By Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE – Former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa — who celebrated his 80th birthday quietly on Monday — says he is shocked by the insensitivity of Zanu PF’s leaders, who threw an extravagant 50th birthday party for First Lady Grace Mugabe last weekend, at a time when most Zimbabweans are wallowing in abject poverty.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, in the wake of President Robert Mugabe’s controversial wife throwing two mega bashes to mark her half century milestone, Mutasa also doubted whether a significant portion of the money that was raised from the parties would be channelled to charities as claimed by organisers of the events.
Grace’s lavish Saturday bash — which was held at the First Family’s Borrowdale mansion, and which was broadcast live on ZBC and went into the wee hours of Sunday morning — was attended by the country’s well-heeled from both politics and business, who paid through their necks to share a table with the increasingly powerful First Lady.
But organisers of the extravaganza defended the event, saying it was meant to fundraise for the Grace philanthropic work.
Insiders estimate that up to $5 million was raised from the glamorous gala — and on Wednesday the First Lady appeared to react to negative public sentiment by donating some of the proceeds to 50 charities, at an event at her Mazowe business hub that was attended by some government ministers.
However, Mutasa — a former close ally of Mugabe — said yesterday that there were no measures in place to ensure that money raised from such occasions was not abused and would find its way to the needy.
Talking about his own birthday, he said the occasion was a small family affair, with the day mostly “just like any other ordinary day, characterised by power cuts and water woes and dreams of a brighter day”.
“There was nothing for me to celebrate when the people of Zimbabwe are suffering. I could not do that as it would be unfair and against what I stand for,” he said.
“It is inconceivable that one can have a gala when people are suffering. If the funds raised during such occasions reach the people, then fair and fine, but what if it doesn’t?
“It is doubtful that such funds reach the people. I am a member of the presidential fund that ensured that money donated to the president is distributed well. I don’t know whether that is what is taking place everywhere,” Mutasa added.
He said the greed and corruption manifesting in Zanu PF was a cause for concern that could only be confronted by a united front of people determined to achieve their “total emancipation”.
“I sometimes wonder whether this is the Zanu PF that I once belonged to. If what is happening now is what was happening when we were in Zanu PF, then it is really sad and we regret it ever happened. I would like to apologise profusely to the people of Zimbabwe for having been part of this system that is just after power,” Mutasa said.
He spoke as Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars get nastier and messier, and after former Vice President Joice Mujuru said on Wednesday that she was content watching the ruling party’s “sad circus from the terraces”.
At the same time, outspoken war veteran Margaret Dongo also told the Daily News that it would be a “fatal political mistake” if the likes of Mujuru and Mutasa rejoined the post-congress Zanu PF — particularly now, as being suggested in some circles.
This came amid claims earlier this week that Mugabe no longer believed that Mujuru and Mutasa plotted to oust and assassinate him, and suggestions that some post-congress Zanu PF bigwigs were actively working to lure the former VP back to the warring party.
Contrary to ill-founded expectations in some quarters, the post-congress Zanu PF has not known peace since it expelled Mujuru, Mutasa and other top officials from within its ranks — with the party subsequently splitting into two distinct and bitterly-opposed formations.
Speaking in a brief interview with the Daily News on Wednesday, and after being asked how she viewed the worsening factional and succession ruckus within Zanu PF, Mujuru said: “Ndiri kuonawo zviri kuita vamwe, and it’s interesting (I’m just watching what others in the party are doing and it’s interesting)”.
She also added that she was content watching these shenanigans from the “terraces” and declined to answer any further questions — including whether she was prepared to rejoin her erstwhile comrades in the post-congress Zanu PF.
But Dongo was emphatic that it would be a mistake if Mujuru and her allies rejoined Zanu PF as Mugabe was “back to his old cunning ways” and would only seek to use them.
“It is obvious that if they make a mistake to go back, he will use the divide and rule strategy by punishing those who were against Mujuru to please her and her group. It is not just talk by Mugabe, it is a public apology. It is only a question of time before this happens,” Dongo said.
Mutasa, the former minister of State Security, who turned 80 on Monday, said the “circus” in his former party was “tragic” — as people were putting their personal interests and the pursuit of power before the interests of Zimbabweans.
Expelled from Zanu PF last year, along with a coterie of other senior party officials, on untested allegations of pushing for Mugabe’s demise and the ascendancy of Mujuru to the top post, Mutasa has since turned into a fierce critic of the ruling party.
Apart from the two major Zanu PFs that now obtain, Mugabe’s post-congress faction is also further divided along two main factions — one allegedly led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the other reportedly fronted by the party’s ambitious Young Turks, the Generation 40 camp that is said to include the likes of the party’s political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko.
Mugabe recently told party youths, in a rare and unusually candid address, that he had received intelligence to the effect that the party was polarising around Mnangagwa and Mphoko — adding ominously that people who were pushing for either of the two men to succeed him needed to stop doing so forthwith.
And while the factional fights are getting all of the party’s attention, this is happening at the expense of the country’s comatose economy — with most Zimbabweans now shamefully poorer than they were when the country attained its independence in April 1980. Daily News