Knives out for Mnangagwa
HARARE – A Zanu PF faction led by Defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa fears he may be the target of a suspected factional crackdown that led to the suspension of the Mike Madiro-led executive over alleged embezzlement of over $700 000.
Top Zanu PF insiders yesterday told the Daily News on Sunday that there are mounting fears that a process of “freezing out” the Mnangagwa faction is starting in the wake of a damning report into financial malpractices arising from cash allegedly collected from diamond mining firms in Chiadzwa.
Until now, Mnangagwa has been a powerful figure leading the race to succeed President Robert Mugabe.
On Friday, secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, said to be sympathetic to the Joice Mujuru faction, served suspension letters on Madiro — a key Mnangagwa loyalist -— together with youth provincial chairperson Tawanda Mukodza, youth provincial secretary for administration Mubuso Chinguno, youth provincial secretary for security Admire Mahachi and Clever Mparutsa.
All the officials were suspended from carrying any duties or activities in the name of the party.
“This is in light of the current investigations being conducted by the ZRP into allegations of fraud, corruption, theft, embezzlement, or dishonesty that have been levelled against you,” their letter of suspension said.
“By copy of this letter, therefore, you are hereby suspended with immediate effect without prejudice to any due processes that may ensue in line with the constitution of the party.”
The attempt to sideline Mnangagwa loyalists over corruption allegations will undermine his campaign that has been running for the past four years to win public support for his position as Mugabe’s heir apparent.
The strategy has been largely successful, showing growing backing for him to take over from Mugabe.
The Mnangagwa faction has been uneasy for some time that their influence could be diminished from corruption charges, which are now being handled by the police.
Mutasa said the suspensions were based on the police probe.
Now the Mnangagwa faction, which was rebuilding its base from the foiled 2004 Tsholotsho coup plot, is anxious the Defence supremo may be targeted in this latest debacle.
The 2004 plot sought to block the elevation of Mujuru to the vice presidency, and at the end, it claimed the scalp of six provincial chairpersons, including Madiro.
Ironically, investigations into the Manicaland diamond saga were reportedly initiated by Mujuru when she was the acting president during Mugabe’s annual vacation in December.
Such worries came remarkably to the fore last week, when charges against the Manicaland executive were pursued even though affidavits deposed by diamond mining executives suggested that no cash exchanged hands.
Given that the matter was brought to the attention of the police by Mutasa, who in turn alerted Mujuru, the Mnangagwa faction thinks this is just the start of a process that could be aimed at freezing the Chirimhanzu-Zibagwe legislator’s succession bid.
The faction’s concerns are growing after the ousting of the Madiro executive —which now faces criminal prosecution.
Madiro has been one of Mnangagwa’s staunchest supporters because he helped co-ordinate many schemes in the faction, having served as financial director of the party at one point.
Faction loyalists feel that the diamonds cash scandal was a distraction, overshadowing the Mnangagwa faction’s work, including constructing the first conference centre for the party outside Harare.
“It’s pretty obvious that the political knives are out for Ngwena (Mnangagwa),” said a Mnangagwa faction member who is also a Zanu PF consultative assembly member.
Like other aides spoken to, he also declined to be named. He claimed the suspensions were a way to wield “political knives” to attack Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed Mugabe, expressing disappointment that affidavits from diamond executives clearly stating that no cash exchanged hands were ignored.
“There is no credible evidence, all the diamond companies have said they did not give them any money, isn’t that right?” said a politburo member loyal to the Ngwena faction.
“We know their plan to suspend the suspension after the elections.
“All of the evidence confronts them, frankly … we just did not see enough time spent on discussing those issues. They just wanted to suspend them.”
A former Zanu PF provincial chairperson warned that it was such “injustices” that catalysed the so-called bhora musango strategy.
“The guys who have been loyal to Madiro can clearly see this is victimisation. Do you expect such people to campaign for the party? We are shooting ourselves in the foot here.”
Mnangagwa was unreachable yesterday.
None of the faction’s top officials have abandoned him, meaning Mujuru faction’s loyalists would have to resort to procedural tactics to try to nail him.
A distraught Madiro, who was suspended from Zanu PF for five years from 2005 but bounced back as chairperson, has pleaded his innocence, saying he is at loss of words why he has been singled out for vindictive treatment. – Gift Phiri, Political Editor