HARARE - As the ugly factional and succession wars devouring President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF get uglier and ever more fluid, the party faction rallying behind embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations is stepping up its efforts to woo supporters of former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
Well-placed Team Lacoste (Mnangagwa camp) sources told the Daily News yesterday that in their bid to outmanoeuvre Zanu PF’s marauding Young Turks known as the Generation 40 (G40) — who are rabidly opposed to the Midlands godfather — the faction was working hard to augment its forces.
It was in this light that war veterans aligned to the faction were agitating for ex-combatants in Mujuru’s corner, including former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda to be part of the planned make-or-break meeting with Mugabe on April 7.
“We are engaged in a fierce war comrade, against an enemy (G40) that is ruthless, and that will do anything, including lying and selling their mothers, to destroy us and Ngwena (Mnangagwa). So, we have to fight back with everything we have,” one of the bigwigs said.
The move comes at a time when war veterans are now fiercely divided along Zanu PF’s deadly factional lines, as the party battle to succeed the increasingly frail Mugabe continues to escalate.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, the secretary-general of the Mnangagwa-aligned faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA), Victor Matemadanda, confirmed the move saying their meeting with Mugabe should be “all-encompassing”.
“While it is not within our powers as the ZNLWVA to decide who attends and who does not, it would be ideal for all veterans to attend the meeting, including ... Sibanda, seeing that this is the first time that we have been able to meet with the president.
“The presence of all war veterans will be symbolic and that is why we are saying it is absurd for the Mandi Chimene-led war vets to say those who are still serving in the security sector cannot attend.
“What is going to be discussed there does not only affect members of the association but is about the welfare of all veterans of the liberation struggle, including those in the opposition.
“We do not need a situation where others will then say, after the meeting, we were not included,” Matemadanda said.
The move also comes after the Lacoste ex-freedom fighters met with Sibanda at a meeting of war veterans that was held in Bulawayo three weeks ago — with the “unusual reunion” raising eyebrows.
The scheduled April 7 meeting with Mugabe follows an earlier gathering of war veterans at Harare’s City Sports Centre being ruthlessly thwarted by riot police last month.
Soon after that staggering development, Mugabe went on television to savage former War Veterans minister Christopher Mutsvangwa for organising the supposedly “unsanctioned” meeting — subsequently sacking him from his Cabinet team.
Amid all this, Zanu PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, has accused some senior party officials of harbouring and fanning divisions in the warring former liberation movement — plotting to succeed Mugabe using underhand methods.
Speaking in coded language at Highlanders Sports Club in Bulawayo, during the celebrations of the appointment of Tshinga Dube as War Veterans minister last week, Kasukuwere warned the “plotters” to back off saying there was “no vacancy for the presidency”.
“The leaders we have are sworn-in by God, so let us respect and support them. Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni among others contested the presidency and lost to ... Mugabe.
“We reaffirmed he is our president therefore that is where the centre of power is. There is no vacancy for the presidency both in Zimbabwe and in Zanu PF.
“There is only one leader and one centre of power,” Kasukuwere thundered in remarks that attendees said were aimed at the ruling party faction rallying behind Mnangagwa.
“You can’t create a vacancy. It won’t work and it’s not going to happen anytime soon. My plea to you comrades is that hatifanire kukwidza vatungamiriri ndenge dzemashanga (comrades, we must not stroke the egos of misguided leaders), making them believe kuti pane zvigaro kana kuti pane zvamuka (that there are vacant posts where there none).
“No, there is no vacancy. Mdhara Gushungo aripo (Mugabe is still there). Let him rule. He has the blessings of his people,” Kasukuwere warned, saying the work of such plotters would come to nought.
Speaking at the same gathering, Dube challenged war veterans who were suspended or expelled from Zanu PF to seek clemency and go and apologise to Mugabe — in remarks that were seen as directed at Mutsvangwa and his supporters.
“Those who were fired or suspended in the party, I urge them to go and apologise to their patron, His Excellency President Robert Mugabe. I know that he is a Christian, he will accept their apologies.
“In our African culture we never challenge the authority or decision of an elder, let alone demonise him. Even in England, I have been to Hyde Corner where people say anything they want. I have never heard them insult their Queen,” he said.
Kasukuwere and Dube’s exhortations came at a time that Zanu PF is reeling from its worsening factional and succession wars that have recently witnessed a damaging breakaway from within the party’s ranks of Mujuru and her supporters.
Now, the former liberation movement is facing yet another bitter split — this time involving party members loyal to Mnangagwa.
Zanu PF insiders who spoke to the Daily News last week said the latest acrimonious “divorce proceedings” involving Team Lacoste — which they said were “well under way” and evident in the troubled provinces of Midlands and Mashonaland East — would deliver a knock out punch to the fast-unraveling party.
“The die is cast and there is no going back. We are going it alone now. When you see State media dredging up malicious stories about Ngwena (Mnangagwa) from 33 years ago (regarding the VP’s alleged inflammatory comments on Gukurahundi), then you know this has to happen,” a senior party official linked to the VP said.
Another Zanu PF bigwig said never in his “wildest imagination” had he ever contemplated that the former liberation movement would suffer more splits than the MDC.
“I’m embarrassed that after Zanu PF Gamatox (Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First), we are now going to have Zanu PF Lacoste, all within the space of a few months. Before that, we had the likes of (Edgar) Tekere, Margaret (Dongo) and Simba (Makoni) splitting from the party as you know.
“At least in the case of the MDC when they were splitting this was largely due to the work of our boys (infiltration and destabilisation by spies). What excuses do we have for this anarchy?
“And the chaos is worsening, what with some war veterans passing votes of no confidence against national leaders such as VP (Phelekezela) Mphoko and Tyson (Zanu PF national political commissar Kasukuwere),” a politburo member who has always claimed that he is “non-aligned” said ruefully.
The Daily News also reported exclusively last week that the party had effectively split into two bitterly-opposed formations in the Midlands, the citadel of Mnangagwa’s support.
Regional party officials confirmed to the newspaper that there were now two structures at most levels — belonging to the rival Mnangagwa and Generation 40 (G40) camps.
“It’s war here. For every G40 structure, there is now a parallel Team Lacoste one, and vice-versa. Our worry is how this will be resolved going into 2018,” one of the officials said.