HARARE – With the long-mooted court action by disaffected Zanu PF stalwarts now set to reach the bench as early as tomorrow, the likelihood of the ruling party splitting into two bitterly opposed camps is becoming more real.
The spokesperson for the aggrieved party pioneers, Rugare Gumbo, told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that they were hopeful that their court challenge regarding the alleged illegality of the Zanu PF disputed damp squib “elective” congress — that was held in Harare late last year — would begin tomorrow.
“…Yes, the court papers should be filed at the High Court on Monday.
“Everything that’s needed to be done has been done and we are now ready. I can’t say much more now because the court process will determine everything,” Gumbo said.
A well-placed source also confirmed the imminence of the court action, revealing further that “several top legal brains in the country have volunteered to work on the application, which is going to be one of the most bruising and intriguing legal battles ever fought in Zimbabwean courts”.
“There are dozens of affidavits from bona fide Zanu PF members, party officials and others who were illegally kicked out by the illegal congress.
“This court case will expose President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF as tyrants who think they are above the law. It will be a very interesting case for the judges because the illegalities around that fake congress are so obvious and glaring, and there for all to see,” the source said.
Retired, but hugely respected party elder, Cephas Msipa, was among the first prominent party members to criticise Mugabe openly last year for failing to deal with Zanu PF’s often violent infighting and for refusing to take advice on the party’s escalating factionalism.
In an interview with the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, that was carried in mid October last year, Msipa said pointedly that he feared for the worst for Zanu PF if intra-party relations remained as fractious as they were in the ruling party.
“If people continue being dissatisfied with what is happening, it is possible to have a split. I think the president has the key to all these issues. I hate factionalism and if it continues I don’t know what will become of the party,” he said ruefully.
Msipa also bluntly warned Mugabe that his failure to unmask and stop the party’s real factionalists would result in the party imploding and splitting into several opposing camps.
He also attacked the party faction aligned to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa for behaving as if it “owned” Grace Mugabe — a development that he said was fuelling factionalism inside the party.
Among the disaffected party stalwarts are former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa ,who has courted the ire of his erstwhile Zanu PF comrades by continuing to present himself as the ruling party’s legitimate secretary for administration despite being “expelled” from the party last Wednesday.
In a no-holds-barred statement he signed last year, Mutasa called for the nullification of all “purported constitutional amendments drafted and railroaded immediately before this so-called congress”, as well as the restoration of the “elective dignity of congress and the one-man one-vote principle as enunciated by our armed struggle and constitution”.
Gumbo also told the Daily News on Friday that the purported expulsion of Mutasa and his voluble nephew Temba Mliswa from the former liberation movement had made the party stalwarts even more determined to fix the troubled ruling party.
“We expected this to happen (the expulsion of Mliswa and Mutasa), but the most important thing is that this will not stop us from doing what we have always been doing to bring democracy to the party,” a defiant Gumbo said.
Gumbo’s sentiments came in the wake of another scathing press statement released by Mutasa on Thursday in which he described his purported expulsion as “null and void and a serious breach of our party constitution and indeed the Constitution of Zimbabwe”.
“Over and above this, this Disciplinary Committee (which allegedly looked into his case) is improperly constituted anyway given that, the (party’s disputed December) congress and the First Secretary of the party unlawfully breached the party constitution by failing to elect the party national chairperson, who is the only one who can chair such a meeting,” he added.
Amid this ongoing acrimony, many Zanu PF members fear that Mugabe, who turned 91 yesterday, has abdicated his powers to his much younger wife, Grace, whose return from her two-month sojourn in the Far East a week ago marked the demise of not only Mutasa and Mliswa, but also former Masvingo State minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti who was fired on Thursday night.
And with the ranks of disaffected party members swelling by the day, Gumbo said Mugabe and party hawks should brace themselves not only for their impending court challenge, but also for “other programmes aimed at restoring legitimacy” to Zanu PF.
A relaxed Mutasa also added fuel to the fire raging within the warring Zanu PF when he also stated matter-of-factly on Thursday that Grace was now indisputably in charge of the ruling party and not her ailing nonagenarian husband.
Mutasa, for long a close confidante of Mugabe and a former Cabinet minister in charge of the country’s spooks, said Grace was now unequivocally the “centre of power” in the ruling party.
“Yes. I expected it (his purported expulsion). They said so a long time ago. They were waiting for the first lady. Now she is back and they have shown where the centre of their power is.
“However, they did not specify which Zanu PF they expelled me from, the real one which puts people first, or the unlawful one to which they belong to.
“To remove all doubt, it must be stated that I remain a member of the original lawful Zanu PF. I never belonged to the illegal Zanu PF which does not care about people. It cares about its leaders only,” the seemingly unflappable Mutasa said.
Confusion still abounds as to when Zanu PF’s disciplinary committee met to reach its decisions on Mutasa and Mliswa, amid conflicting reports from lickspittle State media — raising suspicion that the decision may have been arrived at long before Grace returned from the Far East.
Mutasa’s comments regarding Grace’s undue influence in Zanu PF came as social media speculation around the issue last week, amid snide comments to the effect that Mugabe had allegedly accompanied Grace to Wednesday’s politburo meeting that ostensibly took the decision to expel Mutasa.
The frenetic online debates came after lickspittle State media showed images of Grace surprisingly sitting next to Mugabe in the politburo meeting, and not second vice president Phelekezela Mphoko, as would normally be demanded by protocol.
Mutasa’s comments also followed those made by former war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda late last year, who was quoted saying, “I am not going to allow any coup both in the boardroom and in the bedroom” at the height of the Grace-fronted anarchy that is still devouring Zanu PF.
So biting and resonant with ordinary Zimbabweans was that quote that it ultimately contributed to authorities dragging the popular war veteran to court where he is facing charges of insulting or undermining Mugabe’s authority.