By Fungi Kwaramba
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday demanded and was granted an unscheduled meeting with President Robert Mugabe to express his disquiet over utterances by First Lady Grace Mugabe during an explosive Zanu PF youth interface rally on Saturday where she appeared to suggest that relations with the Midlands godfather had become strained over his reported bid to replace her husband.
Crucially, sources yesterday told the Daily News that Mnangagwa was hurt by Grace’s stinging remarks, which he felt were overboard, and would only be dealt with by Mugabe who complied to an unscheduled meeting with his long time aide.
It was not immediately clear whether Mnangagwa had met Mugabe before or after the usual Monday security briefings, which involve the military, police, prisons and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) bosses, who converge under the Joint Operations Command (JOC).
Monday’s unscheduled meeting with Mugabe was the second time that Mnangagwa had protested to the 93-year-old over his treatment by the first lady who in March last year accused the military and him of plotting to assassinate her son, Chatunga Bellarmine, during a rally in Chiweshe, in startling remarks that sent shockwaves within Zanu PF.
The military chiefs also had their own meeting with Mugabe afterwards, where they implored their commander-in-chief to rein the powerful first lady.
On Saturday, in her blitzkrieg Grace insinuated that the ffirst family’s relations with Mnangagwa, who has worked with her husband for nearly 55 years, had become strained.
She appeared to intimate that the vice president could be getting impatient to succeed her husband.
Mnangagwa, along with Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, assumed their positions in December 2014.
“Let me tell you something: It is not the number of years we have walked with this man that matters. What matters is what we do during his absence. We were given jobs to do by the president (and) we must concentrate on that. Mphoko I know him very well even before he was appointed as ambassador: We are good friends,” she said.
“VaMnangagwa, I said it before that he is also my friend asi kanavo vakandirasa nhasi, handizivi kuti tichiri pamwe chete here (I don’t know if we are still friends) but ndisahwira vangu. Kufa kwakaita mudzimai wavo, vaiuya vachiti vana vakura vava navazukuru, vachituma vana kwandiri. Ndozvandoda kuti zvirambe zvichiitika pakati penyu vaMnangagwa neni (we have been friends with Mnangagwa for a long time and when his wife died, he would send his children to me saying they had grown into adulthood and had even given him grandchildren. We want that relationship to prevail once more).
“I am saying this because there is something happening in our party. I want to play my role as the mother without fear. This other time I was called by certain people; they told me let’s go to the streets; we want to remove Mnangagwa. I told Mnangagwa that I was phoned by certain people who wanted to demonstrate against him.
“After that, I told the people who were planning that demonstration that they do not have powers to remove the vice president (because) he was appointed by the president, and if we go to the streets we will create unnecessary noise, which means that we are insulting the president who is the appointing authority. I then refused. Even me, the wife of the president, I do not have the mandate to remove a vice president,” said Grace in words which Mnangagwa’s allies said had hurt him deeply.
Mnangagwa’s sympathisers argue that it was not a coincidence that Grace last week implored Mugabe to name a successor and then attacks the VP by questioning his loyalty to Mugabe.
“The VP wants to know his fate. He is aware that what happened to Mai Mujuru could happen also to him. So, after the meeting he asked the president about his future and he got assurances that he is still the VP. What we do not want is to be used and then dumped later.
“Without the military and the country in such a mess, we cannot win the elections,” a source close to Mnangagwa told the Daily News.
The attacks on Mnangagwa come as Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, 73, who was in June lavished with praise by the Generation 40 (G40) faction, is said to be now Mugabe’s preferred successor.
While addressing Zanu PF’s women league national assembly members at the party’s headquarters in Harare on Thursday, Grace took the unprecedented step of nudging her reluctant husband to name a successor.
The first lady reasoned it was the trend in other countries for their leaders to handpick their heir apparent, saying that act alone would enable Zanu PF’s warring supporters to rally behind one candidate.
She insinuated that there was need to foil plans by a faction within Zanu PF that was about to enthrone its preferred candidate without Mugabe’s anointing.
Grace said the president had the right to be involved in naming his successor and his word was final, although Mugabe has consistently said it is the duty of Zanu PF as per its constitution, to choose who replaces him at a congress or extra ordinary congress.
“There is no succession without Mugabe and I have told him that you have a role to play even if I know that he has said that the people will decide but his word will be final, mark my word
“I am asking him now in front of you and don’t be afraid, tiudzei bhiza ramuri kuda timhanye naro muone henyu (we will rally behind your anointed horse). We will stand up and support that candidate and those whose names that have been thrown around under the cover of darkness are not the candidates. Listen to me when I speak,” Grace said then.
Meanwhile, former Mashonaland Central youth league chairperson Godfrey Tsenengamu, who was expelled from Zanu PF last year and then called on Mugabe to hand over power to Mnangagwa, has challenged the VPs supporters to defend him from the current onslaught.
“They expect one man to fight for them, hazvibude (It doesn’t work). I am challenging them to openly come out and declare their loyalties.
“Without Mnangagwa’s consent they start a fight for him and when the going gets tough they run away from the front line, leaving the man at the mercy of his opponents.
“Those who want him to be president must do the bidding for him. Why should he (suffer) when he has not declared interest?” said Tsenengamu. Daily News