HARARE - Hawkish Information permanent secretary and presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, is under fire in the warring post-congress Zanu PF, with his growing band of ruling party detractors accusing him of being disloyal to President Robert Mugabe.
Speaking in interviews with the Daily News yesterday, the critics said Charamba was playing a “flagrantly divisive” role in the ruling party’s seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars, adding that he had “openly nailed his flag to Team Lacoste” (Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s faction).
“He is clearly more loyal to Ngwena than he is to the president, who is his boss. Everyone in government and in the party knows that Charamba, aka Nathaniel Manheru, will only defend his favourite VP and not anyone else when they are under attack, not even the president or his family.
“One only needs to look at his public rants and writings in his Herald column to see all this. Perhaps he should leave the public service and join politics full time so that he can support Ngwena without any restrictions,” one of the bigwigs said.
Another Zanu PF official said Charamba had “got away with murder for a long time” — pointing to his controversial writing and statements in State media, his recent fight with War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa, his views on Gukurahundi and his alleged failure to protect Mugabe, including when the nonagenarian read the wrong speech in Parliament last year.
The First Family showed their displeasure towards the end of last year when First Lady Grace Mugabe at her last two rallies indirectly attacked Charamba for criticising ZimAsset in his controversial articles in the Nathaniel Manheru column.
“He is full of himself and has got away with murder for a long time. It really is time someone either had a word with him or cut him to size. He is a poor face of the presidency and Cabinet.
“For example, while he once insisted forcefully that there were no factions in Zanu PF, he is now writing that there is an anti-Mnangagwa faction in the party. So, which is which, and who are these people that he is divisively talking about?” the official said.
Also appearing to criticise Charamba yesterday for his recent Nathaniel Manheru polemics was Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo who wrote on Twitter that, “It’s no good to say media should not cover security sector while you are defending public media reports implicating ZRP in poaching!”.
“It’s fatal that some Cdes seek or support personal ambitions & positions in ways that undermine key gains of the liberation struggle!
“Unconstitutional & unlawful utterances should not be associated with or come from officials who have taken oaths to uphold the law!
“Threatening people left, right & centre is bad politics which betray the lack of capacity to persuade the public through policy & law!
“Threats breed misunderstanding, fear, alarm & despondency whereas what’s needed is understanding & hope from government policies!” Moyo said in posts that many of his followers applauded.
Contacted for his insight having worked in the presidency for a long time, former senior Cabinet minister, Didymus Mutasa said Charamba was “definitely fighting” in Mnangagwa’s corner — as he was allegedly already preparing for life after Mugabe.
Mutasa also traced Charamba and Mnangagwa’s relationship to the so-called Tsholotsholo Declaration of 2004 which Mugabe saw as a coup against him, and where it was alleged that he had hired a plane for the attempted coup which was designed to stymie the ascendancy of former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
He also said that it was claimed that Charamba had even drafted Mnangagwa’s acceptance speech which had allegedly been delivered in Tsholotsho by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa.
“He (Charamba) should not be involved in any of what is happening in Zanu PF right now. He has indeed been fighting for that particular person. He should not be involved in any of the activities, particularly those involving Emmerson.
“He should speak wisely and comment correctly when talking about the media and when journalists seek to understand what is happening in Zanu PF.
“I remember when I still worked for Zanu PF that he was not even allowed to come into the politburo, and so he should not threaten anyone because he knows very little about anything,” Mutasa said.
This is not the first time that Charamba has been caught in controversy. He was two years ago found to be among the people who benefitted unduly from his directorship then at the troubled Premier Services Medical Aid Society.
Last year, he was involved in an unseemly war of words with Mutsvangwa, with his personal life also coming under the spotlight a few years before that.