ZANU PF yesterday summarily fired President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s close allies, youth league leader Pupurai Togarepi and his deputy Lewis Matutu, from its top decision-making body, the politburo, for “indiscipline” after they called out a top party benefactor for allegedly leading cartels at the heart of corruption in the country.
Sources told NewsDay that there was fierce debate at the politburo meeting, with some party heavyweights supporting the youth leaders for attacking business tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei, who they said was the face of
His company, Sakunda Holdings, has been at the centre of several controversies and questionable deals in fuel procurement and the Command Agriculture scheme.
The youth league’s political commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu was fired from his post, with youth league secretary for administration, Tendai Chirau taking over from Matutu in an acting capacity in a day of high drama at the politburo meeting held at the party headquarters.
But Togarepi will remain a central committee member and the party chief whip in Parliament, while Matutu and Tsenengamu are suspended from holding positions for a year, although they will remain ordinary card-carrying members.
Matutu and Tsenengamu were also ordered to undergo a three-month mandatory indoctrination course at the party’s Chitepo School of Ideology.
In his opening address at the meeting, party leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa called for unity in fighting graft, but warned against “misguided activism”.
“The fight to end corruption must gain momentum. In doing so, however, the party’s wings and members across the board must exercise discipline,” he said.
“We must all guard against misguided and misdirected activism, which threaten the party’s unity, cohesion and singleness of purpose.”
Zanu PF secretary for finance, Patrick Chinamasa, standing in for party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo who is reportedly in India for treatment, told journalists after the meeting that the party unanimously agreed to deal with the trio for flouting party procedures.
“The politburo discussed at length, I should emphasise at length, the issue pertaining to a Press briefing which was held by the deputy youth secretary, Lewis Matutu and the political commissar for the youth league, Godfrey Tsenengamu, purportedly in their individual and personal capacities. The politburo took note of this irregular modus operandi, which is alien to the party’s way of doing its business,” Chinamasa said.
“It is also important to highlight that previously it happened and politburo deliberated and specifically gave a directive that the youths — if they have any problem which is of significance to them, they should raise these in a proper forum, raising them with the President, raising them in proper platforms, in this case the politburo.
“They flouted that directive and it is important to say that the party does not condone corruption and has set up structures at party and government levels where these can be approached.”
Some politburo members said the fierce debate was indicative of the ruling party factions at war with each other after some members were heard shouting: “Hakusi kumabarrack kuno, saka usada kutinyaradza. (We are not at the barracks, so don’t shush us.)”, seemingly in reference to Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, a retired former army commander.
Tagwirei is seen as being closer to Chiwenga and the face of his business interests. He sits in Mnangagwa’s advisory council, while his Sakunda company is a major financier of the government’s Command Agriculture programme, which provides fuel, fertilisers and seed for farmers, but is in the eye of a storm after failing to account for US$3,2 billion it received from the State in 2017 and 2018 agricultural season without parliamentary approval.
At their Press conference held on Monday, the youth leaders also named Green Fuels boss Billy Rautenbach and Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe chairperson Tafadzwa Musarara, who they said with the help of the central bank, they had monopolised the economy, fiddled with foreign currency exchange rates, while allegedly corruptly grabbing all government tenders.
Chinamasa said the youth were supposed to take their issues through proper channels and to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission or police with evidence, adding that their claims were unsubstantiated.
“In this light, we felt that the departure from the directive, the violation of the directive of the politburo was an act of indiscipline and that it called for severe punishment. It unanimously decided that this indiscipline within the party would not be tolerated,” Chinamasa said.
Sources said at some point, the debate seemed to take a factional angle that linked some party bigwigs as cartel leaders protecting the corrupt individuals named. The sources said there was a spirited push to have the youths fired from the party, especially from elements in Chiwenga’s corner.
But after a fierce clash, there was a decision to kick Togarepi and Matutu out of the politburo and Tsenengamu out of the youth league.
Chris Mutsvangwa, Tsitsi Muzenda and Lovemore Matuke, among others reportedly, backed the youths.
Muzenda reportedly told Mnangagwa that firing the trio from the party would silence debate within Zanu PF.
“We stand with the youths for their courage and principled stance against corruption. We can’t be bullied into operating like we are in a barrack. They are speaking what is at the hearts of many people and they were right. Never think that the boys lost on this one. They have the support of the politburo,” one politburo member confirmed with NewsDay.
The source said Mutsvangwa told the politburo that while the trio had violated standing orders, their concerns were genuine and not motivated by bad intentions and, therefore, not deserving punitive punishment.