By Fungi Kwaramba, Mugove Tafirenyika and Andrew Kunambura
It has emerged that MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has rebuffed ousted former president Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace’s overtures for the trio to work together — as the former first family frantically attempts to derail President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s election bid in next month’s watershed polls, the Daily News can report.
At the same time, the youthful opposition leader has strongly warned Mnangagwa to rein in his tough-talking deputy, Constantino Chiwenga, saying the former Defence Forces commander had become a threat to the holding of free and fair elections in the country on July 30.
This followed Chiwenga’s cryptic weekend remarks where he urged Zanu PF supporters to vote for the former liberation movement and Mnangagwa, to facilitate the “completion” of Operation Restore Legacy — the popular military move which precipitated Mugabe’s stunning fall from power in November last year.
Well-placed sources said yesterday that Chamisa had “definitely turned his back” on Mugabe and Grace — who are understood to have sent numerous emissaries to the MDC Alliance boss and presidential candidate, in a desperate endeavour to try and persuade him to work with them and a faction of the imploding National Patriotic Front (NPF).
“Chamisa and the other principals in the MDC Alliance such as (Tendai) Biti have definitely backed off from clinching a deal with the NPF.
“This followed serious internal concerns that any further dalliances that they may have with the Mugabes would upset both their own support base and hawks in Mnangagwa’s government,” one of the sources told the Daily News.
Among others, Mugabe is said to have recently sent two clerics to Biti to table the co-operation pact ahead of a meeting of the MDC Alliance principals, which was held on Wednesday last week — a day before the sitting of the Nomination Court.
Mugabe, according to some of the sources, was offering “technical, moral and political” support to Chamisa, to increase his chances of defeating Mnangagwa in the July 30 polls — and also in return for a considerable number of legislative seats to be reserved for the NPF, which is widely believed to be his brainchild.
Chamisa is also said to have opted not to work with Mugabe and Grace after former South African president Jacob Zuma apparently relayed a message to him via one of the Alliance’s principals, to the effect that this was “impolitic” and that some of Mnangagwa’s lieutenants were not amused by the dalliances with the nonagenarian and his wife.
Contacted for comment, Biti declined to comment on the claims, choosing to ask: “Where did you get that from?”.
As the Daily News reported last week, the NPF is said to have been demanding up to 73 legislative seats, in return for their support to the MDC Alliance.
Mugabe has openly disclosed his bitterness with Mnangagwa and his administration. In March this year, he told a media briefing that he would render his support to a young politician, which some people now claim was a reference to Chamisa.
Chamisa’s newly-appointed spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda, confirmed yesterday that Mugabe had indeed sent the two prominent clerics with a message for his boss.
However, he denied that Chamisa had snubbed the nonagenarian, saying the MDC Alliance leader was simply too busy with his hectic campaign stumps to meet the former president at the moment.
“I can confirm that the former president…sent the two as his emissaries to president Chamisa.
“We have already communicated back to the former president, informing him that advocate Chamisa is unable to meet with him at the present time due to his hectic campaign schedule. But this should not be seen as a snub,” he said.
This comes as Chamisa said yesterday that the weekend utterances by Chiwenga suggested an active participation in this year’s make-or-break harmonised elections by a section of the military.
“A free and fair election is the only vehicle that can restore constitutionalism in the country. Chiwenga’s statements are not only bad, but unfortunate.
“These statements must be reversed, otherwise this will confirm that this election is run by the military … at least a section of it.
“The military that wants to do this must be warned that they are eroding the legitimacy of this election,” Sibanda said.
Addressing a Zanu PF rally in Mabvuku on Sunday, Chiwenga said Operation Restore Legacy would not be complete if party supporters failed to vote in the former liberation movement and Mnangagwa in next month’s elections.
“Today, we want to remind each other that following events that took place in November under Operation Restore Legacy which saw the coming in of the new dispensation, the other leg is still hanging in the air.
“You came out in your numbers on November 18 demonstrating in peace and today we are saying in the same spirit, let’s rally behind President Mnangagwa and all Zanu PF candidates … come July 30 so that we conclude Operation Restore Legacy,” he said in the controversial remarks.
Operation Restore Legacy triggered a chain of events which ended with the curtain falling on Mugabe on November 21 last year, when he resigned moments after Parliament had started damaging proceedings to impeach him.
The operation saw the nonagenarian and his then influential wife Grace being placed under house arrest, while several Cabinet ministers linked to the Generation 40 (G40) faction — which had coalesced around him and Grace — were also targeted.
The annihilated G40 was, before the military intervention, locked in a bitter war with Mnangagwa and his supporters for the control of both Zanu PF and the country.
Meanwhile, the vice president of the breakaway MDC faction led by Thokozani Khupe, Obert Gutu, says Chiwenga’s statements were “self-defeating”, in addition to “spelling doom” for Zimbabwe — as they could result in the country’s further isolation.
“Without holding a free and fair election on July 30, Zimbabwe should simply forget about socio-economic development.
“We have got a de-facto military government running the country at the moment and as such, there is really no political legitimacy to talk about.
“We cannot achieve and sustain socio-economic development if the government of the day lacks political legitimacy.
“It’s as simple as that. VP Chiwenga should appreciate that what Zimbabwe needs, and needs very badly, is a free and fair election that will restore political legitimacy and stability.
“Anything short of that will simply lead to enhanced economic retrogression, leading to mass poverty and suffering,” Gutu said.
Professor of World Politics at the London School of African and Oriental Studies, Stephen Chan, said there was little room for Zanu PF to openly rig the election because the world’s attention was on Zimbabwe.
“It’s still very early days and people on all sides are falling ‘off message’. But it will be a closely observed election and so the room for serious misconduct is small.
“Even so, the General (Chiwenga), it seems, is still thinking and speaking like a military man and not a civilian vice president. The real test, however, will come soon enough,” Chan said. DailyNews