RELATIONS between President Robert Mugabe and his longtime spokesperson George Charamba are reportedly at an all-time low over his dabbling in Zanu PF succession politics, top government officials say.
Although relations between the two have been strained since Mugabe read a wrong speech while officially opening parliament in September last year, they took a further knock when Charamba attacked the Generation 40 (G40) leaders in an interview with ZiFM and SFM in January at State House.
Claiming he was speaking in his capacity as the presidential spokesperson, Charamba, who is a civil servant, alleged G40 members were “nicodemously” meeting with officials from People First and warned it would take “one afternoon” for Mugabe to pounce on them.
“What they have to worry about are their own careers, not me,” Charamba said in the radio interview. “The President is not a character who rushes. He will allow you a very long rope, you go about enjoying meaningless headlines and thinking you are on top of the world, it will take just one afternoon. So watch it, there are many sinister minds that speak in the name of the President, who are in fact ‘successionists’ and it won’t be long before the headlines give you the story.
“The constitution of Zimbabwe is as clear as daylight. One tragedy of those little fellas, they confuse media skills with social skills. They think you can scale up a ladder by tweeting, who think when you manipulate one or two headlines you have a social base for launching your stupid ambitions. They will come to grief, get it from me. I am not speaking as permanent secretary but President Mugabe’s press secretary.”
However, after the interview Grace came out strongly in support of G40 by, among other things, publicly defending her allies such as Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere and Kudzai Chipanga who had attracted the wrath of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s backers.
Mugabe has also publicly supported his wife’s activities and utterances, including during his birthday celebrations in Masvingo a fortnight ago.
Following his interview, Charamba came under a barrage of attacks from G40 members, particularly Moyo and Zanu PF Women’s League secretary for finance Sarah Mahoka who asked Mugabe at a rally organised by the Women’s League at the party’s headquarters on February 10, whether he had given him permission to speak in the manner he did on matters he does not know anything about. Sources said Mugabe has indicated his unhappiness with Charamba over his behaviour.
“Relations between the president and his spokesperson are currently tense. Mugabe was not pleased with what Charamba said through that interview. Before the president made his recent address to the nation, Charamba had a meeting with him where he attempted to clarify issues surrounding the interview.
Mugabe, however, expressed his disapproval and also told him about the grave implications of what he did,” said a government official.
Officials said tensions between Charamba and his principal were sharply felt when Mugabe made a televised address to the nation on February 19, following a clash between war veterans and the police in Harare.
“When the president addressed the nation flanked by Vice-Presidents Phelekezela Mphoko and Emmerson Mnangagwa, Charamba was not in the room. He was outside, looking quite isolated and miserable,” said the official.
“Even at the birthday celebrations in Masvingo the president took out his own speech from a briefcase. Charamba normally presents Mugabe with his speech, but on this occasion he carried his speech, which in itself tells a story.”
Efforts to get a comment from Charamba were fruitless as his mobile phone was not reachable.
Officials told the Zimbabwe Independent that Grace wants Charamba removed from his position as she believes he is more loyal to Mnangagwa than the president. The G40 faction, which has coalesced around Grace, also says Charamba is abusing his positions as Mugabe’s spokesperson and as Information ministry permanent secretary to prop up Mnangagwa in the state media, while waging a campaign of negative publicity against G40 members.