A FACTION supporting Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s bid to succeed President Robert Mugabe has gained traction, with ruling ZANU-PF party sources saying it was now likely to determine the agenda of the party’s December annual conference.
But a surprise onslaught against Mnangagwa by Higher and Tertiary Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, this week appeared to suggest that the rival faction, Generation 40 (G40), was unlikely to go down without a fight.
The conference will be held in Masvingo, apparently the bedrock of Mnangagwa’s support where G40 had earmarked to symbolically bury the crocodile or Ngwena, Mnangagwa’s well-known sobriquet.
Mnangagwa’s faction is called Team Lacoste, an allusion to the merciless, predatory semi-aquatic reptile, which ironically also refers to President Mugabe’s totem of Gushungo.
The two are said to have worked closely since Mnangagwa became President Mugabe’s personal assistant during the liberation war.
Mnangagwa fell out with his one-time allies now in G40 immediately after the expulsion of former vice president Joice Mujuru, who was kicked out of ZANU-PF in 2014 for allegedly plotting to unconstitutionally unseat President Mugabe from power.
The G40 members and those now in Team Lacoste had been instrumental in contriving the expulsion
of Mujuru, now a leader of the Zimbabwe People First, and her replacement by Mnangagwa.
G40 members, who were reportedly irked by their isolation by Mnangagwa who snubbed them at his victory celebrations following his elevation, began scheming against Mnangagwa and his allies in Team Lacoste, resulting in the expulsion of several youth and women’s league leaders, influential members of the war veterans association and several other notable political players critical in Mnangagwa’s bid for the country’s top job.
At last year’s annual conference, the Women’s League had moved that President Mugabe should appoint a woman into the presidency; this was designed to influence the reassignment or expulsion of Mnangagwa to make way for a female Vice President.
Mnangagwa is co-vice president alongside Phelekezela Mphoko, who was appointed on a PF-ZAPU slot in terms of the Unity Accord between President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the late Joshua Nkomo’s PF-ZAPU in 1987.
Mphoko had succeeded the late John Nkomo at the December 2014 congress where Mujuru was expelled.
The call for Mnangagwa’s expulsion intensified this year, with the Women’s League secretary for finance, Sarah Mahoka, mocking the Midlands godfather for acting like a duck while his supporters publicly declared his ambitions to succeed President Mugabe.
Manicaland Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandiitawepi Chimene, was more scathing, saying President Mugabe should sack Mnangagwa or allow the women to do the job for him.
“If you can’t fire him, let us go for an emergency congress right away where we will do it for you,” Chimene told President Mugabe, bidding him to allow the women to help him deal with Team Lacoste.
“Tsholotsho was led by Mnangagwa, Lacoste is led by Mnangagwa. Until when should we continue to run with parallel structures?” asked a fuming Chimene, referring to the Tsholotsho debacle in which Mnangagwa and his allies, who included Moyo at the time, had plotted a take-over of critical party positions.
In terms of the Tsholotsho plan, Mnangagwa was to become Vice President, succeeding the late vice president Simon Muzenda, but was thwarted by President Mugabe who later supported the elevation of Mujuru to the position.
Several provincial chairmen were suspended from the party for being part of the Tsholotsho debacle.
Chimene and Mahoka are said to be members of the G40 faction.
The Masvingo conference was expected to seal Mnangagwa’s fate, with sources indicating that his adversaries had been targeting nothing short of party expulsion.
President Mugabe last month said the Presidency would remain unchanged, and that he had confidence in Mnangagwa, with whom he had worked since independence.
This appeared to give a cue to G40 members that they may have lost the game.
Indeed Ngwena appears to have survived the planned purge and may in fact have turned the tables against his foes.
A party source said Mnangagwa was now going to the Masvingo conference “to consolidate his hand”.
“Yes, the party will re-affirm President Mugabe’s leadership but the conference will consolidate Mnangagwa’s hand. G40 no longer has a strong agenda to attack Mnangagwa,” said the source.
G40 is currently at its weakest after its kingpins who are said to include Moyo; Local Government and National Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere; and Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Minister, Patrick Zhuwao — were recently damaged by allegations of graft or poor policy implementation.
Moyo is currently battling against attempts to arrest him by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) over allegations that he looted the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF) meant for the development of critical and highly skilled manpower in the country. Financial gazette