HARARE - Fears of bloody conflict within President Robert Mugabe’s warring Zanu PF heightened yesterday after it emerged that the party faction linked to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is serious about demonstrating at the former liberation movement’s headquarters in Harare today.
At the same time, well-placed sources told the Daily News that party youths who are members of the group that is opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, and who go by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), plan to escalate their demonstrations against the Midlands godfather from today onwards.
“The situation is very volatile and unless the powers-that-be move to deal with the situation decisively, blood will flow as the factions take each other on. For me, the best scenario would be to disallow all party demonstrations of whatever nature for the foreseeable future,” a Zanu PF central committee member said.
The senior party official added that although today’s planned demonstration by Team Lacoste, as the Mnangagwa camp is known, was ostensibly to allow the faction to meet the party’s leadership over the ructions tearing Zanu PF apart, there was also a suggestion that this was to show Mugabe and his wife Grace that the camp had “the capacity to fight its way to power”.
The idea for Team Lacoste to storm the Zanu PF headquarters today was first mooted when the ousted executive of the war veterans’ association led by War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa — which is pro-Mnangagwa — met in Harare on Monday.
However, the newly-installed interim leadership of the veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle have dissociated themselves from the demo, saying that this was merely a “factional project” meant to put Mugabe under pressure to accommodate “factional interests”.
And in a possible harbinger of things to come, youths aligned to the G40 demonstrated in Harare yesterday, openly baying for the blood of Team Lacoste key members.
But former Zanu PF Mashonaland Central secretary for security, Batsirai Musona — a war veteran and fiercely loyal supporter of Mnangagwa — told the Daily News that Team Lacoste’s so-called Operation Shumba was “now in full throttle to stop the G40”.
“This G40 clique is making sure that in all their purging of officials, they hide behind their alleged love for Mugabe when in actual fact they do not have any iota of love for the president,” he said.
Bluntly describing Grace as a supposed “political upstart”, Musona said the G40 faction had allegedly led the First Lady “down the garden path, a route she will ultimately regret”.
“They are using, or should I say abusing the First Lady to deal with the strong man VP Mnangagwa, his allies and the securocrats using borrowed power.
“The truth of the matter is that the three gangsters — the biggest political thug Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick ‘the factionalist’ Zhuwao and ‘the rocket tweeting scientist’ Professor Jonathan Moyo — have no love for the First Lady and neither do they include her in their future leadership matrix.
“All they are doing is to just use her like a pawn in a chess game to fight their enemies on their behalf and then dump her at a later stage. In this plan they are slowly gaining ground, whilst the First Lady is creating a lot of enemies through her uncontrolled rantings on the podium.
“This move, if it is left to continue ... this number one woman in the country will diminish her chances for future political positions,” Musona warned, adding that “like-minded Zanu PF officials should therefore come together and stop the G40”.
In the meantime, interim chairperson of the war veterans Mandi Chimene accused Mutsvangwa yesterday of mobilising war veterans and war collaborators “for personal and factional interests” under the pretext that they were to be addressed by Mugabe today.
“They are mobilising war veterans, children of war veterans and war collaborators to come to Harare, telling them lies that the president wants to address them.
“But I want to warn everyone that there is nothing like that. It’s all a lie. They just want to fulfil their personal and factional interests, which is not good,” she said.
Mutsvangwa was booted out as ZNLWVA chairperson last Friday following a vote of no confidence against him, as well as his deputy Headman Moyo and secretary-general Victor Matemadanda.
Among the litany of charges that were levelled against Mutsvangwa and his colleagues include the allegations of disrespecting Mugabe and Grace, and releasing press statements containing abusive language directed at senior party and government officials.
Yesterday, the Daily News also reported that as Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars escalate, Team Lacoste was increasingly mounting an open rebellion against Mugabe and Grace, amid indications that the group wanted the increasingly frail nonagenarian out of office before the 2018 national elections.
So in-your-face and aggressive had some of the utterances and tactics being employed by the faction become, that there were growing fears within Zanu PF that the ruling party’s worsening ructions could soon boil over into bloody conflict.
Well-placed sources told the newspaper then that what was particularly perturbing was the fact that Mnangagwa’s followers were increasingly challenging not just Grace, but Mugabe himself as well, in their public utterances — a situation they said did not augur well for the future of the party and the country.
“We have now entered a new ugly and uncharted territory in the life of the party and the country, where it’s difficult to predict what will happen next.
“What many of us are worried about the most is that those who are said to be fighting for Mnangagwa are more and more daring and challenging both Mugabe and his wife Grace openly, which is unheard of,” a politburo member who claims to be “non-aligned” said.
Another party insider told the Daily News last week that he was “very worried” about the extent to which the two main factions battling for supremacy within the former liberation movement now appeared “to hate each other”.
“I think anyone who says that they are not concerned by the wars will be lying. The truth of the matter is that at the rate at which things are deteriorating, it may be a matter of time before we see body bags in places like Harare and the Midlands,” the senior Zanu PF official said.
Contacted yesterday in the wake of the political developments of the past few days within the warring party, the official said the situation had “worsened” — pointing to the alleged launch by Mnangagwa’s allies of an “ominous and shady” programme dubbed Operation Shumba.
“Indeed, what is this Operation Shumba? Is it merely a play on Mnangagwa’s totem or it’s a more sinister project that is underway?
“And what makes what is happening now less grave than what (former VP) Joice Mujuru and (ex-war veterans leader) Jabulani Sibanda were expelled for from the party? I fear for the peace and stability of this country,” he said.
A source close to Team Lacoste said yesterday that there was a feeling in the camp that Grace’s blistering attack on Mnangagwa and his faction last Friday had “the blessings of the president himself” — adding further that it was “disappointing” that Mugabe had “failed” to stop his wife from opposing the Midlands godfather.
He said it was even contemplated that the faction, using a section of war veterans from the ousted veterans executive, would see the camp embarking on mass demonstrations in Harare soon.
State media, and in particular the faction’s main propaganda mouthpiece, The Herald, have also over the past few days ratcheted up their assault on Grace, VP Phelekezela Mphoko, Kasukuwere, Moyo and other perceived G40 bigwigs.