BY BLESSED MHLANGA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has pushed out Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje (retired) as Zanu PF political commissar, replacing him with loyalist and long-time ally Victor Matemadanda as the battle to control political power in Zanu PF intensifies.
Matemadanda led the crusade against former President Robert Mugabe and his family leading to dismissal from Zanu PF in 2016. He was initially appointed commissar just after Mugabe’s ouster, but was later replaced by Rugeje, seen at the time as Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s appointee.
Party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo announced the appointment of Matemadanda soon after yesterday’s politburo meeting, saying Rugeje would remain a member of the politburo until his re-
assignment in September.
“Cde Victor Matemadanda has been appointed secretary of the commissariat, replacing retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje, who remains a politburo member and will be re-
deployed in September to an assignment still to be announced,” Moyo said.
Under Rugeje as commissariat, Mnangagwa only scraped through to the presidency, winning with a marginal 0,6% to avoid a run-off against MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.
While Zanu PF won a convincing two-thirds majority in Parliament, Mnangagwa’s dismal performance led to a vicious campaign against Rugeje and pressure to have him fired intensified.
Rugeje was also blamed for the chaotic and hotly-disputed manner in which Zanu PF primary elections were conducted, amid accusations of propping up remnants of the rival G40 faction,
which many faithfuls felt had left the party vulnerable.
Mnangagwa’s move is seen by insiders as an attempt at strengthening his hand as he moves in for a second term ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“He is buoyed by Chiwenga’s ill-health as he edges towards a second-term. President Mnangagwa wants to ensure that he has structures that are solidly behind him because there have been
fights in the party to ensure that he does not go for the second term,” a source told NewsDay.
Already, Mnangagwa has emasculated army officers seen as hardliners from controlling influential positions in the military after he retired them and posted them out of the country as
ambassadors on the advice of his security chiefs.
Mnangagwa’s personal adviser, Christopher Mutsvangwa, accused Rugeje of creating a fertile ground for the Zanu PF leader’s electoral defeat ahead of the 2018 polls.
“It is inconceivable that the President will win, given that the party’s members have been largely disenfranchised. We realised that instead of being in the primary elections to
provide peace and a stable environment in which Zanu PF members freely express themselves and choose their leaders, the national commissar, being a political novice, sought advice
from a rehabilitated ex-Gamatox commissar in the form of Webster Shamu to turn the police into returning-officers,” Mutsvangwa said last year.
Mutsvangwa also accused Rugeje of corruptly abusing his office, while allegedly receiving bribes from contesting candidates as the fight for power and political control got messy.
“Zanu PF’s problem has always been the abuse of the office of the political commissar, and we are seeing this again. So, as war veterans, just as we did during the Mugabe era, given a
choice between a party that has lost through acts of omission or commission its fiduciary role, we will be left with no choice, but to go with the people,” Mutsvangwa said then.
Moyo refused to take questions on the politburo appointments, saying Mnangagwa’s decisions would not be questioned.
Mnangagwa also elevated Douglas Mahiya, the war veterans spokesperson, to the politburo where he becomes secretary for war veterans. Mahiya’s deputy will be Headman Moyo, while Zenzo
Ncube was appointed deputy director for war veterans affairs.
In a highly-unusual move, the Zanu PF politburo announced the appointment of former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa as Air Zimbabwe board chairperson. “I must mention that Cde Patrick Chinamasa who, as you know, is the current secretary for finance in the politburo will ,as of this afternoon, be chairman of the board of Air Zimbabwe,” Moyo said.
Air Zimbabwe falls under the Ministry of Transport headed by Joel Biggie Matiza. Chief Secretary to the President Misheck Sibanda later issued a statement about Chinamasa’s appointment.