President Mugabe has expressed reservations about Cde Rugare Gumbo’s loyalty, while making reference to the fact that the ruling party’s spokesperson has previously sought to unseat Zanu-PF’s First Secretary.
Cde Gumbo was imprisoned in the last years of the Second Chimurenga after opposing the Zanu-PF leadership and was released at the express request of the British government as a precondition to holding of democratic elections.
At independence in 1980 he vainly de-campaigned President Mugabe and stood for Parliament – and lost – on a Zanu Ndonga ticket.
And at the Zanu-PF Politburo meeting of October 30, 2014, President Mugabe said point blank to Cde Gumbo that he felt he was selling out like he had before.
This was within the context of current allegations that Cde Gumbo is using his position as party spokesperson to advance the interests of a faction understood to be pursuing President Mugabe’s ouster at Zanu-PF’s December elective Congress.
President Mugabe said, “Madyira (Cde Gumbo’s clan name), mavakupandukira President kechipiri.”
Cde Gumbo was unable to respond, and in subsequent media interviews made no mention of this even as he went on to embellish the outcomes of that Politburo meeting.
Efforts to get a comment from him were fruitless by the time of writing.
The Zanu-PF spokesperson has a well-documented history of opposing President Mugabe’s leadership, starting in the mid-1970s when after the assassination of Zanu Chair Cde Herbert Chitepo he rebelled.
He and several others, including the likes of the late Wilfred Mhanda, were imprisoned and handed over to Mozambique’s authorities.
In 1979, on the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence, British political leaders – encouraged by Labour’s Tony Benn – insisted that the group be released as a precondition for Zanu-PF’s participation in the 1980 elections.
Transitional Governor Lord Soames had wide-ranging powers to determine who could and who could not contest that poll.
Historians and analysts have previously said the British establishment believed that this group could splinter Zanu-PF and erode its electoral muscle, while the Rhodesians thought they could use the embittered men to de-campaign President Mugabe.
They were debriefed by Rhodesian authorities and let loose on the public in time for the elections.
According to Mhanda’s own account, in his memoirs titled “Dzino: Memories of a Freedom Fighter”, “We flew into Salisbury airport to a small, cheering group that had gotten wind of our impending arrival from Soames’ office … Upon our arrival, we were taken to Tomlinson Depot of the BSAP (British South Africa Police).
“There, over a period of two days, we were debriefed and vetted by the Rhodesian Special Branch and then transferred to the Skyline Motel, about 20 kilometers to the south of Harare. Superintendent Jeff Price of the Rhodesian Special Branch was assigned to us.”
Cde Gumbo got himself onto the Zanu Ndonga party list for the parliamentary polls.
The country used a party list system for the first election, where MPs were not directly elected but rather secured seats via a proportional representation system.
Cde Gumbo was on the Ndonga list for Midlands electoral district, along with Joseph Taderera – who was also implicated in the 1976 coup attempt.
Other notable figures who contested on Ndonga tickets, apart from the obvious national leaders of the formation such as Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, were Henry Hamadziripi and Crispen Mandizvidza (in Victoria electoral distric, now Masvingo).
During campaigning in Mberengwa, Midlands, Cde Gumbo is understood to have met current Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who was contesting under Zanu-PF.
Cde Gumbo reportedly said to Cde Mumbengegwi: “Nemikwende yatakakurongerai muchafa senhunzi. (Loosely translated, “We have a plan for you guys and you are going to die like flies.”)
This may have been within the context of a plot by Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa to ally with “moderates” to destablise the country under “Operation Zero Hour”.
However, Ndonga was to be crushed in that election, failing to win a single seat.
Midlands electoral district was to be represented by Zanu-PF’s Cdes Simon Muzenda, Earnest Kadungure, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Richard Hove, Dr Simba Makoni, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Julia Zvobgo and SE Mativenga; while the Patriotic Front (subsequently known as Zapu) had Cdes Joshua Nkomo, Clement Muchachi, Cephas Msipa and William Kona.
Overall, Zanu-PF polled 209 092 votes in that district, compared to Ndonga’s 5 792.
In Masvingo (then called Victoria), Zanu-PF swept the electoral district with Cdes Mayor Urimbo, Dzingayi Mutumbuka. Edison Zvobgo, Simon Mazorodze, Oliver Munyaradzi, Nolan Morecambe, Dzikamai Mavhaire and Nelson Mawema among the 11 representatives from the party list.
The vote count for Zanu-PF there was 285 277 to Ndonga’s 8 938.
Across the country, Zanu-PF won just under 63 percent of the vote (57 of 80 common roll seats), the Patriotic Front secured 24 percent, Bishop Abel Muzorewa’s UANC took 8,2 percent and Ndonga shared around 4,6 percent with five other parties.
Cde Gumbo has himself never won an election, and his political career since 1980 has all but been because of direct appointments by President Mugabe – the same man he is today accused of trying to undo.
Observers have pointed to this as an indicator of the sheer difficulty of trying to oppose Zanu-PF’s organisation as subsequently evidenced by the failures of Cde Edgar Tekere’s ZUM and Dr Makoni’s Mavambo to unseat President Mugabe.
A Zanu-PF Central Committee member told The Sunday Mail this past week: “We know of people who think that they can challenge Zanu-PF by forming their own party if they fail to succeed with their plans to unseat President Mugabe at our Congress.
“History is clear on this; they will not succeed. It doesn’t even matter if they lull themselves into the false sense of assurance that they ‘control’ certain party structures. Just look at what happened to (Nelson) Chamisa and how he lost the (MDC-T) secretary-general post even though he thought he had the support of 11 (out of 12) provinces. They will freeze outside of Zanu-PF.”