The Zanu (PF) faction led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has embarked on a nationwide campaign to weed out traditional leaders linked to his predecessor, Joice Mujuru.
Mujuru was fired from the ruling party for allegedly plotting Mugabe’s downfall. Many influential party members said to be aligned to her have also been purged. She was replaced by her long time rival, Mnangagwa, as President Robert Mugabe’s senior deputy at a controversial congress in December 2014.
Zanu (PF) has used traditional leaders over the decades to campaign for it as they wield enormous influence over the many rural voters.
Sources told The Zimbabwean that the removal of the traditional leaders, who comprise chiefs, village heads and kraal heads was meant to consolidate the Mnangagwa faction’s influence ahead of the 2018 general elections – which he is expected to contest as Mugabe’s replacement.
“This exercise (of removing the traditional leaders) started about two months ago. All the chiefs and headmen who sided with Mujuru or her allies are being removed from their posts.
“A list of the traditional leaders was compiled at the beginning of the year. Procedures are not being followed but Chombo (local government minister) and Chief Charumbira are turning a blind eye,” said one affected traditional leader from the Midlands province.
Ignatius Chombo, whose ministry oversees the appointment of traditional leaders, was at one time linked to the Mujuru faction but he survived the chop and was made the new Zanu (PF) secretary for administration after congress.
Trumped up charges
Charumbira, on the other hand, has always been seen as a Mnangagwa loyalist. Chief Nhema from Shurugwi North in the Midlands province was recently fired from his post, reportedly on trumped up charges. His successor is yet to be confirmed.
Chief Nhema, also known as Dhaidhai, is an uncle to Francis Nhema, who was removed from the indigenisation ministry when the Mnangagwa faction started its purge of Mujuru allies.
An unconfirmed number of lower traditional leaders under the Nhema chieftainship is reported to be facing the firing squad.
Thousands of people who were unprocedurally resettled in the sprawling Shurugwi North constituency at Nhema’s behest during the 2008 and 2013 election periods have already been given until the end of this month to vacate their plots and return to their original homes.
Similarly, some 100 youths who were given gold mining claims at Hwandara in Shurugwi have been ordered out, allegedly because Nhema was behind the allocations.
In Mashonaland West, some of the victims of the purge said they were being victimised for supporting Mujuru and former Zanu (PF) provincial chair, Temba Mliswa.
Mliswa, who was fired from the party, faces a by-election in Hurungwe West as an independent after parliament declared his seat vacant.
“They are manufacturing charges against us. They are saying we belong to Mliswa and Mai Mujuru and are now accusing us of standing by a candidate who has been fired by the party. It is clear that they want us out,” said a headman from Hurungwe who spoke on condition of anonymity. Mliswa has accused Chombo of leading an onslaught against him.
Another chief from the Midlands province said Charumbira had told them in recent meetings that he didn’t want to work with leaders associated with the Gamatox camp, a reference to the Mujuru faction, and urged them to resign or be forced out.
Charumbira and Chombo could not be reached for comments as their phones were either off or went unanswered. The chief said other traditional leaders from Matabeleland, Manicaland and Masvingo had informed him about the impending expulsions.