HARARE - As the ugly factional and succession wars ripping Zanu PF apart continue to escalate, insiders say a major Cabinet shake-up — likely to deliver another devastating blow to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations — is imminent.
Well-placed sources who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday last Thursday claimed that the planned Cabinet reshuffle — part of looming and widespread changes that would also affect the top echelons of the civil service, as well as the security sector — would be targeted at Team Lacoste (Mnangagwa faction).
“These plans have been on and off the table a number of times since last year, but things appear to be moving swiftly now because of the nonsense (Zanu PF ructions) that is getting worse. I think there is a renewed determination to end this once and for all,” one of the sources said.
But another senior Zanu PF official, while also confirming the long-mooted plans, said he was “not sure that President (Robert) Mugabe will make a move on this right away” — given the recent formal launch of former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First (ZPF).
“Look, that talk of a reshuffle is not new, and I believe that there is substance to it. However, I’m not sure that Mugabe will make a move on this right away.
“The launch of People First may just delay things further as he may want to see how everything pans out,” the bigwig said.
But a youth official linked to Zanu PF’s ambitious Young Turks who go by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), and who are rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, said the beleaguered VP’s faction “know that they are toast” with the pending shake-ups.
“All the Team Lacoste successionists, wherever they sit — in Cabinet, in the security sector or as permanent secretaries — know that they are toast. Nothing will save them, unless they completely repent, get rid of their successionist tendencies and beg for forgiveness from Gushungo (Mugabe),” he said.
However, a politburo member who claims to be “non-aligned” in Zanu PF’s deadly and seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars, said widespread changes across government would be “regrettable” and only serve to consolidate the rampant factionalism destroying the party.
“As you know, I’m non-aligned, and therefore have no interest per se in the current fights. My interest is our party and I firmly believe that it will be regrettable were widespread changes to be effected across the board.
“There, clearly, is a need by the leadership to stop the worsening bloodletting, but more sackings, suspensions and expulsions are not the answer. If anything, they will probably worsen the already untenable situation, which is having a major negative impact on the whole country and its economy,” the party heavyweight said.
Dozens of Cabinet ministers, senior civil servants and security chiefs are set to lose their jobs if Mugabe decides to wield the axe as mooted, with virtually all the changes meant to “finish off” the Mnangagwa faction.
Mugabe has reshuffled his Cabinet line-up at least three times, since the brutal ouster from high office of Mujuru and her allies in late 2014 — shake-ups that both insiders and critics say have only served to cement Zanu PF’s raging infighting, while also effectively sabotaging the functioning of government in the process.
Mugabe sacked Mujuru and 16 ministers and deputy ministers in December 2014, after accusing the ZPF leader and her followers of plotting to assassinate and topple him from power.
While Mnangagwa and his allies were the major beneficiaries of that initial purge, the nonagenarian has since moved to neutralise Team Lacoste and also affirm the Midlands godfather’s detractors in his disjointed Cabinet.
In light of the mooted changes, political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said it may be time that Mnangagwa called it quits, to spare himself the humiliation of being sacked by Mugabe.
“If I were him, I would just take a break. He has, at any rate, passed retirement age. He should take advantage of the turmoil in the party to exit and get a much-needed break — not just apologise or renounce his Lacoste faction, but retire,” Saungweme said.
But University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, told the Daily News on Sunday that if Mnangagwa still entertained any hopes of succeeding Mugabe, he had no choice but to sacrifice his allies for now, and renew his fight after the nonagenarian’s departure from the political scene.
“Remember, these guys are all in office because Mugabe wants it that way. They have no autonomous power bases and Mugabe likes it that way. He does not want anyone to be seen as his obvious successor, preferring to play his politics in murky waters.
“In that light, Mnangagwa and his allies face decimation unless he chooses to follow (Vice President Phelekezela) Mphoko’s example and say openly that he has no interest in the crown.
“As he has not stated that, and has not also publicly condemned those campaigning for him, he is being dealt with accordingly,” Masunungure said.
In the meantime, more supporters of Mnangagwa are being ruthlessly chucked out of Zanu PF, drilling more holes into his mooted presidential aspirations.
The Zanu PF women’s league chairperson for Mashonaland West, Angeline Mucheneyi, told the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, last week that four bigwigs from the province — all of them said to be Team Lacoste kingpins — would soon be booted out of the brawling former liberation movement.
The quartet — provincial secretary for education Fani Phiri, political commissar Simon Solomon, secretary for transport Philemon Ndushu and one Sibongile Bhebhe — were first reprimanded late last year for allegedly fanning factionalism in the ruling party.
Mucheneyi said the four officials, who have since been hauled before another disciplinary committee that was headed by deputy provincial chairman Keith Guzah, have now been found guilty of “being unrepentant” and allegedly continuing to engage in factional politics, as well as disrespecting First Lady Grace Mugabe and other senior party leaders.
“They did not change their ways when they were initially reprimanded. So, the disciplinary committee will officially announce their fate this Friday because investigations into their conduct have been completed.
“They were in the habit of influencing the youth league to be disrespectful of their leaders and the moment we realised that, we immediately reported them to the party because we do not want such elements in Zanu PF. So, they should just go,” Mucheneyi said.
This latest dose of bad news for Team Lacoste came a mere week after nearly two dozen bigwigs linked to Mnangagwa, including former War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa and his wife Monica, were booted out of the ruling party.
Zanu PF insiders who spoke to the Daily News after the party’s politburo announced the purges said it was “all over bar the shouting” for the beleaguered camp in its wilting quest to get the Midlands godfather to succeed Mugabe.
In addition to suspending the garrulous Mutsvangwa and his wife from the party for three years, the former liberation movement also summarily expelled from within its ranks 14 youth leaders — including Godfrey Gomwe, Godfrey Tsenengamu, Vengai Musengi and Edmore Samambwa.