HARARE - Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was yesterday roasted by MDC parliamentarians over the controversial “donation” of government-sourced farming equipment to post-congress Zanu PF supporters by First Lady Grace Mugabe at her divisive nationwide rallies.
The opposition legislators — led by the vocal trio of James Maridadi (Mabvuku-Tafara), Nelson Chamisa (Kuwadzana East) and Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North) — grilled the embattled VP on the matter, demanding to know the capacity in which Grace was “donating” tractors that the government recently sourced from Brazil.
Mnangagwa, whose supporters are locked in a deadly factional and succession war with Grace and her allies among the ruling party’s ruthlessly ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40), has come under increasing fire from his party enemies over the past few months.
Grace has used her disruptive rallies to launch blistering attacks on all her perceived rivals, particularly those loyal to Mnangagwa and seen as working for the ascendancy of the Midlands godfather in the worsening war to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
“We have seen in recent weeks the Zanu PF secretary for the women’s league engaging in some philanthropic work, donating farming equipment to Zanu PF supporters.
“So, I would like the vice president to confirm to this House that the said equipment has no relationship with the ones that the government got on a loan from Brazil?” Sithole asked.
In his response, Mnangagwa defended Grace, saying she was merely handing over the equipment to irrigation schemes that the government had identified through the ministry of Agriculture.
“I would like to explain the misunderstanding the honourable member has on the equipment because what is happening is that the first lady is not donating, but handing this over,” Mnangagwa said.
However, the legislators felt that his explanation was unsatisfactory, prompting Sithole to ask a supplementary question, seeking further clarification on the role that Grace was playing in the “donations”, given that she was not a government official.
“I don’t want to be impolite because if I were to be impolite I would ask the honourable member to collect his school fees back. But because I don’t like to be impolite I would say that the equipment was handed over by the first lady, not donated,” an evasive Mnangagwa fired back.
The response triggered a flurry of more supplementary questions from the opposition benches, which the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda — who appeared keen to protect Mnangagwa — struggled to douse.
“Can the vice president clarify to the nation and us how a party women’s league secretary at a party meeting is handing government resources, donning party regalia.
“When is she going to visit the MDC to do the same?” Chamisa probed further on a point of order, after Mudenda had refused to recognise another MDC legislator, Prosper Mutseyami (Musikavanhu Constituency), who wanted to ask a supplementary question.
Earlier on, Maridadi had sought to have Mnangagwa clarify the government’s position on politicians who issue statements that incite violence against other political parties, citing Grace’s declaration at her recent rally in Rushinga, Mashonaland Central, that the province was a no-go area for the MDC, and that Zanu PF supporters should chase their supporters away from the area.
But the sly Mnangagwa yet again ducked the question, saying he was not aware of the statements, even as it was pointed out that these had been aired live on national television by ZBC television.
“Handina kumbohwa zvinotaugwa nemuchinda uyu mubati wechigaro. Handina kumbozvihwawo ini. Zvino kuti andibvunze nezvandisina kumbohwa Hon Speaker ndinozvipindura seiko? (I have not heard about such pronouncements Mr Speaker Sir, so for the MP to ask me things that I am not aware of, how do I respond),” he said.
With pressure mounting on the enigmatic Mnangagwa over his no-show at several of Grace’s recent rallies, the man nicknamed the Crocodile because of his alleged ruthlessness has since been forced to explain his absence from the increasingly-influential Grace’s political gatherings, doing so through Mugabe’s combative spokesperson George Charamba.
Charamba, who now speaks for both the government and the ruling party without any sense of conflict, unconvincingly told State media on Tuesday that Mnangagwa had not been part of the government officials who have abandoned their offices for Grace’s rallies because of a clash of programmes.
Seemingly, because there is no rational explanation for all this, he did not say why the other Cabinet ministers did not feel as duty-bound as Mnangagwa appears to feel and attend to their pressing government tasks, rather than follow Mugabe’s wife everywhere as she fulfills her party and private endeavours.