A FIERCE political storm is brewing in President Robert Mugabe’s rural backyard amid allegations that Zanu PF activists sympathetic to the veteran leader’s trusted lieutenant and Zvimba North MP Ignatius Chombo have barred supporters from wearing party regalia bearing Mugabe’s portrait.
Report by Everson Mushava
The regalia — which includes thousands of bandanas, scarfs and wrappers, among others — was reportedly sourced by parliamentary aspirant Edwin Matibiri, a close relative of the veteran Zanu PF leader.
But Chombo’s sympathisers reportedly viewed the distribution of the Mugabe regalia as a campaign tool by Matibiri to unseat him before an election date for primaries was announced.
The fights were happening at a time Zanu PF was preparing for its conference in Gweru which is expected to confirm Mugabe as the party’s presidential candidate for the nextelection.
The tussle for the control of party structures has now widened the fissures within the party divided along rival factions reportedly led by Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
As the tussle for control intensifies, four Zanu PF party executives in Zvimba North were reportedly suspended by district chairman Hardlife Chiwoniwoni for wearing the Mugabe regalia supplied by Chombo’s opponent in the next primaries.
The alleged purge has affected Mercy Mutyavaviri and three others only identified as S Munetsi, F Makusha and D Gabongwe. The quartet has since taken the matter to Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman John Mafa seeking clarification.
“Chairman, you should notify us which regalia we should put on since this Katawa district is now afraid to put on Zanu PF regalia,” the four wrote to Chiwoniwoni in a letter dated November 29 and copied to Mafa.
“As far as the party is concerned, we feel we have done nothing bad. We will not surrender this regalia to you since this will be tantamount to surrendering Zanu PF. On the regalia, there is the portrait of President Mugabe, so if I don’t put it on, whose regalia should I put on?”
Mutyavaviri said 5 000 Zanu PF members in the district had acquired the regalia, but were now unsure whether to put it on lest they would be viewed as supporting Chombo’s rival.
“They want Chombo to be more popular than the President. They want us to wear Chombo’s T-shirts,” Mutyavaviri said.
“In this district, Chombo got more votes than President Mugabe in the March 2008 elections because of such behaviour. They don’t want us to talk about President Mugabe, but Chombo alone. The regalia supplied by Matibiri is about President Mugabe and I will put it on, whether they like it or not.”
Mugabe lost in many constituencies that were resoundingly won by Zanu PF MPs after a smear campaign, then known as “Bhora Musango”, where party MPs campaigned for themselves alone to the deliberate exclusion of Mugabe.
Matibiri yesterday admitted supplying the regalia, but declined to comment.
“I cannot comment on the matter. What I can only say is that I supplied the President’s regalia,” he said.
Chiwoniwoni also refused to comment, saying: “I cannot say anything over the phone.”
Although Mafa said he was unaware of the development, party sources said he was the one who intervened and rescued the situation after three of the suspended executives were barred from a district workshop in Banket on Saturday.
Mafa is said to have ordered Chiwoniwoni to compile a report on the matter, but emphasised the Mugabe regalia was welcome because he would be the party presidential candidate in next year’s elections.
Chombo’s mobile phone went unanswered while a text message sent to him to solicit his comment on the matter was not responded to.
Party sources said the stand-off between Chombo and Matibiri had turned nasty amid reports that Chombo sympathisers recently assaulted a 15-year-old boy, Polite Gwejera, in Mutorashanga district over allegations that his father supported Matibiri.
One of the suspended executives was also assaulted on Friday on his way back from Chinhoyi to deliver letters challenging their suspension.