PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday fired warning shots at Zanu PF factions, although most of his attacks seemed targeted at Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his loyalists, accusing them of being tribalists and frustrating his appointees.
In a one-and-a-half hour speech at a youth interface rally outside Mucheke Stadium yesterday, Mugabe tried to play the balancing act, although in the end, it was Mnangagwa on the receiving end of the major blows from the veteran ruler.
“There may be others, who appear as if we are together by the day and conspire by the night. They are always there. What has made some leaders, leaders, leaders want to divide the youth? No! The youth were in the right direction,” he said.
“And you hear that in Masvingo, there are some who are saying we no longer want to be ruled by people from Harare.
“Do not listen to them, tribalists are always there, they boast saying our tribe is the better tribe in the country, there is no better tribe in Zimbabwe.
“When we fought the war, we did not look at whether we were from the Zezurus, Korekore, among other tribes, otherwise it could not have been successful.”
There are two factions in Zanu PF – one called Team Lacoste – is angling for Mnangagwa to take over from Mugabe.
Team Lacoste faces opposition from G40.
Masvingo is a perceived Mnangagwa stronghold.
Mugabe reiterated that Zanu PF factions “must be silenced”, describing factionalism as “nonsense”.
“Those small meetings to denounce so and so, what for? To build the party or destroy it. If you no longer want to be in the party, get out. We cannot continue like that. Stop It,” he thundered.
Mugabe defended Manicaland Provincial Affairs minister Mandi Chimene and Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane, who are reported targets of ouster by Team Lacoste members in their respective provinces.
“Even if you are a leader there, you do not expect people to bootlick you. You say they have critical views, so you do not want people that are critical and bring ideas to the party,” he said.
Chimene leads a faction of war veterans fighting for the control of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) leadership.
Christopher Mutsvangwa, who leads the ZNLWVA, has declared that his executive wants Mnagagwa to succeed Mugabe, earning the ire of the veteran leader.
The veteran ruler conceded that Masvingo was a hotspot of factionalism that continued to give him sleepless nights despite having two meetings trying to reconcile the two factions over sugarcane plots allocated to party members, which were grabbed from sugar producer, Tongaat Hulett.
“I chaired two important meetings — one at State House and the other one in Chiredzi after some legislators from here said they were in conflict with (politburo member Josaya) Hungwe and Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa.
“I thought the differences were resolved, but hardly three months later, I heard those people are fighting again,” he said.
In a thinly-veiled attack on G40, Mugabe warned against imposing party candidates, saying an un-named commissar was accused of imposing candidates that led to the re-run of the provincial chairperson elections.
He then endorsed Ezra Chadzamira as the provincial chairman following contentious elections and called him to the podium, and anointed him saying, “You are now the leader of the province”, something that will be seen as a setback for G40.
Although he acknowledged Chadzamira, a Team Lacoste member, who recently won the provincial elections, Mugabe saved the first and last parts of his speech to attack Mnangagwa, although there were some thinly-veiled attacks on G40, as the President tried a delicate balancing act.
Masvingo provincial youth chairperson, Nobert Ndaarombe had earlier on tried to paint a glossy picture of the province, saying it was united.
“Masvingo is a one-party state, we are very united, other are lying (about) divisions). Everything is intact and correct, from the youth to women’s league and the politburo, we are one people. So do not lose sleep,” he said.
In his introductions, Youth Indigenisation minister Patrick Zhuwawo, a key G40 member, chanted a slogan denouncing those in the party who “intimidate the youth”, while provincial women’s league chairperson, Francisca Makonese denounced “thieves” in the party, as factional positions became quite apparent.
Mnangagwa got a rapturous welcome from the floor when chanted “Pamberi na First Lady”.