Under-pressure Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has denied leading the so-called Team Lacoste faction in Zanu PF which is linked to a plot to either topple or succeed President Robert Mugabe by hook or crook. The VP also reaffirmed his long-standing and unwavering loyalty to his boss.
Mnangagwa said he and President Mugabe shared a “personal relationship” dating back to the 1960s and 1970s when he was Special Assistant to the President. And after Independence that relationship continued to flourish as Mugabe appointed him to various portfolios leading to his elevation to State VP and ruling party VP and Second Secretary.
He said divisive elements abusing his name and linking him to factionalism, including Government ministers, were doing so in violation of the spirit and letter of the Constitution and their Oaths of Office. The private media have long claimed VP Mnangagwa leads a ruling party faction called “Lacoste” that is fighting the “G40” faction to take over from President Mugabe in both Zanu-PF and Government.
The private media allegations gained the support of, first, Zanu-PF Women’s League secretary for finance Sarah Mahoka, who in February challenged the VP not to “sit like a lame duck” and to pronounce himself on the matter at a gathering at the party’s headquarters.
Then last week, Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister Mandi Chimene openly called for President Mugabe to sack VP Mnangagwa over factionalism. However Mugabe put his foot down, telling the thousands in attendance that the party leadership would remain intact.
Yesterday, VP Mnangagwa told journalists at his Munhumutapa Office in Harare that he would not tolerate the false allegations against him. He also described as unfounded claims linking him to a treasonous “communiqué” released after a Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association meeting in Harare on 21 July, 2016.
“I have never at any one time directly or indirectly established, formed, convened or sought to benefit from the alleged grouping (Lacoste), or other such groupings of dubious and libelous character as alleged.
“Equally, I have been on the receiving end of various people who are said to use my name and office for personal gain, self-aggrandisement and political clout, among other benefits, only known to themselves. I abhor this corrupt ascription and despicable malpractice which I have never sanctioned at any point and want the perpetrators to stop.”
When asked what action would be taken against those abusing his name, he said the relevant party structures would decide.
“That decision cannot be made by an individual; it can only be made collectively by the party in its various fora such as the Politburo or Central Committee,” he said.
VP Mnangagwa described his long “personal relationship” with President Mugabe, and his party membership spanning more than 50 years.
“Let it not be forgotten that both during my incarceration for a period of 10 years — from 1965 to 1974 — and after my release in 1974, I have always had a personal relationship with the President, Cde RG Mugabe, who to me is not just a father figure but a principal mentor, after whom I fashion all my political behaviour.
“Again for the sake of the young generation in the party, it was the President, Cde RG Mugabe, who selected and appointed me in 1977 to take up the sensitive post of Head of Security during the armed struggle as the Special Assistant to the President in charge of both military and civil divisions.”
He went on, “That same confidence expressed itself in 1980 at Independence when the President, Cde RG Mugabe, then Prime Minister, appointed me Minister of State Security. All these appointments leading to what I am today speak of the close and trustworthy relation I have maintained with my President.
“It is a relationship I cherish and regard dearly that I will not allow anyone to malign or soil. To that end, as I have done for the better part of my life, I re-affirm and pledge as in the past, to defend and stand by the person and legacy of His Excellency, the President and First Secretary of our tried and tested revolutionary party. I have in no way, either by acts of commission or omission, sought to arrogate power and authority to myself, away from His Excellency the President and First Secretary, Cde RG Mugabe.”
“However, I have recently witnessed a disturbing and alien trend whereby party cadres concoct unfounded, unproven, blatant lies, and callous utterances and accusations against me with the ultimate objective of deprecating and maligning my person and standing.
“I have further observed with grave concern as members of the Party at various levels exhibit untoward behaviour and make utterances contrary to the dictates of the party constitution and protocol. Equally, some fellow Government ministers have made statements based on unfounded, unproven and disrespectful allegations against me in contravention of the spirit and letter of the national Constitution and their Oaths of Office.
“The war veterans, being a reserve force, under the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, are guided by known professional and ethical standards and expected decorum, and any divergence from this is not acceptable.
“As Vice-President and Second Secretary of the tried and tested revolutionary Zanu-PF party, I have not offended against or diverted from the ideology of the party, its canons, precepts, principles and established practices. I have served the Party for over 54 years, often with my life, all the time showing unflinching dedication, undivided loyalty and absolute commitment.”
The Vice-President said he decided to address the Press conference after consultations with President Mugabe.
“His Excellency, the President and First Secretary of the Party while addressing a gathering of party members at Zanu-PF headquarters on July 27, 2016 stated that ‘if accused, it is also up to us to tell the people that the accusations are false’.
“It is against this background that I have decided to address you today, specifically in relation to the emerging worrying national developments within our Party, as well as the various innuendos being made which may be interpreted as maligning me, both in my personal and official capacities.”
He said President Mugabe has often underscored the importance of leadership as an embodiment and tool for unifying the membership of the party and, by extension, the nation.
“In this regard, he has repeatedly spoken about desirable party leadership traits some of which include discipline, the ability to unify the membership, loyalty to the ideals and leadership of the party, consistency in word and deed as well as the need for leaders to be servants of the people.”
He added, “ As I stated in The Sunday Mail of July 24, 2016 in respect of the alleged rebellious clique which I strongly condemn, all true war veterans know that the President is their Commander-in-Chief and must be loyal and committed to the President and party. I don’t think those who say such things are loyal or genuine war veterans. They must be loyal. I still stand by that.”
VP Mngangagwa reiterated that there was one centre of power in Zanu-PF.
“The 6th National People’s Congress held in December 2014 boldly consolidated the principle of ‘One Centre of Power’, a principle I firmly and unequivocally subscribe to. The unity of the party and its leadership is its lifeblood and soul. It is this unity which ensured that we successfully prosecuted the armed struggle for liberation. It is this unity that saw us ward off the concerted, relentless machinations by agents of regime change to enable us to have the Independence, sovereignty and national peace and stability we enjoy today.”
He added, “To this end, my association with colleague Cabinet ministers, fellow Politburo members and the party membership in general, has always been to the extent and within the confines of my delegated authority and responsibilities.
“I chair more than five Cabinet Committees; this should never be construed as being tantamount to running a parallel Government. These false, concocted, malicious and frivolous allegations will neither deter nor detract me from diligently and effectively executing my duties and responsibilities as assigned to me by His Excellency, the President, Cde RG Mugabe.
“This brings my strong views on allegations related to my perceived association and purported leadership of the so-called ‘Lacoste’. I have never at any one time directly or indirectly established, formed, convened or sought to benefit from the alleged grouping, or other such groupings of dubious and libellous character as alleged.”