Zanu PF officials defy WikiLeaks
HARARE – Zanu PF has warned its bigwigs to watch their mouths when meeting with American envoys amid revelations that party “stalwarts” last week clandestinely met United States ambassador Bruce Wharton.
Party spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo yesterday told the Daily News that Zanu PF has not sanctioned any meetings with American representatives “on any issue”, yet some officials have already been holding talks with Wharton. Wharton confirmed the meetings describing those he met as stalwarts who were “very smart, progressive patriots”.
“As far as we are concerned we have no scheduled meetings with the Americans and people have to be careful what they say and do. Remember the WikiLeaks saga, a lot of our officials were fingered and reported to have said a lot of things,” Gumbo told the Daily News.
“Sometimes it is not in the interest of the party to meet with these people (Americans). We have not acted on the WikiLeaks saga but that is not to say nothing will be done. It depends on what people say,” said Gumbo.
“The danger is that at the moment we do not know what they (party stalwarts) said or did in those meetings,” he said without elaborating if Zanu PF would investigate.
Wharton literally put the proverbial cat among the pigeons by disclosing he had met top Zanu PF officials without revealing their names.
“On the 27th, I had breakfast with two Zanu PF stalwarts. Very smart, progressive patriots interested in looking ahead, not backwards.
“So, my Christmas week has been full of family and warmth, but also filled with a wide range of proud Zimbabweans, people who want the best for this country and whose skills and experiences can all serve the nation. Onward to 2013,” said Wharton in a post on his social networking site Facebook wall.
Sharon Hudson-Dean, the counsellor for public affairs at the American embassy in Harare confirmed the Facebook account belonged to Wharton.
“I can confirm that is Ambassador Wharton’s account but I have been away and would need to talk to the ambassador so that I can be able to comment comprehensively,” she said.
Gumbo’s comments reveal a deep-seated fear not only of fissures but also possible alliances between the so called “progressive and smart stalwarts” and forces fighting to dislodge Mugabe and his former liberation movement that has presided over Zimbabwe since independence from British rule 32 years ago.
Mugabe’s advanced age has prompted murmurings of discontent with his candidature for the upcoming elections putting a damper on Zanu PF’s prospects in the general election expected later this year.
Whistle blower website WikiLeaks in the past three years revealed officials close to Mugabe including his deputy Joice Mujuru, ministers and senior security officials met with different American envoys discussing the Zanu PF leader’s secretive health and the emotive succession issue.
In 2011, WikiLeaks released a cable in which aides told the then American ambassador, James Mcgee in 2008, that the octogenarian leader had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Zanu PF propagandist and political chameleon, Jonathan Moyo confided in US officials that Mugabe was fighting a deadly battle with cancer, according to the diplomatic cables. US officials described Moyo as a “useful messenger”.
Already internal fist fights have emerged with distinct camps that Mugabe has acknowledged exist openly fighting for control of Zanu PF.
One is reportedly headed by Mujuru and another by party legal secretary and defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Gumbo has previously called on officials named in the WikiLeaks saga to “search their conscience”.
Wharton, who is not new to Zimbabwe, seems to be enjoying a breath of fresh air after previously admitting the WikiLeaks diplomatic leaks were affecting efforts to meet politicians from across the spectrum.
The new US envoy ingratiated himself well with the local fraternity during his stay in Zimbabwe as an embassy public affairs officer and spokesperson between 1999- 2003.
But the WikiLeaks saga made Wharton’s job difficult, at a time he desperately needed to feel the pulse in Zanu PF and the MDC-not from kowtowing NGO leaders telling him what they know he wants to hear.
“WikiLeaks has come up in my conversations. People are concerned,” the 58-year-old diplomat said in December after failing to meet Bulawayo governor and politburo member Cain Mathema.