HARARE – The ruling Zanu PF has taken the unprecedented step of banning its members from bringing cell phones to politburo meetings amid concerns that there were some in the party who are leaking information to the media.
Politburo chair, President Robert Mugabe, was in a no-nonsense mood when he arrived at the venue of yesterday’s meeting just before mid-day, as his security details searched top party officials upon entrance to the indaba, forcing them to leave their cell phones.
As Zanu PF secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo made his way to the meeting, he went through the scanner, and he was told by security agents to leave his phone behind. He fully complied with the instruction, remarking “indeed we do not want anyone with phones inside”.
This comes as the troubled ruling party top honchos were last year banned from using social media to communicate party information. Nonetheless, not everyone in the party is obeying the order.
Among the first to arrive for the politburo meeting were the likes of under-fire Zanu PF national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa and party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo.
Those who came in late just before Mugabe’s arrival included Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, and Obert Mpofu, the minister of Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion.
Before the start of the meeting, Zanu PF bigwigs could be seen chatting in groups or pairs — betraying their factional inclination in the battle to succeed Mugabe.
Zanu PF is presently split between the Team Lacoste and Generation 40 (G40) factions. The two camps are locked in a bitter succession war that is now threatening to destroy the liberation movement.
But it was Kasukuwere and Moyo who seemed to be more interested in having their tête-à-tête far from their colleagues as they nestled in the corner of a balcony in the 14th floor of the Zanu PF headquarters where the crunch meeting was taking place.
They only dispersed when they realised while deep in their conversation that the eagle-eyed photojournalists from both the public and private media had zeroed in on them and were ready to pounce on the opportunity to make juicy pictures and headlines for their front pages.
Interestingly, they proceeded to the restrooms where they spent about 10 to 15 minutes—apparently to conclude their conversation, which had been cut short by the presence of the media.
Far from the madding crowd, non politburo members in Agriculture minister Joseph Made and his Mines counterpart Walter Chidakwa were chatting between themselves, preferring more to engage reporters than their Cabinet colleagues who were clad in First Lady Grace Mugabe-designed party jackets.
The duo had apparently come to brief Mugabe on command agriculture and the state of the mining sector.
With almost every politburo member clad in party regalia, Mugabe first led his feuding lieutenants in a photo session just outside the ruling party’s imposing headquarters.
After that, it was down to the business of the day, as the 93-year-old Zanu PF strongman trudged down the corridor to the elevators, which took him to his office on the 13th floor.
There, Mugabe spent almost an hour as his lieutenants, including the chairperson of the probe team into allegations that Kasukuwere was working to undermine him, Jacob Mudenda, took turns to visit his office for briefings.
After the briefings, Mugabe made his way to the boardroom where upon his entry all Zanu PF bigwigs, including his two deputies, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko stood up in unison to greet him.
“Members on that side will not be able to see me now because of these people blocking their sight, can they move ndinoda kukwazisa vanhu vangu (I want to greet my people), Mugabe said referring to an army of reporters and photojournalists who wanted to hear the nonagenarian greet his colleagues.