HARARE – Remember firebrand politician and former Zanu PF legislator Margaret Dongo who in the early 1990s caused pandemonium in Parliament after she called Zanu PF MPs, including cabinet ministers, “Mugabe’s wives”?
Among those incensed by the remarks was the late liberation war icon, General Solomon Mujuru, who was then a legislator in the august House that he wanted to beat her up, insisting he was his own man!
Other MPs had to restrain the General as he launched himself across the parliamentary floor, and Dongo had to be escorted home by police details.
Her only crime was questioning why all these men in Zanu PF never questioned or challenged Mugabe. Dongo was finally dismissed from Zanu PF in 1995.
And fast forward to 2017, years after Dongo’s assertion, then enters one Julius Malema the South African Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader who recently fired shots from across the Limpopo alleging “those comrades in Zanu PF are a group of cowards, scared to say to an old man like (President Robert Mugabe), ‘please with due respect, let go’”.
And so incensed were the “men” from Zanu PF that spears toward Malema were thrown from every other corner.
But are Zanu PF members all cowards or “Mugabe’s wives” because our history has it on record that they have been several who tried to challenge the strongman and got fired from the party.
We have the likes of Dzikamai Mavhaire who became popular in 1998 after openly calling for the resignation of Mugabe in Parliament. However, this led to his expulsion from Zanu PF.
Following his fallout with the party, Mavhaire allegedly became a vendor in Masvingo and bounced back into the party in 2008 before he was expelled again from the party in 2015.
The late Edgar Tekere who was close to Mugabe served in government before his popularity as a potential rival to the strongman caused their estrangement. He was also expelled from Zanu PF in 1998 after he strongly disagreed with Mugabe’s belief that Zimbabwe would be better governed as a one party State.
Tekere, who was popular not only because of his unquestionable role in the liberation struggle but also because of his rebellious nature told Mugabe then that: “A one-party State was never one of the founding principles of Zanu PF and experience in Africa has shown that it brought the evils of nepotism, corruption and inefficiency.”
Coupled with his disagreeing with Mugabe’s mooted one-party State Tekere was punished for his consistent criticism of corruption within government.
The late Edson Zvobgo was another Zanu PF official who challenged the president although he is known mostly for having been the mastermind of the legislation that enthroned Mugabe as leader of a single party State in Zimbabwe in the 1980s.
In the 2002 elections he refused to campaign for Mugabe and criticised new public order laws and draconian measures to curtail freedom of expression in the media.
He, however, became the subject of an internal party disciplinary inquiry in 2003 after being accused of disloyalty.
And then there was the 2004 Tsholotsho debacle in which a group of Zanu PF officials were accused of plotting a palace coup against Mugabe before they were rebuked or suspended.
Come 2014 Zanu PF fired those it suspected of attempting to challenge and topple Mugabe. Among them were former Vice President Joice Mujuru together with senior Zanu PF officials Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo, Nicholas Goche, Mavhaire, Andrew Langa, and Munacho Mutezo.
So, maybe they are not all cowards after all, but Mugabe has probably instilled a sense of fear among party members such that they are merely scared of facing his wrath — thus they follow his orders no matter how bad and they always try to outdo each other in hero worshipping the nonagenarian.