TRANSPORT minister, Joram Gumbo (JG) together with Foreign Affairs minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi are the two most senior Zanu PF officials in the Midlands after Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Midlands, together with Masvingo, have of late come under harsh criticism from President Robert Mugabe and first lady Grace Mugabe for allegedly fanning divisions in the ruling party.
Our reporter, Blessed Mhlanga (BM) on Friday spoke to Gumbo about Mnangagwa’s alleged presidential ambitions, the poisoning saga and factionalism, among other issues. Below are excerpts from the interview.
BM: You are one of the most senior Zanu PF leaders in the Midlands, which is being ravaged by factionalism. How deep does it run?
JG: To be honest with you, factionalism is difficult to detect. What I normally find are cliques and not factionalism as such because in the Midlands Province, there is always allegiance to the leadership that is there.
When Mnangagwa was not vice-president, he was leader of the province.
He just led us to believe and never to think otherwise but just to say our leader is President [Robert] Mugabe until he leaves office.
Whoever he appoints must be respected. What I am hearing now is an issue of cliques. You find that there is a grouping of people who might say they want Gumbo and you find another who might say they want Mumbengegwi.
I am giving you just examples of two top people in the province at the moment and [people might group themselves around them,]leading to talk about factionalism.
BM: So this talk that Midlands is ravaged by factionalism does not hold water?
JG: Definitely not in the Midlands. Other than cliques, there is no factionalism. Even if you go around the country, I have been around, I have been to Masvingo, I chaired Masvingo myself.
What I discovered was that the leadership there would make preferences of people they want in positions and the group would also make preferences for their own people. if that is what people call factionalism, then the whole country is full of factionalism.
BM: What you are describing, is that not factionalism?
JG: My understanding of factionalism would be to say people who would be working against President Mugabe and prefer somebody to be leader and that is nonsensical.
Any sane person in Zimbabwe will tell you that vaMugabe is not easy to challenge and if you want to do that, you only do that at your own peril.
BM: You know Mnangagwa?
JG: Yes,very well.
BM: Does he harbour any ambitions?
JG: He doesn’t. He has always been accused from the time he was security chief, from war time, from when he was the president’s personal assistant.
People always called him the blue-eyed boy for vaMugabe. That’s what they have always been calling him.
Now it’s a step higher from what he was being called before he became vice-president. Now that he has become VP, some people are saying he wants to take over.
BM: If indeed he has no ambition to dethrone Mugabe, what is the motive of these people?
JG: I don’t know. It can best be answered by them, but what I know is that Mnangagwa’s loyalty to President Mugabe is unquestionable.
Very much unquestionable and that’s what we all believe in the Midlands.
He is one person that I know for a fact that he does not harbour any intentions of taking over from vaMugabe.
Unless appointed to do so by vaMugabe and unless the president says I am stepping down, then maybe he may want to stand, if he wants to stand.
BM: You were once caretaker chairperson in both Masvingo and Midlands. The first lady on Friday named Midlands and Masvingo as problem provinces in the party. Is there any sinister pact that these two provinces have entered into?
JG: There is nothing. What is there between Midlands and Masvingo is that it’s a block of Karanga people.
There is nothing [sinister]. Masvingo has its own leadership, Midlands has its own leadership, we are totally separate. We only meet as provinces, as supporters of Zanu PF when we do party business.
BM: I know you were with the VP when he was taken ill. Where did this ice-cream narrative come from?
JG: It’s coming from the newspapers. They are just making up stories and that cannot disturb Mnangagwa or myself.
I was in Gwanda myself, Mnangagwa never ate any ice-cream. But I could see that he was not walking straight as he was coming to the stage and that’s all I realised and the next thing I was told that he was vomiting.
After that, when we went to check on him he was already on the plane going to Harare via Gweru.
But because of these groupings which I call cliques myself, people started making noise about it.
They said he had been poisoned by so and so, he had done this and so on and so forth because in politics people are eager to divide people and when you get divided then some people will be going up the ladder to take leadership positions.
BM: You insist that there is no succession problems in Zanu PF yet we know that the politburo is seized with this matter and Mnangagwa is being accused of attempting to unseat his boss.
JG: There was nothing like that. It was just talk about what had happened in Mashonaland central. That’s what I know. People [were] actually responding to issues after (Jacob) Mudenda had presented his report.
People are free to comment, you see, they can comment and say whatever they want to say and if you are a real politician, you don’t follow newspaper comments.
BM: But these allegations are real. politburo member Jonathan Moyo has actually taken to Twitter accusing the VP of being a successionist. Why would he go to that extent if there are no issues?
JG: That is best answered by him and not me.