By Xolisani Ncube
An explosive leaked audio recording allegedly of First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has exposed the simmering bad blood between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the military.
This comes hardly two years after the military, led by then Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga, ousted former President Robert Mugabe and installed Mnangagwa in a military-assisted operation. Chiwenga is now Vice-President, but has not been seen in public for months now as he is reportedly battling ill health.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from the First Lady proved fruitless yesterday as she was not picking up her mobile phone throughout the day.
But Information secretary Ndabaningi Mangwana said from the information he received, the audio seemed to have been manipulated.
“The information I received is that there is a lot of manipulation and simulation of the First Lady’s voice on the audio circulating,” Mangwana said.
Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Alphios Makotore said he was unaware of the alleged audio, hence he could not comment on its contents.
“I am not aware of the said audio,” Makotore said.
The audio, in which the First Lady ranted at a top military commander, went viral on Monday. The First Lady rails at one Murombo believed to be Colonel Samson Murombo, the commander of 1 Presidential Guard Infantry Battalion situated at Josiah Magama Tongogara Barracks (formerly KGVI), whom she accused of “spying” on her. The battalion is responsible for protecting the first citizens’ official residence and guest house.
The audio may have inadvertently laid bare the tensions between Mnangagwa and the rank and file of the military that was the power behind his rise to State House in November 2017.
The audio revealed a skittish, but combative character of the First Lady who used abusive language to attack Murombo.
It is understood that the eight-minute-long audio could have been recorded last month when First Lady Auxillia was in Bulawayo visiting former First Lady Janet Banana, the wife of the late former President Canaan Banana, as well as veteran nationalist Jane Ngwenya, and Zodwa Dabengwa, the widow of the late Zapu leader, Dumiso Dabengwa.
However, it is still a mystery how the recording was leaked and who recorded it in the first place.
“You’re spying on me,” Auxillia reportedly accused Murombo, who was not given a chance to respond to the allegations even though he pleaded with her to defend himself.
Murombo is occasionally heard pleading: “Excuse me Your Excellency,” but the First Lady curtly responded: “Just tell me what you want from me because if I die, it would be you.”
The unmistaken voice of First Lady Auxillia further accused Murombo of using someone called Manjoro, believed to be a Central Intelligence Organisation operative and member of her security detail, to spy on her.
“You must waylay me on the road. I’m coming from Bulawayo. If you don’t, straight away I’m coming to your office and you can do what you want with me. You can’t deal with women like this. I’m going to make a story about this. I’m coming to your office to sit there. What threat am I? To who? What threat do I have?” Auxillia ranted.
“You draw your confidence from the fact that you have a gun. I’m coming there and you can shoot me. If you don’t shoot me before I get there, we’ll kill each other in your office.”
The First Lady also claimed that she was aware of a plot to kill Mnangagwa and said those who wanted to do so could go ahead, but leave her alone because she had children to look after.
She went on to describe Murombo as a man with an “ugly face”, who was “trying to get to Mnangagwa through me”.
When Murombo asked if he could be afforded a chance to speak, she yelled back: “Get away! I’m just a mere woman, a grandmother. Go and shoot Mnangagwa, I ask for a pardon. Don’t shoot me because I’ve children. Just shoot Mnangagwa, because I know this is all about him.
“Just go and shoot him, why do you want to shoot me? What have I done? What threat do I pose to you Murombo? I don’t even know your wife. I don’t discuss politics, I don’t discuss military issues. I’m coming to your office.”
In May, the First Lady stormed the government-owned NatPharm and demanded to see documents showing where they were sending drugs.
She vowed not to leave the NatPharm warehouse “before they provide me with the current distribution list of the medicines they dispatched”.
At NatPharm, she was captured on video quizzing officials about stockpiles of undistributed medical drugs at a time most public hospitals were without drugs.
Earlier, she had also been recorded threatening to confront mobile network operators over tariff hikes at a gathering in Masvingo province.
Political analysts and opposition parties have repeatedly been questioning First Lady Auxillia’s “philanthropic” work, which has reportedly seen her interfering in government business.
But Auxillia hit back then, saying opposition political parties should not remain in election mode and should stop attacking citizens concerned with the well-being of Zimbabweans, including their supporters.
“I have been a health ambassador for quite some time and my role is to help the vulnerable in whatever possible way. When I (paid) a visit to NatPharm, I had asked the Minister of Health (Obadiah Moyo) to accompany me so that I could appreciate their operations. It is unfortunate that he was in a meeting. He sent a representative,” she said.
Moyo said then: “Indeed, we discussed with the First Lady about her familiarisation tour of NatPharm. Because I was engaged elsewhere, I dispatched one of my senior staffers at the ministry to accompany her.
“In relation to a meeting I had with NatPharm executives, it was a scheduled meeting which was not influenced by the First Lady. She is merely fulfilling her philanthropic work, nothing more nothing less. In any case, she is now our ambassador for health and child care.” NewsDay