‘Gang of Four’ angers Mugabe
By Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe is said to be seething with anger against the influential group of senior Zanu PF officials who are derisively known as the Gang of Four, amid serious accusations that its members are taking advantage of their positions both in the party and government to advance their narrow economic and political interests.
The sobriquet Gang of Four, which has gained wide currency among senior Zanu PF officials in both the “original” and “post-congress” formations of the party, was first coined by liberation struggle pioneer Rugare Gumbo in an exclusive interview with the Daily News late last year.
The group’s alleged members at the time were said to be Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, Water minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Information minister Jonathan Moyo and Higher Education minister Oppah Muchinguri — with latest reports suggesting that the group has since split amid alleged irreconcilable differences among its members.
The Daily News reported a fortnight ago that Muchinguri had pulled out of the group apparently claiming that other members of the group wanted its younger members, Kasukuwere in particular, to replace Mugabe and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as Zanu PF leaders.
Lately, Zhuwao is also said to be stepping back from the group, which is nowadays also seen as one and the same with the party’s so-called Generation 40, ostensibly aware that his uncle, Mugabe, is not very happy with the ambitions of some of its members.
So influential were the members of the group at the height of Zanu PF’s brutal wars last year that they were seen as the main catalysts, together with Mugabe’s controversial wife Grace, in the ruthless, and sometimes violent purging of former Vice President Joice Mujuru and all her perceived allies.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe had over the past few weeks been inundated with incriminating information against members of the Gang of Four/Generation 40, who stood accused of running parallel structures that were in conflict with those of him and Mnangagwa.
“Matters came to a head last week when (Finance minister Patrick) Chinamasa, who is said to be close to the group announced the cancellation of civil servants bonuses without Cabinet approval.
“The group is also accused of restructuring the party in a one-sided fashion and imposing its candidates in party structures, in addition to undermining Mnangagwa.
“It is also well-known in the party that two weeks ago the Vice President (Mnangagwa) instigated the suspension of acting Mashonaland East provincial chairperson Aeneas Chigwedere but Kasukuwere as Zanu PF political commissar reversed this, which angered the VP’s allies,” one of the sources said.
Another source seen as close to Mnangagwa said it was the “stupid suspension of bonuses” that had particularly left Mugabe enraged, adding that the tendency by some of the members of the group to “abuse Amai (Grace)” in a cunning bid to have their agendas sail through uncontested had started to backfire.
“As it is, Chinamasa and his colleagues are in soup after they unilaterally organised the botched press conference announcing the suspension of bonuses in the hope that Mugabe would blindly endorse the austerity measures.
“This, they did, hoping that as usual the First Lady would prevail over the president so that their idea would sail through. But Amai is now aware that people are using her to pursue selfish agendas while the president viewed this as an attempt to make him unpopular with civil servants.
“Actually, the president was genuinely shocked to discover that Chinamasa had announced the bonus issue as he had clearly not been told about this. Even VP Mnangagwa told the President that he was also surprised about the announcement.
“We are now all waiting to see what action will be taken on the issue when the president returns from Indonesia,” the official said.
A senior civil servant who also spoke to the Daily News claimed that standard practice had been “thrown to the wind” by the influential group as it had allegedly organised the bonus press conference without consulting civil service unions as was procedure when planning to make such drastic decisions.
In what stands out as a typical case of discord in government, Chinamasa, in the company of Moyo and George Charamba — the permanent secretary of the Information ministry and also Mugabe’s spokesperson — announced that government workers would no longer receive their much-anticipated bonuses for the next two years last week.
Oddly, observers said, the announcement was held at the offices of the Ministry of Information, instead of the Finance ministry offices.
Then Mugabe brazenly attacked Chinamasa later in the week, saying the purported cancellation of civil servants’ bonuses was “disgusting” as Cabinet had never approved such a move.
One of the Daily News’ sources said the worsening discord in government emanated from the fact that “battle lines have now been drawn between the Generation 40 group and Mnangagwa, who presently enjoys support from Mugabe”.
Recently, Kasukuwere crossed swords with Muchinguri over the selection of party candidates for forthcoming by-elections in Manicaland Province, with the latter publicly attacking her colleagues for abusing their positions to impose candidates.
“The group (Gang of Four) is as good as dead. There are only two members of the group that are sticking together, Kasukuwere and Moyo, as the other two have smelled the coffee and are no longer at ease with the group’s ambitions,” another source claimed.
He added that the latest standoff in government over civil servants’ bonuses was just “a tip of the iceberg” of how simmering factionalism had now reached alarming levels in Zanu PF, notwithstanding the brutal decapitation of the faction that was allegedly led by Mujuru.
“Vice President Mnangagwa told the president to be wary of the group that is imposing candidates to achieve its aims. This group also is in charge of structures and it is trying to take charge,” the source added. Daily News