HARARE – Tourism minister Walter Mzembi has proved to be President Robert Mugabe’s darling, as the nonagenarian leader takes every opportunity he gets to shower the ambitious minister with praises.
Last week, while addressing a youth rally in Masvingo, Mugabe — who usually keeps his cards close to his chest — said Mzembi was the one who alerted him about the factional fights in the volatile Masvingo province, as he defended the minister against party rivals in front of almost all Zanu PF top brass.
“There is this huge problem that when we get to elections some say we don’t want so and so.
“We hear some say we no longer want Mzembi, so who do you want?
“He is your MP and he was elected by the people. Even when you look at Manicaland, the resident minister (Mandiitawepi Chimene) is not wanted by others so they are split.
“Even the chairman of the province (Ezra Chadzamira) is not wanted, for what reason? They just don’t want? ,” Mugabe said.
That was not the first time the 93-year-old has extolled Mzembi.
Provincial Affairs minister Shuvai Mahofa and her Psychomotor counterpart Josiah Hungwe are allegedly against Mzembi.
According to Mugabe, Mzembi was the one who told him about Masvingo factional fights.
“I hope with the just-ended (Masvingo) election we have unity here. I chaired two important meetings.
“The other one was at the State House after Mzembi said MPs wanted to see me as there were issues that needed discussion.
“I told him to bring them and they came and I heard their grievances.
“They said they were having issues with their seniors namely (Josiah) Hungwe and others.”
While Mzembi’s name has not been bandied among succession hopefuls, he was often associated with former vice president Joice Mujuru’s camp, before her dismissal in 2014, an allegation he strenuously denied.
Some observers allege Mzembi is Mugabe’s-blue-eyed boy.
In May 2015, he claimed in an interview with the Daily News that his peers in both government and Zanu PF were plotting his downfall daily, including deliberately omitting him from government itineraries.
But Mugabe’s love for Mzembi is infectious, resulting in him famously describing the flamboyant minister as “the best” in his Cabinet in 2014.
Mugabe praised him after the country received a tourism award from the European Council on Tourism and Trade (ECTT).
“I never say so to my ministers but I rate him (Mzembi) as one of my best ministers,” said Mugabe.
“He is forthright and he is full of brilliant ideas. They don’t remain in the mind but he makes them take form and he acts upon them.
“Yes, he has gallivanted across the world from the north to the South but every step he has taken has been to make Zimbabwe better known,” Mugabe added.
Ironically, early this year, Mzembi said he would run for presidency after Mugabe, if people choose him.
Responding to BBC’s Sarah Montague in an interview in which he was asked if he would consider bidding for presidency when Mugabe is gone, Mzembi said: “Well, if the people in the future decide that, I will respond. Who wouldn’t stand as president? …if offered the opportunity to be prime minister of Britain today, would you say nay?”
“You answer the purpose and calling. I am a politician and the ultimate end in this journey is where it ends, isn’t it?” he said.