1 February 2008

Zimbabwe: Makoni Distances Himself From Plot

ZANU PF politburo member Simba Makoni last week reportedly blamed former permanent secretary Ibbo Mandaza and the Zimbabwe Independent for linking him to a faction campaigning to seize the party leadership from President Robert Mugabe.

Sources said Makoni -- in a tense meeting with Mugabe at Zimbabwe House last Monday (January 21) -- distanced himself from reports of him forming a party to fight the 2008 elections against the octogenarian leader.

The former Finance minister met Mugabe to pledge his loyalty to the president and Zanu PF.

"Makoni told Mugabe that Mandaza was going around speaking of the formation of a new party," one of the sources said. "He denied ever attending any meeting to either plot to oust Mugabe or to form a political party to contest the March elections."

Makoni, the source added, claimed that apart from Mandaza, the Independent published articles linking him to the faction opposed to Mugabe out of pure hatred.

Mugabe reportedly did not buy Makoni's explanation and questioned why the former Finance minister failed to publicly dismiss the reports.

"Makoni said he was staying at his farm in Headlands where he had no easy access to newspapers," another source said. "He claimed that the Independent hate him and said he found no reason why he should have responded to "false reports" from the newspaper. He also claimed that the newspaper had at no time sought comment from him on the subject."

A bitter Mugabe, the sources said, told Makoni that he owed his political career and stature he now enjoys locally and abroad to him and his government.

The veteran leader reportedly reminded Makoni of the "mistakes" he made when he was Energy minister in the early 1980s and when he was executive secretary of Sadc's predecessor Sadcc for close to 10 years.

Makoni left Sadc in 1993, three years after it was rocked by a $25 000 financial scam -- a lot of money then -- that saw three finance officers fired.

The officers implicated Makoni, but he denied wrongdoing despite accepting full responsibility for what happened.

Makoni yesterday declined to comment on the matter.

"I cannot talk to you over the phone regarding that issue. How do I tell over the phone that you are a news reporter. Call my office and book for an appointment," Makoni said.

Last week, the Independent reported that Makoni's presidential ambitions had faltered after he met Mugabe and then failed to implement his three-phase plan to assume the Zanu PF leadership at last Wednesday's politburo meeting.

Makoni, sources said, was supposed to have convinced the politburo that Mugabe was un-proceduarally endorsed and confirmed Zanu PF presidential candidate at the party's extra-ordinary congress in December.

He reportedly wanted the endorsement to be reversed and the matter referred to the central committee for nominations.

If the two phases had failed, Makoni reportedly wanted to form a new party based on the ideology and principles of Zanu PF.

The mentioning of the Independent by Makoni to Mugabe is not new in Zanu PF politics. On September 5 last year, Zanu PF's secretary for science and technology Olivia Muchena raised concern in the politburo on the reproduction of her report that she presented to the 206th ordinary session of the decision-making body in the Independent.

She said such leakage of information was enough proof that the country's detractors had access to the ruling party's deliberations.

Muchena said she was concerned that discussions on that day on the then Constitutional Amendment No18 Bill would be equally leaked. She was right. The Independent got the details of the meeting.

"In his intervention, the president and first secretary, Cde RG Mugabe, stated that there were some people who had friends in the opposition press," read minutes of the politburo meeting. "He (Mugabe) castigated the tendency to leak information and vent out fights through the opposition media. Furthermore, he questioned the morality and integrity of such actions."

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