Mupfumira’s arrest and Zanu PF power politics

Priscah Mupfumira
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HARARE — The late former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, responding to Zanu PF threats to crack down hard on corruption, once said: “Everyone in that party would be in jail if we become serious as a country about tackling corruption.”

A private weekly, in an editorial, said President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s repeated comments about zero tolerance for corruption was “all becoming confusing” in his Zanu PF party because “a record of fraud, crime and general crookedness is not a hurdle to one’s political ambitions in the ruling party, it is, in fact, a required qualification”.

Last week the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), which Mnangagwa has reconstituted, announced the arrest of Tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira, who faces a litany of charges from her time as Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister.

The reaction from Zimbabweans was not one of celebrating a blow against corruption, but many were asking: “Why her?”

The perception is that for one to be arrested for corruption in Zanu PF, they must have offended someone powerful, like the president who, because of Zimbabwe’s weak institutions, is believed to have the final word on who gets arrested, and so whose foot did Mupfumira step on to be thrown off the gravy train so spectacularly? Several theories have been advanced.

Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is battling failing health, is being written off in Zanu PF. At the same time, the Zanu PF women’s wing is intensifying its demands for a seat to be reserved for a woman in the presidium.

A stormy Zanu PF politburo meeting recently heard that before the Zanu PF youth league went public with a list of corrupt officials, on which was Mupfumira’s name, they first went to see the party’s chairperson Oppah Muchinguri “who cleared it”.

Muchinguri, who has twice been left as acting president by Mnangagwa due to the absence of his two deputies on health grounds, is determined to elbow out all her female rivals including Mupfumira, Mabel Chinomona and Monica Mutsvangwa, who was also implicated in corruption by the youths through her children Elizabeth and Neville.

“Mupfumira would be an obvious target for Muchinguri because her ministry is a magnet for press coverage and she has been in the media a lot. Because of the international dimension of her ministry’s activities, it also means Mnangagwa has been seen around her a lot. If you’re outside Zanu PF, those things don’t matter much but for the politicians in there competing for the leader’s favour, it’s a big deal,” a top Zanu PF official told ZimLive.

In The Prince, a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, he says that a general rule that never fails is that “he who is the cause of another becoming powerful is ruined; because that predominancy has been brought about either by astuteness or else by force, and both are distrusted by him who has been raised to power”.

Even before Chiwenga was incapacitated by poor health, there were signs that Mnangagwa was moving to vanquish the man who put him where he is as the commander of the armed forces that ousted former president Robert Mugabe.

There are many who contributed to Mnangagwa’s new lofty position who have been discarded. – Zimlive