HARARE – As Zanu PF’s seemingly intractable tribal, factional and succession wars approach a deadly climax, worried allies of under fire Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa have warned that the VP now risks being “drowned” by his party enemies if he doesn’t declare his ambitions soon and start “fighting fire with fire”.
This comes as the group of ruling party Young Turks who go by the moniker Generation 40 (G40), and who are rabidly opposed to the Midlands godfather succeeding President Robert Mugabe, have been cranking up the heat on the VP and his Team Lacoste faction ominously over the past few weeks.
The warning also comes as many of Mnangagwa’s allies, particularly a large cross-section of war veterans, have escalated their loud calls for Mugabe to retire and pave way for his long time aide to take over the reins at both party and government level.
Among the vocal Mnangagwa supporters who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday was expelled former Mashonaland Central youth chairman, Godfrey Tsenengamu, who agitated for a mega fightback from the VP, saying bluntly it was time he “openly manned up or exited the political stage” as his followers were becoming impatient with his softly-softly strategy.
Tsenengamu also warned that if Mnangagwa did not confront Mugabe and the succession issue now, he risked losing much of the support of his battle-weary followers and other Zimbabweans who were yearning for change.
“ED (Mnangagwa) is too loyal to Mugabe and we can’t eat his loyalty to his leader. We are worried about our future as a younger generation and if what matters to him is his loyalty to Mugabe then they are going to go down together because we can’t vote for Mugabe in 2018,” Tsenengamu said emphatically.
“People need to understand that this is not about Mnangagwa but our future as a party and a nation. It is not Mnangagwa who is demanding that the succession issue be addressed now, but us as concerned citizens.
“ED came out recently distancing himself from us as expelled people and we don’t care. That is his right and we continue with our struggle, for this is not about him,” Tsenengamu, who was expelled from Zanu PF in 2015 for backing Mnangagwa in his mooted presidential aspirations, said.
Last week, highly-opinionated businessman-cum- politician, and an avowed Mnangagwa loyalist, Energy Mutodi, also vented along similar lines, imploring Zanu PF to hold an extraordinary congress to choose Mugabe’s successor.
He claimed that Mugabe had become so unpopular in Zanu PF that “99 percent” of the party’s members now wanted him to resign before the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections, as there was allegedly no way that the nonagenarian could win elections against popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
“Mugabe must retire. What we must be discussing now is how we share power in Zanu PF post-Mugabe,” he said, adding that it would be very embarrassing for Mugabe if he stood for election again and lost.
“Mnangagwa is too loyal to Mugabe, to the extent that he cannot even express his own views for his boss to retire.
“It’s up to Mugabe himself to be really thankful to his loyalists who have helped him to remain in power for this long and not the opportunists who praise him during the day and denigrate him during the night.
“This is what the man (Mnangagwa) is made of and he has shown total loyalty and obedience to the president,” Mutodi told our sister paper, the Daily News then.
Sacked former Cabinet minister and war veterans’ leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa, together with his executive, have also since stepped up their efforts to force Mugabe to step down, accusing the increasingly frail nonagenarian of being at the centre of the country’s rot.
And like Tsenengamu, Mutodi and Mutsvangwa, former Zanu PF chairman for Mashonalnd West province, Temba Mliswa, has also recently suggested that Mugabe should hand over power to Mnangagwa as the ruling party’s succession wars burn ever hotter.
“Zanu PF’s solution to the current economic problems is for the president to step down and Mnangagwa, who is the most senior, to take over.
“Don’t call me a Mnangagwa person, unless there is someone more senior in Zanu PF than Mnangagwa, then you tell me.
“If Mnangagwa does take over, he is going to stop the bleeding in terms of people suffering. We must be cognisant of the fact that the people are suffering,” Mliswa said at the end of last year.
Mugabe, who turns a very mature 93 next month, has studiously refused to name a successor, arguing that his party should rather follow what he sees as a more democratic process, to manage his succession via a congress.
But as the years and decades have gone by, this has appeared to stoke Zanu PF’s ugly infighting, which has escalated over the past two weeks as both the G40 and Team Lacoste have gone at each other hammer and tongs, particularly since the release of images showing Mnangagwa holding a coffee mug inscribed with the words “I am the Boss” during a festive season gathering at his Zvishavane rural home.
Analysts also say that the troubled ruling party’s tortured politics are “changing” again, with Mnangagwa and Team Lacoste now the ones on the back foot following the events of the past few weeks.
On Wednesday last week, a G40-linked group, comprising provincial chairpersons and regional commissars met at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare, issuing a statement in which they called for a probe into Mnangagwa for hobnobbing with Mutsvangwa and Mutodi.
But Tsenengamu said yesterday that there was “absolutely nothing” untoward about Mnangagwa meeting expelled or out-of-favour Zanu PF members, as other senior party leaders such as its national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, had also been pictured in the company of the likes of Mliswa who was expelled from the ruling party in 2014.
“Who is the saint in Zanu PF on meeting either suspended or expelled cadres? I have met Kasukuwere thrice after my expulsion. I have also met (Zanu PF youth chairperson Kudzanayi) Chipanga several times since my suspension and expulsion.
“In 2014, myself and Vengai Musengi were on suspension when we met … Mugabe at State House after the youth conference the same year.
“President Mugabe did send his State residences principal director to invite me and (expelled Harare youth chairperson Godwin) Gomwe on the very day he went to officially open ZEGU (Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University) in Bindura.
“When Jonathan Moyo got expelled in 2004/5 he met serving and senior leaders of the party to facilitate his return to the party. So, what is new here?
“And as I said, Kasukuwere has recently been meeting with Mliswa who was expelled from the party. He also had photos taken with him.
“Show me one senior leader in Zanu PF who has not been meeting or interacting with either suspended or expelled people and then I will show you 10 virgin prostitutes,” Tsenengamu said hyperbolically.