HARARE – As Zanu PF’s succession wars reach a deadly climax, former State Security minister, Didymus Mutasa — who was for decades one of President Robert Mugabe’s closest confidants — has warned that things “could end very badly” for his longtime boss, the ruling party and the country as a whole if they are not carefully managed.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Mutasa said he was so worried about the former liberation movement’s worsening infighting that he had for some time now been trying to get in touch with Mugabe to warn him over the “looming disaster” in the country over the succession debacle.
Mutasa was sacked from Zanu PF together with former Vice President Joice Mujuru and other liberation stalwarts, in the run-up to the party’s hotly-disputed 2014 congress, on untested charges of plotting to unseat Mugabe.
His warning comes as Zanu PF is planning to hold a special congress in December, whose main agenda appears to be the further sidelining and demolition of under-fire Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his allies — as the factional quest to determine Mugabe’s succession reaches a tipping point.
“I have tried to phone him with little success. His phone is just ringing and not being answered, but I will keep on trying.
“We don’t want this worsening chaos. We need to sit down and come up with a way forward for the country, not these dangerous fights. As it is, things could end very badly for everyone,” Mutasa warned.
“Indeed, it is very disturbing for me as someone who was in Zanu PF to see the party imploding like this, and we cannot let this party go that route.
“I would like to speak to the old man. Zanu PF used to be run very smoothly from 2004 to 2014. Now, it is war everywhere while the people of Zimbabwe are suffering,” he added
With Zanu PF divided right in the middle over the party’s unresolved succession riddle, the factional feuds took an ominous turn in August when Mnangagwa fell sick during an interface rally in Gwanda — which his backers said was allegedly a poison attack by his G40 enemies.
The Midlands godfather was later airlifted to South Africa where he received emergency surgery. He subsequently issued a statement denying that his illness was caused by ice cream from the First Family’s Gushungo Dairies, although he has consistently suggested that he was poisoned.
Recently, Mnangagwa again suggested to hordes of his supporters who had converged at Mupandawana Growth Point in Gutu, for the late Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa’s memorial service, that he was poisoned in the same way Mahofa was in 2015.
In the current wars, the Lacoste group is backing Mnangagwa to succeed Mugabe, while the G40 is bitterly opposed to his mooted higher ambitions.
Mugabe has consistently refused to name a successor, arguing that it is Zanu PF that must decide this issue through a congress when the time comes.
The ruling party last held its congress in Harare three years ago, where it sacked Mujuru and several other senior officials who included Mutasa over the untested allegations of plotting to unseat Mugabe.
At the weekend, all provinces approved the plan to have a special congress which will see Zanu PF amending its constitution to pave the way for executive changes at the December indaba.
There are also moves to amend Zanu PF’s constitution to re-introduce a clause to have a woman in the party’s presidium, which was originally presented as a women’s league resolution at the annual conference that was held in Victoria Falls in December 2015.
Both insiders and political analysts agree that the move is “a transparent plot” to stymie Mnangagwa’s presidential prospects, and to possibly replace him immediately as VP with Grace.
Mutasa also told the Daily News yesterday that he “pities” Mnangagwa, whom he accused of giving Mugabe “unfettered powers and creating a one-centre of power in 2014” — when the Zanu PF constitution was amended to effect the current status quo.
“I was with him (Mnangagwa) while we were in prison during the country’s liberation war. I used to feed him with bread that was brought by my wife.
“The two of us come a long way. We have common friends who told him that what he was doing, denouncing fellow comrades, was wrong.
“But I will not celebrate what he is going through now because it is not in my nature to see people suffering,” the seemingly pained Mutasa said.
The former Speaker of Parliament, also said Mnangagwa was “politically vulnerable” and could soon suffer the same fate that befell Mujuru and other party bigwigs in 2014.
“Mnangagwa can be fired just as we were … He is the one who created the one-centre of power that is now haunting him. Yes, Mnangagwa might be supported by some army generals, but certainly not by everyone,” Mutasa added.
Still, he was very worried that if the succession issue was not managed carefully, it could spawn “serious problems”.
With Zanu PF hurtling towards the crunch congress that could seal the fate of Mnangagwa, Mutasa said he would continue trying to reach out to Mugabe, “to find a peaceful solution” to the party’s raging factional fights.
But he made it clear that in seeking an audience with Mugabe, he was not doing this to discuss his own welfare. “No, not at all”.
This is despite the fact that Mutasa has hit hard times over the past year, and is said to be drowning in debts.
Before his fallout with Mujuru, Mutasa was said to have tried to enlist the services of a cleric seen as close to Mugabe — Father Fidelis Mukonori of the Roman Catholic Church — to help him to talk to the president and let Mugabe see that he was “destroying his own legacy”.
At that time, Mutasa was the convener of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) — a grouping of 19 opposition parties pressing for electoral reforms before the 2018 harmonised polls.
Leaked WikiLeaks cables cite Mukonori’s ties with Mugabe and other senior Zanu PF figures as going back to the days of the liberation struggle in the 1970s.
He is said to have been involved in brokering an end to the Zanu-Zapu conflict in the early 1980s, and was deeply involved in putting together the two parties’ subsequent Unity Accord in 1987. – Daily News