The meeting comes at a time when traditional leaders and war veterans have waded into the fight over the selection of a new provincial chairman, openly declaring their support for Chiyangwa who was recently re-admitted by Zanu PF after a five-year suspension.
Acting provincial chairman, Reuben Marumahoko said the party’s provincial coordinating council meets in Chinhoyi today to shortlist candidates who will take part in the elections for a substantive chairman. “The meeting is in preparation for the elections to be held on January 21. It will also decide who is allowed to stand,” he said.
Fireworks are expected as senior politburo members are divided on whether to allow Chiyangwa to contest the post, with reports that some of them are trying to block the businessman.
But traditional leaders and war veterans in the province yesterday raised their voice over the selection of a substantive chairman to replace Robert Sikanyika who died in a car accident in April last year.
Chief Chivero of Mhondoro said most traditional leaders in the province wanted Chiyangwa to get his old post back which he lost in 2005 when he was arrested but later acquitted on allegations of espionage. “When a child misbehaves, he is punished before being forgiven and given responsibilities again,” he said.
Chief Chivero said Chiyangwa was respected by traditional leaders in the province as he used to be their advisor for the different development programmes which were running in Mashonaland West. They have virtually collapsed due to lack of support, he said.
Chief Zvimba also confirmed his support for Chiyangwa. “He (Chiyangwa) should be the provincial chairman. You must come to my farm in Banket so that we can extensively discuss our position as traditional leaders,” he said.
Hurungwe-based war veteran leader, Robson Goredema said former freedom fighters were also lobbying for Chiyangwa. “Some of our party leaders in the province are feeding lies to President Mugabe that Chiyangwa and John Mafa (expelled provincial chairman) are bad,” he said.
“They are jealous because Chiyangwa and Mafa are capable of wooing back people who left the party to join MDC. When Chiyangwa was chairman, Zanu PF was strong in the province, but now it has lost several seats to the opposition.”
A provincial executive member who requested anonymity said traditional leaders have no right to peddle in politics.
“I know that chiefs openly support my party which is wrong,” he said. “I suspect they want Chiyangwa because of the financial rewards that are likely to follow. I have nothing against the businessman, but I think for the time being it is best that he maintains a low profile for the benefit of everyone.”
Other candidates interested in the Mashonaland West chairmanship post include Marumahoko who is said to be backed by Zanu PF’s national political commissar, Webster Shamu and Zvimba South MP Walter Chidakwa, who is reportedly being backed by Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo.
Mafa and former deputy information minister Bright Matonga are also running. Efforts to get comments from Shamu, Chombo and Matonga were fruitless.