22 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Mugabe, Mujuru in Stormy Meeting

CLASHES at the chaotic and divisive Zanu PF Youth League conference a fortnight ago, which once again proved the party is torn down the middle, forced President Robert Mugabe to call an emergency meeting at State House last Friday where politburo members, cabinet ministers and Zanu PF provincial leaders confronted each other.

This was part of Mugabe's efforts to reassert his grip on the party as internecine fights intensify ahead of the party's elective congress in December, by bringing everyone to the table to discuss escalating problems caused by unresolved succession issues.

Volatile factionalism which the party has attempted to keep under From Page 1 officials openly took sides on who should be voted into the organs' executives, much to Mugabe's chagrin.

Intricate details of the stormy meeting at State House emerged amid revelations that relations between President Robert Mugabe and Vice-President Joice Mujuru are at an all-time low.

Top party officials, youths and provincial leaders confronted each other in front of Mugabe at the meeting which ran for seven hours last Friday from 11am. The party's factional fights are getting dirtier due to anticipation that at 90, Mugabe is unlikely to carry on much longer.

Mugabe's anger seemed to reach boiling point at the meeting as accusations and counter-accusations were traded between the youths and senior party officials linked to Mujuru's camp.

The youths accused senior party officials, namely Mujuru, national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo, secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and national commissar Webster Shamu of plotting to unseat Mugabe at the December congress, while the Mujuru camp responded angrily stating that such plans were a figment of the imagination.

The acrimonious meeting will do little to stem factionalism in the party. There are two main factions in Zanu PF allegedly led by Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, both of whom have strenuously denied leading the camps.

Party insiders say the meeting changes nothing on the ground as Mujuru is still firmly in control of the provincial leadership and the Youth League executive.

The meeting was a follow-up to a meeting the same week on Wednesday convened by Mugabe with the Youth League in the aftermath of a shambolic conference marred by allegations of rigging, intimidation and vote-buying to influence the election outcome.

Seven youth chairpersons and national Youth League executive members Tongai Kasukuwere and Lewis Matutu, and outgoing deputy secretary for youth affairs Edison Chakanyuka blasted party bigwigs, whom they accused of interfering with the national Youth League elections.

They singled out Mutasa, Shamu, SK Moyo, ministers Dzikamai Mavhaire (Energy) and his deputy Munacho Mutezo, Walter Mzembi (Tourism), Olivia Muchena (Higher Education), and provincial chairpersons John Mvundura (Manicaland), Ray Kaukonde (Mashonaland East), Temba Mliswa (Mashonaland West), Andrew Langa (Matabeleland South) and Masvingo provincial minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti.

Straight-talking Matutu told Mugabe he was increasingly being isolated and is surrounded in the party presidium by people teaming up to unseat him.

"Mangosara mega President nekuti vamugere navo vese kutable ikoko havachakudii vanotodawo chigaro chenyu ichocho (You are now isolated Mr President because all those sitting with you at the high table (Mujuru, Mutasa and SK Moyo) no longer want you, they are plotting to unseat you," Matutu said.

A visibly angry Mugabe then asked Mujuru to respond to the allegations to which she said they were all part of a sinister plot to remove her from the vice-presidency.

Sources said Mujuru responded: "Ndiyo nzira yamafunga yekundibvisa nayo pahuVP here President? (Is this the way you want to remove me from the Vice-Presidency?" to which Mugabe responded saying, "It is the people who elect leaders".

"President mwana uyu andibaya nebanga nenhema dzake (The young man has stabbed me by his lies). It is only three years since my husband, Mujuru, died and these youths are doing this to me because they know I am alone. I have served under you all my life and I have never said I have ambitions to take over," Mujuru is said to have told Mugabe.

As tempers flared, Khaya Moyo distanced himself from claims that he is going around the provinces campaigning for Mujuru.

"I am 69 years old and have served the party for 40 years and I cannot be drawn into such a discussion with these youths," he was quoted as saying.

In response to the youths' claims that he was campaigning for Mujuru when he addressed youths in all the provinces under the guise that he was promoting the government's economic blueprint, ZimAsset, Mutasa said: "You appointed Mujuru and told her that she should aim higher. We support you your excellency and the whole presidium."

Mutasa was referring to Mugabe's statement in December 2004 when Mujuru was elected second secretary of the party, when he encouraged her to aim higher.

Sources said Mugabe had no kind words for party bigwigs whom he said should desist from interfering with the youths and women.

Mugabe also attacked Mavhaire after it allegedly emerged that he gave Mliswa the money distributed to party youths from Mashonaland West.

"Mugabe was also livid with Mavhaire saying he was not grateful after he (Mugabe) literally fished him out of poverty by appointing him to cabinet," a source said.

Mavhaire was appointed Energy minister after last year's general elections. He had spent many years in the political wilderness after a fallout with Mugabe prompted by his speech calling on the veteran leader to step down in the late 1990s.

"As pressure mounted, Shamu tried to defend his role in the youth conference by dismissing newspaper reports which implicated him in the saga," the source said.

On Wednesday Mavhaire refused to comment, referring all questions to party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.

"We don't discuss party matters with the press. The party has a spokesperson called Rugare Gumbo, thank you," Mavhaire said before hanging up.

Khaya Moyo also refused to comment on the details of the meeting and referred questions to presidential spokesperson George Charamba.

Mutasa said he could not comment as he was in meetings.

"I can confirm that there was that meeting that involved the President and all those party officials," said Gumbo on Thursday morning, adding, "but unfortunately, I cannot give you the details as to exactly what transpired because I was not part of the meeting."

Matutu on Wednesday said the youths met with the President, but was not in a position to say what transpired at the meeting.

"It is true we met the President to discuss internal party issues to map the way forward following the chaotic youth league conference," Matutu said.

"However, I am not in a position to give you details of what happened because these are internal issues."

In separate briefings with bigwigs in Mujuru's camp, they said were not going to back down.

"There is nothing wrong in looking beyond Mugabe. He is 90 and it would be stupid for anyone not to plan for his succession. Mugabe is to blame for the factionalism because he failed to resolve the issue," a Mujuru loyalist said.

"Mugabe is also wading into factional fights for personal reasons, to promote family business interests. Zanu PF is bigger than individual interests. Mugabe is the one promoting factionalism and might want to pull a fast one on Mujuru at the congress as he did to Mnangagwa in 2004 when he amended the constitution making one of his deputies a woman."

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