This happened after the group aligned to Grace went to the ruling party’s central business district offices at Davies Hall wearing the contentious T-shirts emblazoned with pictures of Mugabe and the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo in front, and a message campaigning for Grace at the back — regalia that caused similar mayhem at the late Cabinet minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu’s Heroes Acre burial a fortnight ago.
So high did emotions become on Friday as a result of the controversial T-shirts, that running battles soon ensued among the gathered youths: all this as the party’s combative national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere — who is perceived to be a key member of the so-called Generation 40 (G40) group that is seen as anti-Mnangagwa — was visiting Bulawayo province.
As the violent clashes unfolded, Zanu PF vice provincial youth chair Oddy Moyo had his T-shirt torn to shreds by his party opponents, who went on to assault and rough him up outside the party offices where Kasukuwere had just addressed an inter-district meeting.
Two weeks ago, similar ugly clashes marred the sombre burial of Ndlovu at the Heroes Acre, 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 then — occurred when members of the National Youth Service, who are notoriously known as Green Bombers, bayed for the blood of Harare South legislator Shadreck Mashayamombe over the distribution of the Zanu PF T-shirts campaigning for Grace.
Mugabe only missed that 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.
The Bulawayo incident on Friday started after some youths confronted Moyo and five other youths identified with the ambitious G40, who were wearing the “Grace T-shirts” emblazoned with the contentious words, “Munhu wese kuna Amai (Shona for everyone must support and follow Grace)”.
Bulawayo youth league chairperson Khumbulani Mpofu confirmed the disturbances to the Daily News yesterday.
“I am aware there were skirmishes at our party offices involving my vice chair, Oddy Moyo. I was unable to identify the assailants but all what this shows is that the youths were not happy with his (Moyo’s) leadership skills because as a leader you should not put on such T-shirts.
“In fact, the feeling among most party members is that the T-shirts are divisive. Party regalia or publicity material should come through the information and publicity department, but in this case no one knows where the T-shirts came from. We just saw some individuals wearing them,” Mpofu said.
Prodded to comment further on the incident and the role that the G40 was playing in the party, Mpofu— who has previously been suspended from his position on several occasions — said cryptically, “My position is that whatever is happening, I am in support of the president and one centre of power in the party.
“Anything outside that, I don’t subscribe to. I am under attack from external forces but I remain steadfast in my support of the president.”
Matabeleland South youth league chairperson Washington Nkomo told the Daily News that subsequent to the ugly incident, most of the youth chairs from all of the party’s 10 provinces had received anonymous threatening messages.
The pro-First Lady message reads, “Just a reminder, vakuru dzokai kuna amai, kwamuri uko hakuna upenyu. One centre of power pana amai. Your days are numbered. Tiri kukuzivai #TEAM GRACE (G40)”.
“I know that the message was to intimidate me so that I subscribe to the fictitious G40. I am not shaken at all. I was voted for by the people. I know only one centre of power which I respect,” Nkomo said.
Both Mpofu and Nkomo said the money being used to print and distribute the thousands of controversial T-shirts should be put to better use by assisting and creating empowerment opportunities for youths.
Another senior Zanu PF official based in Bulawayo told the Daily News yesterday that the T- shirt rumpus was just “a smokescreen masking deeper divisions”.
“From the time Tyson (Kasukuwere) took over as the political commissar, he has tried to push his G40 agenda with the aid of minister of State for Bulawayo Eunice Sandi Moyo and other senior party members like Joshua Malinga and Absalom Sikhosana who are both in the politburo,” he said.
He also claimed that Moyo’s office was allegedly being used as “the nerve centre” for co-ordinating the G40’s activities in Matabeleland.
The Daily News could not get a comment from Moyo as she was unreachable on her mobile yesterday.
“It is clear that Tyson is even working with people who are no longer in the party structures, as exemplified by his questionable association with suspended former youth chairperson Butho Gatsi who is one of his foot soldiers,” another source said, adding that Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko had allegedly been “widely used as a pawn in the factional fights by the G40”.
A senior Zanu PF official described that 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 the G40, which is locked in a bitter fight with Mnangagwa’s supporters — of distributing the controversial Grace T-shirts.
Insiders who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said the Green Bombers, who 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.