Masvingo stews in factionalism

Source: Masvingo stews in factionalism | The Financial Gazette January 12, 2017

“IF you thought factionalism was imaginary, you will realise that it is very real here in Masvingo,” remarked a security officer who was vetting delegates entering the tightly fortified entrance into Masvingo show grounds, the venue for ZANU-PF’s annual conference in December, last year.
After flipping over the name tag hanging on my neck, he resignedly let me pass, probably having realised that he might have let the cat out of the bag about the unending ructions in Masvingo province to a journalist who was from the private media, for that matter.
Security was so tight at the venue of the conference that one could have easily concluded that the party was now so divided that it is now even terrified of dealing with its own officials.
The province has become the citadel of a faction called Team Lacoste, which is rooting for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed President Robert Mugabe in the event that he decides to retire from politics.
While Team Lacoste appears to have a numerical advantage in Masvingo, it doesn’t control key political positions in the top echelons of the provincial structures.
Calling the shots in Masvingo is a rival camp known as Generation 40 (G40), which is determined to frustrate Mnangagwa’s perceived presidential ambitions.
I had completely forgotten about the words of the security officer at the entrance to the show grounds until some very energetic singing inside the conference venue caught my attention.
Hordes of delegates from the host province had risen from their seats in one accord to sing a curious tune whose words rang: “KuMasvingo kuno kunenyaya, aheee, kunenyaya (There is an issue here in Masvingo province, surely there is an issue).”
The singing had erupted as conference delegates were being introduced to President Mugabe. I wondered if it was just a coincidence or there was a strong message that was being put across to the ZANU-PF leader.
As the conference progressed, I figured out that this was for real – indeed factionalism has taken root in Masvingo.
In jest, ZANU-PF secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, who was co-ordinating the conference programme, made sure he commented on the wild singing.
He indicated that the party would look into the “issue” that was being referred to in their song.
“We are here in Masvingo for three days and we will definitely have to look at the issue you are singing about,” he said to wild applause.
Despite the promises, the party’s leadership made no attempt whatsoever to inquire into what the delegates were referring to in their song perhaps because they knew exactly what the issue was.

It was all left to President Mugabe to lambast the so-called successionists, who are fuelling divisions in the party.
But even after the harshest words from the ZANU-PF leader, there hasn’t been any respite to the factional wars.
Of the country’s 10 political provinces, Masvingo is stewing in deep-rooted factional underworld like no other.
Interestingly, no one in the party has ever had the guts to pinpoint the culprits behind the factional tussling for fear of reprisals.
Those behind the factional wars also prefer to play their politics underground, hesitant of coming out in the open to declare their factional interests.
Those who have dared to do so have previously earned a painful boot out of the party.
Former vice president Joice Mujuru is one of those who have learnt the hard way. She was dismissed from government and the party for attempting to unseat President Mugabe unconstitutionally.
Mnangagwa’s allies in the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) executive, among them Christopher Mutsvangwa, were also expelled from the party for denigrating President Mugabe’s leadership.
Nonetheless, names have been bandied around of people who could be at the centre of the political see-saw in the fractious Masvingo province although they all deny it.
Alleged to be linked to Team Lacoste are provincial heavyweights such as Psychomotor Minister, Josiah Hungwe — the most senior party member in Masvingo — and the Provincial Affairs Minister, Shuvai Mahofa.
Behind them are a number of Central Committee members such as parliamentary chief whip, Lovemore Matuke and deputy national secretary for legal affairs, Paul Mangwana.
All these officials deny the alleged factional leanings. The same applies to those who are said to be proponents for G40 in the province, among them Bikita South legislator, Jappy Jaboon, who is also the interim provincial political commissar; Masvingo Urban legislator, Daniel Shumba, and interim provincial chairman, Amasa Nenjana.
“I do not want to be quoted, unondipisisa zvigunwe kunehondo kuno (you will cause me trouble. There is war here),” was all Jaboon could say after being contacted for comment while relaxing at a Masvingo hotel later that Friday.
Hungwe had this to say: “Let the people who gave you all that information talk. I do not discuss party issues with the press.”
But, as the conference concluded with reading of the resolutions pregnant with subtle meanings and factional subplots, one could only conclude that kunenyaya kuMasvingo.
Party officials from Masvingo who confided in the Financial Gazette said Jaboon, Shumba and Nenjana were now operating from the national commissariat’s office in Harare after being hounded, intimidated and bullied by Team Lacoste.
“They have practically been exiled from the province and cannot operate here,” said one party official.
Other party members said recent provincial meetings have been tense with party members trading insults, accusations and ridicule.
“Things have been bad for those of us that do not think the same as the successionists. It’s too bad,” said another party member.
One provincial executive member recounted that the last provincial co-ordinating committee (PCC) meeting almost turned violent.
The meeting was held a few days before the start of the conference to discuss conference resolutions.
During the meeting, one Team Lacoste provincial executive member reportedly told the meeting that Jaboon, Nenjana and Shumba were having midnight meetings with some members who were suspended from the party for hobnobbing with Mujuru.
These included legislators, Paul Chimedza (Gutu South) and Tongai Muzenda (Gutu West).
Mahofa was said to have professed ignorance of the meetings, prompting Matuke to interject saying: “Some of us run businesses, I own a school, but if I go there, I respect the headmaster who is there; but you (pointing at Nenjana and Jaboon), treat us like your cleaners when we are in actual terms national leaders.”

Mangwana is said to have charged at Jaboon shouting: “We cannot have the province run from Harare. We will fight you.”
Jaboon is said to have inflamed the situation when he suggested that party cadres must unite if they are to win the upcoming Bikita West National Assembly by-election after the seat fell vacant following the incarceration of Munyaradzi Kereke for rape.
Chivi North Member of Parliament, Mathias Tongofa — also deputy minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment, immediately stood up and said it was impossible for unity to prevail in the province principally because there were people who were frustrating some party projects in the province.
“Tongofa was aggrieved by the efforts of G40 members who wanted to frustrate the process of giving offer letters to people interested in certain pieces of land in Chiredzi through Mahofa’s office,” said a source.
There are skirmishes surrounding the allocation of developed land ceded by sugar making company, Tongaat Hullet in Chiredzi under the indigenisation programme, with some alleging that Team Lacoste members became the biggest beneficiaries.
In June this year, President Mugabe came face to face with the gravity of the matter when he went to Triangle to try and find solutions.
Tongofa reportedly got support from Masvingo provincial secretary for administration, Alois Baloyi, who even suggested that it should be made a conference resolution that the offer letters must not be reversed.
The meeting reached boiling point with one Robson Mavhenyengwa and a relative of Hungwe called Goddart Dunhira, who are some of the reported beneficiaries, said efforts to kick them off the land should be stopped since they sponsored many party activities from proceeds of farming.
“Dunhira said they were the sponsors of the party and their farming activities were allowing them to fund many party activities and if they were kicked out, the party would suffer financially,” said the official.
Hungwe agreed, reportedly saying: “This is a very dangerous issue. People should remain on the farms because if they are kicked out, we will not get money to finance party activities.”
To make a practical point, Dunhira, who is the provincial secretary for transport and welfare, immediately donated 30 tonnes of maize, gave 10 minibuses to carry delegates to the conference and offered to pay for all the advertising.