HARARE – Intra-Zanu PF tension is scaling new heights ahead of President Robert Mugabe’s rally in Gweru tomorrow, as the ruling party’s warring factions leave no stone unturned in their bid to score major political points at the high-profile gathering, the Daily News can reveal.
This comes amid widespread acceptance in the strife-torn ruling party that the Midlands, together with Masvingo Province, is the bedrock of Team Lacoste, the faction that is backing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his mooted bid to succeed Mugabe.
Gweru is hosting the 93-year-old for his sixth instalment of the meticulously planned and keenly-followed youth interface rallies.
The Midlands gathering comes at a time relations are severely strained in Zanu PF following the alleged poisoning of Mnangagwa at the nonagenarian’s Gwanda rally earlier this month.
It also comes after Mugabe lashed at senior party officials in Masvingo and the Midlands last week, accusing them of sullying his name and that of Zanu PF by allegedly claiming that Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler was practising witchcraft on his lieutenants.
Sources in Zanu PF’s Midlands provincial executive admitted to the Daily News yesterday that tomorrow’s meeting had raised temperatures in the region, with the hosts accusing the rival Generation 40 (G40) faction of mobilising support to cause chaos and confusion at the rally which is likely to be massive.
They also claimed that the G40 had mobilised thousands of supporters from Harare and other parts of the country for this “nefarious purpose”.
“We also know that they (the G40) are going to have a road show in Kwekwe, which they perceive to be a Mnangagwa territory. They also believe the Al Shabaab group (a Zanu PF-linked vigilante outfit) will try to stop them, which will allow them to blame whatever outcome will emerge on Mnangagwa.
“The intelligence we have gathered is that apart from looking to causing clashes, the G40 wants to plant rowdy people near the main-stage in Gweru to embarrass the president and then also blame Midlands province for being disrespectful,” a regional executive member told the Daily News.
In the meantime, the G40 was said to be sending WhatsApp messages to Zanu PF supporters to descend on Gweru and witness “the burial” of the Team Lacoste faction.
“On Friday 01-09-2017 kune (there will be) burial yeLacoste ku Midlands paMkoba open space. Munhu wese anokokwa (everyone is invited) to witness the funeral service.
“Please come in your numbers,” one of the messages which were allegedly being circulated by the G40 on social media ahead of tomorrow’s rally said.
Munyaradzi Shoko, said to be a member of the Children of War Veterans Association (Cozwa) — and who has been fingered as one of the alleged kingpins in some recent terror campaigns against Zanu PF officials — also stood accused yesterday of rallying G40 supporters to attend the Gweru rally.
“Believe it or not team, Lacoste is dead and the group has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that it’s a group of political daydreamers . . . after failing to remove Robert Mugabe several times just like the MDC and Tsvangirai.
“They once formed Mavambo and failed, they formed NDP and failed, lastly their popular Blue Ocean document has failed dismally,” Shoko wrote on his Facebook wall.
In July, Zanu PF supporters turned on Cozwa after an angry Mugabe had finished his address in Lupane where he disowned rogue youths who were terrorising ordinary citizens using his wife’s name.
Mugabe was left seething with anger when he was briefed on how Cozwa had used the name of Grace to extort money from poor Zimbabweans.
What appeared to have particularly upset Mugabe was that the terror groups were moving in vehicles emblazoned with pictures of his smiling wife — and telling off police officers that they were carrying out their anarchy on behalf of the first family and Zanu PF.
Senior Zanu PF official Jeppy Jaboon, an alleged G40 kingpin who was recently relieved of his duties as Masvingo provincial political commissar, told the Daily News yesterday that they were mobilising members to attend tomorrow’s rally.
“Masvingo is not an extension of Midlands. However, as a province we are going to Midlands to support our iconic leader Mugabe and the youth league,” Jaboon, who insists that he is still the province’s political commissar, said.
Zanu PF Midlands provincial spokesperson, Cornelius Mupereri, also told the Daily News yesterday they were not leaving anything to chance ahead of Mugabe’s rally, and that they had beefed up security for the gathering.
“Preparations for the rally are going on very well and let anyone who would wants to cause problems be warned that the law will take its course.
“As Midlands province, we are ready to receive the president and hear what he has to say. I repeat, if anyone tries to do otherwise, the law will take its course.
“We will make sure that such persons are punished. As Midlands, we have also told our people that no one will walk out . . . we are not looking forward to anyone veering off-course,” Mupereri said.
Tomorrow’s rally comes at a time there are worsening divisions in Zanu PF following the alleged poisoning of Mnangagwa in Gwanda, which prompted him to be airlifted to neighbouring South Africa for medical treatment.
The government has said that Mnangagwa — seen as the most likely party official to take over from Mugabe in the event that he leaves office — consumed “stale food”.
However, Mnangagwa’s family and allies insist that the vice president was allegedly poisoned by his rivals in the G40 camp.
And Mugabe last Saturday expressed his exasperation with increasing claims of witchcraft in Zanu PF, which he blamed on both Masvingo and Midlands provinces.
“There was unity, not what we are seeing today. This is not the Masvingo we knew. We hear they even identify witches and wizards.
“We now hear that even the president is one. This is coming from Masvingo and Midlands. Ah, why now when we came all the way? We don’t have wizards in Zanu PF, we only have people who lose party ideology.
“We were worried and are still worried by lack of ideological knowledge. You hear people, someone has fallen sick and they say aroiwa (that person has been bewitched),” Mugabe said during the burials of Moudy Muzenda and George Rutanhire at the National Heroes Acre last week.
University of Zimbabwe politics expert Eldred Masunungure said Mugabe was likely to opt for a middle-line approach in Gweru to avoid inflaming the already poisoned environment in the ruling party.
“He will not try to antagonise Mnangagwa’s allies . . . he is likely to tone down anti-Mnangagwa utterances,” Masunungure said.
Another political analyst Shakespear Hamauswa said Mugabe’s Gweru rally was not likely to change the current political dynamics in Zanu PF.
“The visit will not change the current dynamics . . . Midlands will remain the rallying point for Ngwena’s (Mnangagwa’s) presidential bid. That can only change if a successor is selected,” he said.
Zanu PF has for the past two decades been deeply divided over Mugabe’s succession.
Many observers, as well as Zanu PF insiders, have consistently said Mugabe’s failure to groom and name a successor is fuelling the ugly fights in the ruling party.
But Mugabe has so far refused to name his successor, arguing that the Zanu PF constitution does not allow him as it leaves that role to the party to decide who succeeds him, via a congress.
His other longtime aide and current Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, has recently emerged as one of the serious contenders to succeed him.