HARARE - Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies, reeling from the unrelenting onslaught that they have been under in the brawling Zanu PF, as well as the brutal public skinning that their Midlands godfather received from powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe last Friday, are mounting a spirited fight back.
Well-placed sources within the camp told the Daily News yesterday that some of the faction’s leading lights were now of the opinion that they had “very little else to lose and no choice” but to face their party nemeses, Zanu PF’s Young Turks known by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), head on.
“Some comrades think that the best form of defence under the circumstances is attack, although there is no agreement on this.
“They also feel that they have very little else to lose and no choice but to take on the G40.
“While I personally don’t think that is the best route forward, I can understand how they feel as they rightly say that (former Vice President Joice) Mujuru was still thrown out into the cold despite playing nice to the end,” one of the sources said.
Yesterday, a faction of the bitterly-divided Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) that is aligned to Mnangagwa described Grace’s stunning Friday rally in Chiweshe as both “a waste of resources” and “shocking”.
Speaking at a hastily-convened media conference in Harare, the gathered war veterans also expressed confidence in the association’s deposed chairperson, Chris Mutsvangwa — an alleged key ally of Mnangagwa — who was booted out of office on Friday.
They also bluntly warned the G40 not to “stretch their patience any further” or else they would take them on robustly.
Chanting slogans such as “Pasi neG40 (Down with G40)”, ousted ZNLWVA secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda, said the reason why the veterans had met yesterday was because there were “some in Zanu PF who are misleading President Robert Mugabe”.
“We met because of the recent vilification of war veterans in Chiweshe, the emergence of a counter-revolutionary clique, G40. (These people) are paying lip service to the plight of the people.
“Varikungomhanya kuita misangano kunana Chiweshe isina basa (They are mounting silly meetings in places like Chiweshe),” Matemadanda said in what was seen as a direct attack on Grace.
Curiously, Matemadanda also questioned the recent arrest of Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana on charges of defeating the course of justice, saying this was unheard of that a person of such standing could be treated that way.
The combative Matemadanda also said ominously that if the situation within Zanu PF continued to “spiral out of control”, his group would be left with no choice but to go to war because no one “asked us to go to (participate in) the liberation struggle in the first place”.
“Once a soldier, always a soldier. We are soldiers and we are worried that there is no respect for the security sector. In what country would you find liberators being demonised? Our children are now the laughing stock,” Matemadanda added.
When it was the turn of Mutsvangwa himself to speak, he said he was seeking audience with security sector bigwigs, as well as with Mugabe — who is the war veterans’ patron — over the deteriorating situation in the party.
He also said it was shocking that after an allegedly successful politburo meeting last week where “the president felt sorry for the G40 faction”, that “some then decided to have a meeting in a remote rural setting fanning tribalism”.
“Varikuda kubisa chimiro chapresident and we will not allow that (the G40 are working to besmirch Mugabe’s standing). We will not allow his legacy to be desecrated. Masoja edu haasi ekutamba nawo (You cannot fool around with our soldiers). They are the most professional in Africa.
“The party is run from Harare at its headquarters, not in some rural area in Mashonaland Central. We discussed issues afflicting the party in the politburo but we were shocked when we heard some of us waffling from that part of the country. We will not listen to their nonsense,” Mutsvangwa charged.
Quoting the late army general Vitalis Zvinavashe, who famously declared that only those with liberation credentials would lead the country, Mutsvangwa said this time around it was the war veterans who were championing this cause.
In the meantime, Mnangagwa’s allies — who have been using the famous Lacoste clothing and perfume labels as their symbols — have gone a notch higher and now have the face of the Midlands godfather defiantly etched on their profile pictures on their social media accounts.
Despite being on the back-foot after Grace savaged those behind the faction, youths aligned to Mnangagwa are almost violently adamant that their “boss” will ultimately succeed Mugabe.
Suspended Zanu PF secretary for security, Batsirai Musona, who is also a war veteran, told the Daily News yesterday that the current goings-on in the ruling party were “just hot air”.
As all this is playing out, Mnangagwa — crumpling under the intense political pressure that is being exerted on him and his close allies by his determined Zanu PF foes, is said to be seriously mulling quitting both his party and government positions.
Well-placed sources close to the Midlands godfather told the Daily News at the weekend that the 74-year-old VP was “anxious about his position and future” in the wake of the brutal public skinning that he received from Grace on Friday.
“Lacoste (Mnangagwa) is a pragmatist and he knows that things are not looking good for him and those who support him.
“I understand that he is seriously thinking of stepping down, if that will heal the party which has been at war with itself for a long time,” one of the sources said.
But another insider who confirmed that “resignation is an option on the table” for Mnangagwa, said it was clear that “his enemies the G40 “ would crank up their assault on him now that he “is wounded”.
“You know his enemies the G40, they are not going to stop here, as they now clearly want to finish him off. By resigning of his own accord, Ngwena (Mnangagwa) will therefore avert further humiliation and the clubbing to death of his friends,” the second source, a senior party official, said.
“It has not been an easy time, with some saying he should escalate the fight, and others of the view that the best way forward is to make a strategic retreat to allow the team to assess the situation properly, calm emotions all round and gather strength.
“Some comrades have even been suggesting that perhaps he (Mnangagwa) should consider handing in his resignation from both his party and government positions seeing that he is no longer enjoying the full support of his principal.
“On the other hand, others are saying that such action is unnecessary and that it risks inflaming the situation even more, as it would create the impression that he is too emotional and in effect declaring war,” the second source added.
Those who wanted Mnangagwa to quit were apparently pointing to mooted plans this week by the influential Zanu PF women’s league to ratchet up their demands on Mugabe to appoint a woman as one of his two deputies — a move that is said to be targeted at the beleaguered VP.
Ever since his appointment as VP, following the ruthless purging of Mujuru and her allies from the ruling party in 2014, Mnangagwa has, figuratively speaking, been riding on the back of a hungry hyena — with his party foes taking frequent pot shots at him and his offices being broken into on several occasions, as the war to succeed Mugabe has escalated.
But other sources close to the VP who have spoken to the Daily News claimed that Mugabe was not “enthusiastic” about the idea of Mnangagwa quitting his party and government positions — claims that could not be independently verified.