BY STAFF REPORTERS
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe last Thursday reportedly told his party’s politburo meeting that he borrowed $30 million from Marondera Central MP and ousted ex-Zanu PF Mashonaland East Provincial chairman Ray Kaukonde to fund his family business in 2008, NewsDay can reveal.
Mugabe, however, reportedly said he would soon settle the ballooning debt.
Impeccable sources told NewsDay over the weekend that Mugabe made the disclosure soon after the politburo upheld the decision to expel Kaukonde and six other top party officials.
Several others were suspended for varying periods of between two to five years during which period they were not allowed to hold any leadership positions in the ruling party.
Although repeated efforts to contact Kaukonde were fruitless, sources said Mugabe disclosed the matter soon after the decision to expel Kaukonde was made.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba and Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo’s mobile phones went unanswered throughout the day yesterday.
“The President briefed us that we must not be shocked that Kaukonde might drag him to court over the $30 million debt which he gave the First Family years back,” the officials said.
“The debt, we hear, was accumulated by the First Lady (Grace Mugabe) before the multi-currency regime era. He (Mugabe), however, indicated that he would settle the debt soon.”
It is understood that Mugabe anticipated Kaukonde would drag him to court following his dismissal from the party, but indicated that he would soon settle the debt.
Kaukonde lost the Zanu PF provincial chairmanship at the end of last year following allegations of funding former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s alleged plot to topple Mugabe.
At the height of the anti-Mujuru campaign, Grace publicly lampooned Kaukonde, accusing him of bankrolling the Mujuru cabal.
Sometime in November last year, war veterans in Marondera demonstrated against Kaukonde, accusing him of “moving around falsely claiming that Mugabe owed him some money”.
Addressing the demonstrators last November, Zanu PF chairperson for the Women’s League in Marondera district, Ellis Rangwana, chronicled Kaukonde and his executive’s indiscretions and called for a vote of no confidence in their leadership.
“He (Kaukonde) is also going around claiming that the President owes him money, saying he can’t do anything to him because of that, but we are saying how much are you owed so that we can pay you back?” Rangwana said.
It is reported that at the same politburo meeting, Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko saved national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere after tempers flared over his recent attack on war veterans and alleged imposition of candidates for the June 10 by-elections.
War Veterans’ minister Christopher Mutsvangwa reportedly led the attack, pleading with the politburo to call Kasukuwere to order over his “war veterans are drunkards” slur.
“Mutsvangwa was breathing fire, claiming that if Kasukuwere described the war veterans as drunkards, he had also implied that, as the leader of the group, he was also a drunkard,” the sources said.
“The President had developed an interest in the matter and asked Mutsvangwa to explain what had happened, but VP Mphoko immediately rescued Kasukuwere. He said the war veterans also had an obligation to respect party leadership.”
Mutsvangwa could not be reached for comment yesterday as he was reportedly in a meeting, while Kasukuwere’s mobile phone went unanswered.
Kasukuwere recently described the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) leaders as “drunkards” after the former fighters accused him of imposing candidates and loyalists at critical party posts.
The former fighters accused Kasukuwere and a group of Zanu PF senior members of plotting to oust Mugabe.
According to the politburo sources, another politburo member, Cleveria Chizema, also lampooned Kasukuwere for allegedly imposing career banker Terrence Mukupe as the party’s Harare East parliamentary candidate.
Chizema’s allegations reportedly forced Mugabe to climb down on his earlier consent to Kasukuwere’s request to dissolve the Godwills Masimirembwa-led Harare executive that he had accused of acting in a “thuggish manner” and throwing the name of the party into disrepute.
Mugabe had initially reportedly acceded to Kasukuwere’s request to have Masimirembwa and youth leader Godwin Gomwe fired, but later instructed that they should only be warned after listening to Chizema’s submissions.
“Chizema said Masimirembwa and Gomwe were only being punished for resisting Kasukuwere’s orders. Once again, President Mugabe took a special interest in the matter before he later ordered Cde Kasukuwere to resolve the chaos in the Harare province. The President then withdrew his earlier order to have the executive dissolved.”
Mugabe was also said to have saved former politburo member Flora Buka, former Health deputy minister Paul Chimedza and Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Jason Machaya from expulsion in a wave of purges that saw seven members being booted out.
The expulsions were announced by Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa who briefly chaired the meeting after Mugabe had taken a break.
Mnangagwa briefed the President that Buka was among those who had been fired, but Mugabe ordered that Kaukonde, who had been slapped with a five-year suspension, be expelled from the party.
“President Mugabe said Buka, Chimedza and Machaya had potential to repent and reversed harsh sentences which had earlier been imposed on them. He said they should be given another chance. Some were suspended for two years, while the majority were slapped with five-year suspensions,” the sources said.
Former Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema survived the purge, although he was drafted among those the province had wanted fired.
“MPs would be assessed individually, even those who have been suspended. Some of them will be booted out as it has been discovered that they were no longer advancing the interests of the party, with Chikomba MP Felix Mhona being named as an example,” the source added.