24 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Mutsvangwa Stokes Zanu-PF Firestorm

Zanu PF structures in the country's 10 provinces are divided on how to deal with Foreign Affairs deputy minister Chris Mutsvangwa who has of late been attacking senior party officials as factionalism threatens to tear apart President Robert Mugabe's party.

Mashonaland West is reportedly pushing for Mutsvangwa's suspension for the reason that he has not been attending party meetings as the provincial secretary for information.

Mutsvangwa recently unleashed uncharacteristic attacks against Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.

This came barely two months after Mutsvangwa again tore into his boss, Foreign Affairs minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and his permanent secretary Joey Bimha, calling them political amateurs, for allegedly side-lining him in the running of the ministry and making poor decisions.

The Standard is reliably informed that apart from Mutsvangwa's home province of Mashonaland West, other provinces were also pushing for Mutsvangwa to be brought before the party's disciplinary committee.

But other provinces sympathetic to the former diplomat were reportedly fiercely opposed to the move, arguing it was his democratic right to speak out.

This, the insiders said, has left the party in a quandary on the way forward as each move had the potential to further widen the rifts in Zanu PF ahead of its epic December congress.

A faction reportedly linked to Mujuru is battling for power with another said to be loyal to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa in the race to succeed 90 year old Mugabe.

So far, Manicaland, Masvingo and the Matabeleland provinces were believed to be in support of Mutsvangwa's reprisal while Midlands and some provinces in Mashonaland were reportedly throwing their weight behind him.

Mutsvangwa is accused of absconding meetings in his Mashonaland West province, reportedly leaving Temba Mliswa in a dilemma on how to deal with the matter.

Mliswa was not picking calls since Friday.

Mutsvangwa confirmed to The Standard in an interview on Friday that he had heard Mliswa wanted to summon him for a hearing for not attending meetings. He said he was failing to attend party meetings because of work commitments as a government minister.

"I heard it from the grapevine but the issue was never raised in our last meeting which I attended. After all I will be busy with more pressing government business which is more important than attending a provincial meeting," said Mutsvangwa.

Mutsvangwa is believed to be fighting in Mnangagwa's camp, hence the perception that his recent attacks on Mujuru, Mutasa and Gumbo were along factional lines.

Gumbo criticised Mutsvangwa for his public outbursts against senior party officials. He urged aggrieved party members to approach the Zanu PF disciplinary committee for recourse. But Gumbo refused to say whether he would personally make a formal complaint against Mutsvangwa.

"I will cross the bridge when the time comes," said the Zanu PF spokesperson.

Zanu PF faction members have now turned to social media to denigrate each other, as the succession battle rages on. The fight on the social media pits one dubbed Dare reChimurenga, which is aligned to Mujuru and the other, Zim 1, believed to be a Mnangagwa creation.

The latest fights come shortly after Mugabe held a no holds barred meeting at State House to try to deal with factionalism after the chaotic youth conference, results of whose elections were marred by irregularities and alleged vote-buying.

The meeting was reportedly held at the behest of the Mnangagwa camp that was smarting from heavy defeat in the youth elections.

Mugabe is said to have demanded evidence of vote buying from the complaining losers who claimed that provincial chairpersons and other party heavy weights were splashing cash to influence the outcome of the vote.

The warring factions are said to have pointed fingers at each other in Mugabe's face with party national chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo and Mliswa being accused of calling youths provincial chairpersons and instructing them to vote for Chipanga.

Khaya-Moyo and Mliswa are said to have denied the allegation. Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere was also accused of using money to solicit support for his brother, Tongai who went on to lose the election. The claim could also not be substantiated.

The Mnangagwa faction was accused of splashing $200 000 sourced from a mining giant to buy votes during the youth elections. The Mujuru camp was also accused of splashing a similar amount secured from an agro-based company.

Mujuru reportedly chaired the meeting while Mugabe observed. Mutasa was said to have been openly accused of supporting the Mujuru camp but he is said to have told his accusers, in front of the President that there was nothing wrong in supporting the VP since at the time of her appointment to the presidium, Mugabe had publicly encouraged her to aim higher.

Mashonaland West Zanu PF youth leader Vengai Musengi yesterday said there were attempts by some party bigwigs to purge youths who "sold out" at the youth conference.

Musengi said as the youth leader he would not be pushed to "dance to someone's tune" and accused Mliswa of interfering in the affairs of the youths.

Meanwhile, in a new twist of events, Zanu PF factionalism appears to have spilled into the party aligned student union. Leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Students' Union (Zicosu) yesterday distanced themselves from last Friday's attack on Mutasa by another group of students under the same union.

The students who include the union's top executive, claimed the Friday statement was made by rogue students who were not in the union's executive.

Addressing journalists at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare yesterday, Zicosu president Farai Mteliso said the student body would institute disciplinary proceedings against the rogue elements.

"The Union's disciplinary committee has already started a process of investigating those individuals who are alleged to have released the statement, and I would want to assure the entire nation that strong measures are going to be taken to bring the culprits to book. We are not going to take the matter lightly," said Mteliso who was flanked by 13 other Zicosu executive members.

On Friday, Tonderai Chidawa of Bindura University of Science Education, Mazambani Takudzwa of Kwekwe Polytechnic, and Zulu Benson of Great Zimbabwe University lashed out at Mutasa, accusing him of being divisive and warning him to "shape or ship out."

Mutasa is eyeing the chairmanship of the party at the party's December congress that is set to be left vacant with the expected promotion of the incumbent Simon Khaya-Moyo to the position of Vice President, replacing the late John Landa Nkomo.

The trio, claiming to be the Zicosu executive, said Mutasa's ambitions would cause divisions in the already fractured party.

The trio are said to be fighting in the corner of Mnangagwa's faction while Mteliso and the other executive members are alleged to be backing Mujuru.

Mteliso who denied belonging to any faction said the attack on Mutasa was not only malicious, but misguided.

"As the leadership of Zicosu, we have no right of undermining the authority of any members of our three arms of the state, the executive, judiciary and legislature. We enjoy a cordial professional and diplomatic relationship with all aforementioned arms," he said.

"We have no right whatsoever to appoint or disappoint any of those in government and in political parties including the ruling party Zanu PF. It is in this light that I would want to condemn any acts of indiscipline, insubordination and disrespect by a few individuals with some interests which we perceive as divisive to the entire union."

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