via Mugabe flies into factional storm – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 27, 2016
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will come face-to-face with rival Zanu PF factions battling to endear themselves to him amid fears of clashes at the 92-year-old leader’s birthday bash in Masvingo today.
By Tatenda Chitagu/Everson Mushava
Thousands of mostly Zanu PF youths and Women’s League members have been bussed in from all over the country to celebrate Mugabe’s 92nd birthday at the Great Zimbabwe Monuments.
Tension was high in Masvingo after political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere recently suspended Masvingo provincial chair Ezra Chadzamira for reported factional links although the allegations have been trashed.
Party sources yesterday said the divisions in Masvingo have left the governing party in a fix over who will receive Mugabe at the airport today.
Traditionally, the host provincial executive as well as senior party members welcome the President when he visits and brief him on particular developments, in this case the hunger situation in Masvingo.
Chadzamira, with the backing of the provincial co-ordinating committee and several politburo members, said he does not recognise his suspension, which he described as “unconstitutional”.
“Since Chadzamira does not recognise his suspension, he is interested in going and explaining to the President the shenanigans that led to his suspension under trumped-up charges. On the other hand, the rival faction is claiming that the Chadzamira executive is a parallel structure,” the source said.
But, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo said the 21st February Movement was organised by the youths, hence secretary for youth affairs Pupurai Togarepi would be in charge.
“I don’t see why there would be any problem, the secretary for youth affairs is there,” Khaya Moyo said.
On the suspension of Chadzamira and two other provincial chairpersons Midlands’ Kizito Chivamba and Mashonaland East’s Joel Biggie Matiza, Khaya Moyo said a committee led by State Security minister Kembo Mohadi was still to finalise its findings which will be presented at next Wednesday’s politburo meeting.
Masvingo city was teeming with State security agents, some of whom pretended to be airtime vendors at street corners, as well as soldiers from various brigades around the country.
The heavy police presence forced youths from Temba Mliswa’s Youth Advocacy for Reform and Democracy (YARD) and some war veterans who had threatened to demonstrate against the holding of the birthday celebrations to chicken out at the last minute.
Anti-riot police kept a heavy presence in the city centre and high-density suburbs after they were caught flat-footed by MDC-T youths who held a brief demonstration on Tuesday, protesting the holding of the festivities at a time millions of Zimbabweans were in need of food aid.
Mugabe’s birthday celebrations would be held at an open space adjacent to the Great Zimbabwe Monuments, meaning entry into the world heritage site could be closed for two days to the detriment of the country’s tourism sector.
There were also fears that factional fights could break out at Mugabe’s grand event following allegations that thousands of T-shirts emblazoned with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s picture had been printed and that they were set to be clandestinely distributed to delegates to portray the VP “as a power-hungry person” as a way to infuriate Mugabe.
Recently First Lady Grace Mugabe and Kasukuwere chided Midlands, Mashonaland East and Masvingo provinces for reportedly supporting Mnangagwa in the Zanu PF succession matrix against the ambitious G40 group.
Grace took a swipe against Masvingo, Midlands and Mashonaland East provinces at a rally in Chiweshe three weeks ago, resulting in Kasukuwere suspending the provincial chairpersons.
The G40 faction sympathising with Grace was reportedly working hard to stop Mnangagwa from succeeding 92-year-old Mugabe.
Yesterday, the provinces, however, indicated that they had mobilised and would attend Mugabe’s birthday bash in full force today, despite the high factional tensions.
Mashonaland Central provincial chairperson Dickson Mafios said: “We are going to dispatch over 20 buses to overwhelmingly celebrate the birthday of our iconic leader. I am pleased by the level of preparedness by my province”.
Harare provincial commissar Shadreck Mashayamombe added the province had dispatched 23 buses, 10 kombis and four Chimurenga choirs.
“We want to support our President without any wavering for the gift of life he was given by God. We are going there in our numbers to support the President. We hope to have a resounding welcome by Masvingo province,” Mashayamombe said.
YARD Masvingo provincial co-ordinator Munyaradzi Rushwaya, who had vowed to go ahead with their planned protests despite the heavy police presence, yesterday hinted they were no longer going to hold the march.
Asked if they were going to defy the heavy police presence, he only said: “Security is tight”, before switching off his phone.
Earlier, Rushwaya said he had received death threats from unknown callers saying they would adopt a shoot-to-kill policy if they dared to take to the streets.
Opposition parties have accused Zanu PF of being insensitive by going ahead with the $800 000 bash at a time over three million Zimbabweans were in dire need of food aid following a poor summer cropping season this year.