HARARE - Zanu PF foes of embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa claim that history is repeating itself, with the Midlands godfather allegedly moving “to save his bacon” by dumping under-fire War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa.
Party insiders opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding President Robert Mugabe told the Daily News yesterday that they “always knew” that when it came to the crunch, the beleaguered VP would not protect his allies who are on the receiving end of a savage and unrelenting factional mauling in the former liberation movement.
“It’s typical Ngwena (Mnangagwa). When the heat is on, he will do anything to save his own bacon. He has already dumped Mutsvangwa, just as he did to many in 2004 after the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration. I pity all his supporters who are sacrificing limb and resources for him,” a senior party official said.
An angry Mugabe — thoroughly fed up with his warring underlings — savaged Mutsvangwa in a televised address to the nation on Friday evening, virtually signalling the end of the career both in the former liberation movement and in government of the former leader of the war veterans, an alleged kingpin of the party faction loyal to Mnangagwa.
The long-ruling nonagenarian was flanked by his two deputies as he made his unusual address — with a decidedly surly-looking Mnangagwa to his right, and a comparatively relaxed Phelekezela Mphoko to his left.
Without mincing his words, Mugabe pointedly accused the garullous Mutsvangwa of having misled war veterans into trooping into Harare last Thursday — where they were battered by police — after they were made to believe that the nonagenarian would address them.
“For him (Mutsvangwa) to have called a meeting about which we knew nothing about, in circumstances in which he had not clearly sought permission from the authorities in violation therefore of the law, and he being a minister, he cannot at the end after the law and order officers have taken action against the meeting and the war veterans complain that he was ill-treated.
“He must bear the responsibility,” Mugabe thundered, adding ominously that Mutsvangwa would pay for his misdemeanours.
“He (Mutsvangwa) has acted in a manner we describe as irresponsible and a manner that brings the name of the party and government into disrepute. We regret that they (war veterans) suffered this (police battering) but the man to blame is their minister and of course he has to answer why he did that without authority,” the nonagenarian fumed further.
Mugabe’s outburst followed the unprecedented move by riot police last Thursday, who clamped down on a group of war veterans loyal to Mnangagwa — tear-gassing and water-spraying them before unyieldingly forcing them to disperse — after the former freedom fighters attempted to flex their muscles and congregate unlawfully in Harare.
The chaos, which the Daily News had accurately predicted in its editions of the previous weeks, came as Zanu PF’s ugly internal ructions get deadlier and dirtier, with the party faction linked to Mnangagwa increasingly mounting an open rebellion against Mugabe and Grace.
So in-your-face and aggressive had some of the utterances and tactics being employed by Team Lacoste become, that there had been for some time real fear within Zanu PF that the ruling party’s escalating brawls could soon boil over into bloody conflict.
Many disinterested bystanders and journalists were caught up in the Thursday mayhem, as police threw teargas and sprayed water on the gathered group of war veterans who had trickled into the capital to attend their rally at the City Sports Stadium — with the apparent objective of baying for First Lady Grace’s blood, who recently excoriated Mnangagwa.
The sources who spoke to the Daily News yesterday further claimed that Mnangagwa “has a history of abandoning” his followers, and that Mutsvangwa would not be “the first or last one to suffer this fate”.
Among other alleged VP allies who are currently under the cosh in the ruling party are the provincial leaders of Midlands, Masvingo and Mashonaland East — namely Kizito Chivamba, Ezra Chadzamira and Biggie Matiza respectively — who are all facing the big boot.
In addition, Masvingo Province also made moves yesterday to fire other alleged top Mnangagwa kingpins — politburo members Josiah Hungwe and Lovemore Matuke.
Meanwhile, University of Kent academic, Alex Magaisa, wrote on his blog at the weekend that Mugabe’s apology to war veterans last Friday was deliberately designed to isolate Mutsvangwa from his core constituency in Zanu PF’s succession battle.
“While the attack was on Mutsvangwa, there is no doubting who the real casualty was here. It was the man sitting to the right of the president, Mnangagwa.
“After all, it was his interest that Mutsvangwa was representing all along. He has been the most vociferous ambassador of Team Lacoste and silencing him will leave the faction weaker,” Magaisa said.
He added that although Mugabe had also denounced the two warring factions in the party — the G40 and Team Lacoste — the nonagenarian’s attack had weighed heavily against the latter, which was a huge dent on Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential ambitions.
This is not the first time that critics have claimed that Mnangagwa never supports his followers.
Late last year, other Zanu PF insiders said the VP “always struggled” to live up to the popular caricature of his nickname, that of a ruthless crocodile, in the party’s seemingly-unstoppable factional and succession wars.
They pointed to what happened a decade ago when many of his most ardent supporters were decimated after the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration, after being accused of plotting to oust Mugabe from power, and said history would repeat itself as his close allies were again being picked off one by one by their party enemies, like lambs to the slaughter.