HARARE – In a surprising twist to Zanu PF’s deadly tribal, factional and succession wars, party supporters yesterday held demonstrations across the country demanding the immediate sacking of women’s league heavyweights Sarah Mahoka and Eunice Sandi Moyo.
The stunning development came amid claims that the two women — once seen as close allies of President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace — are now undermining the powerful first lady, in addition to facing charges that they allegedly embezzled party funds, among a raft of other claims.
The vocal Mahoka, famed for publicly dressing down Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa last year, is the treasurer of the women’s league, while Sandi Moyo is Grace’s deputy.
Zanu PF insiders who spoke to the Daily News last night said the development was “very significant” as it was likely to have serious ramifications in the party’s succession brawls which have gone a notch higher ever since Mugabe’s 93rd birthday interview with the ZBC, in which the nonagenarian appeared to slam the door shut on ambitious party bigwigs angling to succeed him.
The key women’s league is closely linked to a party faction going by the name Generation 40 (G40), and which is rabidly opposed to Mnangagwa succeeding Mugabe.
In February last year, Mahoka, brazenly heckled Mnangagwa — calling the stunned VP a lame duck.
But yesterday, thousands of Zanu PF women’s league members held demonstrations at the party’s 10 provincial offices, where they demanded the immediate expulsion of Mahoka and Sandi Moyo.
Political analysts told the Daily News that the surprising demos showed that there were now major rifts within the powerful women’s league, which has thus far been fighting spiritedly to force Mugabe to re-appoint a woman in the presidency, in a move which has been widely interpreted as aimed at thwarting Mnangagwa’s mooted presidential aspirations.
The angry and toyi-toying women who gathered in Harare held placards denouncing Mahoka and Sandi Moyo, accusing the duo of embezzling funds and undermining Grace’s authority.
“Mahoka has been insulting the first lady, accusing her of creating placards to denounce her. How can one imagine that a whole first lady can stoop so low?
“You all heard her denouncing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the party headquarters, accusing him of being a lame duck. Where did she get all the powers?” agitated Harare province chairwoman, Joice Kasinamunda, told gathered party supporters.
Kasinamunda also accused Mahoka and Sandi Moyo of diverting $20 000 which is said to have been given to the women’s league by Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo.
“We are the ones who asked the first lady to lead and when she is being insulted, we are supposed to defend her. We are calling upon Mahoka and Sandi Moyo to leave immediately,” Kasinamunda added.
In Bulawayo, the toyi-toying women there were joined by youth league members, among other party members.
“As chairladies in all the 10 provinces, we agreed that today (yesterday) we should have solidarity with Amai (Grace) against such people who are opposing her. They are disrespectful.
“They insult her and they can’t work with us. Here I am talking about Sandi and Mahoka,” a women’s league provincial member told the Daily News.
In a petition seen by the newspaper titled “Mai Sandi, Mahoka must go immediately”, the league also outlined several accusations against the two — chief among them was the one related to the alleged disrespect of the first lady, as well as forming parallel structures.
“They must leave our first lady and secretary for women’s league peacefully. Mai Sandi wants to take over the secretariat of women’s league and she is working in cahoots with some national members to fight the first lady,” read the petition.
“Mahoka insulted the first lady in front of the national women’s league and falsely accused Amai of writing placards against her. Mahoka has been going around all provinces abusing the first lady’s name and authority.
“Mahoka went further to insult VP Mnangagwa in public and to challenge the work of the permanent secretary (in the ministry of Information) George Charamba,” the petition added.
Mahoka and Sandi Moyo were among the group of women’s league members who were aggressively pushing for the revival of the debate about the need for a woman to become one of Zanu PF’s two vice presidents.
Their calls for a woman deputy and Zanu PF’s VPs to be elected was seen as directed against Mnangagwa, as the other current VP, Phelekezela Mphoko’s appointment was part of the conditions of the country’s unity accord which resulted in the post of the second VP being reserved for senior former Zapu officials.
Other analysts also said yesterday’s dramatic turn of events signalled another shift in Zanu PF’s ugly tribal, factional and succession wars.
“The two clearly served a purpose. They were used and are now being discarded. The Machiavellian tactics of the president himself are well documented and he normally uses people and then discards them.
“The reasons being cited in the push to get rid of Mahoka and Sandi do not make sense at all. First, if the issue was about insulting Mnangagwa, then we expect a longer list headed by Grace herself, given how she has attacked the vice president on numerous occasions.
“Secondly, the allegations of misappropriation of donations is laughable given how corruption is endemic in both the ruling party and the government.
“The push to oust them is probably being engineered . . . and it appears there is something that has happened behind closed doors that made them fall out of favour.
“On another sad note, we note that Zanu PF protests are always given the green light by authorities while opposition parties are either not given the go ahead or given very strict conditions. It is indeed like we live in Animal Farm,” political analysts Gladys Hlatywayo said.
“The real issue is that the two women facing protests have fallen out of favour with Grace. This is not necessarily a shift in Zanu PF’s factional configurations,” said another political analyst Dewa Mavhinga.
Analysts have previously said Mugabe’s failure to resolve Zanu PF’s succession riddle is fuelling the party’s deadly infighting, which is devouring the former liberation movement.
The 93-year-old has studiously refused to name a successor, insisting that the party’s congress has that mandate to choose a person of their own choice.
The ruling party’s two major factions have escalated their fights ever since Mugabe’s traditional birthday interview in which he rubbished all his lieutenants’ leadership credentials and their chances of succeeding him.