HARARE – President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is in turmoil as party heavyweights publicly continue to clash as the battle to succeed the 89-year-old leader reaches boiling point.
Chaotic and controversial provincial elections, which have been marred by massive vote-rigging, intimidation and vote-buying, have laid bare the factional fighting between a camp led by Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and another fronted by vice president Joice Mujuru.
So brutal has been the fight that the ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services has been roped into the storm amid accusations and counter-accusations between the ministry and officials in the party.
In an unprecedented development, the factional fights have spilled over to the State media where top Zanu PF officials are engaging in vicious wars of words.
The ministry of Information has entered the fray arguing that they are articulating Mugabe’s position on the provincial elections but Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo is refusing to budge saying Information minister Jonathan Moyo and permanent secretary George Charamba have no business commenting on Zanu PF.
Yesterday, Gumbo accused Moyo of indulging in Orwellian spin saying the minister and those backing him were seeking to have provincial election results reversed.
Gumbo said that plans to nullify the Mashonaland Central results, due to be put before the politburo on Wednesday, would not pass the test.
Gumbo had no kind words for Moyo and Charamba in an interview with the Daily News yesterday.
Charamba told the media last week that his boss had instructed him to make it clear that the politburo has not as yet received results for Mashonaland Central province.
He said it was only when the politburo has been favoured with both the results and the accompanying report that it will be in a position to study both before taking a decision.
Gumbo contradicted the instruction ostensibly given by Mugabe to his spokesperson, saying he was the spokesperson of the party and no one else.
But in a statement issued by Moyo, he advised that the president’s directive as conveyed through Charamba was the correct and only official position regarding the status of the results of the Zanu PF elections for the provincial executive in Mashonaland Central.
Luke Mushore was declared winner in Mashonaland Central against incumbent Dickson Mafios.
“There can be no executive authority in Zanu PF higher than the party’s President and first secretary,” said the statement.
“Any suggestion or claim to the contrary is mischievous to the extreme.”
But Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday that as far as his office was concerned, polls went well and the announced results stand.
“Jonathan Moyo is a government minister and I am the party spokesperson, and what I said, I said so after consulting relevant people,” Gumbo said.
“The party is not run from the ministry of Information, it is run from the party’s headquarters,” Gumbo said, adding: “Government is not bigger than the party.”
Provincial elections were held in Manicaland, Midlands and Mashonaland Central where John Mvundura, Jason Machaya and Luke Mushore were respectively declared winners, amid accusations of vote-rigging through the use of fake voting slips.
Mugabe was briefed on the events in Mashonaland Central where six districts did not vote.
Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema, who was the presiding officer in the hotly-disputed election, was yet to give his report when the Mashonaland Central results were announced on radio.
Citing irregularities and the outstanding vote in those six districts, senior Zanu PF officials recommended the nullification of the results.
Party insiders say Nhema, the man who should have announced the results in Bindura, the provincial capital, refused to do so due to irregularities noted in the vote, forcing Gumbo to make the announcement.
A top Zanu PF insider yesterday insisted that Gumbo was wrong and accused the party spokesperson of defying Mugabe using Moyo and Charamba as shields.
“Cde Gumbo is not serious. Either he is foolish or he is fighting the president. How else do you define his strange behaviour? Firstly, the president has come up with a position and he is defying him. How can he announce results on TV and national newspapers without briefing the party first. Even the president is getting results from the media, is that not strange?
“In Manicaland, Cde Mnangagwa announced the poll results there and then in Midlands, Cde Muchinguri (Oppah) did the same, but why did Gumbo, a national spokesperson, do so for Mashonaland Central?” queried the party source. “ ran away with the Mashonaland Central results and report only for Gumbo to appear in the press announcing the results. It’s ridiculous.”
Gumbo said the results he announced stood.
“The results I announced stand as presented by Cde Francis Nhema, the election coordinator,” Gumbo told the Daily News. “I announced the results representing the party and not individual interests. I will not pander to self-interest of certain ambitious individuals. I talk for the politburo and the central committee.”
The stand-off reflects deepening and increasingly widening cleavages between rival factions aligned to Mujuru and Mnangagwa, girding to takeover the party leadership.
While Moyo said the president’s directive as conveyed through Charamba was the correct and only official position, Gumbo — who is said to be in the Mujuru camp — alleged that Charamba could as well not have been talking on behalf the president “but other interests and is not actively involved in the running of Zanu PF.”
“Charamba is just a mere civil servant and the party is not run by civil servants,” Gumbo told the Daily News.
Gumbo further alleged that Charamba was trying to create a rift between him and the party leader.
“Those are tricks to try and create a rift between me and the president,” Gumbo said.
“But we know each other, we have been in this game for a long time from way back in the 60s, I would never defy the president because I speak for the party.
“I announced the results after getting a brief from Cde Francis Nhema and the secretary for commissariat (Webster Shamu), I don’t speak for myself, I don’t pander to self-interest.”
In addition to the stand-off, there will be a renewed push to endorse elections held in Manicaland, the Midlands and Mashonaland Central provinces amid allegations of vote-rigging which have seen losing candidates challenging the results.
Although Mujuru and Mnangagwa have both denied leading any faction, reports suggest that they are positioning themselves to take over from Mugabe when he leaves either through retirement or natural means.
Insiders yesterday told the Daily News that Mugabe was angry that he was not officially told about the outcome of polls from Mashonaland Central, only to hear the results through State TV.
“Mugabe only got to know of the Mashonaland Central results on television, yet all the other members of the presidium were briefed before. Protocol requires that mukuru (President) must be briefed before an issue becomes public,” said a well-placed party insider.
The Daily News has also been told that Mugabe is receiving daily dosages of reports of the infighting in the Far East where he is on government business. Sources said he is also getting daily briefings of newspaper reports as the faction fighting is now being fought in the media.
Meanwhile, party sources alleged that Ignatius Chombo, the Local Government minister’s suggestion in an interview with a State weekly yesterday that polls should be postponed until the party’s conference in December, was a ploy to buy time for his brother, Nimrod Chiminya, who is vying for the provincial chairmanship post.
Chombo suggested that it would be ideal if polls were to be postponed so that the ruling party would have time to plan.
But officials said the Zvimba North legislator had vested interests in the issue as his brother does not have a huge support base against his competitors, Temba Mliswa, Phillip Chiyangwa and incumbent chair John Mafa.
Polls in Mashonaland West were postponed for two weeks amid allegations of vote-buying by some contestants.