Midlands centre of Zanu PF factional fights March 31, 2014 NewsDay by Blessed Mhlanga
During his 90th birthday interview last month President Robert Mugabe castigated the factional fighting which has rocked his party Zanu PF and went further to dismiss the two front runners as just regional leaders who did not deserve to ascend to the highest office in the land putting a wet cloth over the simmering fights.
The ruling party is embroiled in fierce intraparty fighting all resulting from the unresolved issue of succession.
“It’s terrible even to have your name mentioned as leader of a faction. It’s shameful. You must go beyond that and say you belong to the people as a whole,” Mugabe said.
Sections of the media believe that Mugabe’s remarks spell the end of the alleged faction leaders’ — Vice-President Joice Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa — political ambitions of becoming leader of Zanu PF and eventually president of Zimbabwe.
But the fights stoking the fires of the factional war in the ruling Zanu PF can safely be traced to the Midlands province which has unofficially become the epicentre of the factional tremors threatening to tear the ruling party asunder.
Party insiders say the root of this fight emerged when the supposed Midlands political godfather Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs, rallied his troops in a grand scheme to build a political base which would eventually see him ascend to the party presidency in the event that Mugabe vacated the seat.
His biggest obstacle, however, was the ascendancy of Mujuru to second in command of both party and country ahead of him, opening a protracted battle for control of party structures between the two camps.
While the two alleged factional leaders have largely denied the existence of the factions and have not involved themselves directly in the fights, ugly quarrels and exchanges among their rank and file have played out in the Midlands culminating in the recent $50 million lawsuit against provincial chairman Jason Machaya.
The Pandora’s box was opened by the then Kwekwe Rural District Co-ordinating Committee chairman George Valentine Makombe when he was elbowed out as chairman in 2009 following allegations that he was aligned to the Mujuru camp.
In a letter leaked to NewsDay at that time Makombe wrote to Machaya seeking recourse and reinstatement, accusing his detractors of targeting him along factional lines.
“. . . at a meeting at the district party offices . . . I was verbally and physically attacked in the presence of central committee, provincial and district members, being accused of blocking Mai (Mrs Auxilia) Mnangagwa’s passage to the central committee. Again, I was told by (Masango) Matambanadzo and (Owen) Ncube that I belonged to Mujuru’s camp . . .,” wrote Makombe.
He warned Machaya in the same letter that his head too was on the block following allegations that he (Machaya) belonged to the Mujuru camp.
“Members from the Kwekwe DCC urban have taken it upon themselves to organise and address meetings in our DCC . . . because the DCC chairman and the provincial chairman Cde Machaya have fallen out of favour with senior leadership, particularly Cde E D Mnangagwa. The two of us have been aligned to a so-called Mujuru camp,” he wrote.
Machaya confirmed having seen the letter, but denied there were any problems in the party’s provincial structures.
“There is only one Zanu PF. I am not aware of any problems in the party here.”
The governor was later, in August 2010, to be accused by his comrades of stealing 21 tonnes of fertiliser from the Kwekwe Grain Marketing Board depot.
Machaya denied the allegations, but villagers and party supporters in Zhombe and Silobela who were supposed to benefit from the fertliser were told he had stolen from them stoking emotions within the grassroots.
Makombe who at one time was a close Mnangagwa aide claims he fell out of favour with the camp when he realised he was being used in a grand succession plot which he felt went outside the spirit of Zanu PF.
“I saw that the plot was aimed at attaining presidency and did not have the interests of the party; the people there are not even interested in the Constitution and will deal ruthlessly with anyone who stands in their way as evidenced by how they dealt with me,” he said.
Makombe was reported extensively in the State media during 2010 saying his life was under treat from Zanu PF supporters who were not happy about his Mujuru allegiance.
“I am still living in fear because threats continue to be thrown my way even during rallies,” he said.
While Machaya maintained his cool, alleged Mnangagwa loyalists refused to let him go scot-free and in 2009 they were heavily involved in attempts to unseat him as both provincial chairman and governor by accusing him of being responsible for the murder of MDC-T activist Moses Chokuda.
Chokuda was slain in cold blood by Machaya’s son Farai, Abel Maphosa, Edmore and Bothwell Gana all of Zanu PF for allegedly stealing from a grocer’s shop owned by the Machaya family.
Members of the Mnangagwa faction were heavily involved in the attempt to push out Machaya using the body of Chokuda which lay for over two years in a Gokwe General Hospital morgue.
In 2009 during a visit to Gokwe by Mugabe the faction sympathisers mobilised chiefs in the area who at a meeting with the President blamed the Chokuda-Machaya standoff for the poor rainfall and droughts which had affected the region.
They pleaded with Mugabe to intervene by dealing with Machaya whom they accused of refusing or failing to pay compensation to the Chokuda family and bringing untold suffering in Gokwe.
Sources in the party contend that Zanu PF factions were more at the forefront fighting for the dead Chokuda in a failed bid to oust Machaya than the story that the deceased was fighting his own battles from the underworld.
Even as the murder trial of the four — who were all convicted — progressed at the Gweru High Court circuit, youth leaders loyal to the Mnangagwa faction followed with keen interest and celebrated the jailing of their provincial chairman Farai Machaya to 18 years in prison.
After a two-year standoff between the Machaya and Chokuda families and relentless pressure from Mnangagwa loyalists who called on him to resign over the murder, the governor apologised to the victim’s family and paid reparations.
In March of 2012 party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo viewed as a staunch Mujuru ally was to come under attack during a provincial meeting at which harsh words were exchanged and Gumbo barred from conducting any rallies or meetings in Midlands without clearance from the executive.
“During the meeting he was told by provincial members that he has never won any election in his years as a Zanu PF member and relied on his connections to Mujuru for appointments by President Mugabe to the politburo,” said a senior party member who attended the meeting at that time.
This statement was to be repeated during the 2013 party primary elections when Gumbo lost to July Moyo, widely seen as the brains in the Mnangagwa camp.
Gumbo refused to comment on the matter, but was to hit back months later attacking those in the party who were trying to undermine the Vice-Presidency during an official tour of Gokwe by Mujuru in her capacity as Acting President.
“Don’t lie to the people or play Mickey Mouse games with the party hierarchy, Mujuru is the most senior person in the party only after President Mugabe. She is the highest person in the party and presidency then the rest will follow,” he said at the event snubbed by Mnangagwa loyalists.
In November 2012 War Veterans in Kwekwe reported the Mnangagwa camp to Mugabe and party political commissar Webster Shamu accusing them of fiddling with candidate selection and fanning hatred against Mujuru.
Led by retired Captain David Juro the war veterans produced a damning 45-page document castigating Owen Ncube, Douglas Tapfuma and the late provincial executive member Maxwell Madharani to trigger a $10 million lawsuit which has since suffered a natural death.
“On September 29 (2012) a group of Mudha youth brigade arrived at shop number 860 Mbizo 5 and menacingly charged at people who were there chanting pasi naMai Mujuru, pasi ne Top Four . . . (down with Vice President Mujuru down with the Top Four) . . . I asked a member of the CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation) what they had done with the youths and he told me they had been cautioned and released, but did not say by who,” reads part of the report.
The Top Four is apparently a reference to Mujuru, Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo, secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa and political commissar Webster Shamu.
Only recently the Mnangagwa camp led by Ncube, Tapfuma, Auxilia Mnangagwa, and Daniel Mackenzie Ncube filed a $50 million lawsuit against Machaya, his chief election agent in the race to the provincial chairmanship Douglas Kanengoni and Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti.
The lawsuit follows allegations contained in a Kanengoni dossier that the Mnangagwa camp attempted to rig the party elections in favour of former vice-chairman and loyalist Larry Mavhima in a fight to control the province.
Machaya through his lawyers Sachikonye Ushe has since dismissed the lawsuit as nothing, but a creation by sore losers.
The battle has since resulted in Midlands province going for months without a provincial executive as the factions continue to haggle over control of key positions in the executive.
Army General Constantine Chiwengwa last year made a telling remark during Mnangagwa’s (then Minister of Defence) birthday celebrations at his Kwekwe Sherwood Farm when he referred to him as the most senior person in Zanu PF and the only surviving person to attend the first Zanu PF politburo meeting.
Party heavy weights like Flora Buka, Francis Nhema and Freddy Moyo have also been sidelined for their alleged links to the Mujuru camp.
Buka was elbowed out of the parliamentary race only to bounce back through the quota system and a Presidential appointment.