By Andrew Kunambura
A ruling ZANU-PF faction agitating for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Robert Mugabe is understood to be frantically working to reclaim critical party organs from its rival, after its clear victory in Masvingo’s provincial elections a fortnight ago.
This comes as public brawls between the factions — Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40) — broke out in the aftermath of commemorations for President Mugabe’s 93rd birthday in Matobo.
The clashes involved provincial members in Harare, Bulawayo and Mashonaland Central.
Sources said this week Team Lacoste, which supports Mnangagwa, was mobilising district youth chairpersons in Harare and Bulawayo to gang up against their provincial and national leaders in the league as the faction seeks to destabilise G40.
Ructions are also emerging in the Women’s Leagues, where daggers are being drawn against some national executive members belonging to the G40 faction.
Following a fall-out between G40 and Team Lacoste members who had rallied together to plot the expulsion of former vice president Joice Mujuru in 2014, G40 members had orchestrated the expulsion of Team Lacoste executives in provincial, youth and women’s leagues, resulting in their takeover of the critical organs.
Although this had left Team Lacoste tottering, G40 failed to rally the President to clearly annihilate the faction from the party, giving it latitude to re-organise.
At least three provincial leaders from Team Lacoste, who had been suspended for allegedly destabilising the party, were cleared just before the party’s national conference in Masvingo in December.
Although G40 frustrated their reinstatement as provincial chairmen, Team Lacoste successfully lobbied for an election in one of the provinces, Masvingo, where a G40 candidate received a drubbing.
Results from that election have been withheld by the party on account of the fact that certain districts did not vote because of floods.
But the outcome, which clearly gives a Team Lacoste candidate a wide victory, has buoyed Mnangagwa’s camp, which is now plotting to retake the Women’s and Youth Leagues as well as the provincial structures.
There is already discord in the Women’s League, where members are agitating for the expulsion of treasurer, Sarah Mahoka, and secretary for information, Eunice Sandi Moyo.
Sources said Youth League boss, Kudzanai Chipanga, who is linked to G40, is one of the key targets of Team Lacoste.
Chipanga replaced Pupurai Togarepi, who was relieved of his duties for allegedly supporting Mnangagwa’s bid for power.
According to sources, Team Lacoste is taking advantage of the logistical nightmares surrounding the Matobo event to fight Chipanga.
A source said it was clear Mnangagwa’s faction was “fighting hard to regain control of the Youth League”, but indicated that it may find it difficult to claim a stake in the Women’s League.
District chairpersons in Harare are currently understood to be preparing a petition against the interim Harare provincial youth chairman, Edson Takataka.
“We spent the night sleeping in the open, exposed to mosquito bites. There was no food and when we tried to call our national leaders to air our grievances, they were not answering our calls. They think they are wise and we are fools, but we are getting them,” said one district youth chair who claimed to be speaking on behalf of a number of disgruntled colleagues.
In Bulawayo, where Team Lacoste and G40 youths fought running battles on the sidelines of the party’s Provincial Co-ordinating Committee (PCC) meeting on Sunday, the situation was also said to be getting tense.
Pro-Lacoste youths are demanding the immediate resignation of G40 members within their provincial leadership, particularly chairperson, Anna Makgohloa, secretary for administration, Leo Nyoni, provincial political commissar, Boniface Mutsure, and Dean Hlomai the provincial secretary for labour and production.
They are also demanding the expulsion of national secretary for information and publicity, Evelyn Mpofu and have expressed displeasure with provincial heavyweight, Eunice Sandi Moyo, the Women’s League spokesperson, in a demonstration staged a few days before the PCC meeting.
Makgohloa, Nyoni, Mutsure and Hlomai are being accused of shielding Mpofu after agitated youths from the province asked them to initiate the process to have her recalled from her position, accusing her of failing to adequately represent their interests.
“They accuse her of being a fluid character who is easily swayed by the tide. Today she is Lacoste, tomorrow she is G40, so they want to send her back to oblivion,” said a G40 sympathiser from Bulawayo, talking about Lacoste’s plot against Mpofu.
In Mashonaland Central, a women’s mining group believed to be sympathetic to Mnangagwa has taken ZANU-PF national political commissar and perceived G40 heavyweight, Saviour Kasukuwere, to court over allegations he wants to grab their gold claims.
They described him in court papers as a “dangerous loose cannon” who wants to destroy the party.
They are supported by Central Committee member, Martin Mavhangira, who is linked to the Mnangagwa camp.
Kasukuwere refused to comment on the issue this week when contacted for comment.
“They have filed a court application and we will meet them there,” he said.
Team Lacoste is also believed have partly influenced the upcoming war veterans’ crisis indaba which is set to take place in Harare at the weekend.
Members of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) have been the most vocal of Mnangagwa’s allies.
The entire senior ZNLWVA leadership was booted out of ZANU-PF for criticising President Mugabe and expressing their support for Mnangagwa.
Team Lacoste is also being accused of working in cahoots with the seven former provincial youth chairmen who were expelled for supporting Mnangagwa in 2015.
“It’s a regrouping of forces rallying behind Mnangagwa and it will be escalating gradually as time progresses,” said a member of the Central Committee who declined to be named.
The current factional battles appear to be contrary to President Mugabe’s call for party unity ahead of national elections next year.
President Mugabe described the factions as little groupings that have no capacity to remove him from power.
“There are people who say Mugabe must go, people who are busy forming their own groupings saying Mugabe must go. I ask myself, where?”
“This is the job of congress to decide. Those who want will then come up and the party will elect as the constitution states. We can have an extra-ordinary congress if the President retires, but we must be together,” he told the gathering.
The Central Committee member said no one was taking President Mugabe’s call seriously.
Political analysts also said nothing would stop the war.
“They know that sooner or later, the President will go, either through resignation or death or incapacitation. So the bidding will naturally continue,” said political scientist, Ibbo Mandaza.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, concurred.
“The pronouncements (by President Mugabe) will only make the factions raise the tempo in trying to outdo each other, in the process leaving his position safe at least for now. The jostling will however continue unabated,” said Masunungure.
Political commentator, Rashweat Mukundu, said: “By refusing to name a successor, President Mugabe is only fuelling the ambers of a tense succession process. The factionalism will now go deeper and become even more dangerous.” Financial Gazette