid to oust Mugabe and formed Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn to challenge Mugabe for power. Makoni was fielded as the candidate and managed to secure 8% of the vote, denying frontrunner, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, an outright victory.
A few years ago Mugabe angrily berated Mujuru in an interview on state television for allegedly plotting to oust him. This followed the publication by media and book publisher Ibbo Mandaza of a controversial autobiography by veteran nationalist Edgar Tekere – A Lifetime of Struggle – which questioned Mugabe’s claims of being a towering liberation war hero.
Tekere effectively painted a picture of Mugabe as a vocal coward who did not even wear military fatigues during visits to the battle front or knew how to fire a gun. He also shed light on the dark corners of Mugabe’s personal life history which was not previously known.
This angered Mugabe, who always seems anxious to keep his private life and shady background secretive, as he suspected Mandaza, a former senior civil servant, of working in collaboration with the Mujuru camp to undermine him.
Mandaza was aligned to the Mujuru faction in Zanu PF and was part of the team which supported Makoni’s presidential bid. Makoni was a Mujuru ally before he left Zanu PF in 2008 just before the elections.
At a rally on March 2 2008 in Highfield, Tekere endorsed Makoni who was running against Mugabe in the March 2008 presidential poll. Tekere said that he was “appointing himself principal campaigner for Mugabe’s downfall”.