HARARE – Warring Zanu PF factions almost came to blows right under the nose of President Robert Mugabe, when the increasingly frail nonagenarian addressed a rally at Chamisa Primary School in Gutu on Friday.
The major bone of contention between party supporters loyal to embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa (Team Lacoste) and those rabidly opposed to the Midlands godfather succeeding Mugabe, the Generation 40 (G40) group, was about who would take charge of the rally — in a province seen as one of two strongholds for the beleaguered VP.
But eyewitnesses told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that spirited attempts by the Mnangagwa camp to block their avowed enemies from superintending over proceedings ended in defeat after Mugabe openly declared his confidence in the Masvingo party leadership — dominated by ambitious G40 Young Turks — taking charge.
Mugabe also made it clear during his address that it was now time for party stalwarts to hand the leadership baton to youths — a message that left Team Lacoste members seething with anger as they interpreted it to mean that the nonagenarian was “once again” favouring the G40 at their expense.
Zanu PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, had apparently started the “drubbing” earlier in the day after he told the province’s political leadership that regional commissar, Jappy Jaboon — who is said to be a member of the G40 faction — would be the master of ceremonies.
“Before this and the president’s arrival, chief whip Lovemore Matuke and politburo members Shuvai Mahofa and Josiah Hungwe, who are kingpin Lacoste members, had tried hard to block Jaboon from taking charge of the rally.
“They also tried to block acting chairperson Amasi Nenjana from sitting at the high table on the grounds that he is not the substantive chair. But this was robustly resisted by G40 faction members,” a senior regional Zanu PF bigwig who said he witnessed the spectacle claimed.
Another source also revealed that before Kasukuwere’s decisive intervention, Jaboon had allegedly been called off from the podium by Matuke, but refused to budge — resulting in “an ugly and embarrassing standoff”.
“When he arrived, Tyson (Kasukuwere) took both Jaboon and Matuke to the sidelines for at least 30 minutes as he tried to cool tempers.
“Many harsh words were exchanged between Matuke and Jaboon and only the intervention of Kasukuwere stopped them from exchanging blows. All the while the sickly Mahofa, who now walks with the aid of a stick, and Hungwe, were barking in Matuke’s corner.
“The situation was so tense, with both factions exchanging bad words. However, Tyson used his powers and force of presence, openly telling Matuke to take the back bench while directing Nenjana to sit close to the president,” the second Zanu PF official said.
A Team Lacoste source told the Daily News on Sunday that his camp was very angry about what had happened because “Gutu and Masvingo are our strongholds and the G40 abused their connections to head office to take over”.
“This thing (G40 aggression) is getting out of hand and unless Gushungo (Mugabe) intervenes again we are headed for big trouble. They (G40) are commandeering everything,” the official said.
But another official linked to the G40 accused the Mnangagwa camp of being “successionist hyenas who will not stop at anything until they are in power”.
“I can tell you with certainty that knives are now out for the three bigwigs who wanted to defy the national party commissar. Ngwena (Mnangagwa)’s goons were very disappointed after … mudhara (Mugabe) recognised Nenjana in his welcome remarks,” he said.
Contacted by the Daily News on Sunday, Jaboon tried to play down the disagreements, while confirming Friday’s tiff.
“It was a small issue and I cannot give you more information. You should go back to the people who gave you that story for more details,” he said.
Efforts to get comment from Mahofa were fruitless as her mobile phone went unanswered.
On Friday, Mugabe fell just short of telling Mnangagwa’s allies that he was behind the G40 faction when he virtually told war veterans, the embattled VP’s foot soldiers, that their time had passed.
“War veterans must work to unite the party. Taiva tese kuhondo wani? (Didn’t we go to war together?) You are supposed to unite people,” Mugabe exhorted them.
This came after a group of war veterans aligned to Mnangagwa were said to be attempting to derail the planned million-man march by youths in support of Mugabe.
“Ko iwo ma war vets tavakupera wani vamwe nerufu (Our time as war veterans is passing) so let this young generation lead us. Munofana kuziva kuti nhaka inotorwa nevadiki vari muparty vanoziva gwara remusangano (You should know that the youths who know the party’s direction will take over).
“We respect you as freedom fighters but kubva kuhondo politics ndidzo dzaiva pamberi (but even during the war politics led the gun). Mukarasa gwara tokukandai panze (If you go astray we will expel you from the party) like what we did to (Rugare) Gumbo and others,” Mugabe said.