By Lloyd Mbiba
HARARE – The Zanu PF politburo meets again in Harare today with President Robert Mugabe under mounting pressure to stop the ruling party from imploding altogether as its factional and succession wars turn increasingly violent and messier by the day.
So bad is the climate within the party, and the country by extension, that one senior politburo member asked rhetorically yesterday, “Who is in charge?” when canvassed for a comment regarding the state and health of the party ahead of the key but potentially stormy meeting.
“I hate to admit it but we are currently a rudderless party characterised by serious confusion and flux. There is neither discipline, direction nor unity of purpose at both party and government level.
“But even more damning perhaps, who is in charge?” the senior politburo member asked, alluding to the many competing centres of power in the divided party that include the easily excited First Lady Grace Mugabe, party hardliners and a faction of war veterans.
The party’s ugly infighting has since crystallised into Vice President Joice Mujuru being accused by State media and her party enemies of being involved in a sensational plot to assassinate Mugabe.
The Sunday Mail fingered the VP’s closest allies last weekend — former Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo and secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa — accusing them of having recently “spoken of assassinating” Mugabe.
The paper also said its “investigations” had also revealed that another senior Mujuru ally, which stablemate The Herald has since fingered as Cabinet minister Nicholas Goche, “made contingencies for such a scenario during recent meetings with potential hitmen in South Africa and Israel”.
Both Gumbo and Goche have flatly rejected the accusations, with Mutasa so far refusing to dignify the allegations with a comment.
And in the midst of this storm, and in a development that analysts say indicates that Mugabe and the anti-Mujuru faction are fearful of events unfolding in the party, The Herald reported yesterday that Mujuru had allegedly “clandestinely filed papers to contest her current position” at the party’s forthcoming elective congress.
“Sources close to the Mujuru lobby that stands accused of working to depose President Mugabe said the unprocedural application appeared designed to wrong foot opponents in the run-up to Congress where the VP, who has since expressed her ambition to serve the party even in the presidency, hoped to get her nomination from the floor …,” the paper said in a front page report.
In its front page lead story for the day, that observers also said exhibited serious paranoia in high places, the paper also claimed that representatives of Mujuru met MDC member Job Sikhala in Harare last week to “discuss modalities of joining forces” ahead of national elections in 2018.
“A meeting was held in Harare last Friday between some members of the Mujuru camp that has been working to unconstitutionally unseat President Mugabe, and Mr Sikhala to discuss preparations of a likely merger between MDC-T and the Mujuru faction.
“The parties proposed making VP Mujuru president and (MDC leader) Mr (Morgan) Tsvangirai the deputy or alternatively prime minister just like the arrangement in Russia between President Vladimir Putin and premier Dmitry Medvedev,” the paper said without revealing who represented Mujuru in the alleged meetings.
Analyst Shepherd Mntungwa told the Daily News that “things are now coming to a head in Zanu PF” with the strategy to destroy Mujuru “seemingly beginning to backfire spectacularly” on Mugabe and the anti-Mujuru faction “irrespective of what happens at the party’s elective congress next month”.
“Zanu PF is in serious trouble, and because it is the ruling party, so is the country, whose economy is now famously navigating the choppy skies on autopilot.
“It is not helping matters that these suspect claims and conspiracy theories are being dredged from the sewer now. What this means is that the problems, at least at a perception level, have suddenly been magnified and internationalised to a point where even the country’s partners are now anxious about what’s happening in Harare.
“It is inconceivable that in such a climate, pressure is not mounting on President Mugabe to do something quickly to bring matters under control, as the instability can quickly deteriorate irreversibly if authorities continue to sit on their pants,” Mntungwa said.
This view is supported by other analysts and politicians who all say Mugabe is now under immense pressure to stop the anarchy.
Zanu PF veteran Cephas Msipa, who is also a politburo member, recently described the situation in the party as chaotic and requiring Mugabe’s urgent intervention if the party is not to split.
Former Cabinet minister Dumiso Dabengwa — who also faced treason charges and was incarcerated by Mugabe’s government in the early years of Zimbabwe’s independence — said at the weekend that the treason accusations against Mujuru were designed to “cripple her chances” of retaining the VP post at Zanu PF’s December congress.
“I hope this is not being done to de-campaign her so as to disqualify her from retaining her position. If there was any truth in the accusations we would expect that she would have been charged already.
“When we were charged with treason, an arms cache was found at our farm, the whole idea being to destroy Zapu,” the former Home Affairs minister said.
And while all this is happening, more pressure is being piled on Mugabe as the late Solomon Mujuru’s elder brother, Joel, says he wants to meet the nonagenarian to talk to him about the VP as well as the contested circumstances surrounding his brother’s death.
He says his family is shocked that some Zanu PF bigwigs are rubbishing the name of Solomon, who is interred at the national Heroes’ Acre in Harare.
In the meantime, the party’s tightly-controlled National Disciplinary Committee met Thursday to rubber-stamp the latest slew of choreographed votes of no confidence passed against the party’s provincial chairpersons, following the suspension of Gumbo for five years, and the summary expulsion from the party of former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda last week.
Gumbo was accused by Mugabe of working to remove the nonagenarian from power, although analysts say the real reason for his ouster was his unflinching support for Mujuru; while Sibanda paid the price for bluntly stating that there had been a “bedroom coup” at both Zanu PF headquarters and State House, seeing that Grace now appeared to dictate what Mugabe does.
As things stand, Matabeleland North provincial chairperson Richard Moyo is the only chairman who remains standing, of the party’s regional 10 bosses who were voted into power just over a year ago — a thuggish strategy by Mugabe and anti-Mujuru forces to ensure that she has “no snowball’s chance in Hell” at the party elective congress.
Harare’s rumour mill is also agog with speculation that Mugabe’s purge of senior party officials perceived to be loyal to Mujuru is what has led to the “retirement” of Speaker of Parliament, Austin Zvoma.
Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee, chaired by Speaker Jacob Mudenda — who is said to belong to the Emmerson Mnangagwa faction — allegedly met recently to rubber-stamp the decision that had already been made by Mugabe.
They ruled that Zvoma had reached the mandatory 65 years retirement age for government workers. However, Mugabe, who himself turns 91 soon, has allowed controversial Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede to continue in his job even though he is in his 70s and is also a civil servant. Daily News