As embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s allies ramp up their rebellion against President Robert Mugabe, some kingpins of the faction say it’s now time for the nonagenarian to leave office — claiming that even the Chinese no longer want to see him in power.
Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday at the weekend, a party official seen as close to Team Lacoste (Mnangagwa’s faction) claimed that while there were “significant differences” among Zanu PF’s various factions, “there is now almost unanimous agreement that it’s time for the president to rest (step down)”.
“Gushungo (Mugabe) has served the country well for more than six decades and the nation must always be thankful for that sacrifice. However, the reality is that he is not a spring chicken anymore, and the time has come for someone else to take the leadership baton.
“It pains some of us to see that the climate within the party has deteriorated to the extent that there is now almost unanimous agreement that it’s time for the president to rest (step down). In fact, even war veterans and all our friends, including the Chinese, now say it is time for him to go,” the party official claimed.
Mugabe himself appeared to give grist to the claims when he addressed a party rally at Chipadze Stadium in Bindura on Friday — saying openly that some of his acolytes were working for his demise, allegedly going to the extent of trying to influence outsiders to buy into this thinking.
“Some of you are going as far as China telling them that we need a new leader. At the African Union we are trying to elevate our country and yet here, you are busy pulling me down.
“We should have respect to our leadership. If there are contradictions, we sit down and iron out the differences,” he moaned.
Mugabe said such agendas were being driven by ambitious party bigwigs who were eyeing senior positions, including the presidency — adding that he was willing to step down from his post as long as people removed him at the right time and following laid-down procedures.
Contacted for comment, one of the Zanu PF youths who were expelled from the ruling party a fortnight ago, for backing Mnangagwa, Godfrey Tsenengamu, chose to be circumspect, saying only that he felt betrayed by “people that I have served loyally”.
“Zanu PF is in my blood, I feel that our future as Zimbabwe collectively is bleak and this is because of a self-centred leadership. We can only hope that things will get better,” he said guardedly.
And in yet another case of a close relationship that has gone sour, former senior Cabinet minister and close Mugabe confidante, Didymus Mutasa, described his once close friend as “a vindictive person, who does not forgive easily”.
Mutasa also told the Daily News on Sunday that Mugabe had the habit of “casting aside anyone who dares cross his path”, adding that his uncle Edgar Tekere was sacrificed after criticising the nonagenarian’s style of leadership — despite the fact that the two men had known each other for a long time.
“Myself I was out of Cabinet for seven years because I challenged him over Esap (the country’s Economic Structural Adjustment Programme of the 1990s) and he only brought me back after realising that he had failed.
“If you criticise him or his relatives, then good heavens it is something that you will pay for dearly,” Mutasa said.
Amid all this, Mnangagwa’s allies have been ramping up their assault on Mugabe’s authority, savaging the Zanu PF politburo’s decisions of the past few months, as well as the nonagenarian’s key lieutenants such as national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
Speaking at a meeting of war veterans aligned to Mnangagwa in Bulawayo a fortnight ago, the gathered Team Lacoste members not only chanted “Down with G40 (Zanu PF Young Turks opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe)”, they also came just short of openly denouncing Mugabe.
Prominent war veteran, Victor Matemadanda, who has since been purged from the ruling party, roundly slated the Zanu PF politburo that is headed by Mugabe — saying it had become a “disciplinary politburo”, while Zanu PF was now a “party for firing not hiring”.
He also launched a scathing attack on Kasukuwere — who Mugabe singled out for special praise at the nonagenarian’s belated birthday bash in Masvingo three weeks ago — for the deluge of expulsions that have characterised Zanu PF over the past two years