Team Lacoste takes over

Source: Team Lacoste takes over | The Financial Gazette November 3, 2016

A FACTION supporting Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed President Robert Mugabe has gained traction, with ruling ZANU-PF party sources saying it was now likely to determine the agenda of the party’s December annual conference.
But a surprise onslaught against Mnangagwa by Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, this week appeared to suggest that the rival faction, Generation 40 (G40), was unlikely to go down without a fight.
The conference will be held in Masvingo, apparently the bedrock of Mnangagwa’s support where G40 had earmarked to symbolically bury the crocodile or Ngwena, Mnangagwa’s well-known sobriquet.
Mnangagwa’s faction is called Team Lacoste, an allusion to the merciless, predatory semi-aquatic reptile, which ironically also refers to President Mugabe’s totem of Gushungo.
The two are said to have worked closely since Mnangagwa became President Mugabe’s personal assistant during the liberation war.
Mnangagwa fell out with his one-time allies now in G40 immediately after the expulsion of former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was kicked out of ZANU-PF in 2014 for allegedly plotting to unconstitutionally unseat President Mugabe from power.
The G40 members and those now in Team Lacoste had been instrumental in contriving the expulsion of Mujuru, now a leader of the Zimbabwe People First, and her replacement by Mnangagwa.
G40 members, who were reportedly irked by their isolation by Mnangagwa who snubbed them at his victory celebrations following his elevation, began scheming against Mnangagwa and his allies in Team Lacoste, resulting in the expulsion of several youth and women’s league leaders, influential members of the war veterans association and several other notable political players critical in Mnangagwa’s bid for the country’s top job.
At last year’s annual conference, the Women’s League had moved that President Mugabe should appoint a woman into the presidency; this was designed to influence the reassignment or expulsion of Mnangagwa to make way for a female Vice President.
Mnangagwa is co-vice president alongside Phelekezela Mphoko, who was appointed on a PF-ZAPU slot in terms of the Unity Accord between President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the late Joshua Nkomo’s PF-ZAPU in 1987.
Mphoko had succeeded the late John Nkomo at the December 2014 congress where Mujuru was expelled.
The call for Mnangagwa’s expulsion intensified this year, with the Women’s League secretary for finance, Sarah Mahoka, mocking the Midlands godfather for acting like a duck while his supporters publicly declared his ambitions to succeed President Mugabe.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandiitawepi Chimene, was more scathing, saying President Mugabe should sack Mnangagwa or allow the women to do the job for  him.
“If you can’t fire him, let us go for an emergency congress right away where we will do it for you,” Chimene told President Mugabe, bidding him to allow the women to help him deal with Team Lacoste.
“Tsholotsho was led by Mnangagwa, Lacoste is led by Mnangagwa. Until when should we continue to run with parallel structures?” asked a fuming Chimene, referring to the Tsholotsho debacle in which Mnangagwa and his allies, who included Moyo at the time, had plotted a take-over of critical party positions.
In terms of the Tsholotsho plan, Mnangagwa was to become Vice President, succeeding the late vice president Simon Muzenda, but was thwarted by President Mugabe who later supported the elevation of Mujuru to the position.
Several provincial chairmen were suspended from the party for being part of the Tsholotsho debacle.
Chimene and Mahoka are said to be members of the G40 faction.
The Masvingo conference was expected to seal Mnangagwa’s fate, with sources indicating that his adversaries had been targeting nothing short of party expulsion.
President Mugabe last month said the Presidency would remain unchanged, and that he had confidence in Mnangagwa, with whom he had worked since independence.
This appeared to give a cue to G40 members that they may have lost the game.
Indeed Ngwena appears to have survived the planned purge and may in fact have turned the tables against his foes.
A party source said Mnangagwa was now going to the Masvingo conference “to consolidate his hand”.
“Yes, the party will re-affirm President Mugabe’s leadership but the conference will consolidate Mnangagwa’s hand.  G40 no longer has a strong agenda to attack Mnangagwa,” said the source.
G40 is currently at its weakest after its kingpins who are said to include Moyo; Local Government and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere; and Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister, Patrick Zhuwao — were recently damaged by allegations of graft or poor policy implementation.
Moyo is currently battling against attempts to arrest him by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) over allegations that he looted the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF) meant for the development of critical and highly skilled manpower in the country.
He allegedly used cash from ZIMDEF to buy bicycles for traditional leaders in his Parliamentary constituency in Tsholotsho, and to fund a million-man march in support of President Mugabe after a section of the war veterans cut ties with his leadership.
The investigations committee spearheading the probe into ZIMDEF is led by Goodson Nguni, a known Mnangagwa ally.
A Parliamentary Committee on Youth and Indigenisation, which is chaired by a Mnangagwa ally, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, has summoned Moyo to appear before the legislature to explain his involvement in the alleged looting of ZIMDEF.
That same committee a few days ago recommended the arrest of Kasukuwere for his role in the Marange/Zimunya community share ownership trust after diamond mining firms reneged on a public commitment to contribute funds.
Kasukuwere was also accused by President Mugabe of corruptly allocating vast tracts of land earmarked for youths to cronies within the G40 faction. He has denied the allegations.
Zhuwao, who is President Mugabe’s nephew, was spectacularly embarrassed after he issued expropriation threats against foreign-owned businesses, only to shrink back after President Mugabe called him to order.
Moyo’s unexpected attack this week on Mnangagwa, suggesting that he was abusing ZACC to persecute him, appeared to suggest that G40 may pull off an upset against Team Lacoste at the conference.
One source indicated that Moyo was receiving support from some ZACC members unhappy with the political abuse of the system.
The source also appeared to suggest that support for Ngwena within the military was not “absolute”.
Moyo issued a detailed statement this week highlighting the alleged political interference in his case and threatened to sue Mnangagwa, ZACC and the National Prosecuting Authority for allegedly allowing Mnangagwa to interfere with their processes.
He also plans to sue State media editors and reporters who reported on the ZIMDEF saga.
The maverick Minister once successfully sued the late vice president John Nkomo for defamation.
Zhuwao, who had also been spectacularly silent since his rebuke by President Mugabe, bounced back to support the allocation of at least 100 000 litres of fuel to the ZANU-PF Youth League by the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC), which had received the fuel from ZIMDEF.
He also lambasted Wadyajena’s committee for summoning Moyo on the issue, saying: “I feel that is problematic because ZYC is a government arm meant to unite and assist youth associations…. There is nothing wrong with ZANU-PF seeking assistance from the State because ZANU-PF is a citizen of this country.”
But a Team Lacoste member told the Financial Gazette they were now unstoppable
“Succession is no longer an issue. We are going to the conference to take the party back to the people. There had been disconnection between the party and the people. We also want to renew our vows with the war veterans.”
Apparently, a chasm had developed between war veterans and party members linked to G40.
He said Team Lacoste would reiterate President Mugabe and government’s commitment to fight corruption. This would maintain pressure on G40 members at the conference.
“We are certainly going to congress on a high,” said the Team Lacoste member, referring to the Masvingo conference. “We know G40 will be ably represented because they had purged all Mnangagwa allies from provincial leadership and replaced them with their people, but they are certainly between a rock and a hard place. We are going to determine the content of the conference programme.”
He indicated that they would “preach unity”, but admitted the chasm between them and G40 was now “too big to close”.
He said the conference was also likely to discuss the introduction of bond notes, which he said was a likely “minefield for the party”.
“It may trigger shortages; it is also likely to increase corruption and chefs with access to foreign currency will benefit. That may undermine the party ahead of elections in 2018,” he said.
He said it would be a challenge “campaigning against the backdrop of bond notes”.