HARARE - Ousted Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has broken his silence about the night of the long knives that Zanu PF’s politburo meeting on Thursday night became, saying President Robert Mugabe led an unprovoked attack on him in the meeting, accusing him of plotting a coup d’état against the long-ruling leader.
The stunning claims came as the Daily News was told by other politburo sources that the dramatic fallout between the two was engineered by an intelligence sting recording in which the veteran politician is allegedly heard saying Mugabe needed to stop the vicious attacks on embattled Vice President Joice Mujuru, otherwise the president himself would be removed from power.
“We were accused of attempting to overthrow the president and it was the president himself who led the charges. He says ‘we have done wrong and should leave the party’, but this is just a smear campaign to eliminate people who are standing by the vice president,” Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday.
The surprisingly relaxed veteran nationalist also said he would issue a formal statement in due course, which would narrate in detail what happened at the Thursday gathering where he was summarily suspended for a shocking five years at the alleged instigation of Mugabe.
Asked whether his peers had tried to defend him in the meeting, Gumbo said it was always going to be difficult to try and defend someone who was accused of trying to overthrow the president of the ruling party and republic.
“The issue was discussed in the context of the votes of no confidence that have been passed on some provincial chairpersons and I was contributing to the debate saying we should all unite as a party and this is when the president made the accusations that shocked everyone,” the ex-Dare ReChimurenga stalwart.
“The president said ‘unoda kundidzinga’ (you want to get rid of me), and no one was prepared to leap to my defence. But don’t worry about that, it is nothing,” Gumbo said.
With senior Zanu PF officials too fearful to say yesterday whether due process had been followed Gumbo’s suspension and how the perplexing decision to summarily expel former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda had been reached, insiders corroborated the former Agriculture minister’s claims that Mugabe had been hell bent on incapacitating all his perceived rivals within the party.
Simon Khaya Moyo, the Zanu PF national chairperson, who has been appointed the party’s interim spokesperson, refused to give the reasons for the suspension of Gumbo.
But virtually all the politburo members who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said it was clear that the savage action that had been taken against the expelled, suspended and ousted party officials on Thursday had been done in blatant violation of the party’s constitution.
Sibanda was summarily expelled from the party even though he was never taken to a disciplinary panel or given an opportunity to defend himself, a development that one politburo member described as a “transgression of both natural and even Satanic justice”.
“I have no questions to answer. I have given you the position of the politburo. I don’t have my own position, this is the position of the politburo. If I have my own Press conference I will entertain you and speak to you as the spokesperson of the party at some other time,” Khaya Moyo said.
Another politburo source said Gumbo had been left alone in the firing line as other pro-Mujuru members looked shocked at the treasonous charges that Mugabe levelled against Gumbo.
The senior party official said “a livid Mugabe” tore into the former struggle hero and other party heavyweights, including Mujuru, accusing the camp of attempting to overthrow him.
“There is apparently a recording in which Gumbo was heard saying ‘kana Mugabe akaramba achipusha Mujuru out tichamubvisa sezvakaitwa Kabila’ (if Mugabe continues to work to push Mujuru out we will remove him like what happened to Kabila) and this made Mugabe to baby dump him,” the source said.
It is said Mugabe’s full-frontal attack on the hapless man saw political opponents of Mujuru such as Water affairs minister Saviour Kasukuwere agitating for the suspension of the veteran politician.
Mujuru and Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa are widely regarded as the frontrunners to succeed the nonagenarian — who insiders say is now leaning heavily on his feisty wife Grace for advice.
Grace has made it abundantly clear that she does not want Mujuru to succeed her husband and is widely regarded as the new kingmaker in the fractious 51-year-old ruling party.
Another source symphathetic to the beleagured VP said it had been difficult to try and defend the Zanu PF, especially after Mugabe had led the attack on her and other party officials.