THE battle over who will succeed President Robert Mugabe is reportedly turning bloody, with the late Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa allegedly becoming the latest casualty from suspected food poisoning at the party’s 2015 December conference held in Victoria Falls after speaking out her mind on the sensitive topic.
By Tatenda Chitagu
Mahofa, who was 76 and a strong ally of embattled Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was pronounced dead on arrival at Makurira Hospital on Monday after collapsing at her home around 3:30am.
Zanu PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke claimed she had succumbed to the 2015 “food poisoning” incident.
“Since 2015, when she left the Victoria Falls conference because of ill health due to reported poisoning, she had been battling a lot of ailments,” he said.
There are two rival factions in Zanu PF — one angling for Mnangagwa, who is also suspected to have been poisoned last week at a rally in Gwanda, to take over — while another, with the backing of First Lady Grace Mugabe, is reportedly pushing for Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi to take over.
The two factions have been fiercely jockeying for the top job and brawling in the media, although it seems the wars have gone out of hand.
Mahofa’s daughter, Fungai, said the Gutu Senator and politburo member did not fully recover since the 2015 “poisoning” incident.
“We are saddened by her death because she had recovered very well from the 2015 incident,” Fungai told NewsDay Weekender on Wednesday at the family’s Rhodene residence in Masvingo at the funeral wake.
Prior to the alleged food poisoning incident ahead of the 2015 conference, Mahofa, nicknamed “Chikoforo” (cultivator) and “Iron Lady of Masvingo”, had openly indicated that she was against Grace taking over from her husband.
Speaking at the inter-district meeting held at Masvingo Teachers’ College in November 2015, just a month before the conference where she was allegedly poisoned, Mahofa said as a province, they were rallying behind Mugabe and warned those pushing for his wife to take over to remember Grace was just the women’s league boss.
“There are some in the party who want to tarnish the image of the First Lady and trying to destroy Zanu PF in the Press by linking her to some posts. We chose the First Lady as leader of the women’s league,” she said.
“We have one centre of power in Zanu PF, namely Baba VaMugabe, yet others say they want to replace him with someone. Makambozvionepi izvozvo? (Where have you seen that happen?) To those who are doing it, I say: ‘Stop it’!” Mahofa said then, much to the applause of the delegates.
She was to spend months hospitalised in South Africa and returned to work frail.
Mahofa is not the only one who has reportedly been a victim of the party’s factional wars.
The late Midlands provincial heroine, Espinah Nhari, died in 2016 in a head-on collision, with her family claiming that the suspended Zanu PF women’s boss was assassinated for her anti-G40 faction chant at a campaign rally addressed by Grace in Gutu in 2015.
Addressing mourners in Kwekwe before her burial at the Midlands Provincial Heroes’ Acre in Gweru, Nhari’s son, Rodgers, said prior to her death, she received death threats from anonymous callers.
He said the callers felt offended by the women’s league’s secretary for administration’s “Down with G40” chant at the rally, adding the horrific accident, which claimed her life, was engineered by her detractors in the ruling party.
“My mother is dead because of [the] Gutu [rally]. But what happened at that rally, she did not attack anyone, but only spoke out against people who were sending her threatening chats. But she became the victim instead,” Rodgers said.
He said he knew some Zanu PF officials who allegedly hounded his mother until her death in the head-on collision just outside Kadoma.
“I know some of you are here and you are happy. That’s not a problem, but we will win this battle. I have threatening messages, over 20 of them, which were sent to my mother,” Rodgers continued.
He told mourners that his mother had been approached and pressured to ask for forgiveness over her chant, but she refused.
“A lot of people asked my mother to ask for forgiveness, but she was principled and refused to sell her soul to the devil. Likewise, I will not sell my soul to the devil,” he said.
Nhari, a close Mnangagwa ally, was suspended from her women’s league post shortly after her “Down with G40” chant and was one of the 36 party members set to have their suspensions reviewed by Zanu PF’s disciplinary tribunal, headed by Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko.- NewsDay