TEMPERS flared at an explosive caucus meeting for Zanu PF members of parliament last week on Wednesday when the ruling party legislators converged to discuss last week’s deadly civil unrest.
The meeting, coming at a time when Zimbabwe was rocked by street protests and a bloody military crackdown, had been called mainly to discuss the riots that took place after President Emmerson Mnangagwa raised the price of fuel by 150%.
The party wanted the MPs to have a common position on the state of affairs in the country.
MPs who attended the meeting told the Zimbabwe Independent in off-the-record briefings that legislators strongly disagreed on how to approach the riots.
Some of the youthful MPs wanted an eye-for-an-eye. They wanted to mobilise the party youths to counter the attacks. However, some of the legislators felt that the convenors of the meeting, Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi and Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, should give them the direction on how to proceed.
In the emotive debate that ensued, some of the more radical MPs said the party should give them the greenlight to take on protesters as they believed that their Zanu PF marked vehicles were prime targets in the volatile situation.
“Most of us warmed up to the idea that we should take the rioters head-on since they were targeting our cars. However, they were restrained by Ziyambi and Togarepi who said this would lead to an open civilian confrontation which would worsen the situation,” an MP who attended the meeting said.
Togarepi apparently pressed the wrong button when he suggested that the meeting should stop deliberating on the thorny issue because there was an instruction from Mnangagwa not to discuss the violence.
This did not go down well with some of the MPs, particularly the Gokwe-Central and Gokwe-Nembudziya legislators Victor Matemadanda and Justice Mayor Wadyajena respectively.
“Togarepi threatened MPs by telling us that we must not discuss current events as they are since he had been given parameters by the party’s leadership.
MPs became very angry. Matemadanda asked Togarepi to explain why he had called the meeting when he did not want to tell the truth. He (Matemadanda) was asked to sit down and was denied the right to speak because he is a minister. He then angrily tried to walk out, only to be restrained by some of the MPs,” another MP said.
As soon as Matemadanda sat, sources said, Wadyajena stood up and confronted Togarepi, accusing him of lying about the so-called gag order.
“Wadyajena told Togarepi that he should not lie to the MPs that Mnangagwa gagged us, saying he knew the President very well. He said if anything, the President would want to be given accurate information about what’s happening on the ground obtaining from the grassroots. He insisted (Mnangagwa) would never want us to mislead him by sugar-coating or telling outright falsehoods. Wadyajena also said if we are genuine about solving issues, we must look each other straight in the eye and tell the plain truth,” the MP said.
Wadyajena reportedly ended his speech by saying: “We don’t want H.E (Mnangagwa) to go the (former president Robert) Mugabe route of having self-serving, devious and questionable advisors and gatekeepers who prevent him from receiving true information or deliberately mislead him to serve their own interests.”
Another legislator said: “We asked Togarepi and Ziyambi who were co-chairing the meeting why they the called us when they did not want us to discuss the issues. It was a no-holds-barred meeting to strategise against protesters. They wanted to gauge the magnitude of the disturbances. We then asked them why they were asking for solutions from us without telling us what they had planned as leaders.”
Contacted for comment, Togarepi said: “I do not discuss internal party issues with the press.”