HARARE - As the battle to succeed President Robert Mugabe reaches alarming levels, Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, has come out firing, describing as nonsense, accusations that he was plotting to topple the 90-year-old leader from power.
In what has been described as a “desperate” and “final assault” on Vice President Joice Mujuru’s ambitions to succeed Mugabe, a junior minister yesterday launched a blistering and astonishing attack on her and Mutasa in the State media.
In the brutal, no-holds-barred interview with The Herald that was also interpreted by observers as the crystallisation of Zanu PF’s deadly infighting, deputy Foreign Affairs minister Christopher Mutsvangwa — who is a war veteran — also vowed that the duo would not succeed in wrestling power in the party.
It was not immediately clear yesterday how Mujuru, and minister Webster Shamu who also received some severe roasting for allegedly creating fictional heroics around Mujuru’s contributions during the liberation war, would react to these savage barbs but Mutasa immediately hit back in his usual no-nonsense and frank attitude.
Mutsvangwa told the State media that Mutasa was a political opportunist whose scheme was to sidestep Mujuru’s fellow comrades in pursuit of “a fascist agenda as they employ Nazist tactics to try and wrestle power and then proceed to resurrect a post-Rhodesian political agenda”.
“His (Mutasa) roadmap to power goes through a self-styled role as king-maker to new party leadership of his own fashion. He would hope to achieve this goal by side-lining HE President Robert Mugabe, the elected leader of the Republic,” said Mutsvangwa.
Mutsvangwa’s no-holds-barred tirade against Mutasa comes as the Mnangagwa faction is said to be itching to recover lost ground after losing in the youth elections last weekend.
But Mutasa told the Daily News on Sunday that his liberation war credentials were a matter of public knowledge.
“I am afraid responding to such utterances would only save to dignify nonsense. You can research about my credentials yourself but let me rather say when I got out of prison in 1973, I went on to write a book in which I foretold that President Mugabe would be our president,” he said.
“I love and respect Baba Mugabe and for anyone to suggest that I would want to challenge his leadership shows a high degree of madness. I am not like that, I am not that kind of person.”
A war veteran, Mutsvangwa claimed that Mutasa, together with “gangster types” he had surrounded himself with, had not participated in the liberation struggle.
“Even more telling is the fact that they cluster around Mutasa and his cohorts, leaders who never had anything to do with the critical 1973-80 period of the armed struggle.”
Mutsvangwa said Mutasa’s legitimacy in Zanu PF was the “hazy clamour for the political ascendancy of Vice President Mujuru”.
Mutsvangwa’s scorching attack on Mujuru and Mutasa is a culmination of an eventful two weeks in which the Zanu PF women and youth league conferences were littered with intimidation, vote buying, kidnapping and rigging of internal elections ahead of the elective congress in December.
Hawks in Zanu PF on Friday pushed for Mugabe to suspend results of the disputed youth league conference elections which saw a faction led by Mujuru thumping her rival, Mnangagwa’s group.
The Mnangagwa camp was pushing for the party’s sole leader since 1977 to suspend the poll results with the endorsement of the politburo.
Mugabe on Friday summoned ministers, top Zanu PF and youth league officials as well as those suspected of belonging to the two factions to present their cases for and against reports that the youth polls were rigged.
At the women’s league conference, divisions in the party were played out in public.
During the official opening of the conference, Mujuru made it clear through song that there were some among the Zanu PF officials who had betrayed her.
She sang: “Party woye dairayi party woye, pakati penyu apa mumwe achandipandukira dairai (among you someone is going to betray me).”
Not to be outdone, outgoing women’s league boss, Oppah Muchinguri came up with a highly controversial slogan saying “pasi nevanopisa varume, (to hell with those who burn their husbands).”
Three years ago, Mujuru’s late husband Solomon’s remains were found at the family’s Beatrice farm house after an inferno. Mutasa, who insisted yesterday that he was a true war hero, said all these were shenanigans meant to destabilise Zanu PF.
Before independence, Mutasa was chairman of the Cold Comfort Farm society, a non-racial cooperative community near Harare.
At independence, he became the country’s first Speaker of Parliament from 1980 to 1990.
He has been in the party’s highest decision-making body — the Politburo — ever since.
Mutasa is a well-known Mugabe loyalist and in 1998 when calls for the Zanu PF leader to step aside began to grow louder, both from within and outside the party, he defended him saying if he were pressed to step down, then the entire Cabinet and politburo should step down along with him.
In 2012, Mugabe revealed that Mutasa, 11 years his junior, was the only politician who comes close to him in terms of age and with whom he could talk “about how we used to approach girls or we would go to this and that place, riding bicycles”.
The president said he now feels lonely as he is now surrounded by young people, with the majority of his peers mostly dead.