HARARE - As Zimbabwe's controversial First Lady, Grace Mugabe, flaunts her rising influence at both party and government level — including humiliating vice presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko publicly by revealing that they take instructions from her — Zanu PF continues to burn as its factional and succession wars escalate.
Well-placed sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that the seemingly unstoppable “dog-eat-dog” war in President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party had now reached “shocking levels” where something had to give quickly if total anarchy and political murders were to be avoided.
“The anarchy in the whole movement and in government, from top to bottom, has now reached crisis level and my own fear is that we may even see body bags at our doors very soon, the way things are going.
“As you know, even President Mugabe, concerned by the mayhem, recently talked openly about this while addressing the Youth League. At the top, the VPs are at each other’s throats and below them anongove mazvakezvake (Shona for dog-eat-dog infighting),” a despondent Zanu PF politburo member said.
The official added that such was the level of bloodletting in the party that ordinary members no longer knew who to follow and how to interpret the movement’s political developments.
Another senior party official concurred, saying matters were not being helped “by the confusion being spread by Dr Amai (Grace)”, as well as “the unnecessary fights between Ngwena (Mnangagwa) and Mphoko and between Ngwena’s followers and Tyson and the G40 (national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and party Young Turks who are known as the Generation 40 group)”.
“I honestly feel that the president now needs to anoint a successor as this rubbish about the people choosing his successor is proving to be a disaster as everyone thinks that they can get there by any means necessary,” the Zanu PF central committee member said.
In the meantime, Kasukuwere, a former Youth and Indigenisation minister and now Water minister, is set to face more pressure as he appears in Parliament this week to explain what has been described as “murky” multi-million dollar empowerment deals that were handled by a private firm during his tenure in his former ministry.
This comes as the country’s largest civic society group, the Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition, released a report on its probe into Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs) and the alleged abuse of the Youth Fund — Kurera/Ukondla.
Kasukuwere and the National Indigenisation Economic and Empowerment Board (Nieeb) stand accused of unilaterally appointing a private equity firm, Brainworks Capital, to do consultancy work in deals involving mining giants Zimplats, Unki and Blanket mines among others.
Nieeb has already admitted to a parliamentary committee chaired by feisty Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator, Mayor Justice Wadyajena — said to be close confidante of Mnangagwa — that Brainworks were handed the consultancy without going to tender.
But Kasukuwere sympathisers see the re-emergence of the probe as politically motivated, accusing Wadyajena of targeting him as part of a grand scheme to silence the Mount Darwin South MP in the brutal Zanu PF factional succession wars in which the youthful minister and the G40 are said to be key players.
Apart from the Brainworks Capital saga, serious questions have been raised about the administration of the Youth Fund, which was abused by Zanu PF youths. A parliamentary hearing on the Fund last year unearthed the rampant abuse.
“It is all very messy and ugly in the party. While we all thought that the brutal purging of Mai Mujuru (former VP Joice Mujuru) and her allies from both the party and the government would end the chaos, things are getting worse now — which clearly shows that Mujuru was not the problem in the party,” another Zanu PF official told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday.
This official added that Grace herself, was in the meantime “maintaining a safe distance from the G40” which had now allegedly come under scrutiny from the country’s intelligence services, which had installed new measures aimed at restricting visits to the First Family by party bigwigs “after discovering that crooks and opportunists were using the First Lady’s name in vain”.
“The new measures came about after some members of the G40 started using their once unfettered access to the First Family for cheap political gain, which was beginning to cause discomfort within Zanu PF, especially among seniors such as Ignatius Chombo and Mnangagwa,” the source added.
Amid all this, a sting audio recording has put politburo member and Higher Education minister Oppah Muchinguri under scrutiny after a party faction opposed to her distributed the disputed recording widely within the party and the intelligence network — allegedly in a desperate bid to get her sacked by Mugabe.
In the recording, a woman’s voice is heard appearing to confirm that relations between particular ministers and senior party officials were frosty, and that some bigwigs were gossiping about her to the First Lady.
Sources say Muchinguri used to hobnob with the G40 but has since ditched them to put her lot with the Mnangagwa grouping.
The Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, recently reported that as Zanu PF’s deadly infighting continues to rip the former liberation movement apart, it had emerged that Mnangagwa’s supporters were ratcheting up the pressure on senior party officials such as Kasukuwere, including allegedly frantically trying to convince Mugabe to drop them from Cabinet.
Sources who spoke to the newspaper claimed that there was a renewed effort to see to it that the affected politburo members and Cabinet ministers — all alleged members of the G40 and its smaller outfit that goes by the derisive moniker of Gang of Four — would soon be “stopped dead in their tracks”, amid allegations by Mnangagwa’s supporters that they were opposed to the party strongman succeeding Mugabe.
Meanwhile, the recent revelations by Grace that the country’s vice presidents constantly consulted her on government matters have raised fears that Mugabe could be planning to have his all-powerful wife to replace him when he leaves offices, analysts say.
Grace shocked the nation and the world at large last week when she revealed that Mnangagwa and Mphoko take instructions from her, a development which confirmed long-held views that she was now in control while her 91-year-old husband has become a pawn in the complex Zanu PF succession war.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director, McDonald Lewanika, said Grace’s play for the presidency was a real possibility.
“Robert Mugabe’s actions have shown that he is intent on a life presidency and building a hegemony that lasts beyond his grave. There is no better way to ensure that than through familial succession.
“Grace Mugabe is already pitching herself as a leader of leaders through her assertions that they take notes from her. So, why should Zimbabwe be content with the students when the aster is available and can lead,” Lewanika said.
However, he said he did not see the electorate accepting her as presidential material.
“I do not think the majority see Grace as a potential president. But if she is imposed or succeeds in getting the blessing of the party, the Zanu PF machinery will work tirelessly to ensure her election is acceptable,” Lewanika said.
His sentiments were echoed by another political analyst, Mfundo Mlilo, who described Grace as “power hungry”.
“It’s obviously a matter of concern the extent to which there has been a conflation between the State and the party, and now the State and the family. Grace has become very powerful and clearly controls levers of power in government despite the fact that she holds no formal position in the government.
“Grace is power hungry and there is no doubt that something is in the offing with regards her take-over of the State. The president is uncomfortable with the VPs and it is no longer a dismissible idea that she is being propped up for senior leadership, including the presidency,” he said.
But Shakespear Hamauswa, a political science lecturer with Mulungushi University in Zambia, said Grace was merely a kingmaker with no presidential ambitions.
“I think it is just speculation meant to confuse those within and outside the Zanu PF party. Deliberate creation of pseudo centres of power makes it unclear with regards to who is going to succeed Mugabe.
“This might possibly work to the advantage of the actual heir because other aspiring candidates will focus on Grace’s move who might be in reality creating the way for someone.
“However, what remains uncontested is that Grace has established herself as one of the kingmakers in Zanu PF. Considering how Zanu PF is now operating, I doubt the possibility of Grace becoming the president. We should leave some space for surprises,” he said.