HARARE - The Zanu PF stalwarts who are being hounded from the ruling party for their perceived support of ousted former vice president Joice Mujuru have vowed to take the war to President Robert Mugabe, saying they will not be stopped in their quest to restore democracy to the faction-ridden party.
Spokesperson of the party veterans, Rugare Gumbo, told the Daily News yesterday that the purported expulsion of former Presidential Affairs minister, Didymus Mutasa, and his voluble nephew Temba Mliswa from the former liberation movement had made them even more determined to fix the troubled ruling party.
“We expected this to happen (the expulsion of Mliswa and Mutasa), but the most important thing is that this will not stop us from doing what we have always been doing to bring democracy to the party,” a defiant Gumbo said.
Gumbo’s sentiments yesterday followed a scathing press statement that was released by Mutasa on Thursday, and provocatively so, in his capacity as the legitimate Zanu PF secretary for administration.
In the statement Mutasa said his purported expulsion was “null and void, and a serious breach of our party constitution and indeed the Constitution of Zimbabwe.”
“Over and above this, this Disciplinary Committee (which allegedly looked into his case) is improperly constituted anyway given that, the (party’s disputed December) congress and the First Secretary of the party unlawfully breached the party constitution by failing to elect the party national chairperson who is the only one who can chair such a meeting,” he added.
Amid this ongoing acrimony, many Zanu PF members fear that Mugabe, who turns 91 today, has abdicated his powers to his much younger wife, Grace, whose return from her two-month sojourn in the Far East a week ago marked the demise of not only Mutasa and Mliswa, but also former Masvingo State minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti who was fired on Thursday night.
And with the ranks of disaffected party members swelling by the day, Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday that Mugabe and party hawks should brace themselves not only for their impending court challenge, but also for “other programmes aimed at restoring legitimacy” to Zanu PF.
It is understood that the party stalwarts may approach the courts with their grievances sometime next week, as they seek to reverse the outcome of the party’s damp squib “elective” congress that was held in Harare late last year.
In the meantime, and as the Mutasa and Gumbo camp digs in, there are growing fears that the ruling party could soon split into two.
Some former provincial chairpersons, who were unceremoniously and controversially ousted from their Zanu PF positions last year, told the Daily News yesterday that they were now pinning their political hopes on the ousted-party stalwarts.
A relaxed Mutasa also added fuel to the fire raging within the warring Zanu PF when he also stated matter-of-factly on Thursday that Grace was now indisputably in charge of the ruling party and not her ailing nonagenarian husband.
Mutasa, for long a close confidante of Mugabe and a former Cabinet minister in charge of the country’s spooks, said Grace was now unequivocally the “centre of power” in the ruling party.
“Yes. I expected it (his purported expulsion). They said so a long time ago. They were waiting for the First Lady. Now she is back and they have shown where the centre of their power is.
“However, they did not specify which Zanu PF they expelled me from, the real one which puts people first, or the unlawful one to which they belong to.
“To remove all doubt, it must be stated that I remain a member of the original lawful Zanu PF. I never belonged to the illegal Zanu PF which does not care about people. It cares about its leaders only,” the seemingly unflappable Mutasa said.
Newly-installed Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo — a target of the deadly fight from party hardliners himself — told journalists on Wednesday, following a politburo meeting in Harare that Mutasa and Mliswa had been expelled for behaviour that was allegedly contrary to the expectations of the ruling party.
Confusion still abounded yesterday as to when Zanu PF’s disciplinary committee met to reach its decisions on Mutasa and Mliswa, amid conflicting reports from lickspittle State media — raising suspicion that the decision may have been arrived at long before Grace returned from her controversial two-month State-funded holiday in the Far East.
Mutasa’s pointed comments regarding Grace’s undue influence in Zanu PF came as social media speculation around the issue went gaga this week, amid snide comments to the effect that Mugabe had allegedly accompanied Grace to Wednesday’s politburo meeting that ostensibly took the decision to expel Mutasa.
The frenetic online debates came after lickspittle State media showed images of Grace surprisingly sitting next to Mugabe in the politburo meeting, and not second vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, as would normally be demanded by protocol.
Mutasa’s comments also followed those made by former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda late last year, who was quoted saying, “I am not going to allow any coup both in the boardroom and in the bedroom” at the height of the Grace-fronted anarchy that is still devouring Zanu PF.
So biting and resonant with ordinary Zimbabweans was that quote that it ultimately contributed to authorities dragging the popular war veteran to court where he is facing charges of insulting or undermining Mugabe’s authority.
Grace also demonstrated the immense power she now wields within Zimbabwe’s body politic when Cabinet ministers, service chiefs and Zanu PF bigwigs scrambled to Harare International Airport to welcome her back to the country last week after she returned from the Far East.
Observers said the fact that these bigwigs had felt compelled to converge at the airport together with hundreds of ruling party supporters to welcome her back to Zimbabwe in the manner they did spoke volumes about how much political power she now wielded in the country.
Mugabe himself admitted during the ruling party’s damp squib “elective” congress that was held in Harare late last year that Grace now often directed him what to do.
There was so much pomp and ceremony as she arrived back in the country on the day that one senior Zanu PF official who spoke to the Daily News described her welcome as “fitting for a Queen”.
“She (Grace) is now probably the most powerful politician in Zimbabwe, which is why her welcome back to the country today almost rivalled the treatment that the president gets when he returns from his trips abroad.
“To not go and pay homage to Amai at the moment amounts to virtual political suicide and everyone knows this. Her welcome was fitting for a Queen,” the central committee member, who requested anonymity, said.
Among the bigwigs at the airport were Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, politburo member Shuvai Mahofa and fast-rising youth league boss Pupurai Togarepi.
Speaking at the airport welcome party, Togarepi wasted no time in reminding the gathered Zanu PF bigwigs that it was in fact “Comrade Stop It”, as Grace is now popularly known in party circles, who was in control.
He bluntly told them that the honeymoon was over for those who had taken advantage of her absence to misbehave and frustrate the ruling party’s youths.
“We are happy as the youth league that mother (Grace) you are back. We were being persecuted when you were away. When a mother is not there, others take advantage and push you, but this is our time to report them to you,” he said to loud applause.
A significant number of Zanu PF bigwigs also suspect that her dramatic entry into formal politics last year was a first step in her ultimate ambition to grab the leadership of both the ruling party and the country after Mugabe’s time.