DEPUTY CHIEF WRITER
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has finally lost patience with Energy Mutodi, pictured, — summarily firing the gaffe-prone Information deputy minister last night, following a string of recent incidents which embarrassed the government.
Last night’s unsurprising development, which the Daily News sign-posted last week, comes as there have been growing questions around the unity and credibility of Mnangagwa’s government, following ugly recent ructions among some of its senior officials.
In dismissing Mutodi, Mnangagwa did not give reasons for cutting loose the maverick former deputy minister — whose gaffes were piling pressure on the Zanu PF government.
“The chief secretary to the president and Cabinet … Misheck Sibanda, has announced the termination of employment by … President … Emmerson Mnangagwa of … Energy Mutodi as deputy minister of government in the ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.
“The termination, which is with immediate effect, is in terms of Section 108 (1a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment No.20) of 2013,” presidential communications head, Regis Chikowore, said last night.
As correctly anticipated by the Daily News last week when Mutodi fought with Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo, it had become increasingly apparent that the former musician was walking a tight rope in the last few months, following what political analysts said were “deviant behaviours” on his part.
Last night, insiders said the final straw was his distasteful tweet on three MDC youth leaders who have claimed that they were abducted and sexually assaulted by unknown men after holding a flash demonstration in Harare last week.
In the tweet which ignited huge controversy, he completely rubbished the MDC women’s abduction story, even as authorities have not yet completed investigations into the matter.
“Details emerge MDC youths Joana Mamombe, Netsai Marova & Cecilia Chimbiri went out for a romantic night to Bindura with their lovers who are artisanal miners. They parked their car at a police station for safety but tragedy struck when they demanded foreign currency for services,” the garrulous former deputy minister said.
His sacking was announced a few hours after this tweet. Contacted last night, Mutodi said he was yet to be officially informed of his sacking and, therefore, could not comment.
Recently, the Goromonzi West MP set tongues wagging both within and outside Zanu PF and the government, after he was involved in a stand-off with Moyo.
At the centre of the tiff was another tweet that Mutodi had posted, which appeared to take a dig at Tanzania’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic vis-à-vis Zimbabwe’s.
“His Excellency John Pombe Magufuli’s Tanzania now has 630 Covid-19 cases with prayers but without a lockdown, while His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe only got 31 cases with a lockdown and masks.
An insight into how managers can be game changers,” Mutodi’s May 4 tweet, which subsequently obliged the Foreign Affairs minister to censure him publicly, read.
But the free-spirited Mutodi was not done, firing off an angry letter to Moyo, in addition to suggesting on Twitter that the Foreign Affairs minister — who is his senior — was allegedly working with former Cabinet minister and war veterans’ chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa, in a plot that could endanger his life.
“Living in fear of the Chris Mutsvangwa-SB Moyo coalition. I hope it won’t resort to wartime tactics. Appealing for prayers,” he said defiantly in this other tweet.
Political analysts were quick to warn Mnangagwa then that he needed to deal with the widening fissures in his government urgently to avoid paralysis.
In the tweet on Tanzania, Mutodi had shaken the corridors of power and the diplomatic world when he heaped Mnangagwa with praise over his tackling of Covid-19, while appearing to mock Magufuli.
This did not go down well with the Tanzanian government, which took umbrage to Mutodi’s characterisation of Magufuli — forcing Moyo to disown the eccentric former deputy minister’s comments.
However, and staggeringly, Mutodi went on to accuse Moyo, in a follow-up letter, of acting like a prime minister — further inflaming the issue within both Zanu PF and the government.
“With due respect to your highly regarded office, I wish to remind you that our two ministries operate on a divergent yet complementary role, with your Foreign Affairs ministry outward looking while my Information ministry is inward.
“While my ministry is worried about the public perception on the national leadership, its image, electability and the public approval ratings of the president, your ministry focuses on foreign co-operation and diplomatic engagement, otherwise our two ministries should have been merged if they served the same purpose.
“Your public statement, which could have been sufficiently dealt with by a diplomatic correspondence to the Tanzanian embassy, if it mattered, has divided public opinion, first on the definition and meaning of government and whether you had become its Prime Minister in charge of the two ministries,” Mutodi let rip at Moyo in his rejoinder.
Before this, there had been many other embarrassing incidents involving the former deputy minister, including an ill-advised run-in with his direct boss, Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, at the Information ministry.