HARARE - A panicky post-congress Zanu PF is making frantic preparations for yet more Parliamentary by-elections after it emerged earlier this week that dozens of the party’s legislators are holding meetings with former Vice President Joice Mujuru with the intention of joining her People First movement.
Well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that it was “panic stations” among ruling party bigwigs who understood the fact that People First “is a reality and major threat” to the post-congress Zanu PF’s fortunes ahead of the country’s eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections which are a mere 18 months away.
“Never mind the fake bravado that the chefs (senior party officials) mouth off at public platforms, it is panic stations in the party.
“Provinces, particularly Mashonaland East, have been instructed to prepare for tough by-elections for the MPs who want to ditch us,” one of the sources said.
Zanu PF Mashonaland East provincial chairperson Joel Biggie Matiza confirmed to the Daily News yesterday that party supporters were suspicious about the motives and machinations of some of their comrades and were no longer willing to continue working with those said to be planning to join Mujuru.
“That is the exact reason why we recommended that some of these people be expelled because we realised they are no longer with us as they are now working with the opposition. We are only waiting to hear from the politburo concerning their fate,” Matiza said.
A regional party official said in Maramba Pfungwe, where under-fire legislator Washington Musvaire stands accused of being among those planning to join People First, his rivals whom he defeated soundly in the party’s primary elections, were already campaigning openly to succeed him.
“Godfrey Chikono, who lost to Musvaire in the primary elections, has teamed up with former MP Kenneth Mutiwekuziva to make sure that he (Musvaire) is ousted because they see it as their chance to bounce back.
“They have agreed to fight him together although they are both interested in his seat,” the disaffected provincial executive member claimed.
Contacted for comment, Chikono claimed that there was “a groundswell of discontentment” with Musvaire’s continued stay in Zanu PF, but denied that he had designs for the beleaguered MP’s seat.
“To be honest, I have not seen him for quite a while because he does not come to this part of the constituency so often, because he hails from Pfungwe. I hear through rumours that he is fighting with Mutiwekuziva who also hails from there, but like I said, I am not really sure,” Chikono said.
But a district official in Pfungwe alleged that Mutiwekuziva had already scheduled a meeting of the party’s leadership in the constituency for tomorrow night.
“He has already declared his interest and we are actually having a meeting this Sunday (tomorrow). You can attend if you want to hear how people are not happy with Musvaire anymore.
“In the first place, he was imposed on us by (former national party commissar Webster) Shamu with the help of (former provincial chairman Ray) Kaukonde,” the official, who is a self-confessed strong supporter of Mutiwekuziva, said.
The Daily News reported on Thursday that the worst nightmares of President Robert Mugabe’s warring post-congress Zanu PF could soon be confirmed as dozens of the party’s legislators were holding meetings with Mujuru, with the intention of joining her People First movement.
Many party MPs (names supplied but withheld on request) — a significant number of them from Mashonaland East province — were said to have met Mujuru in Harare on Tuesday and pledged that they would soon come out in the open in support of her.
If the MPs follow through on their promises, this will set the cat among the pigeons in the post-congress Zanu PF which is reeling from its deadly and seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars. Ruling party insiders who spoke to the Daily News said the mooted move by the concerned legislators would deal “a fatal blow” to the brawling former liberation movement ahead of the country’s eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
“We had fruitful discussions with Mai Mujuru yesterday and pledged our commitment to the cause of democratising the country to the benefit of millions of suffering Zimbabweans.
“She wanted us to state our position unequivocally regarding the People First project and the majority of us happily pledged to go with her,” one of the legislators who plan to ditch the post-congress Zanu PF said.
Contacted to establish whether he was one of the disgruntled ruling party MPs who had met with Mujuru, Musvaire accused his Zanu PF rivals of working overtime to get him expelled from the party.
“I know that there are malicious people in the party fighting me because they are still bitter that they lost to me in the primary elections. I am not feeling well right now and I am not aware of the meeting with Mujuru,” Musvaire said.
Many of the soon-to-be departing MPs, the majority of whom are said to be either serving suspensions or facing expulsion, were said to be keen to leave as they were frustrated by the ruling party’s mindless bloodletting and its bigwigs’ lack of appreciation for them.
“Mai Mujuru, being the experienced politician that she is, who also knows Zanu PF inside out, is simply taking advantage of these useless fights to build People First.
“We cannot continue pretending that all is well with us when it is clear that we are no longer reading from the same page with the people who now control the levers of power in Zanu PF.
“In any case, the ship is clearly sinking and you have to be foolish to still believe that the party can take Zimbabwe somewhere,” a Zanu PF central committee member said.
“The general feeling among many people is that there is no more room in Zanu PF for loyal and honest cadres,” the official added.
In the meantime, analysts say should the Mujuru MPs, who are said to number well over 100, proceed to jump ship; the move could trigger early national polls, which could crank up the heat on the bitterly-divided ruling party which is already reeling from its seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars.
Zanu PF is also under pressure from the looming pact among the country’s opposition parties, following the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and other parties to demand key electoral reforms before 2018.
The agreement is widely seen as a prelude to a more comprehensive electoral pact, which could see all opposition parties rallying behind a single presidential candidate against Mugabe.
A fortnight ago, the Zanu PF Mashonaland East provincial executive recommended the expulsion from the party of legislators Felix Mhona (Chikomba Central), Simbaneuta Mudarikwa (Uzumba), Musvaire (Maramba Pfungwe), Phineas Chihota (Seke) and Tendayi Makunde (Murehwa North).