FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe reportedly confronted under-fire Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa during a tense briefing ahead of a Zanu PF youth league national assembly meeting in Harare on Saturday and openly told him to quit over allegations of fomenting factionalism and plotting President Robert Mugabe’s downfall.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mnangagwa, who according to sources at the meeting, sat stone-faced, is under growing pressure from his G40 rivals, who want him to step down on accusations of fuelling factionalism and creating a parallel government structure.
Insiders said at the closed-door briefing, Grace drew comparisons between Mnangagwa and his predecessor, Joice Mujuru.
It was the first time Grace was meeting Mnangagwa since her mid-week rant in which she described the VP as “a nobody, who was given a job by my husband”.
“During the briefing, Grace drew parallels between Mnangagwa and Mujuru, accusing the VP of plotting against the President. She accused Mnangagwa of holding a grudge against (Higher Education minister) Jonathan Moyo, arguing he has sought to have him arrested each time he is acting president,” a source said.
“The First Lady actually demanded that Mnangagwa should have been expelled instead of youths and war veterans’ leaders”.
Mujuru was expelled from Zanu PF and the government in 2014 on similar accusations of plotting to topple Mugabe, including an unsubstantiated elaborate assassination plot with assistance from an Israeli intelligence arm.
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Grace is also said to be angry with Mnangagwa for claiming that he was poisoned, leading to his airlifting to South Africa for treatment, including insinuations that ice-cream from Mugabe’s Gushungo Dairies was used in the assassination bid.
The First Lady, according to sources, accused Mnangagwa of being “the godfather of factionalism”. “She demanded that Mnangagwa be fired, indicating she was scared of what could happen to her if the President were to leave him in power. Grace accused Mnangagwa of getting support from war veterans, expelled youth and getting loud cheers from party supporters at rallies”.
According to sources, Mnangagwa refused to be drawn into the furore, saying he would rather reserve his comments out of respect for the First Lady.
“Mnangagwa refused to be drawn into a slanging match with Grace, arguing he would not respond to ‘Mother of the Nation’, but will respond to Moyo’s accusations at the next politburo meeting. Mnangagwa reportedly said: ‘I am happy she has aired her bitterness’ and promised more at the next meeting of the politburo.”
Youth league secretary for administration, Xavier Kazizi referred questions to his boss, Kudzanai Chipanga.
“Talk to Chipanga or Innocent Hamandishe. The issues you are raising are their domain,” Kazizi said. Chipanga and Hamandishe were not available for comment.
Zanu PF’s politburo meets this Wednesday, with Mnangagwa expected to respond to accusations from Moyo that he has captured State institutions, with a view to take over from Mugabe.
Moyo also accused Mnangagwa of forcing former journalist and now Danhiko Project administrator, Godfrey Majonga to “either sit on a hot stove or jump from a flat” after an encounter that reportedly left the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe chairperson crippled.
In the run-up to the youth assembly meeting, NewsDay heard there was a plan to stop Mnangagwa from attending the event.
“The youth league wrote a letter inviting the President, the two VPs (Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko) and the First Lady. Senior G40 leaders did everything in their power to stop Mnangagwa from attending the youth meeting. On Friday, a youth league official was sent to withdraw the letter from the Justice ministry under the pretext that there was a correction that needed to be done,” a source said.
“Ironically, VP Mphoko’s letter was not withdrawn and this forced Mnangagwa’s people to make frantic follow-ups, including sending his secretary, a Ms Magaya, to party (Zanu PF) headquarters. Magaya had an altercation with Tongai Kasukuwere (youth league secretary for finance), who had been assigned to make sure there would be no invite to Mnangagwa. The letter was, however, released.”
Kasukuwere refused to comment.
“I do not comment on party issues. Talk to the spokesperson,” he said.
It has also been revealed that a hastily arranged Press briefing, at which Mnangagwa was to be denounced, was called off after only three provincial chairpersons Manicaland (Mubuso Chinguno), Harare (Edison Takataka) and Mashonaland Central (Isaiah Mandaza) agreed to the plan.