Respected Zanu PF elder Cephas Msipa has confirmed what the country’s opposition has always complained bitterly about, that President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party uses violence and other thuggish methods to win elections and to remain in power.
Speaking candidly in an exclusive interview with the Daily News yesterday, Msipa — who has been one of the few consistent voices of reason in Zanu PF — also warned former Vice President Joice Mujuru and her Zimbabwe People First (ZPF) outfit to brace up for a violent suppression by the governing party, as has happened repeatedly to former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC.
Msipa’s frank admission of Zanu PF’s violent tendencies come hot on the heels of similar sentiments by former Zambian vice president Guy Scott, who also recently said Mugabe used violence to remain in power.
“They (ZPF) have a mammoth task before them. I know Zanu PF are good at defending themselves and remaining in power. Since 1980, they (Zanu PF) have been using the same tactic.
“They will do everything possible to destroy their opponents. They use all sorts of dirty tactics, including violence and intimidation. They think to win an election they need to use force,” a sad Msipa said.
Ever since Mujuru formally launched her party, her supporters have been at the receiving end of Zanu PF’s jungle justice, with ZPF members being attacked wantonly around the country — as has happened to Tsvangirai and the MDC since 1999.
In 2008, Tsvangirai was even forced to withdraw from that year’s controversial presidential election run-off after serious violence broke out, amid reports of hundreds of MDC supporters being murdered in cold blood.
But the retired Msipa said it was a matter of time before Zanu PF’s violent tactics would run out of steam and come to an end, as almost all Zimbabweans were now tired of Mugabe’s and the ruling party’s misrule.
“We have reached a stage where people are saying we have had enough. Look at the National Railways of Zimbabwe workers and the Grain Marketing Board workers.
“It’s a terrible sight that people should camp at the stations with their families there and the government appears unconcerned. I think we are reaching a stage where the situation has become completely intolerable and unacceptable,” he said.
“Our problem in Zimbabwe is one of fear and Zanu PF is taking advantage of that, which is very sad,” he added.
Msipa said it was not only ordinary Zimbabweans who were fearful of Mugabe and Zanu PF, but also ruling party bigwigs.
“I know that for a fact, and my friends in Zanu PF are now even afraid of talking to me since I retired from politics. They fear that if they associate with me they will be chastised. That is why I wrote my book, In Pursuit Of Freedom and Justice.
“People must feel free. People died for this freedom. We suffered and sacrificed so that people can be free. I really get very angry when I realise that people are not free to exercise their freedom,” he said.
Asked about embattled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s future in the faction-riddled Zanu PF, Msipa was pessimistic about the chances of his Zvishavane homeboy.
“I feel sorry for Mnangagwa, he is really in big trouble. He is my sekuru (uncle) as you know he is also my homeboy. We both come from Zvishavane. Naturally, I would have been happy with my sekuru going up.
“Unfortunately, he has problems. I don’t know how he will overcome them. I think his main problem is the so-called G40 who want to destroy him completely,” he said.
Turning to Mugabe’s powerful wife Grace, Msipa said he was forced to retire from active politics following the surprise 2014 entrance into formal politics by the first lady, whom he accuses of being “the mastermind” behind Zanu PF’s mindless bloodletting.
“I think Mugabe has a problem because his wife has her own ways of doing things and this has brought serious problems in the party. From what I can see she is a big problem
She came with an agenda and one of them was to attack Mujuru. I told Mugabe that I was not happy with the way he had handled the Mujuru issue. I told him in the strongest terms that if ever he angered me, it was when he fired Mujuru,” he explained.
Last week, Msipa said keeping Mugabe in power was tantamount to “punishing” the increasingly frail nonagenarian, further urging the long-ruling leader to retire immediately.
Speaking in another exclusive interview with the Daily News, he said Mugabe’s 56 years in politics were long enough for a “normal human being to hang the boots”.
“My serious advice to him (Mugabe) is that he should rest now, as he has done so much for the country,” he said.
Msipa, a close friend of Mugabe of many decades, said the nonagenarian — who is the only leader that Zimbabweans have had for the past 36 years — cannot rest after death.
“In a way, he has done a lot for this country, and really in all fairness we are punishing him. When will he rest, when he is dead?” he asked rhetorically.
“I feel sorry for him as a friend. I think he must just be given time to rest. We live in this world for a much shorter period than we realise. He really needs a rest. A race is run up to a certain point and there comes a point when you must rest.
“It’s good for him, good for his family and good for the party. We need new ideas. These can only come with leadership renewal. I would like him to rest,” the concerned Msipa emphasised repeatedly.
The former Midlands Provincial Affairs minister — who fondly refers to Mugabe as muzukuru (Shona for nephew) — said there was no doubt that Mugabe had played his part, which was why he now needed to pass on the baton.
He challenged some Zanu PF hardliners who were advocating for the nonagenarian’s further stay in power to be “human and stop punishing” him.
“We should all feel sorry for him. We are punishing him. Those who are saying he should continue, we don’t seem to care about him. I know some people want him to stay for their own protection.
“I also know some of them feel he is protecting them. He gave them certain positions and so they are afraid that if he goes they will lose those positions. It’s unfair for us to punish a man for all this time. Let him sit back and watch. It’s very important after all that hard work,” Msipa said.
He also claimed that just before he left active politics he had asked Mugabe to retire, an offer that was turned down.
“I went to see Mugabe with my two sons where I told him to retire. He told me that in politics you don’t retire, but that you rather die there. That’s his philosophy.
“So in a way he seems to be enjoying the position, but he must also think of rest, because he is punishing himself physically. We are all human beings and the fire in us burns out and you can’t go on trying to keep putting on some light when it’s burning out,” he said.
Asked what kind of a person Mugabe was at a personal level, Msipa described the nonagenarian as a “difficult” character to understand.
“He is in a way difficult to understand. He can be very charming but also he can be repellent and very cruel. He can be very charming and the next moment he can do things that you cannot believe he can do.
“For instance, when Murambatsvina (operation clean-up) started, I phoned him because I thought that was uncharacteristic of him, but when he has decided that this man is my enemy, he will do everything to crush you.
“That is his problem, there are no two ways about it. So in short, he can be very cruel if you stand in his way because he wants things to be done in his way,” he said.