HARARE – As Zanu PF’s deadly tribal, factional and succession wars get uglier, the party’s youths have warned disgruntled former freedom fighters and other allies of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa that they are prepared to take up arms to defend President Robert Mugabe.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Zanu PF youth league leader Kudzanai Chipanga said they were now “so angry” with the ongoing savage attacks on Mugabe by some sections of the former liberation movement that they would “go to war” to defend the under-siege nonagenarian.
The youth league’s ominous warning comes as the party’s two major factions, the Generation 40 (G40) group and Team Lacoste, have recently escalated their succession fights, particularly since images showing Mnangagwa holding a coffee mug inscribed with the words “I am the Boss” emerged over the festive season.
“The presidency is not a straightjacket. We also understand that when our parents went to war, they were fighting for one man, one vote.
“So, any attempt by anyone to impose a leader on us in Zanu PF will be resisted fiercely by the youths who are even prepared to take up arms in defence of that principle. We are not going to be intimidated by anyone,” he thundered.
“We will not be bystanders and watch them (Mugabe’s Zanu PF foes) grab power using unscrupulous means. That we will resist by any means necessary. We will not brook such nonsense.
“When they (war vets) felt that they were oppressed by the Smith regime, they decided to take up arms and fight.
“So, nothing will stop us from doing the same when they themselves now make attempts to defeat the purpose of the struggle which the country’s gallant sons and daughters went to war for.
“The president is not afraid of elections . . . if they want someone of that calibre, they should bring him forward and challenge for the position because we will help them advocate for a special congress,” the angry Chipanga added.
Zanu PF insiders say Chipanga and a large cross-section of the youth league are part of the G40 camp which is rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe, while Team Lacoste is solidly behind the VP.
The threat to take up arms by Chipanga comes as Mnangagwa’s allies, who include former Cabinet minister Christopher Mutsvangwa and the majority of war veterans, have gone public with their vociferous support for the Midlands godfather to succeed Mugabe, who turns a mature 93 years old next month.
War veterans have also previously warned ominously, that blood could be shed in the country if Mnangagwa does not succeed the increasingly frail nonagenarian who has studiously refused to name his successor, arguing that Zanu PF should rather follow what he sees as a more democratic process to manage his succession — doing so through a congress.
The former freedom fighters served as the bedrock of Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s rule until last year when they stunningly fell out with the nonagenarian in July last year.
Chipanga suggested yesterday that even if Zanu PF were to call for an extraordinary congress to choose Mugabe’s successor, Team Lacoste had “no chance in hell” to take over.
“One good thing about politics is that it is a game of numbers and if they outshine us in an election then God bless them,” he said sarcastically.
At last December’s Zanu PF annual conference in Masvingo, Chipanga sent tongues wagging when he said the youth league had adopted resolutions to have Mugabe declared life president.
“We strongly reaffirm Mugabe as the life president and the party’s sole candidate for all future elections, with no term limits,” he told delegates while reading out the league’s resolutions.
In recent weeks, Mnangagwa’s allies have been ratcheting up their loud calls for Mugabe to retire now and pave the way for his long-time aide to take over at both party and government levels.
Expelled former Mashonaland Central youth chairman and a key Mnangagwa ally, Godfrey Tsenengamu, has 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.
“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,” Tsenengamu said.
Highly-opinionated businessman-cum politician, and another 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.
And like Tsenengamu, Mutodi and Mutsvangwa, former Zanu PF chairman for Mashonaland 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,” he said at the end of last year.