SEVERAL Zanu PF provincial youth chairpersons, who last year helped engineer the political rise of First Lady Grace Mugabe, reportedly resigned yesterday afternoon citing intimidation by ruling party hawks.
BY OBEY MANAYITI/XOLISANI NCUBE
This happened as Zanu PF postponed its politburo meeting initially scheduled for today to tomorrow, amid reports this was meant to allow Grace to address a rally in Mashonaland Central province, where she is expected to set the tone for the ouster of party activists reportedly linked to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The campaign is allegedly targeted at party youth leaders perceived as sympathetic to a Zanu PF faction fronted by Mnangagwa.
Mashonaland Central youth chair Godfrey Tsenengamu and two others, Paul Rwodzi, who is secretary for administration, and secretary for security Batsirai Musani, were booted out in a no-confidence vote last Saturday.
“The attack is so much and it seems they wanted to fire us in a uniform manner just like what happened to Tsenengamu,” said Midlands provincial chairperson Edmore Samambwa.
“I resigned because it is better to protect yourself than putting oneself under unnecessary attack. It’s not a rebellion.”
Washington Nkomo from Matabeleland South also said although he was still consulting, it was most likely that he would also throw in the towel.
“The way the chairpersons are attacked leaves many of us without any option, but to leave. I am still considering my situation, but I know some of the provincial chairpersons have given in. There are a lot of threats and intimidation and I feel insecure,” Nkomo said.
Vengai Musengi from Mashonaland West added the threats and the level of factionalism were most frightening and that was undermining the authority of President Robert Mugabe.
“It’s true that I have resigned. There is a lot of factionalism that is undermining the authority of the President. There were plans to arrest and pass vote of no-confidences on us,” Musengi said.
Zanu PF secretary for youth Pupurai Togarepi said although he had heard that there was a lot of intimidation on his juniors, he was still waiting for official complaints from the affected youth leaders.
“People come to me and raise such issues as casual talk,” Togarepi said.
“But we have procedures in the party to raise such pertinent issues. The people you are talking about know the procedures to raise such issues, therefore, I cannot act without a formal procedure.”
Although other provincial youth leaders could not be reached for comment, sources said they were also targeted in the latest purges.
Tsenengamu yesterday vowed to defy his detractors and attend Grace’s rally in Rushinga today.
“Everyone genuine in this revolution is not safe and they have every reason to be afraid. Those who genuinely supported President Mugabe and the First Lady during the Gamatox period are in the firing line,” he said.
At the rally, scheduled for Chimhanda Growth Point in Mt Darwin, Grace is, however, expected to address factional wars, while party members accused of factionalism and being loyal to Mnangagwa may face her wrath.
Zanu PF national secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo confirmed postponement of the politburo meeting yesterday, but declined to disclose reasons for the change of dates.
“The politburo is on Thursday, yes, I can confirm that,” he said.
Mnangagwa is widely believed to be gunning to succeed President Robert Mugabe, although he faces fierce resistance from Zanu PF Young Turks, known as Generation 40, who reportedly have Grace’s implicit backing.
Party insiders said the decision to push the politburo meeting to tomorrow would afford the First Lady a chance to attack Mnangagwa’s perceived allies before the meeting, which could endorse disciplinary proceedings against some of them.
Grace also sits in the party’s national disciplinary committee chaired by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko.
“She is leaving no stone unturned on issues to do with factionalism and especially people who are working on a post-Mugabe leadership, in the process the VP (Mnangagwa) and his backers are casualties,” a senior party official said yesterday.
“She is flexing her muscles to an extent that the politburo, which was set to sit tomorrow (today), has been moved to Thursday.
“After the rally, she will then attend to the national disciplinary committee ahead of the politburo.”
Grace has in the past denied reports there was bad blood between herself and Mnangagwa.
Mashonaland Central acting provincial chair Dickson Mafios said Grace would also meet the Women’s League structures and remind them of the party’s direction.
“She is coming here tomorrow [today] at Rushinga-Chimhanda Growth Point to address Zanu PF supporters in their numbers,” he said. “We are preparing to give her a resounding welcome befitting of the mother of the nation.
“We are currently mobilising our people from cells, branches and districts to attend the rally that will be addressed by the First Lady.”
Party sources said first in the firing line was Tsenengamu, who has been accused of embezzling party funds and Mugabe’s birthday donations.
Tsenengamu has, however, accused party political commissar (PC) Saviour Kasukuwere of masterminding his political woes, claiming he was being “persecuted” for inviting Mnangagwa to a church gathering without the knowledge of the provincial leadership.
Tsenengamu was being punished for refusing to be part of G40, which Kasukuwere is reported to lead.
Kasukuwere has denied the existence of such a group within the party. Tsenengamu was said to have been ordered to leave a provincial co-ordinating committee meeting for being part of the Mnangagwa camp in the province and holding secretive meetings with party structures, where they allegedly propped up the VP as the heir apparent.
“A number of people have their political lives hanging by a thread, especially those who are not in good books with the PC, they are likely to receive a tongue-lashing from the First Lady,” a source said.
Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha is also said to be in the firing line, as he faces several accusations.
The race to succeed Mugabe turned nasty last year, as Grace made her formal entry into politics, seeing off axed Vice-President Joice Mujuru.
Mnangagwa is considered the most likely person to succeed Mugabe, but analysts advise that Grace should not be written out.