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Kaukonde next on chopping block

By Andrew Kunambura

HARARE – Former Mashonaland East ZANU-PF chairman Ray Kaukonde is topping the list of heavyweights to be dismissed from the troubled party this quarter as hawks aspiring to succeed President Robert Mugabe in the event that he relinquishes power move to depopulate the political arena of perceived rivals who could frustrate their ambitions from within the governing party.

Last year First Lady Grace Mugabe launched a blistering attack on Ray Kaukonde
Last year First Lady Grace Mugabe launched a blistering attack on Ray Kaukonde

The Financial Gazette can report that ZANU-PF bigwigs across the country’s 10 political provinces have been lined up for expulsion because of their closeness, real or imagined, to former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was given her marching orders last Thursday for plotting to usurp power from the incumbent.

The writing is already on the wall for Kaukonde after Mashonaland East province wrote to Ignatius Chombo, the party’s secretary for administration, and Saviour Kasukuwere, the national political commissar, recommending his dismissal from ZANU-PF.

Chombo and Kasukuwere are part of the ZANU-PF National Disciplinary Committee, chai-red by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko. The committee has lately preferred the harshest possible sanction in cases brought before it.

So far, it has banished Mujuru from the party, plus two other senior officials namely Didymus Mutasa (the former secretary for administration) and Temba Mliswa (the former chairman for Mashonaland West) whose fate was sealed on February 18, 2015.

These officials were axed summarily without being given the opportunity to defend themselves in line with the principles of natural justice. Mphoko’s committee was assembled long after the purge of Mujuru allies had begun.

In the run-up to the party’s disputed congress, ZANU-PF had swung the axe on Rugare Gumbo (its former spokesperson) and Jabulani Sibanda, then leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association.

The latest move to jettison Kaukonde and others from ZANU-PF is a reaction to intelligence gathered during the on-going audit of lower structures of the party.

ZANU-PF insiders said the party’s leadership has been jolted into action by evidence of widespread support enjoyed by Mujuru at the grassroots level and across party structures.

Having succeeded in wresting top posts from Mujuru and her allies in both government and the party, backers of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa are now going for broke to cement their stranglehold on the party ahead of President Mugabe’s exit.

Following his elevation last December, Mnangagwa is now being tipped to succeed President Mugabe who turned 91 on February 21, 2015.

In Mashonaland East, the interim executive is hoping that the Politburo — ZANU-PF’s supreme decision-making organ in between congress — will accede to their request to dismiss Kaukonde whose influence is still being felt throughout the province in spite of his ouster from the executive last year.

“We sat down as a provincial executive and have written to the secretary for administration (Chombo) and the secretary of the commissariat (Kasukuwere) stating the position of Kaukonde’s constituency which is that they no longer want him to continue as their representative in Parliament,” said Aeneas Chigwedere, the interim provincial chairman.

“They are saying Kaukonde has lost interest in the constituency and therefore should be expelled. They are saying he was last seen there in October last year.”

More bigwigs are lined up for the purge which will cascade downwards to the grassroots where pro-Mnangagwa members are blocking them from getting into structures in the ongoing restructuring.

All the provinces are currently scampering for evidence against everyone linked to Mujuru with their names scheduled to be forwarded to the National Disciplinary Committee.

The committee’s findings are likely to be tabled before the next Politburo meeting to be held in two weeks time.

The axe is also likely to fall on former Masvingo minister of State for provincial affairs, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti whose province has also set the wheels in motion for his ouster.

The party’s provincial political commissar for Masvingo, Brian Munyoro, confirmed there were moves to get rid of Bhasikiti but refused to give finer details saying he was too junior to do so.

“It is true but I am not allowed to speak to the press. A lot is happening here in the party. You should talk to Cde (Paradzai) Chakona who has the authority to speak on behalf of the province,” he said.

Chakona could not be reached for comment at the time of going to print.

Since his sacking from government, Bhasikiti has been overtly critical of the ruling party, launching one vitriolic tirade after another. Even President Mugabe has not been spared from his razor-sharp tongue.

On March 31, he said the party was full of corrupt leaders adding that President Mugabe was sitting on reports detailing how some of his ministers demand kickbacks from investors and the country’s few remaining white farmers.

But his principal target has been Mnangagwa whom he branded a liar after the latter implicated him in the alleged coup plot whereby he said Bhasikiti coerced companies in Masvingo to raise money to fund the putsch.

Mnangagwa told party supporters in Chirumhanzu that the Mwenezi East legislator had been fired on grounds that he had received money from sugar milling company Tongaat Hullet, to fund the much talked about, but still to be proven plot to oust and assassinate President Mugabe.

“They can keep the job, I don’t want it back. But I need my integrity as a person. They must apologise for wrongly accusing me,” Bhasikiti was quoted as having said in the press.

Writing in the Saturday Herald last week, influential pro-ZANU-PF columnist, Nathaniel Manheru, who is believed to be presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, hinted that after the sacking of Mujuru, more of those who hobnobbed with her would also be forced out of the party.

“Today she (Mujuru) is out and none in the party can hobnob with her without declaring counter loyalties, without inviting disciplinary action. And from where I seat, there is readiness to take hard decisions, to settle the whole matter comprehensively, even if it means another mini general election, which we already have, thanks to the MDC-T.

“So let no sitting MP think that there is fear to expel, a fear to go back to the people. And the days ahead will have many eyes,” wrote the fiery columnist.

Analysts this week said the Mnangagwa camp was going for the political cleansing of ZANU-PF to smoke out all those associated with the Mujuru faction.

Political analyst, Alois Masepe, said the process will, as a matter of course, split the party at the centre.

“As far as, the Mnangagwa group is concerned, it is better to have an open organic split than risk a co-existence that might facilitate an internal regrouping, re-strategising and re-launching of an assault for leadership by the Mujuru faction. The end result of the process is to have a monolithic and truly pro-Mugabe ZANU PF. The clear signal is that Mukuru (President Mugabe) has finally decided on his political end-game and succession,” said Masepe.

“The Mujuru faction will, in the fullness of time, emerge as a full blooded political party away from President Mugabe. The faction was forcibly and unceremoniously ejected from its lifelong political home; naturally it will create a home for itself. Yes, just like the MDC, we are going to have ZANU-PF (Mugabe) and ZANU PF (Mujuru/whatever).”

Mujuru, who lost her party and government positions soon after the party’s congress in December, was accused of leading a faction in ZANU-PF plotting to remove President Mugabe from power.

For years, the Mujuru faction fought neck-on-neck with a rival faction led by Mnangagwa, who has since replaced her in both the party and government. The expulsion of more party members would imply that by-elections will have to be held for those who hold Parliamentary seats on a ZANU-PF ticket. Financial Gazette