HARARE - In yet another ominous warning to the Zanu PF faction that is rallying behind embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, President Robert Mugabe yesterday tore into the VP’s followers who have been openly denigrating the nonagenarian’s influential wife Grace.
Speaking at his belated 92nd birthday celebrations that were held at the Great Zimbabwe monuments in Masvingo, Mugabe also savaged Zanu PF leaders who were fanning factionalism in the warring governing party, taking another swipe at war veterans — a jibe targeted in the main at those linked to Mnangagwa — who pompously flaunt their liberation struggle credentials.
He publicly put on notice the beleaguered VP’s followers who have been insulting Grace left, right and centre, warning them that they risked being booted put of Zanu PF, while also bemoaning the fact that the ruling party had lost direction.
“We all heard what (Zanu PF youth league chairperson Pupurai) Togarepi said about his commitment to ensuring that the party is refocused and that discipline is instilled in the party, not this trend we are seeing these days where very young people in the party disrespect the party leadership, insulting even my wife, the wife of the president, and sending information to foreign media such as Al Jazeera.
“It is really a shame. Who could be behind all this because a child with proper parents cannot say that,” Mugabe fumed, taking a swipe at senior party officials whom he accused of misleading the youths.
“There are some of us senior party officials who are behind this behaviour by the youths that is destroying the unity of our nation.
“The genesis of factionalism comes from the so-called political gurus, but the youths are the vanguard of the party and we do not want divisions and when you see it youths, please blow the whistle,” he added.
Mugabe once again admitted that Zanu PF had lost direction, pledging to land his support to the party’s youth league in its endeavour to bring the former liberation movement back to its glory of bygone decades.
The long-ruling nonagenarian also praised the work of Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, giving him a blank cheque to dismiss wayward party officials.
“He is our commissar and we often hear there is chaos here and there because he takes action against those who will have lost the way, sometimes suspending them.
“Some of the issues will be very minor but others choose to demonstrate against him instead of engaging him. It is uncalled for because maybe he will have seen that things are going out of hand,” Mugabe said.
He also lashed at war veterans who flaunt their liberation war credentials at every turn, in the process defending Zanu PF deputy youth league secretary Kudzai Chipanga who has come under severe criticism in State media for tussling with the liberation fighters.
“There were lies in the media that Chipanga had insulted war veterans, yet he had not done so and I said does it mean that he has also insulted us. How could he possibly have done that?
“I know the youths want to work together with war veterans. But we do not want war veterans who say we are the only ones who are important because we went to war, we do not want that,” Mugabe said.
This is not the first time in recent months that the nonagenarian has either come to the defence of his powerful wife Grace or openly tucked into Team Lacoste, as the Mnangagwa faction is known, as Zanu PF’s factional and succession wars get uglier and dirtier by the day.
An angry Mugabe — thoroughly fed up with his brawling underlings — attacked War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa in a televised address to the nation a fortnight ago, 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 Mnangagwa faction.
The president 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 then — 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 an unprecedented move by riot police to clamp 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 had attempted to flex their muscles and congregate unlawfully in Harare.
The chaos came as Zanu PF’s ugly internal ructions get deadlier, with the party faction linked to Mnangagwa increasingly mounting an open rebellion against Mugabe and Grace.
So aggressive have some of the utterances and tactics being employed by Team Lacoste become, that there has been for some time real fear within Zanu PF that the ruling party’s escalating brawls could soon boil over into bloody conflict.
Speaking in coded language yesterday, Mugabe also warned unnamed party bigwigs who he accused of taking advantage of the economic challenges affecting youths in the country to abuse them in their pursuit of selfish interests.
“Even us senior party members must stop to work behind the scenes with youths playing our games. That is not the way to get to power. Factionalism is coming from the so-called party gurus who abuse the youths.
“Factionalism, factionalism, and I repeat factionalism has no place at all in Zanu PF… because we are a platform for discussion, a platform for pitting one idea against another,” he said.
Despite his advanced age and growing speculation over his health, Mugabe has studiously avoided either naming or encouraging the emergence of a successor — thereby stoking the seemingly unstoppable infighting within the party, amid an intense jostling for his position.
In his hour-long speech that barely scratched the humanitarian crisis devouring large parts of the country due to this year’s drought and Zimbabwe’s dying economy, Mugabe repeatedly banged on about the worsening indiscipline in his beleaguered party.
“Party ikada kurasika, mayouth akarasika tatoenda. Madzimai akapengerakawo nekwavo tatoenda (If the youths lose direction and the women’s league chose to do their own thing, then we are finished as a party).
“No, there has to be unity. Mapato ari kungotukana toti pasi nawo (These factions that are insulting each other, we say down with them),” Mugabe charged.
“I am sure the youths would want to work together with war veterans. There must be harmony between the youth and war veterans. The war was fought for all. Together we must find our way,” he added.
Mugabe also repeated his attacks on the West, blaming the targeted measures they imposed on him for being responsible for Zimbabwe’s high unemployment rate, the closure of thousands of companies and the lack of resources to finance youth programmes.
“The British and Americans, in their cunning ways as usual, have used this opportunity to offer huge sums of money both within and outside the party so as to cause factionalism which has greatly affected the youth,” he said.