Sparks to fly as Zanu PF meets … as Tsenengamu, Matutu receive threats after stunning graft claims
ZANU PF bigwigs are meeting in Harare today at what could turn out to be an explosive politburo gathering, amid worsening factional fights in the ruling party, the Daily News reports.
This comes after some youth league leaders further rocked the already fizzing atmosphere within the former liberation movement on Monday — when they accused prominent businessmen linked to the government and the presidium of fuelling corruption in the country.
Today’s gathering — the first politburo meeting of the year — also comes as the country is going through its worst economic crisis in a decade which has triggered tension and restlessness among long-suffering citizens.
It was little wonder, therefore, that political analysts warned yesterday that Monday’s staggering accusations by two youth league leaders could mirror the dramatic events of 2014 which led to the brutal purging of former vice president Joice Mujuru from her positions in the party and in government.
This comes after youth league national political commissar Godfrey Tsenengamu and its deputy secretary Lewis Matutu accused businessmen Kudakwashe Tagwirei, Billy Rautenbach and Tafadzwa Musarara of allegedly engaging in corrupt dealings earlier this week.
Tagwirei and Rautenbach are big players in the country’s fuel industry, while Musarara is the chairperson of the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (Gmaz) — which has been in the news in the ongoing national maize-meal shortages.
Yesterday, Zanu PF acting secretary for administration Patrick Chinamasa confirmed to the Daily News that today’s politburo would discuss Tsenengamu and Matutu’s accusations.
However, and understandably so under the circumstances that the ruling party finds itself in, he declined to comment further.
“We are going to discuss what they said, but I am not the party and so I cannot say much,” he said.
Although Matutu and Tsenengamu said they were not representing the ruling party but were acting in their own capacities as “concerned ordinary citizens” during their media briefing on Monday, this still raised tensions within the divided former liberation movement.
Among other things, the two youth leaguers accused Rautenbach of allegedly having an irregular monopoly on ethanol production in the country, which is used to blend unleaded petrol.
Rautenbach’s company, Green Fuels, was chosen under the government of the late former president Robert 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.
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 President Emmerson 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.
Party sources told the Daily News yesterday that what could make today’s politburo meeting messy was the fact that Matutu and Tsenengamu had allegedly removed 20 other people from their original list of “offenders” that they had originally planned to release.
Other sources also said the fact that the two men had been barred from holding their press briefing at the party’s headquarters spoke volumes of how divisive the issue was.
Tsenengamu himself told the Daily News yesterday that he and Matutu were receiving threatening messages following their media conference — but would not back down in their demands to have authorities deal with the country’s high corruption.
“We have been receiving phone calls from different people, some telling us to stop the fight and … even threatening us.
“However, I am not going to be stopped because I believe that this is a just cause,” he said.
In another mega development, Tsenengamu and Matutu have now also reported the businessmen that they accused of graft to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) — where they were apparently told to provide irrefutable evidence to allow the commencement of formal investigations.
Meanwhile, political analysts have also 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.
Another political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, concurred with Masunungure.
“It is factional fights that are getting nasty. The fact that the youths had coverage from ZBC shows approval from some quarters.
“Corruption issues are always the weapon of choice in Zanu PF’s factional fights and it is a matter of time before these explode into the open and the principals of each faction are exposed,” he said.
On his part, Crisis International Group senior consultant, Piers Pigou, said Matutu and Tsenengamu had seemingly been sent by a “powerful force” to attack the businessmen.
“It seems extraordinary that fingers can be pointed at Tagwirei, but not at those political elements he works closely with, including both president Mnangagwa and VP Chiwenga.
“This raises questions about who within the current power construct would benefit from Tagwirei’s exposure.
“This in turn further highlights concerns about the very selective nature of how the broad challenge of corruption and patronage interests are being managed,” Pigou said.
Interestingly, 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 Mujuru’s names at the height of Zanu PF’s internecine fights.