HARARE - As Zanu PF’s ugly factional and succession wars continue unabated, President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly influential wife, Grace, apparently vetoed efforts by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to get the ruling party’s deputy secretary for administration, July Moyo, appointed as a minister of State in the VP’s office.
Well-placed sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that Grace, in line with what has been happening in Zanu PF and in government since late last year, flexed her considerable political muscles, forcing her frail nonagenarian husband to appoint little-known Clifford Sibanda instead to be minister in Mnangagwa’s office.
A long time ally of Mnangagwa, Moyo is seen as one of the key strategists behind Mnangagwa’s rising political stock, and had for weeks ahead of the superfluous Cabinet additions been tipped to become a minister again — this time, in the Midlands godfather’s office.
But the controversial Grace — who has been reported to have had fierce run-ins with Mnangagwa in recent weeks over Mugabe’s succession, and who has openly boasted of instructing the country’s two VPs about what to do in their State duties — is said to have held sway over the appointment process.
One of the sources who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the First Lady’s “unwelcome intervention” in the matter had allegedly left Mnangagwa “apoplectic” with anger, amid claims to the effect that this went against “both protocol and tradition” as former Vice President Joice Mujuru had allegedly always been allowed to choose who she worked with.
“Mnangagwa is bitter and very angry. He realises that while he is a favourite to replace Mugabe, he still has a lot of hurdles in front of him, with the biggest one being Dr Amai, who herself also wants the top post.
“As of early last week, Ngwena (Mnangagwa) had convinced Mugabe that July (Moyo) was his preferred choice for minister in his office, but he was shocked when someone else was appointed.
“Naturally, the fingers pointed to Grace as the one who had instigated the rejection of July when the president had agreed to this. What is clear is that Grace has lots of influence and power because July himself had even told close associates that he was going to be appointed minister.
“Mnangagwa’s anger also stems from the fact that Mai Mujuru worked with her choice of ministers,” the source said.
Insiders say Moyo is regularly spotted at hotels in Harare, holding meetings with different people associated with the Mnangagwa camp. On Thursday evening, when he was expecting to be appointed minister, Moyo was spotted in what were described as “crunch meetings” at a hotel near the Zanu PF headquarters.
“July Moyo is Mnangagwa’s pillar and since his godfather was appointed vice president, he has been running around the country canvassing support for Mnangagwa, who is a very hard sell both inside Zanu PF and outside. He is seen at most top hotel foyers holding a series of meetings. He is Mnangagwa’s runner,” a senior Zanu PF official opposed to the VP said.
Repeated efforts to obtain comments from both Moyo, a former Midlands governor, and Mnangagwa, did not bear fruits yesterday.
Besides Mugabe’s appointment of Sibanda, the nonagenarian also promoted Tabetha Kanengoni Malinga, formerly the deputy minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, to the position of minister of State in Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s office.
In a statement last week, the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, said the appointments were with immediate effect.
Moyo bounced back into mainstream politics last year having languished in the doldrums for more than a decade following his suspension from Zanu PF at the height of the infamous and so-called Tsholotsho Declaration in 2004, which allegedly not only sought to block the nomination of Mujuru as vice president, but was also aimed at ousting Mugabe from power.
He was at the time one of six provincial chairmen who were ruthlessly purged from their positions after the alleged palace coup attempt.
Another Zanu PF official also said yesterday that Moyo’s snub had bitterly upset the Mnangagwa faction which had hoped to see more of their team members represented in top positions in government ahead of the 2018 national elections.
The official speculated that Mnangagwa’s recent ill-advised comments in an interview with the London-based New African magazine may have exacerbated the disaffection between him and Grace.
The ruling party was engulfed in a divisive debate after Mnangagwa inadvertently intimated that Mugabe would soon leave high office.
Answering a seemingly innocuous New African question on the post-Mugabe scenario, Mnangagwa said, “We shall miss him (Mugabe) dearly (when he leaves). He is an outstanding leader and human being” — in comments that placed him in the eye of a humongous storm in the ruling party which is wracked by deadly factional and succession wars.
Mnangagwa’s remarks on the post-Mugabe future were publicly criticised by the Minister of Higher Education, Jonathan Moyo, on Twitter — who went on to say the sentiments were “premature”.
The Higher Education minister is said to be a key member of the General 40 (G40) faction — a small but vociferous group of ambitious Young Turks who are said to have roped in the First Lady and Mphoko to their faction as they allegedly plot to derail Mnangagwa’s leadership ambitions.
While Mnangagwa is touted as Mugabe’s most likely successor at the moment, the accusation that he allegedly masterminded the army’s slaughter of an estimated 20 000 innocent civilians in Matabeleland in the early 1980s, when he was State Security minister, has badly hurt his national standing.