HARARE - As Zanu PF’s deadly factional and succession wars continue unabated, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo took to Twitter yesterday, querying The Herald’s coverage of the ruling party’s worsening infighting.
“It is as curious as it is concerning that @HeraldZimbabwe now has references to “the anti-Mnangagwa cabal in Zanu PF”. What or who is that?” he asked.
His Twitter post comes as State media, apparently acting under pressure from hawkish Information permanent secretary George Charamba, appear to have taken a position in favour of the party faction behind embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations.
A source within Zimpapers, publishers of The Herald and the Chronicle, said editors at the stable had come under increasing pressure to take “a definitive position” in the post-congress Zanu PF’s wars.
“There is clearly an instruction from the ‘ultimate editor-in-chief’ (euphemism for Charamba) for Zimpapers to more and more take a definitive position on the party’s infighting.
“Many readers have noted that over the past few weeks we are propping up one side and trashing the other side, a turn that has been demanded by the ‘ultimate editor-in-chief’,” a Zimpapers staffer said.
Charamba has over the past few weeks used his Nathaniel Manheru column to threaten and excoriate the country’s independent media for its coverage of Zanu PF’s wars, while increasingly appearing to bat in Mnangagwa’s corner.
So incensed by this have been many Zanu PF bigwigs that some of them have accused him of being disloyal to President Robert Mugabe.
Speaking in interviews with the Daily News last week, they said Charamba was playing a “flagrantly divisive” role in the ruling party’s seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars.
“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 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.
“... 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.
The First Family also 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 Nathaniel Manheru column.
Also appearing to criticise Charamba then for his recent Nathaniel Manheru polemics was 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 betrays 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 the Information Tsar 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 Charamba had even allegedly drafted Mnangagwa’s acceptance speech in Tsholotsho.
“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 at 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.