HARARE - A Kwekwe-based terror group going by the sick moniker “Al-Shabaab” and said to be aligned to one of the factions contesting for power in the warring post-congress Zanu PF has gone berserk, tormenting a number of Cabinet ministers from the Midlands.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday in the wake of the ominous discovery of a bullet in the Harare hotel room of Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane early this week, as Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars get uglier, sources said the violent anarchists were allegedly targeting ministers perceived to be opposed to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The original Al-Shabaab is a Somalia-based terrorist affiliate of al Qaeda fighting to turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic state.
The group has been blamed for attacks in the region that have killed thousands of people, including international aid workers, journalists and African Union peacekeepers.
The sources who spoke to the Daily News also claimed that the brazen Kwekwe thugs were being bankrolled by a regional party bigwig (name supplied but withheld on legal advice) — who allegedly promoted himself as a key supporter of Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential ambitions.
“This terror group is operating openly in the province and has in the last few days alone accosted a number of ministers, accusing them of siding with the G40 (ambitious Zanu PF Young Turks said to be rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding President Robert Mugabe),” one of the sources said.
The ministers who had come under pressure from “Al-Shabaab” allegedly included Hlongwane, Joram Gumbo, Chiratidzo Mabuwa, Fred Moyo, Tapiwa Matangaidze, Anastasia Ndlovu, Tsitsi Muzenda and Jason Machaya.
“We are told that the situation is so bad that Comrade Tsitsi Muzenda is said to have even approached national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere over the threats on her life by these misguided yobs,” the source said.
Contacted for comment yesterday, a cautious Kasukuwere would neither deny nor confirm the claims, choosing to say he needed to first investigate the matter and establish the facts before commenting substantively.
“This group must be something operating outside the party structures because we do not have a structure by the name Al-Shabaab in Zanu PF. I need to go on the ground to find out how it is working,” he said.
Contacted to comment on the bullet found in his hotel room, Hlongwane told the Daily News that he suspected that this had been “the work of a mischievous coward or cowards trying to intimidate me”.
“I do not want to speculate too much because to me there are two scenarios. First, this could be the work of cowards trying to threaten and intimidate me for reasons best known to them ... or it could be that the last occupant of my room left the bullet,” he said, adding that law enforcement agencies were handling the matter.
But a senior Midlands party official linked to the G40 said it “surely cannot not be a coincidence” that the bullet had been put in Hlongwane’s room at a time that his political opponents in the brawling Zanu PF were putting him under “tremendous pressure” in the Midlands along factional lines.
“There is a reign of terror in Midlands with ... (the fingered sponsor of Al-Shabaab) and his goons threatening anyone suspected of having links with the G40, including the senior officials.
“Indeed, the group is well known in the province for unleashing terror against anyone that they are instructed to target, be they from within Zanu PF or from without, and now they are targeting ministers, saying they sold out the province by turning their back on the VP.
“But by so doing they are essentially questioning the president’s wisdom in appointing these ministers in the first place. They are basically saying the president is a sell-out, which is crazy,” the insider said.
Another official said the “thuggish activities” of “Al-Shabaab” had heightened tensions between opposing factions in the Midlands, as the struggle for regional mastery in the burning ruling party reaches a crescendo.
As it is, some of Mnangagwa’s alleged key allies in the province are said to be facing expulsion from Zanu PF, with the regional party disciplinary committee currently looking into complaints against three of his alleged lieutenants — national deputy secretary for administration July Moyo, Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena and Owen Muda Ncube.
The hearing was initiated after three ministers — Anastasia Ndhlovu, Tapiwa Matangaidze and Makhosini Hlongwane — all now linked to the Generation 40 camp complained to the Zanu PF national leadership that they were being intimidated by the trio.
Deputy provincial chairperson Mackenzie Ncube, who chairs the disciplinary committee, has confirmed to the Daily News that the trio had already been put to their defence, with the outcome of the hearing to be announced next week.
“The hearing is still at the preliminary stage but we need to be thorough when accusations are raised against members. It is my first time to handle such matters, so there is need to get to the bottom of the matter, hence we will only be able to announce the outcome next week,” Mackenzie said.
But the Daily News is reliably informed that the G40 has decided that now is the time to press home its advantage in the party’s seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars, and get the trio expelled.
“It is tickets for them. They are gone because the evidence against them is overwhelming. There is no need to wait until next week when the facts are all there for everyone to see.
“These people are just buying time, but it will not change anything,” a provincial executive member who is said to be aligned to the G40 said, confirming consistently accurate reports carried by the Daily News on the ugly goings-on in the province.
But the disciplinary hearing against the supposed allies of Mnangagwa is also apparently being viewed by the VP’s supporters as a declaration of war by the G40 — hence they are now said to be equally determined to fight back “before they are wiped out”.
“There is no way we are going to fold our arms and just die. There comes a time when people say enough is enough. They can do what they want in other provinces but not here. This is our territory and we will not allow them to divide us,” a provincial youth league executive member charged.
“Al-Shabaab” is also notorious for forcefully evicting shop owners from their business premises under the guise of Zanu PF’s often controversial youth empowerment programme.