Two days after missing a high-profile state funeral, Vice-President Emmerson Mnanagwa yesterday attended a memorial service for the late Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa in Gutu accompanied by several loyalists.
By Everson Mushava
Mnangagwa on Thursday missed the burial of late vice-president Joseph Msika’s wife Maria at the Heroes Acre where President Robert Mugabe railed against lieutenants he described as “Judas Iscariots”.
The VP was largely seen as the target of Mugabe’s vitriol as the veteran ruler has been complaining about senior Zanu PF officials trying to push him out of power.
At the last public event that the two attended in Bindura, Mugabe humiliated Mnangagwa over his alleged ambitions to take over from the 93-year-old.
There was speculation that the VP stayed away from Thursday’s event to avoid further embarrassment and his appearance at Mahofa’s memorial in the company of loyalists sent tongues wagging.
Senior Zanu PF officials from Masvingo who are believed to be loyal to the G40 faction, which is at loggerheads with Mnangagwa’s Team Lacoste, were conspicuous by their absence at the memorial.
At the event, the VP said Mahofa’s heroine status was testimony of her industrious work during and after the liberation struggle.
Mahofa was a key member of Team Lacoste, who together with Psychomotor minister Josiah Hungwe had caused headaches to the rival faction, G40, before the fluid Zanu PF succession fights tilted against them.
Mnangagwa sat at the high table alongside Hungwe, Zanu PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke, Zanu PF deputy secretary for administration July Moyo and Masvingo provincial chairman Ezra Chadzamira, who are all seen as members of Team Lacoste.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said he did not attend the memorial service because he was attending the just-ended Sanganai/Hlanganani fair in Bulawayo.
“Minister Hungwe personally informed me about the memorial during Mai Msika’s burial ceremony and separately I received an SMS invitation from the party secretariat in Masvingo,” he said.
“In both instances, I RSVPed my unavailability because of prior commitments in Bulawayo where I am the host minister for our annual international tourism fair, Sanganai, running from September 27-30 and World Tourism Day Celebrations.”
Other Zanu PF MPs from Masvingo were in Harare attending the national paralympic games at Danhiko where first lady Grace Mugabe officiated.
Zanu PF sources at Mahofa’s memorial service said it was clear that Zanu PF was riddled with factionalism.
“His [Mnangagwa] attendance was symbolic,” the source said. “He wanted to give his backers strength and assurance that contrary to what Grace said about him deserting them, he is still with them and hoped for a dramatic comeback to seal his rise to Mugabe’s throne.”
Alexander Rusero, a political analyst, said it was too early to write Mnangagwa off following the onslaught by Mugabe and his wife.
“The problem with Mugabe is one, indicating right and turning left,” he said.
“On face value, it’s Mnangagwa he seemed to be referring to [as Judas Iscariot].
“But considering what Mugabe said at the burial of Nathan Shamuyarira when he said Zanu PF had weevils, a lot thought he was referring to Jonathan Moyo but a month later, it came into the open that he was referring to Joice Mujuru and company. A day is long in politics.”
Mujuru and hundreds of her backers were fired from Zanu PF in 2014 for allegedly plotting against Mugabe.