FUNGI KWARAMBA • 17 JULY 2015 • Daily News (Zimbabwe)
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe flexed his muscles at Wednesday’s long politburo meeting in Harare, where he apparently rejected outright passionate pleas by his influential wife Grace and other senior party bigwigs for the late military chief Stephen Hurungudo to be declared a national hero.
Well-placed Zanu PF sources told the Daily News yesterday that the long-ruling nonagenarian, the only leader that Zimbabweans have known since the country’s independence in April 1980, had allegedly “demonstrated beyond doubt” at the meeting that he would not allow his ambitious acolytes to “manipulate him through Grace” — a recent tendency that was said to be contributing to the further destabilisation of his warring party.
“The president was a different man on Wednesday as he appeared to be sharply aware of the scheming and manoeuvring of the over ambitious Generation 40 (G40) camp which stands accused of being in the habit of whispering in the ears of Grace, not because they like her but that they want to use her in their power grab,” one of the sources said.
Insiders said among the other people who had allegedly supported the motion to declare Hurungudo a national hero were Cleveria Chizema and George Rutanhire — a move that Mugabe shot down “without flinching” even though it was clear that the G40 had enlisted Grace’s support in this ultimately futile endeavour.
The nonagenarian apparently pointed out to the fact that the late war veteran had only recently been promoted to the rank of Brigadier and thus did not allegedly qualify to be interred at the National Heroes Acre.
“The president said the army should have recommended that Hurungudo be buried at the Heroes Acre and not the people in the politburo, and he had the backing of VP (Vice President Emmerson) Mnangagwa.
“The president openly contradicted what his wife said and made it very clear that he was the one in charge. Even though the First Lady tried her best to arm-twist him, the president stood his ground. At one point, the First Lady even whispered in the ear of the president with little success,” another source said.
Relatives of Hurungudo, whose body has been in a Harare funeral parlour for the past two weeks, told the Daily News yesterday that the war veteran — whose nom de guerre was Mao — would now be buried at the Warren Hills cemetery after the snub.
“Mugabe’s firm stance in the politburo was a direct reprimand to the ambitious G40 that has been gaining ground and has roped in his wife to stop Mnangagwa,” the second source added.
The post-congress Zanu PF is currently divided along two main factions, one aligned to Mnangagwa and the other fronted by the ruling party’s young Turks, the G40, that allegedly includes combative national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere.
“To their discredit, the G40 camp has written off the president and is now working closely with the First Lady, constantly visiting her Mazowe orphanage and making donations to get even closer to her. Their agenda is to use the First Lady to block Mnangagwa.
“This group has successfully lobbied the First Lady and they engineered the fall of people like (former Harare interim chairperson Godwills) Masimirembwa. The group has also been working for (Home Affairs minister Ignatius) Chombo to be recalled from the government altogether, saying he was supposed to be based full time at the party, as the secretary for administration,” another Zanu PF senior official said.
There were also claims that Kasukuwere had his knuckles rapped at the meeting, with regard to his controversial decision to recall Masimirembwa — apparently with even Mugabe questioning the wisdom and procedural correctness of the ongoing purges in the divided party.
“In his defence, Kasukuwere said that Masimirembwa was free to contest in the forthcoming elections and assured the party that by December, restructuring of all provinces would have been completed,” another insider said.
During the epic politburo meeting, an unhappy Mugabe is also said to have asked his warring subordinates the reasons why they were “failing to learn” from the fall of former vice President Joice Mujuru, who was ruthlessly removed from Zanu PF for allegedly plotting to topple and kill the nonagenarian last year.
Mugabe was said to have been particularly incensed by overtures from some of his lieutenants that he reshuffles the politburo. He apparently reminded everybody that he was the only one among them who was elected by the party to lead it.
Another issue where serious fissures had emerged related to Binga and the land owned by the Development Trust of Zimbabwe in Mwenezi, where Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko had indicated that he had set up a board to spearhead developmental projects.
“After the president had spoken, VP Mphoko indicated that he wanted to make a report on projects he had been monitoring around the country, in particular the setting up of a board to oversee operations by DTZ.
“But VP Mnangagwa indicated that former party chairperson Simon Khaya Moyo, who was absent from the meeting on Thursday, had dealt with that matter and the President agreed with him,” another insider said.