IT never rains but pours for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Barely three months after he was undressed by a mere Member of Parliament Sarah Mahoka at a solidarity rally held for under-fire President Robert Mugabe at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare, Mnangagwa was on the receiving end again last Wednesday, this time at the hands of motor-mouth Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandiitawepi Chimene.
Mahoka and Chimene are believed to be members of Zanu PF’s G40 faction that is linked to First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Mahoka, a Hurungwe East Zanu PF MP, was the first to gore Mnangagwa, accusing him of plotting to oust Mugabe.
On Wednesday Chimene, a war veteran, escalated the fight by publicly imploring Mugabe to fire Mnangagwa. The VP reacted to the attack the following day saying the allegations by the minister were unfounded.
However, Chimene (MC) told our senior reporter Xolisani Ncube in an exclusive interview that she stood by her words and remains adamant that Mnangagwa must be fired. Below are excerpts of the interview.
XN: What drove you to say things you said about Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the rally on Wednesday? Does Zanu PF protocol allow you to do that?
MC: Let me start by saying the meeting was organised by freedom fighters drawn from the two liberation movements (Zipra and Zanla) who brought the independence and the freedom you are enjoying today. It’s the same freedom that made us organise that meeting, which is allowing you to ask such kind of questions today.
This meeting was aimed at us as war veterans to show our solidarity and support to our Comrade president, President Robert Mugabe and we had support from the youths and women in Zanu PF.
After realising the level of factionalism and intimidation that has been going on in the party and plots to overthrow our president, I, as a war veteran, am duty bound to defend my leader. I decided to speak out and question those who are doing it.
XN: Is it those who are alleged to be doing it or are actually doing it?
MC: Why say those who are alleged to be doing it? They are doing it and we had to talk about it so that we bring stability and respect in the party.
We can’t stand and watch the party going down just like that. We fought for this party and went to war sacrificing our lives. so we can’t allow a few individuals to divide us for personal gains along so-called factional lines.
This has nothing to do with protocol but principles and ideals of the liberation struggle. So whatever people will say, I was defending my leader, my commander, my party and the people of Zimbabwe who voted for President Mugabe to be their leader.
XN: The VP has said your allegations are unfounded and that he is not worried about what you are saying. He likened you to a dog that is barking in the wilderness.
MC: Hold on there, you mean he is now able to speak out and he has responded to what we are saying? So you mean the VP now can talk on these issues? Well, you said he said we are barking, fair and fine, it’s good that he now can respond.
But this is unfortunate, he has only found his voice now because we expected him to respond when these things started.
He should have told people like Matemadanda [Victor], Mahiya [Douglas] and those youths who have been doing this thing in his name that they are barking like dogs. Surely, he can’t tell us that just because we have asked him to come out clean.
He allowed his name to be used and abused, I assume, going by what he said, and today he tells us we are barking. we will bark in support of our president, not rebels.
When people were declaring him to be the next leader, he did not say they were barking, he remained quiet, now today, he is telling us we are barking, let him think so.
XN: What do you say to allegations that you were sent by First Lady Grace Mugabe and G40 to further their agenda against Mnangagwa?
MC: I don’t know anything called G40. that is a creation of people in Lacoste, those who have been supporting the VP and that is why we are saying no to being divided as Zanu PF.
I am not a member of any faction and will not be. I respect the interests of my president and party leader Cde RG Mugabe.
We have no agenda at all. For your own information, what I said there represents the views and cries of many genuine war veterans and Zanu PF activists who feel those successionists who are dividing us must leave us united as we came from the bush.
XN: Why did you have to wait for that rally to tell Mugabe that some ministers no longer respected him and that Mnangagwa is the leader of the Lacoste faction?
MC: That was a platform presented to us as war veterans to present our grievances to the party.
We have been waiting for the VP to speak out and state his position on the matter, but we realised he was being quiet while the party was being divided.
All we are saying is, if the VP wants to topple the president, let him come out today and we go to congress so that we see what will become of him. We don’t support illegal means of taking over.
XN: But why not use other ways to raise such issues rather than resorting to a rally to tell the president that his deputy is plotting to topple him?
MC: We have been quiet for too long and I think it’s time we call a spade a spade. We should learn to tell each other the truth and build each other as we go. What they have been doing is disgusting; they have been doing it publicly, killing the party publicly, and should we just watch that happening like that? No.
XN: Do you have any evidence that Mnangagwa leads the so-called Lacoste faction as you alleged?
MC: When you want it, we will present it to you. But surely, are you serious in your question? Did you not read and hear [war veterans leader Christopher] Mutsvangwa and his cabal saying they want VP Mnangagwa to take over?
Have you not seen the same people and some more, especially the youths, who have publicly said they are team Lacoste? If you have not seen that, then there is a problem with your eyes.
XN: You were referred to as the acting chairperson for the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association. Were your actions not in violation of a court order that said you must not masquerade as leader of the association?
MC: Was the court there when we went to war? I was not invited to the liberation struggle by a court. In any case, I am just a caretaker leader. I will not be there forever.
I am not chairperson material. I enjoy being led by those who have the experience and value of the liberation struggle. I went to war in 1976 and it would be impossible for me to lead those who went to war in 1972. What value will I be bringing to them?
They have the war experience, understand the war better than me and have endured more than me. So those who think that Mandi wants to take over forever should think twice. Please tell them clearly, I am only a care taker leader, they must not worry about me too much.
XN: Are war veterans not allowed to support a leader of their choice as they have done with Mnangagwa?
MC: They must do so legally, not by trying to remove our president and divide the party illegally. We will not allow that to happen, never.
XN: Are you also of the view that Mugabe must rule for life?
MC: As long as the people in Zanu PF and Zimbabwe want him, why should he go? Do you want him to go?
We in Zanu PF made a resolution and we will stand by that resolution that we will stand by our president in 2018.
We elected him at our congress, so anyone wanting to remove him will be dealt with heavily.
XN: In an event that the VP takes over, do you think you will be safe in Zanu PF?
MC: Listen, I am not afraid of anything. I went to war not for fun, but to liberate our people back home.
It was never a joy ride or a picnic. We saw comrades dying for this country, so how can I be afraid in an independent Zimbabwe?
For the record, this is not personal or about being power-hungry, but being principled to the ideals and ethos of the struggle, which is following the command of the president.
I don’t hate the VP but I am saying he should have defended his boss when he was being attacked by people who were using his name. He remained quiet as if he was not there, that is the biggest mistake he made. This divided us, hence we are fighting.
XN: After your meeting with the president, what’s next for you and the war veterans? What’s the way forward?
MC: We will be guided by our leaders; we are not going to do anything without the blessings of the leadership, both the party and the war veterans.