By Andrew Kunambura
Insiders say the new National Patriotic Front (NPF) — which has the blessings of ousted former president Robert Mugabe — could suffer a stillbirth, amid damaging internal accusations that the fledgling party’s leader Rtd brigadier Ambrose Mutinhiri is “incompetent”.
Well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said there were already serious ructions within the political outfit, with Mugabe’s wife Grace and a few of the former Zanu PF bigwigs who are linked to the new party apparently now saying Mutinhiri lacked both the capacity and the energy to go toe to toe with the ruling party and the MDC Alliance in this year’s national elections.
However, sympathisers of the former securocrat and Mashonaland East provincial minister leapt to his defence yesterday saying he had been “set up to fail” when he was surprisingly catapulted to the leadership of the party.
“There is war inside the party, with Grace and her close former G40 kingpins now pushing for Mutinhiri’s ouster, claiming that he is incompetent and that she (Grace) is better qualified and placed to lead the party into this year’s elections.
“I really sympathise with Mutinhiri, as looking at the issue in retrospect it’s now clear that he was set up to fail, as NPF only exists on paper with neither a structure nor followers.
“It is also clear now that he was used, just like what Grace and the G40 kingpins did to poor (former Cabinet minister Sydney) Sekeramayi whose name they expediently threw into the Zanu PF succession mix last year when they in fact wanted Grace to succeed Mugabe,” one of the insiders said.
This comes as the NPF was due to announce its full team in the run-up to Easter, but inexplicably failed to do so — although it was not immediately clear whether this was linked to the emerging differences.
However, NPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government of peddling falsehoods against the party.“I have not heard any complaints about … Mutinhiri’s leadership and therefore cannot comment on falsehoods planted by the junta to elicit information about our party.
“We have all our feet on the ground and our hands on the wheel. We will shake the regime in a big way and will certainly save our people from the shackles put on them on November 15, 2017.
“We will send Mnangagwa and his fellow coup organisers out of government through the harmonised elections this year,” Mawarire said.
The NPF spokesperson also said they had deferred releasing their list of the party’s leadership after learning of the intelligence community’s “machinations” — which he claimed had been foiled by their delay.
“We know the junta has been desperate for that list, and has tried to come up with its own list of our leadership and we are enjoying the desperation and panic shown by this illegal regime.
“We are strategic in our planning and the execution of our strategy. We are a party formed in the midst of a coup and operating in a country under a military junta, hence it will be both unprofessional and unstrategic for me, or any organ of the party for that matter to lay bare our strategy to our opponents.
“We have clear plans and processes that we are following which will culminate in the unveiling of the full complement of our leadership and the portfolios they are occupying. This process and related events are determined by our party, not the junta or its agents,” Mawarire told the Daily News.
The NPF, whose interim leader Mutinhiri abruptly resigned from Zanu PF, was said to be Mugabe’s antidote to Mnangagwa and the ruling party, following the nonagenarian’s stunning fall from power last November.
Mugabe has surprised both authorities and ordinary Zimbabweans alike in recent weeks by re-entering the political arena, and holding several meetings with opposition leaders — including openly lending his support to the NPF. The NPF has since revealed that Mugabe has endorsed the party, after he met Mutinhiri at his “Blue Roof” mansion in Harare, although it denies that the 94-year-old has a formal role in its activities.
Political analysts also told the Daily News yesterday that Mutinhiri lacked both the charisma and the popularity that was required to win against Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance.
“I would agree with those saying he is not popular enough. He is actually a big unknown and I don’t think he will leave a mark at the elections, especially given his links to the G40 and former first lady Grace Mugabe.
“It (NPF) was meant to be a spoiler but not a very big spoiler. I don’t think it would have sufficient time to craft its message, build and consolidate its structures before the elections.
“It doesn’t have any chance to make any big difference on the outcome of the elections,” Eldred Masunungure, a respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, said.
Another political analyst, Tawanda Zinyama, concurred with Masunungure saying both Mutinhiri and the NPF would be a “hard sell” to the discerning Zimbabwean electorate.
“I don’t think it (NPF) will be sellable to the electorate. The characters are not known and Zimbabwean politics is about personalities. The association of the party with former president Mugabe also undermines its credibility,” Zinyama said.”
“Any party formed on the basis of an agenda other than to serve people is bound to suffer a stillbirth as the demons of power contestations will manifest as soon as possible.
“Other than expressing unhappiness with the manner of Mugabe’s removal, I have not heard what else NPF represents,” another analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, said.
When it emerged last month that Grace was facing a probe over her alleged dealings in illegal ivory trade, the NPF leapt to the defence of the former first family, and accused Mnangagwa of harassing the Mugabes.
“If Zimbabwe is open for business, it should be open to political business. Hence, people — regardless of their past positions in government — should be allowed freedom of association, choice and expression.
“These rights are fundamental to the freeness and fairness of the forthcoming election, and we hope ED goes beyond his mantra of a free election and acquaints himself with the Sadc guidelines and principles governing democratic elections in the region.
“These are very clear on what constitutes a free and fair election and we believe he should leave … Mugabe and his family to freely participate in the next elections if they so wish, because it’s their constitutional right to do so … we have engaged regional powers to look into the matter of Mugabe,” Mawarire said then after the NPF had written letters to regional leaders to protect Mugabe from the nonagenarian’s alleged political harassment.
“If you ignore this … you will ignore the Constitution of Zimbabwe, history and your responsibilities and obligations as Sadc, and the consequences will be too ghastly for everyone concerned, in Zimbabwe and in Sadc and the African Union,” the NPF added then.
Mugabe’s 37 uninterrupted years in power were brought to an inglorious end when the military launched Operation Restore Legacy on November 15 last year, which saw the nonagenarian and his then influential wife being placed under house arrest.
Several Cabinet ministers linked to Zanu PF’s vanquished G40 faction, who had coalesced around Grace, were also targeted in the operation which ended just before Christmas — with the military only retreating back to their barracks after five weeks of executing the operation.
The annihilated G40, with the visible help of Mugabe and Grace, was — before the military intervention — locked in a bitter war with Mnangagwa and his supporters for control of both Zanu PF and the government. Daily News