By Sij Ncube
President Robert Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba is working overtime in a desperate bid to assist Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s presidential succession bid in the faction-riddled party Zanu PF leader, analysts say.
Mugabe’s party is sharply divided into two distinct camps, Lacoste – linked to Mnangagwa, and G40 – said to be fronted by former government spokesman Jonathan Moyo and other so-called Young Turks, among them Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao.
Lacoste wants Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe by virtue of being the first vice president while G40 wants the heir apparent anointed by the veteran leader of subjected to party elections.
But in recent weeks Nathaniel Manheru, a columnist in the state-controlled The Herald, widely thought to be Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson has been evidently rooting for Mnangagwa in his writings as the race to succeed the soon to be 93-year old leader reaches a crescendo.
Charamba, who is also permanent secretary in the ministry of information, media and broadcasting services, has never denied he is behind the acerbic and vitriolic Manheru column although in the past, has been exposed as the writer of the articles by his former boss at the ministry, Moyo. The two now appear sworn enemies.
Critics note that Charamba has occasionally used the long-winding column to take pot-shots at the Zanu PF leader’s perceived enemies and recently, those perceived to be opposed to Mnangagwa’s ascendancy to the throne particularly Moyo who has publicly stated he would not support his bid for presidency of Zanu PF and possible the republic.
Two weeks ago, the columnist lashed out at Jonathan Moyo and warned him against dabbling in the Zanu PF succession matrix by allegedly rubbishing the Midlands strongman’s succession bid in the cut-throat race.
Instead, Manheru, read Charamba, intimated the succession issue “has its own people” and Moyo was not one of them, a remark political analysts view as meant to present Mnangagwa as the sole candidate and in the process drumming up support for the Lacoste camp which critics claim is leaving no storm unturned to ensure Mnangagwa eventually steps into the shoes of Mugabe when the Zanu PF leader eventually decides to exit politics or dies in power.
“It is clear he (Manheru) is doing Mnangagwa bidding by abusing the state media,” said Ricky Mukonza, a political analyst, who teaches public management at a South African university.
In his latest long-winding article, the columnist hit-out at human rights lawyer-cum opposition politician and author, David Coltart for intimating in his autobiography, The Struggle Continues: 50 Years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa and other Zanu PF politicians were complicity in the murder of an estimated 20 000 defenceless civilian in some parts of the Midlands and Matabeleland during the early 1980s.
In his book, Coltart states that Mnangagwa was in charge of state security during Gukurahundi, suggesting chances were high the vice president and justice minister could have known about the killings, charges which appear to have rattled the Lacoste camp of which Charamba is thought to belong.
Coltart has also made reference to stories carried in the local state controlled media during the time in which Mnangagwa alluded to the presence of state security agents sent to deal with the alleged dissident menace in Matabeleland provinces and some parts of the Midlands.
But a livid Manheru on Saturday referred to Coltart as an unrepentant white who fought for the supremacy of racists Rhodesian, defended white settler interests by gun, suggesting the former cabinet minister’s book was wrongly apportioning the Gukurahundi killings to Mnangagwa.
The columnist further stated that Coltart was behind the report Breaking Silence, a damning human rights report which chronicled the Gukurahundi killings, adding that it is not a coincidence that he has authored another book linking Zanu PF politicians to the massacres in the Matabeleland and the Midlands.
Manheru said while Coltart had no qualms in his book in accusing Zanu PF politicians of complicity in the Gukurahundi killings, the MDC politician has been conspicuous by his silence in the role that he played in defending racist Rhodesian, in what analyst say are attempts to rubbish Coltart book, particularly its version of who was responsible for the killings.
Coltart, however, on Tuesday hit back at the author of the column in an interview with RadioVOP, saying it is clear Mugabe’s spin-doctors wanted to airbrush the Zanu PF politician’s role in the early 1980s political disturbances in the two southern region provinces as the dog-fight to succeed Mugabe hots up.
“Whoever Manheru is does appear to be using this column to paint Mnangagwa in the best possible light,” said Coltart.
“If Manheru is in fact Charamba then it would indicate that he is doing all he can to discredit the existing narrative about Gukurahundi which will assist Mnagangwa’s aspirations. So it is not surprising that he would seek to delegitimise me and the revelations made in my book about Gukurahundi and Mngangwa’s role in it.” Radio VOP