The deadly factional and succession wars devouring President Robert Mugabe’s post-congress Zanu PF marred the sombre burial of former Cabinet minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu at the Heroes Acre yesterday, after two of the ruling party’s myriad opposing groups shamelessly took each other on at the national shrine.
The shocking drama — which took place in the full glare of the bereaved family, gathered dignitaries and other mourners — occurred when members of the National Youth Service (NYC), who are notoriously known as Green Bombers, bayed for the blood of Harare South legislator, Shadreck Mashayamombe, over the distribution of Zanu PF T-shirts campaigning for Mugabe’s controversial wife, Grace.
Mugabe only missed the ugly melee, which saw the Green Bombers roughing up and attempting to drag Mashayamombe from where he was sitting, as it took place at a time when the frail nonagenarian was witnessing the lowering of Ndlovu’s coffin into his grave.
A senior Zanu PF official described the commotion as “both shocking and embarrassing”, further exhorting the party to take “stern action” against all the people who had been involved in the disturbing episode.
“I know that we are going through a rough time in the party at the moment. But this is both shocking and embarrassing beyond words that people can bring their differences even to the Heroes Acre.
“It really is time that the president and other concerned leaders take decisive action to end this madness, where we are now even disturbing the dead. I urge the party to also take stern action against all those who have disgraced the president and our movement today,” the miffed bigwig said. The irate Green Bombers
accused Mashayamombe — who is linked to Zanu PF’s ambitious Young Turks, who are known as the Generation 40 (G40) group, and which is locked in a bitter fight with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s camp — of distributing T-shirts emblazoned with Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo’s pictures in front, and at the back with the words, “The unity that shall never collapse. Munhu wese kuna Amai (Everyone must follow Grace)”.
Insiders who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the Green Bombers, who apparently are sympathetic to Mnangagwa, were angry with Mashayamombe because they believed that the T-shirts had been specifically printed as a direct attack on the VP and his faction — particularly considering his recent controversial statements on Nkomo.
“It’s total war everywhere, with no quarter asked or given. What will save our party?” another senior Zanu PF official said yesterday.
“The truth, however, is that many people have no confidence with any of the groups angling to take over from the president. While the G40 say they stand a better chance of winning the 2018 elections rather than ED (Mnangagwa), their motives, standing and track record is very suspect to say the least.
“On the other hand, many comrades say ED will be a hard-sell to the electorate come 2018, for many reasons, including allegations pertaining to his perceived ruthlessness and the internal demolition job that is being carried out on him by the G40,” the official added.
The increasingly influential Grace, who worked closely with Mnangagwa and others to annihilate former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies late last year, is now seen as the G40’s torch bearer.
Over the past few months, the open animosity between the Mnangagwa camp and the G40 has become nastier by the day, with Mugabe seemingly impotent or reluctant to put a stop to it.
Just yesterday, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, who is seen as a key member of the G40, posted on his Twitter account jibes, not for the first time, that were interpreted as directed at the Mnangagwa faction.
“Successionists using the cover of interparty talks to stampede President Mugabe out of his electoral mandate are playing with fire,” Moyo said, commenting on unconfirmed reports that Zanu PF is talking to the opposition about resolving Zimbabwe’s unending challenges that observers say largely emanate from a lack of the ruling party’s political legitimacy.
Meanwhile, speaking at Ndlovu’s burial yesterday, the frail-looking Mugabe — who once again surprised many by speaking for a mere 20 minutes — extolled the former politburo member as a great educationist who had helped in the transformation of the education system in the country.
“At independence, we turned to educationists like Dr Ndlovu to show the way ... they did, which is why today we stand as a shining beacon in broad-based, inclusive education on the continent.
“The real challenge is now to give that education a qualitative leap so it speaks directly to the needs of our economy,” Mugabe said.
Ndlovu died last Tuesday at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo, after suffering an asthma attack and a subsequent stroke. He was 78.