HARARE – In a sensational claim — as Zanu PF’s deadly tribal, factional and succession wars continue to escalate — the party’s youth league says it no longer trusts many of President Robert Mugabe’s top lieutenants, who it claims want to topple the nonagenarian from power before the much-awaited 2018 national polls.
Speaking in Bulawayo last weekend, where he revealed the alleged plot while addressing a Zanu PF inter-district conference, forthright youth league national secretary Kudzanai Chipanga also warned that the move to oust Mugabe from power would be resisted robustly.
This is not the first time since Zanu PF came to power in April 1980 that stunning claims of internal plots to dethrone Mugabe have played out in public in the warring ruling party.
In 2004, scores of senior party officials loyal to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa were decapitated politically after they were accused of participating in what came to be known as the Tsholotsho Declaration, where it was claimed that they wanted to stampede Mugabe out of power.
Although Mnangagwa survived the resultant fallout, he subsequently lost out to former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who was plucked from nowhere to become one of the nonagenarian’s two deputies.
In addition, the Midlands godfather was later to suffer further humiliation when he was demoted to an inconsequential Cabinet position.
In late 2014, and following her influential husband Solomon’s much-debated death in a mysterious inferno at his Beatrice farm in 2011, it was Mujuru and her followers’ turn to stand accused inside the imploding former liberation movement of plotting to assassinate and oust Mugabe from power.
Mujuru and hundreds of other senior party officials were subsequently expelled, suspended and hounded out of Zanu PF.
And no sooner had this happened — seemingly to the advantage of Mnangagwa at the time — did the new VP come under the cosh again in the party, in an unrelenting onslaught that is gathering steam by the day, and which has seen many of his leading aides booted out of Zanu PF.
Well-placed party sources have claimed in briefings to the Daily News, after powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe and other lesser juniors of Mnangagwa have openly and repeatedly roasted him for allegedly harbouring unbridled presidential ambitions, that “number one (ostensibly Mugabe) doesn’t want him as his successor”.
Speaking in his thinly-disguised attack on his superiors in Bulawayo at the weekend, Chipanga said Mugabe was not going anywhere, adding that to prove this, party youths planned to hold 10 mega provincial rallies this year in support of the nonagenarian, which the president would address.
He said with the current dirty party scramble for Mugabe’s position, which has split the party again into two bitterly-opposed factions, youths were “suspicious” of the nonagenarian’s ambitious lieutenants and now preferred to deal with the president directly instead of working with him through his minions.
“We have decided that instead of our usual million-man march, this year we are going to take the president to the country’s 10 provinces so that we have a direct interaction with our leader, without elders coming in between us,” Chipanga said.
“So this year, the president will address youth league rallies in the country’s 10 provinces. We do not trust some of our elders anymore because they are the ones who are now saying the president must go when they have been with him in government since 1980 and have benefitted a lot from him.
“They are now working feverishly to infiltrate the youth league, anticipating an early congress for their factional interests, but we have made our position very clear that we want our leader to be life president of the republic.
“And because as the youths we are the majority, we expect that being a democratic country, the minority view is not foisted on the majority,” he added.
While some party insiders felt yesterday that pushing Mugabe to go around the country addressing rallies at the ripe age of 93 was tantamount to abusing the nonagenarian, political analyst Ibbo Mandaza told the Daily News that the Zanu PF strongman could manage the feat.
“He has been doing it all along. You saw this at his birthday bash, and you have seen how he globe-trots around the world without rest.
“Besides, Grace has talked about a wheel chair, and so to me, as long as he is alive, there is nothing that can stop him from addressing rallies, going around in a helicopter,” Mandaza said.
Last year, Chipanga’s youths organised a so-called million-man march in solidarity with Mugabe, amid pressure from both within Zanu PF and opposition quarters for the nonagenarian to relinquish power on account of his advanced age and mismanagement of the country.
However, there were no millions or numbers that came anywhere close to that figure, amid claims of internal sabotage allegedly by elements backing Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations.
The Generation 40 (G40) Zanu PF faction, to which party youths are linked, along with the women’s league, are rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe.
After last year’s Harare march, Mugabe exalted Chipanga, likening the gathering to his famed 1980 crowd at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, upon the president’s triumphant return from exile in Mozambique.
“I feel humbled by this gesture. It is a celebration of the glory that you have accorded us and it has never been done in history. The history of Zanu PF must record this, that the youth league did what we last saw in 1980, when we returned from the war,” he said.
In his Bulawayo address, Chipanga also challenged Zanu PF bigwigs eyeing Mugabe’s throne to “wait until the people’s elective congress in 2019 to make their bids”.
“We warn them that they will not get a single vote from the youth league because all our votes will be with the president. We can’t accept anyone else as long as he is still alive,” he thundered.
During his birthday celebrations in Matobo two weeks ago, Mugabe railed against unnamed Zanu PF elements whom he claimed were fomenting party divisions and plotting to dethrone him from power.
He also added that the warring ruling party could stage an extra-ordinary congress to choose his successor if he decided to retire.
“If Zanu PF says I should go I will . . . For your own information, I never canvassed for any position, I rose up to my position . . . let the people judge for themselves . . . We don’t want imposition (of leaders) at all.
“People have said that I should choose a successor but that is what is called imposition. I don’t want and will never impose. This is the job of congress to choose those who will then come up and the party will elect.
“Whatever position you seek must be a position you get upon a proper election by the people . . . People who are busy forming their own groupings saying VaMugabe must go, I ask myself where should I go?” Mugabe said.