MASVINGO — A belated 21st February movement gala to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s birthday which was slated for Mucheke stadium on Friday night was stopped at the eleventh hour over alleged factional fighting, it has emerged.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
Mugabe turned 90 on February 21 and has been in power since independence in 1980.
Sources said senior Minister of State, Simon Khaya-Moyo, was expected to be the guest of honour at the function where other Zanu PF officials were also expected to sing praises and show their loyalty to Mugabe.
Several urban grooves artists were billed to perform until yesterday morning.
However, the gala was suddenly cancelled with insiders saying factionalism had once again played a role.
“After getting donations from companies and well-wishers, we were told that the gala had been cancelled by Harare with no reasons being given,” said a senior Zanu PF official in Masvingo.
“We took that information with a pinch of salt. Upon enquiries, we were told that the gala was stopped by a rival faction as it would have legitimised the current provincial executive whose win was contested.”
However, Zanu PF Masvingo provincial chairman, Killian Gwanetsa said the gala was cancelled after considering the plight of flood victims who are facing a myriad of problems.
“We cancelled the gala and it has been postponed to a later date after taking into consideration the plight of Tokwe-Mukosi victims. We could not be celebrating while these people need help and are facing difficulties,” he said.
About 4 000 households were evacuated from the dam’s flood basin and were moved to the Chingwizi holding camp in Mwenezi where they are facing food and water shortages. Some of them are sleeping in the open.
The Tokwe-Mukosi disaster did not stop Mugabe from holding his birthday celebrations. A lavish party was held in Marondera last month, where 90 beasts were slaughtered to feed the thousands who attended.
Gwanetsa rubbished claims of factionalism in Masvingo.
“There is nothing like that. That is not the reason. We will let you know when the celebrations will be held,” he said.
The current provincial leadership is alleged to be sympathetic to Vice-President Joice Mujuru, while the outgoing executive was linked to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Although the two deny leading factions, they are said to be in a subtle battle to strategically position themselves for an eventual takeover of the presidency from Mugabe, who is dogged by old age and poor health.
Gwanetsa’s win was challenged by a contender for the position, Ailes Baloyi, who vowed not to recognise the former’s victory citing vote fraud and brazen rigging in choosing the provincial executive.
The provincial executive polls were marred by violence.