HARARE – Backers of ousted Zimbabwe vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa are baying for blood, vowing to regroup and launch a challenge against President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.
Senior members of Zanu-PF told City Press on Thursday that Mnangagwa, who said he fled the country fearing for his life, would launch a political party to try to woo supporters of his former party ahead of elections expected next year.
“It is game on and we are not sitting and mourning. It is time to act and make sure we rescue Zanu-PF from [the] G40 [political grouping] and Mugabe who is being forced into mindless decisions by his wife,” said one.
“One option that he will consider includes mobilising people against Mugabe and we have the capacity and grass roots support base to achieve that.”
The G40 grouping, comprised of younger Zanu-PF members, is focusing on helping Mugabe win next year’s elections as Mnangagwa’s backers angle for revenge, setting the stage for heightened political uncertainty that could further dent the country’s economic recovery.
Mnangagwa, fired by Mugabe this week for plotting to oust the 93-year-old ruler, enjoys the backing of a faction of war veterans whose leaders have also been ousted from Zanu-PF.
They are working with the so-called Lacoste faction in the party, which consists of older party members loyal to Mnangagwa, whose members also face being ousted.
The G40 grouping, fronted by Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo and Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, is determined to defend Mugabe and ensure that he is supported as the “one centre of power” in Zanu-PF.
Kasukuwere and Moyo had earlier faced corruption allegations for abusing the party’s funds but appear to have escaped those.
Kasukuwere, who is also political commissar for Zanu-PF, told City Press by phone on Friday that the next move for the party was now to campaign for Mugabe ahead of elections and to push for economic revival.
Zimbabwe is battling acute cash shortages and the Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo said on Thursday that the country’s budget deficit would balloon to $1.8bn (almost R26bn) by the end of this year from $400m (almost R5.8bn) a year earlier, amid galloping inflation.
“We have ousted those who wanted to disturb the president and now the focus will be on the economy and on campaigning for President Mugabe to win elections next year,” said Kasukuwere.
He dismissed speculation that Mugabe would now move to oust him and Moyo as well as others that pushed for Mnangagwa’s ousting, saying:
“When you are in politics you just have to be loyal and humble before the president, unlike Mnangagwa who became hard-headed.”
This comes as Zanu-PF’s provincial structures have moved to oust the former vice-president’s allies after its politburo endorsed Mnangagwa’s ousting, including Cabinet ministers such as Patrick Chinamasa, Oppah Muchinguri and Josiah Hungwe, and other provincial leaders.
The war veterans grouping sympathetic to Mnangagwa says it will work with him to wrestle power from Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, and prevent him from handing the baton to his wife, Grace Mugabe.
“We have looked at what he is representing as he brings forward a method to chart the way forward. Mnangagwa is a war veteran himself and he identifies with us in his methodology to fight misrule and to right the economy on behalf of Zimbabweans,” Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) spokesperson, Douglas Mahiya, told City Press on Friday.
Chris Mutsvangwa, leader of the ZNLWVA, said earlier this week that removing Mugabe through force was not an option, saying it was not proper to “abuse the military to resolve a political” problem.
“Our principles protect the people against misrule and the economy. Mnangagwa was fired from his post not only because of his allegations but because of the removal of war veterans from the affairs of Zimbabwe,” said Mahiya.
Mnangagwa’s loyalists have also not ruled out the former vice-president joining opposition parties after Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change invited him to join opposition politics.
Joice Mujuru, who was fired by Mugabe as vice-president of Zimbabwe in 2014, has since launched a career in opposition politics and is in talks to form a united coalition against Mugabe.
But the Zimbabwean first family appears to be taking recent developments in their stride, with Mugabe presiding over the renaming of the Harare International Airport to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport on Thursday.
Mugabe warned this week that “short cuts” to power may bring death, a stark warning to Mnangagwa whom Grace Mugabe accuses of plotting coups since 1980.
Grace has apparently been thrust into a greater position to take over from Mugabe amid calls by Zanu-PF structures for her to be appointed Mugabe’s deputy at an extraordinary congress scheduled for mid-December.
Mugabe said this week that the party would address the concerns of the Women’s League for the party to appoint a female vice-president at the special congress.