By Fungi Kwaramba and Andrew Kunambura
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s survival in the ruling Zanu PF party is now solely at the benevolence of President Robert Mugabe after the political careers of some of his ardent sympathisers were shipwrecked by his rivals on Wednesday.
For the umpteenth time since the vice president was put on the back-foot, he has lost several of his trusted foot soldiers that were taking in the blows on his behalf, through suspensions, expulsions or demotions.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Zanu PF politburo, the 74-year-old ex-guerrilla fighter whose seniority in Zanu PF and government gives him the vantage position to succeed Mugabe lost considerable ground after his storm troopers were heavily depleted.
This came three days after a State-run weekly newspaper known for reflecting the official thinking in Zanu PF had opined in its editorial that Mnangagwa should dump his vocal sympathisers to save his skin.
On Wednesday, Energy Mutodi, a business man-cum-politician who had emerged as a fearless voice in the Team Lacoste faction — which is backing Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to the highest office in the land — was expelled from Zanu PF.
He now joins Christopher Mutsvangwa, Victor Matemadanda, Headman Moyo, Douglas Mahiya, Godfrey Tsenengamu, Godwin Gomwe and other vocal defenders of the vice president who were banished into the political Siberia for allegedly watering Mnangagwa’s perceived ambition to succeed Mugabe.
Mnangagwa also suffered another setback after the deputy speaker of Parliament, Marble Chinomona, was demoted to an ordinary member of the powerful Zanu PF Women’s League.
First Lady Grace Mugabe, who heads the women’s assembly, pulled the trigger on the league’s political commissar saying she was difficult to work with.
Machiavelli-style, Mnangagwa’s rivals also lifted votes of no confidence on his nemesis, among them Jappy Jaboon (Masvingo province); Dickson Mafios (acting chairperson for Mashonaland Central) and Wonder Mashange (Mashonaland Central’s secretary for administration).
The nightmarish indaba of the party’s most powerful organ outside congress also saw his allies — the former youths secretary for administration Lewis Matutu and his deputy Sibongile Sibanda — having their suspensions extended.
It was also a night where alleged allies of former vice president Joice Mujuru, who have an axe to grind with him over their heavy-handed treatment in the run-up to the 2014 congress, bounced back into the political fold.
Former Matabeleland South Resident minister Angeline Masuku, former Zanu PF Harare provincial chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa, businessman Danny Musukuma and Chipinge South legislator Enock Porusingazi all saw their suspensions being lifted.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme opined yesterday that Mnangagwa risked going the Mujuru route, referring to how the former vice president had her fairytale-like rise in Zanu PF abruptly ended after she was accused of plotting to unseat Mugabe.
Saungweme said it does not seem Mnangagwa will convalesce from this latest setback, unless he is prepared to do the unthinkable in Zanu PF circles, which is to stand up to Mugabe and flabbergast the system.
“It seems the G40 cabal is playing a Mujuru on him. This is exactly how Mai Mujuru was thrown under the political viaduct. They started by expelling and suspending her supporters, and then got to her,” said Saungweme.
G40 is a rival of the Lacoste faction, which does not countenance the possibility of a Mnangagwa presidency.
“Unless Mnangagwa has some chutzpah — uncommon in Zanu PF — and confront Mugabe, he will never mend from this. In Zanu PF, they start by hiding your dog, before pounding on you. This is so banal. It needs uncommon valour of a Zanu PF member to challenge and frustrate the system,” said Saungweme.
“But if he remains quite and try to eat up everything, he will be munched himself. He may need to show the guerrilla in him and rebel.
“Otherwise after dealing with his surrogates, the next thing is go to the generals, then him and Lacoste is either benumbed or becomes one of the many opposition parties,” said the political analyst.
While the writing has been on the wall for Mutodi, it was the demotion of Chinomona that came as a surprise.
Chinomona told the Daily News yesterday that she was equally surprised and was still at a loss as to how she could respond to her demotion.
“I am only hearing it from all around but I really don’t know what it is all about. I have not been informed of any crime I committed in the women’s assembly so I am in the dark as I am currently in my constituency,” she said.
Impeccable politburo insiders told the Daily News yesterday that Grace indicated that she could no longer work with the National Assembly deputy speaker.
She introduced the issue right at the end of the indaba saying she wanted Chinomona to be removed from her position in the women’s league to which Mugabe enquired to know the reasons, but the first lady kept insisting that she could not work with Chinomona anymore, without laying down any specific charges against her.
She then got support from Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Health minister David Parirenyatwa, who said the first lady should be allowed to make a determination on the issue since she was the one who worked with her on a regular basis.
The first lady then suggested that she should be demoted and with that Chimonona’s fate was sealed.
Insiders also revealed that Saviour Kasukuwere, Zanu PF’s national political commissar, also tried to encourage the politburo to open disciplinary proceedings against Paul Mangwana, Lovemore Matuke and Masvingo provincial youth league chair, Nobert Ndaarombe, whom he said were at the forefront of advancing the notion that Mnangagwa fell ill after eating ice cream from Alpha & Omega Dairy — owned by the first family — at a rally in Gwanda last month.
The issue caused furore at the funeral wake of the late Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa in the ancient city where Generation 40 (G40) exponents who included Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi, provincial political commissar Jaboon and Masvingo Urban legislator Daniel Shumba were chased from Mahofa’s home.
Mahofa, an ally of the vice president, was declared a national heroine.
Grace, according to politburo sources, blocked the issue from being discussed ostensibly to moderate the situation, saying it was not necessary since Mnangagwa had already come out in the open, setting the record straight.
Mnangagwa had responded to Kasukuwere by saying he had nothing to say since he had already issued a public statement.
Last week, Mnangagwa was forced to clear the air on the ice cream issue saying he never ate anything at the rally.
“The insinuation that I partook of ice-cream from the said dairy is false and mischievous, and being peddled by unscrupulous elements with the sinister agenda of creating a rift between me and the first family, lower market confidence in products from the dairy and cause unnecessary alarm and despondency among peace-loving Zimbabweans,” he said in a tease statement.
Meanwhile, Mutodi has hit back at his suspension saying he has no regrets in being expelled from Zanu PF.
He said it has become so certain that after the 2013 elections and before the Zanu PF congress, every dissenting voice and every serious voice for positive change within the party will be silenced.
“Truly, it must not be an offence to say I support so and so to take over as president. It must not also build up to the hate of the preferred candidate. That’s the democratic route we decided to take in 1980 otherwise we should have kept our culture of the Munhumutapa dynasty,” said the businessman.
“We inherited this culture of elections and democracy from whites but then we tend to forget that it comes with freedom of expression, freedom to differ in opinion and other freedoms without making us enemies or divided. It’s difficult to understand the need for these rights and freedoms if you are in power or have a high position,” said Mutodi.
He has publicly backed Mnangagwa to take-over from Mugabe.
He has become a pain in the backside for opponents of the vice president for his hard-hitting statements, which have landed him in trouble with the police.
Mutodi is currently facing several charges at the country’s courts for undermining the authority of the president, causing disaffection among the security forces and criminal defamation.
In its weekend editorial, one of the State weeklies admonished Mnangagwa for keeping vocal sympathisers, who had become excess baggage to him.
The editorial came amid a rumpus in Zanu PF over allegations that Mnangagwa had been poisoned by alleged rivals.
“The time has come for VP Mnangagwa to let go some baggage that is weighing him down. Why should he continue paying excess baggage in life as if he lives in an airplane?
“The (Energy) Mutodis of this world, the (Victor) Matemadandas of this world and many more jokers and spoilers out there are now excess baggage for the VP,” reads part of the editorial.