ZANU PF’s succession wars took a sinister turn on Sunday when four legislators — all believed to belong to a faction fighting to block Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed President Robert Mugabe — received threatening cellphone text messages from an anonymous Econet subscriber warning them against their machinations.
Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere (Mt Darwin South), Youth minister Patrick Zhuwao (non-constituency MP), Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo (Tsholotsho North) and Harare South MP Shadreck Mashayamombe (Harare South) are said to have received threats.
This followed an ugly incident at the burial of national hero Sikhanyiso Ndlovu on Saturday, where a group of Zanu PF activists threatened to assault rival party members who attended the event wearing campaign T-shirts bearing pictures of Mugabe and the late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo with a message at the back praising First Lady Grace Mugabe.
The four — who are believed to be members of the G40 — backed the First Lady in her crusade to torpedo former Vice-President Joice Mujuru in the run-up to Zanu PF’s congress last year.
Mashayamombe and Kasukuwere yesterday confirmed receiving the messages, saying they had independently carried out investigations and discovered that the texts had been sent using an Econet number registered to a subscriber (name withheld), but vowed not to be cowed into submission.
But Moyo and Zhuwao were not available for comment.
Kasukuwere said he would file a report with the police. It was not clear whether he had reported the case by the time of going to print last night.
“It’s nothing to me and I will not bother myself with that. I will just make (a report) because you wouldn’t know what this character is and up to,” he said.
Mashayamombe said: “I am not afraid at all, it’s nothing to me and more so, I did nothing wrong on that day, I only protected Zanu PF supporters who were being harassed by some youths. I am not into factional wars, but I stand for the President and his leadership and support Amai (Grace) as the Women’s League boss.”
Repeated efforts to get in touch with the owner of the Econet number from which the threats were allegedly sent, were not fruitful last night, as the mobile phone was switched off.
Mashayamombe said he did not know anyone with the name of the subscriber.
In the text message, Mashayamombe was ordered to “appear” before them and stop embarrassing a person they described as “mudhara” (boss). “Guys, let us sit down and talk over what you did yesterday (Saturday), you exposed ‘mudhara wedu’ (our boss) at the Heroes Acre that he is fighting the First Lady,” the message read.
“You are destroying that Shaddy, if you fail to come for a peace deal we are going to deal with you Shaddy and your surrogates. Enough is enough, you don’t deserve our respect, you know how to contact us, Grace is not going far, 10 hours to act.”
It is understood that the rival faction believe the messages on the T-shirts were meant to spite Mnangagwa following a recent interview with New African magazine, where he insinuated that Nkomo was a sell-out.
Zanu PF is embroiled in factional fights, with Kasukuwere allegedly leading a group of Young Turks, also known as G40, working with Grace and de-campaigning Mnangagwa.
Although Grace has publicly distanced herself from the succession race saying her relationship with the two VPs was cordial, party insiders said she might use the Nkomo political gaffe to raise her stock, particularly in the Matabeleland region, which has historically deep affection for the late Father Zimbabwe.
Recently, War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa, believed to be a Mnangagwa ally, ordered Kasukuwere to publicly apologise for describing the ex-freedom fighters as “drunkards and taxi drivers”.
Yesterday Mashayamombe said also he had to intervene to stop the all-female Mbare Chimurenga Choir members from undressing in public in protest against their harassment for wearing the T-shirts.
“They (Zanu PF youths angered by the message on the T-shirts) wanted to force them (Mbare Chimurenga Choir members) to remove the T-shirts and I moved in to stop that. They were now threatening to remove the T-shirts as a sign of protest against harassment and show the leadership that they were not happy with the kind of harassment they were getting,” he said.
The T-shirt saga has opened a can of worms in the fractious Zanu PF, with Mnangagwa sympathisers claiming the regalia was part of a smear campaign to force him out of the succession race.
This came as Grace has reportedly ordered that the T-shirts should be worn at public and State functions.
Kasukuwere yesterday they had not yet completed investigations into the skirmishes.
“It is too soon, we have no progress to report,” he said.
Mutsvangwa declined to be drawn into the matter saying: “Ask Mashayamombe, he is the one who was pictured in relation to the issue. As war veterans, we are united more than ever and are concentrating on business and economic emancipation. We are way past the stage of petty squabbles and in our collectivity have accepted the leadership chosen by the party across the spectrum.”newsday