Gloves off in Masvingo

Source: Gloves off in Masvingo | The Financial Gazette February 23, 2017

ZANU-PF Masvingo province’s political drama climaxes today when the party holds elections to choose a substantive provincial chairman in the hope to end 12 months of factional power scrimmage that left the region anarchic.
There will also be elections to decide who shall lead the women and youth leagues, while the other provincial positions for all three organs would be filled later.
The elections were ordered by the Politburo — ZANU-PF’s most influential organ in between congresses — at its meeting last week.
The Politburo appointed Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister, Jorum Gumbo, to preside over today’s elections which pit deposed chair, Ezra Chadzamira, against ex-army chief, Mutero Masanganise.
There is likely to be a tight contest between the two although Chadzamira has a slight edge by virtue of the fact that he was behind the restructuring of lower level provincial structures.
Chadzamira, who has the backing of the Team Lacoste faction, which is solidly behind Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s reported presidential bid, is odds on favourite to win the elections at the expense of Masanganise, who is backed by the Generation 40 (G40) faction.
G40 is sworn to thwarting Mnangagwa’s hopes of becoming Zimbabwe’s next leader whenever President Robert Mugabe decides to vacate office.
Things almost got out of hand when the province restored Chadzamira as chairman three weeks ago after he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the Politburo.
He had been suspended in February last year on allegations of fanning factionalism and disrupting party activities.
In the provincial Women’s League, Team Lacoste is fronting Alginia Mhlanga, who will battle it out with G40 exponent, Veronica Makonese.
Makonese has been acting for the last two years.
G40’s Nobert Ndaarombe, who has been acting as provincial Youth League chairman, faces Team Lacoste protégé, Shingirirai Mangwana, son of former Cabinet minister, Paul Mangwana. He has, until now, been the provincial secretary for administration in the youth league.
The contestants were given the nod to campaign for positions by Gumbo, who held what sources from the province described as an explosive provincial co-ordinating committee meeting in the ancient city on Saturday.
Gumbo, who was accompanied by national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and deputy secretary for national women’s affairs, Eunice Sandi-Moyo, reportedly blocked G40’s spirited moves to waive constitutional provisions to allow all party members in the province from the cell to vote.
According to sources, the G40 ensemble comprising former provincial commissar, Jappy Jaboon, Gutu South legislator, Paul Chimedza, axed chair, Amasa Nenjana, Makonese and Ndaarombe, among others, had held a caucus meeting at Flamboyant Hotel the previous day where they agreed to push for the idea of having all party members to vote.
This came after they had reportedly realised that the current districts were organised in 2015 during Chadzamira’s reign when the party went on a nationwide restructuring following the purging of former vice president, Joice Mujuru’s allies.
According to the ZANU-PF constitution (section 95), only members of the party district executives are eligible to vote for wing chairpersons.
Party officials who attended the meeting told the Financial Gazette this week that Gumbo shot down the proposal saying there was no way he could allow the constitution to be violated.
Chimedza, who was kicked out of government where he was deputy minister of health and child care for hobnobbing with Mujuru, was the one who moved the motion, inviting the wrath of Team Lacoste proponents.
“Chimedza had said that for fairness to prevail, there was need to allow all party members, even those at the cell level, to vote. He argued that problems in the province had rendered the districts non-existent and unrecognisable,” said one source.
Mnangagwa’s allies are said to have ganged up against him, telling him that his views were not acceptable because they violated the constitution.
“It was Lovemore Matuke, in particular, who gave the most stinging comment. He told Chimedza that he did not even qualify to raise such issues because he has a history of betraying the party when he was supporting the Mujuru cabal (which was accused of attempting to dethrone President Mugabe). It was probably just a matter of trial and error because there is no way this could have been allowed,” another official said.
Sources said Chimedza got the backing of Chiredzi North legislator, Denford Masiya, but the two were harshly rebuked by Gumbo who reportedly told them point blank that their ideas could not be entertained, especially given that they have previously served suspensions for aligning with Mujuru.
Gumbo then ruled that only the districts would be voting as stated in the party constitution.
The meeting then grew tense after G40 allies suddenly took to their feet and started singing a song now popular in Masvingo titled “KuMasvingo kuno kunenyaya (There are issues here in Masvingo)” in open disapproval of Gumbo’s ruling.
There was clear evidence of pent-up emotions ahead of the meeting as Team Lacoste members responded by jeering their G40 counterparts.
“For a moment, it looked as if things could go out of hand and fists could be traded. It was an emotionally charged meeting,” said another source who attended the meeting.
But Gumbo reportedly appeared unfazed as he waited for the singing to die down after which he continued with his address.
But this week, G40 members in Masvingo accused him of being biased.
They believe that because he hails from the neighbouring Midlands province, a known Team Lacoste stronghold, he must be linked to the rival faction.
Gumbo responded by branding them ignorant in an interview with the Financial Gazette this week.
“They are ignorant. They do not know that the Electoral College is made up of the district leadership as is directed by the constitution. But I thoroughly explained this to them in the meeting and if they are insisting on it, then they are irredeemable,” said Gumbo.
Kasukuwere and Sandi-Moyo were said to have held their peace throughout the meeting.
Candidates could not speak to the Financial Gazette saying they were gagged and could be disqualified if they spoke to the press.
“We are not permitted to speak to the media, but we have hit the campaign trail,” said one of the candidates.
Only Ndaarombe was brave enough to just say: “I am already on the ground campaigning,” refusing to say anything more.
Gumbo, however, denied gagging the candidates.
“I am a media person, I cannot do that,” he said.
Masvingo, nicknamed the mother of factionalism, is a volatile province where schemes, plots and counterplots take place.
The province is dominated by Mnangagwa’s allies.
In July last year, a Politburo assembled delegation led by Higher Education Minister; Jonathan Moyo was forced to abort a meeting meant to douse factional flames after most of the participants walked out on them.
The following month, Kasukuwere — also dispatched by the Politburo — came back from Masvingo long-faced after being heckled when he rebuked senior party officials, Shuvai Mahofa and Josiah Hungwe, asking them to stop interfering with provincial matters under the purview of the then Nenjana led executive.
Even President Mugabe has unsuccessfully tried to intervene on two occasions.
Firstly, he summoned both factions to a meeting in Triangle which ended inconclusively.
He then later brought the factions to Harare and met them at State House. Again, no solution was reached.