ACROSS the Zambezi, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party’s 15th annual people’s conference had all the ingredients of a soap-opera.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA/ELIAS MAMBO
There were accusations of plots, sub-plots and counter plots between factions angling to take charge of the former liberation movement.
With Mugabe openly admitting activists “have been threatening to tear each other apart at this conference”, The Standard was given a sneak-peek into the intricate details of how the two distinct factions engaged in open warfare for Mugabe’s throne were trying to arm-twist the veteran guerrilla leader to make changes to his inner circle.
“They have bussed in rogue youths who have been booked into a hotel in Livingstone [Zambia] across the Zambezi.
They want to boo VP [Emmerson] Mnangagwa. Clearly, these are G40 [Generation 40] shenanigans to try and push for his ouster, but it is not going to work.” The Standard was told early Friday as Mugabe prepared to officially open the annual jamboree.
The security services were also sucked into the wars, with some in the intelligence openly showing their support for Mnangagwa, long seen as Mugabe’s successor, but whose path has been littered with stumbling blocks to frustrate him by the G40 group.
The group is reportedly now fronted by First Lady Grace Mugabe — a new entrant onto the political scene, but now wielding so much power she is viewed as the greatest threat to Mnangagwa’s decades-long dream.
“We have colleagues whose accreditation cards have been taken away, confiscated by members of the G40 group, including their identity cards because they do not want us to attend the conference. But the intelligence has also set up a check-point at the border with Zambia to check for weapons and T-shirts bearing the picture of a tractor hoisting a crocodile,” said another youth leader on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, in the giant marquee songs where composed and the provocative dancing went on each time there was a musical interlude.
Monica Mutsvangwa, briefly sacked by Grace’s Women’s League executive before Mugabe served her blushes, gyrated in front of the First Lady. But her Manicaland political nemesis Letwin Undenge jumped in as the tacit fights went on. Mutsvangwa then looked at Undenge with a nasty snarl.
Masvingo province sang “munoreverana nhema, Bhobho haazi munhu wekubata kumeso” (you are fooling yourselves, Mugabe is not one to hoodwink), while Mashonaland West came in with “regai atonge” (let him rule).
It was, however, the host province of Matabeleland North that almost brought the house down with “Bhobho hlala la, Bhobho hlala la, Bhobho hlala la uze ukhokhobe” (Stay on Bob [Mugabe] until you get really old).
Mashonaland Central’s Dickson Mafios chanted “Pasi nevanoda zvigaro nguva isati yakwana” (Down with people who clamour for power when it’s not yet their time). Presidential Press Secretary George Charamba and Mugabe’s chief of protocol Munyaradzi Kajese joined in the hip-swinging and gyrating, while Masvingo provincial chairman Ezra Chadzamira had the tent reverberating with Mnangagwa’s trademark “Pasi nemhanduuuuu [down with enemies]”.
As the drama unfolded, Mugabe’s spokesperson Charamba and his former principal, now Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, clearly avoided each other despite brushing shoulders. Moyo has clashed with Charamba, allegedly because they belong to different factions, with the Cabinet minister describing his ex-permanent secretary as “a mere civil servant”.
This was after Charamba had engaged in a no-holds-barred verbal altercation with Christopher Mutsvangwa, despite the two seemingly belonging to “Team Lacoste” — as the Mnangagwa faction is known.
The police now stand accused of sympathising with the G40 faction: “If you report these criminal elements who are illegally confiscating people’s accreditation cards to the police, no action is taken. The police are saying it’s a political matter that should be resolved as such. But we know where their allegiances lie”.
On the other hand, intelligence details openly showed their support for Mnangagwa.
“We have laid out everything. There is no stopping. If we find them caucusing, we will arrest them. The president has given the greenlight. We just want to make one example and someone is going to be very unfortunate,” said one official Thursday night.
Then reports were filtering through that the Mnangagwa faction had agreed to the adoption of a resolution to co-opt a woman into the presidium, but there was a catch.
“We now want the woman to come from the Zapu side. We have supplied a woman VP for over 10 years and it is time women from the Zapu side of the Unity Accord are uplifted,” said another youth leader.
If this is carried through, the resolution would have dealt a heavy blow to the G40 faction that includes in its ranks not only national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Moyo, but more importantly, second vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko.
It would mean that Mphoko would then be forced to make way for Eunice Sandi-Moyo, the proposed woman VP, but also it would mean the end of Grace’s ambition to take over from her husband, an ambition reportedly now being fanned by the G40 group. This would also mean a split within the faction given that Sandi-Moyo is Grace’s storm-trooper and Mphoko’s “blue-eyed girl”, according to insiders.
Buses were emptied and delegates were frisked as fears abound of possible chaos and smuggling of dangerous weapons. There were probably as many security details present, as there were delegates.
Delegates to the conference were re-accredited by members of the central intelligence organisation who colour-coded their accreditation cards to weed out “fake delegates who were bussed in to boo Mnangagwa”.
Mugabe in his opening speech admitted; “We cannot allow chaos. I have been informed that some are here clearly agitating for violence. They are saying we will tear each other apart at the conference. This conference is not for that. Divided we fall and united we stand.
“We should understand that even if we fight, we must at the end find common ground to advance the interests of Zanu PF and push its policies forward. This way, we will remain the people’s party”.
His handlers, however, have claimed “there is no factionalism in the party”, which they say exists only in “opposition newspapers”. But Mugabe went a step further.
“Factionalism has rocked our party. Yakonzera kuti kuve nekugedageda muparty. [It has caused gnashing of teeth in the party]. The military, police and intelligence are involved. Let us stop that. We do not need that. Those ambitious within our ranks should wait for congress. You want to remove people elected by congress. Pasi nemi [down with you],” fumed Mugabe.
He said Zanu PF could not afford to have people ascribed to particular individuals.
“We cannot have people being allocated to individuals. Conference must end that and we must leave here re-invigorated with fresh purpose to push the policies of the party,” the veteran Zanu PF leader said.
Then there was the usual apple-polishing and fawning, with Zanu PF apparatchiks led by Mnangagwa and Mphoko taking turns to pile platitudes on the “dear leader”. Mugabe watched in awe, apparently taken aback and wondering if indeed the person being described could really be him.
“You have become a president in the past year, that every world leader has been dying to shake his hand,” Mnangagwa said.