By Fungi Kwaramba
Former War Veterans minister Tshinga Dube — who was sacked from Cabinet earlier this week — says although he harbours no hard feelings against President Robert Mugabe, he paid the price for being “too honest” and for backing calls for the nonagenarian to name a successor.
Dube lost his cushy job together with three other ministers — Prisca Mupfumira, Abednico Ncube and Farber Chidarikire — in a reshuffle which has drawn wide criticism from many Zimbabweans who say it was all about consolidating Mugabe’s power instead of improving the lives of long-suffering citizens.
The amiable former freedom fighter, who is regarded by many people as one of the few decent local politicians, is believed to have lost his job on account of lingering perceptions that he was an ally of embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is currently facing a savage onslaught from his rivals in Zanu PF who do not want him to succeed Mugabe.
“I am not sick, neither am I in shock following my removal. It’s life and I am carrying on with my other responsibilities.
“I am not sure why I was sacked … but I feel I was just expressing an opinion (on succession) and people should not suffer for expressing their opinions.
“At the end of the day what people should realise is that our problems are caused by the dire state of the economy, and it is unfortunate that people then start finding scapegoats,” Dube told the Daily News in an exclusive interview yesterday.
Among other claims, he was also said to be too sympathetic to war veterans led by his ministerial predecessor Christopher Mutsvangwa — who was also fired from the government by Mugabe after his executive issued a damning communiqué against the nonagenarian.
The ex-combatants have publicly put their weight behind Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations, even warning that if the VP does not succeed Mugabe, there could be bloodshed in the country.
But Dube said yesterday that he was neither a Mnangagwa ally nor a member of Team Lacoste — the Zanu PF faction backing the VP.
“The problem with these allegations is that I do not even know what Lacoste is. Nobody ever talked to me and said join Lacoste … It’s all the same with the days of (former vice president Joice) Mujuru.
“Indeed, I was never part of the Gamatox (Mujuru) faction. I never even had three minutes talking to Mujuru, but still there were people who said if you are not with us then you belong to that faction.
“My relationship with Mnangagwa was very cordial, just as was the case with other superiors … there was never anything special between us,” he added.
Although Dube survived the ruling party purges which claimed the scalp of Mujuru and other former Zanu PF leading lights — on charges of plotting a coup against Mugabe — he was still dropped from the former liberation movement’s influential politburo, and only received a new lease on life after Mutsvangwa’s expulsion.
Dube, a liberation war icon who fought on the Zapu side during the struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence, set the cat among the pigeons in June when he publicly backed calls for Mugabe to name a successor.
Speaking to journalists in Bulawayo then, Dube said while former liberation war fighters were happy with Mugabe’s leadership, and would want him to win next year’s elections, they could not pretend as if there could never be a future without him.
“Sometimes people don’t understand them (war veterans). For instance, when they say they are now looking at the future leadership, some people think they mean to say they are being disloyal to our president. No, not at all.
“We respect our president. He has done so much for this country. He has brought about land to the people who never had land. He has brought education to our nation, but they are talking about the future.
“We are saying although we are very happy with our president and we want him to win the next election, but eventually he will decide to retire. We don’t know when, but when that time comes … that’s what the war veterans are saying,” Dube said.
“There is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a president if you want to be, but it’s people who choose you. You can’t choose yourself.
“There is nothing wrong with talking about succession. Succession is not a crime to talk about. This happens in every country.
“All the war veterans are saying is he (Mugabe) must groom the next leader … whatever happens, whether he retires or anything happens to him, there is somebody we know,” Dube said in an interview which led to Mugabe having a word with him after the Cabinet meeting of June 27.
“Otherwise it becomes very difficult for investors to put their money when they don’t know whether there is going to be another (Jean-Bédel) Bokassa (the former Central African Republic president) or Idi Amin (former Ugandan president) coming into Zimbabwe.
“They want to know who is coming, who is the next person, so that when they (investors) put their money they know it’s safe,” he added.
Dube was subsequently forced to convene a hastily-arranged news conference where he told journalists that Mugabe had “schooled” him on the process of choosing his successor.
“He came to me after Cabinet. His Excellency talked to me. He just reminded me that, look, I am only mandated by the constitution to choose my deputies.
“He said the issue of choosing a successor lies with the congress. He has given me the directive and, as my commander-in-chief, I listened. He came in a fatherly manner, as a leader and as a teacher,” said Dube in his damage-control exercise.
Mugabe has consistently refused to name a successor, arguing that it is Zanu PF that must decide through a congress when the time comes.
Zanu PF is currently divided in the middle, with a camp opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe — the G40 faction — involved in a life-and-death tussle with Team Lacoste.
Of late, the name of reclusive Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, has also been thrown into the hat, although the veteran politician who has served in Mugabe’s Cabinet since independence in 1980 has refused to be drawn into the succession debate.
The party’s infighting took an ominous turn in August when Mnangagwa fell sick during an interface rally in Gwanda, which his backers said was a poison attack by his G40 rivals.
Mnangagwa was later airlifted to South Africa where he had emergency surgery.
Mnangagwa later issued a statement denying that his illness was caused by ice cream from the First Family’s Gushungo Dairies, although he has consistently suggested that he was poisoned.
Recently, Mnangagwa again suggested to hordes of people who converged at Mupandawana Growth Point in Gutu, for the late Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa’s memorial service, that he was poisoned in the same way Mahofa was in 2015.
“I came here to tell you that what happened to Mai Mahofa in Victoria Falls is the same thing which happened to me,” he said.
Mahofa, one of Mnangagwa’s fiercest allies left the Zanu PF conference in Victoria Falls in 2015 wheelchair-bound, amid suspicions that she had been poisoned by party rivals.
She later spent two months recuperating in a South African hospital, before she resurfaced in March 2016.
Days after Mnangagwa’s address in Masvingo, his colleague Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, issued a scathing statement in which he attacked him for allegedly trying to divide the country and to undermine Mugabe.
On Monday, Mugabe fired and demoted several ministers perceived to be sympathetic to Mnangagwa, in a reshuffle which analysts said was motivated by the desire to contain the Midlands godfather’s control and influence of key government ministries. Daily News