HARARE – President Robert Mugabe took the gloves off yesterday, threatening to dismiss Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allegedly fomenting factionalism in his deeply-divided Zanu PF party.
Mugabe, who all along had been avoiding attacking his aide of more than 50 years by name in the wake of serious infighting that has broken out in his party over his succession, cast aside diplomacy before a capacity crowd at White City Stadium in Bulawayo by ripping into the embattled vice president.
Speaking at the ninth presidential youth interface rally in the “City of Kings”, Mugabe disclosed that he had been briefed that unruly elements had been bussed by Mnangagwa’s allies to boo his wife, Grace.
This made him seethe with anger and could not wait for the decisive extraordinary congress slated for next month to speak his mind.
The former guerrilla leader revealed that he was annoyed by the show of disrespect by a faction aligned to his deputy, targeted at his 52-year-old wife, who leads the powerful Zanu PF women’s league.
He said since he was the one who appointed Mnangagwa to the position in 2014, he could by the same token also remove him.
“Why do they insult me in Mnangagwa’s name; did I do wrong in appointing Mnangagwa as my deputy? If I did wrong, then I will remove him as early as tomorrow,” thundered Mugabe.
“We cannot continue being quiet when we hear that up until today, there are still people in Masvingo who are saying this province is not Mugabe’s but Mnangagwa’s. In Midlands, it’s the same story. But we hear it’s a small group (that is fanning trouble), and those people are insulting the president every day. But we have our people who follow the party’s principles and (they) want unity,” he said, as he began his address.
Masvingo and the Midlands provinces have lately broken ranks with the other political provinces by disagreeing with a proposal by the Zanu PF women’s league, which seeks to re-configure the presidium in favour of a woman vice president.
Yesterday, Mugabe said dissenters in Masvingo, a Mnangagwa stronghold, were free to form their own party.
“We can’t have it, we can’t have you insulting us day-in-day-out. Who are you (Zanu PF chief whip and politburo member Lovemore) Matuke? Go your way, we go our way. Those who say this province belongs to who and it should be ruled by whomever, who are you, we will kick you out? Because you have settled there and others settled in other provinces (does not give you the right to insult others). And you, to hell with you!” he said.
“We can’t have a party of insulting each other, I don’t like that, it was organised (the booing) and we heard it was going to be organised. Those who want to stand by me can stand by me, those who don’t want, let them go, let them go… If it has gotten to such an extent, it’s about time we make a decision. We are going to congress and that’s where we are going to decide a lot.”
Mugabe said he was not going to accept Mnangagwa’s continuous silence over the accusations that he led the Team Lacoste faction, which was pushing for his rise to presidency.
“What annoys me is that our VP has been silent about it, because people are saying it’s you and you remain silent, that I can’t accept. We will sit down and discuss these matters… and we straighten these matters,” he said.
“Those who don’t want me to be their leader should find their leader and (we) won’t stand (in) their way; I have been in the party because I believe in the principles of the party. Those who continue sticking to it let them go.
Mugabe’s wife Grace, amidst the booing, said the party should not cower to take disciplinary measures against Mnangagwa, as he had created divisions in the party.
Political analysts were yesterday beginning to write Mnangagwa’s political obituary.
Maxwell Saungweme, an analyst, said knowing when to jump out was political wisdom which should not elude the vice president.
“Ngwena is just sitting there like a frog in a pot of water being slowly but increasingly heat to boiling point where it will be impossible to jump out,” he opined.
“He needs to rebel and show the political demagogue in him. Otherwise he will be a first family good political dinner of nicely roasted crocodile meat one of these nights very soon. He needs to jump while he can still do so.”
As for Grace’s declaration that she can replace her husband, Saungweme said that was hardly surprising.
“Even a blind man can see the attempt to create a Mugabe dynasty. It’s a political reality if opposition does not shape up and step up their game — a Grace presidency is political probability,” he said.
Dewa Mavhinga, another analyst, said Zanu PF was personified in Mugabe himself, leaving no space for Mnangagwa to manoeuvre against the Zanu PF leader’s wishes.
“While Mugabe is around, there is no room inside Zanu PF for Mnangagwa. His option could be to move out of the party and team up with Mujuru and other veterans who have been cast out by Mugabe. Zanu PF is not a democracy, power is vested in Mugabe above all other party structures,” said Mavhinga.
Mavhinga said a family dynasty was now fait accompli following Grace’s declaration that she can also replace her husband.
“…, but things are likely to change once Mugabe is off the (political) stage,” he said.
Social commentator, Rashweat Mukundu, believes Zanu PF has technically split.
He said Mnangagwa must make a choice, either to resign or hang in there and fight for his survival.
“If he is to fight, he has to wait for disciplinary action from the party where he can prove all what is being said as false,” said Mukundu.
He said if he throws in the towel, Mnangagwa should be prepared for an onslaught.
“He has skeletons in the cupboard and these will be exposed. He has to play his cards well because they can easily arrest him on corruption charges,” said Mukundu.