ED cuts loose youth leaders … as Zanu PF strips Togarepi, Matutu and Tsenengamu of positions
This comes as Zanu PF is battling to contain widening factional fissures within its top ranks, which almost consumed the former liberation movement towards the last few years in power of the late former president Robert Mugabe.
Yesterday, an angry Mnangagwa — who is said to have wanted to expel the errant youth league leaders from the party altogether — summarily stripped Pupurai Togarepi, who was the youth league boss, and his deputy Lewis Matutu, as well as national political commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu of their positions.
This comes after Matutu and Tsenengamu accused businessmen Kudakwashe Tagwirei, Billy Rautenbach and Tafadzwa Musarara of allegedly engaging in corrupt dealings earlier this week.
Speaking ahead of yesterday’s politburo meeting in Harare, Mnangagwa had given a hint that the youth league bosses would be punished during an open session with the media.
“The fight to end corruption must gain momentum. In doing so, however, the party’s wings and members across the board must exercise discipline.
“Such behaviour will never be condoned,” Mnangagwa had warned ominously.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Zanu PF acting secretary for Information, Patrick Chinamasa, said the trio were found guilty of gross indiscipline after they allegedly violated an earlier politburo directive barring them from raising their concerns publicly.
“In light of the development, the politburo felt that violating its directive was an act of indiscipline. So, it made a unanimous decision to punish them severely.
“We took the decision that Togarepi, who was serving as youth secretary at the pleasure of the president, cease to be in that position and as such he is no longer a member of the politburo, but retains his position as a central committee member.
“Matutu and Tsenengamu have immediately been removed from their positions as deputy youth secretary and youth political commissar for a period of 12 months, but will remain as card-carrying members of the party,” Chinamasa told stunned journalists.
He said Tsenengamu and Matutu would now be required to undergo ideological orientation at the party’s Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology while they served their suspension.
Youth league secretary for administration, Tendai Chirau, was appointed acting deputy youth secretary while Tsenengamu and Togarepi’s positions were left vacant until their replacements were found.
Tsenengamu later told the Daily News that he was not moved by the decision of the politburo as his conscience was “clear that he did not do anything wrong”.
“Are they supposing that the Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology is where corruption and thievery is taught?
“I am happy that I was not fired for corruption, but for fighting against it,” he said.
Well-placed party sources also told the Daily News late last night that once the media left and the day’s business was in full swing, Mnangagwa had immediately laid into the youth leaders for going against the party by taking their grievances to the public arena.
However, the sources claimed, a significant number of politburo members were against the punitive measures taken against the youth leaguers.
“The likes of Christopher Mutsvangwa and Tsitsi Muzenda were at the forefront to defend the youths saying their intentions were not bad.
“Muzenda in particular addressed the president directly telling him that the issue of corruption was a matter of public interest that should be tackled without fear or favour.
“Mutsvangwa was the one who started the discussion because there was initial silence as no one had the courage to stand publicly and support them,” one of the sources said.
“After Mutsvangwa stated his position, there was a chorus of approval for his intervention, but in the end it was agreed that the youths violated an earlier politburo ruling,” another source said.
Among other things, Tsenengamu and Matutu accused Rautenbach of allegedly having an irregular monopoly on ethanol production in the country, which is used to blend unleaded petrol in their Monday press briefing.
Rautenbach’s company, Green Fuels, was chosen under the government of Mugabe to supply ethanol after mandatory blending was introduced in the country a decade ago.
On his part, Rautenbach has maintained that everything was done above board.
The two youth league leaders were particularly critical of Tagwirei — who appeared to be their main target — as they made several allegations of corruption which they claimed covered agriculture, fuel, construction, pharmaceuticals, banking and the importation of motor vehicles.
But this was not the first time that the ruling party’s youths had sensationally levelled corruption accusations against influential people within and without Zanu PF.
In August last year, Matutu and Tsenengamu named several businesspeople and some Zanu PF bigwigs — among them Cabinet ministers — as being at the forefront of fuelling corruption in the country.
However, they did not provide any concrete evidence at the time to back up their claims — just like they did on Monday.
This led to an ill-tempered politburo meeting in which Mnangagwa diffused the tensions by directing all provinces to nominate central committee members to a 10-member commission of inquiry to investigate the issues raised by the youths at the time.
However, the commission is yet to deal with these allegations.
This week political analysts told the Daily News that the accusations by the youths were “tell-tale signs” of worsening ructions in Zanu PF.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said factionalism was at the centre of the allegations against the accused businesspeople.
“This simply reflects the shifting sands in Zanu PF and the difficulty of unravelling the puzzle of what makes Zanu PF tick.
“Factions are a common denominator in Zanu PF. What we need to watch is who of the two main factions currently is in the ascendancy and who is defended by the organs of the party.
“The starting point is … there are no permanent friends in politics and some people’s interests may be shifting towards favouring a particular faction,” Masunungure said.
“November 2017 offers us a lesson about the fluidity of the factions in Zanu PF.
“Those who were celebrating the attacks of Mnangagwa were the first to celebrate his ascendancy,” he observed further.
Monday’s events had similarities with Zanu PF’s controversial interface rallies of yester-year — which the youth and women’s leagues used to deadly effect, often making entirely false allegations against their perceived party opponents.
Erratic former first lady Grace Mugabe, former youth league leader Kudzanai Chipanga, and ex-women’s league stalwarts such as Sarah Mahoka and Mandiitawepi Chimene, for example, used this platform successfully to soil Mnangagwa and former vice president Joice Mujuru’s names at the height of Zanu PF’s internecine fights.