THE Zanu PF politburo meeting held on Wednesday was reportedly characterised by a verbal showdown as the warring factions squared off against each other over alleged attempts by party officials to block First Lady Grace Mugabe from entering politics, NewsDay has learnt.
Although Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo claimed the 10-hour-long deliberations were frank, candid, but amicable, NewsDay is reliably informed there were several confrontations with tempers flaring as factions fought for their skins.
Factions allegedly pitting Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are locked in bitter fights in the race to succeed Mugabe, who turned 90 in February this year.
Things got to a head with the recent entry of Grace into the political arena, with the Mnangagwa faction reportedly claiming some officials from the Mujuru camp had attempted to block her from leading the Women’s League.
Sources said Gumbo warned Mugabe in the Wednesday politburo meeting that the veteran leader risked being dragged into the faction fights.
“He (Gumbo) told Mugabe that he was being misled by the Mnangagwa camp that claims to love him while they were advancing their own agenda,” a politburo member said.
Gumbo reportedly produced newspaper articles, including one by outgoing national deputy secretary for youth affairs Edson Chakanyuka, a known Mnangagwa ally, who allegedly claimed Mnangagwa was second to Mugabe.
On Monday, Chakanyuka attacked Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa claiming he was abusing the Central Intelligence Organisation to advance the cause of the Mujuru faction.
Another Mnangagwa ally, Gokwe-Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena, also attacked Mutasa, saying the Manicaland political supremo needed a bashing.
On Monday, Gumbo released a statement claiming that Mugabe was being misled by party members who claimed to love him while driving a regime change agenda from inside the party.
Women’s League boss, Oppah Muchinguri, who volunteered to relinquish her post to Grace, and has been attacking Mujuru, is said to have claimed that she enjoyed massive support and was the pillar behind the VP’s rise in 2004.
She reportedly claimed she still enjoyed enormous support from the structures and could even win the battle against Mujuru, a remark which jolted the Vice-President forcing her to dare Muchinguri to challenge her at the December congress.
“Mujuru said she could not be continuously subjected to public abuses by Muchinguri simply because she campaigned for her to land the VP post in 2004,” another senior Zanu PF official who attended the meeting said.
Mbare MP Tendai Savanhu, who has also been accused of attempting to block Grace’s political rise, reportedly said there were some officials claiming they had a video recording of Mujuru claiming Mugabe was no longer fit to rule.
Savanhu sensationally claimed that three politburo members (names withheld) were moving around saying they had evidence of Mujuru claiming that Mugabe was too old to continue in party leadership and using cow dung to plaster his back.
Mnangagwa, who was said to be usually on the quiet side and allegedly speaking through his proxies, was said to be vociferous in the Wednesday meeting. He is said to have attacked Mutasa for claiming that he was divisive, threatening to use deadly pesticide Gamatox on people perceived to be his supporters.
Together with Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwawo and Muchinguri, Mnangagwa reportedly demanded the suspension of eight provincial chairpersons, except Midlands and Bulawayo provincial chairpersons Jayson Machaya and Callistus Ndlovu.
However, after having called for lifting of bans on suspended youth provincial chairpersons, Mugabe reportedly stamped his authority and ruled that no provincial chairpersons should be suspended. The veteran leader then tasked national chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo to look into the suspensions of three youth chairpersons, Godfrey Tsenengamu (Mashonaland Central), Mashonaland West’s Vengai Musengi and Godwin Gomwe of Harare province.
All the suspended youth chairpersons have invoked Grace’s name claiming they were being purged by the Mujuru faction for supporting her ascendancy as cracks caused by factionalism continue to widen in Zanu PF.
The Mujuru faction had been accusing the Mnangagwa faction of pretending to support the First Family to advance their ulterior motives.
The Mnangagwa faction was dealt a blow when Mugabe refused to nullify electoral results for the women and youth leagues claiming they were marred by vote-buying from the Mujuru camp.
Muchinguri is said to have once more clashed with Minister of State in the President’s Office Flora Bhuka over allegations that the latter abducted some female party members ahead of the Women’s League conference.
Mugabe is said to have ordered Information minister Jonathan Moyo to stop abusing the media to prop his preferred faction, but use the media to promote government policies, after the Mujuru faction reportedly complained over alleged abuse of The Herald by the Mnangagwa faction.