HARARE – The vast majority of politburo members contemptuously dismissed Zanu PF secretary for Women’s League, Oppah Muchinguri’s report on First Lady Grace Mugabe’s “Meet the People” rallies that was presented at last Thursday’s tense meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body.
Impeccable sources told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that this rejection of the “biased and wafer-thin” report is what forced President Robert Mugabe to establish a commission of inquiry to probe factionalism in the troubled party.
Curiously, Muchinguri’s report, which is in the possession of the Daily News on Sunday, did not delve into any of the contentious issues such as the scurrilous attacks on Vice President Joice Mujuru by Grace, a development that left many in the politburo “thoroughly unimpressed”.
Despite many skirmishes and violence marking the so-called “Meet the People” rallies, Muchinguri claimed that the gatherings, that were held in all the 10 provinces of the country and left the party on the verge of collapse, were successful.
“The Women’s League is of the opinion that this very successful programme aroused such interest in the party that the party is called upon to embrace similar programmes in the future,” reads part of Muchinguri’s report.
Skirting the contentious issues of corruption and alleged acts of treason that Grace raised against Mujuru, Muchinguri’s report surprisingly focused on issues relating to sanitation, load-shedding, erratic water supply, harassment of vendors and “the need for peace and unity in the party and Zimbabwe generally”.
This left the politburo unimpressed, leading Mugabe — who had earlier on told bussed party supporters that had been brought to the venue of the meeting by Mujuru’s opponents that his wife had every right to enter politics — to resort to damage limitation measures, after respected politburo members such as Angeline Masuku complained about the first lady’s conduct during her controversial rallies.
Mugabe swiftly moved to rescue Muchinguri by mooting the idea of the commission of enquiry to probe the party’s rampant factionalism that threatens his party and also singled out Mujuru and Mnangagwa as leaders of factions.
Mugabe has also since fingered both Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mujuru as the leaders of rival factions in the party that are angling to succeed him.
But it was the conduct of his irascible wife that pre-occupied the politburo meeting. For example, Grace addressed bemused party supporters in the Matabeleland provinces in Shona and also accused the men from the region of being lazy bones that were only interested in procreation.
Grace also accused men from Matabeleland South of not developing themselves, but only being interested in going to South Africa to do menial jobs.
A furious Masuku said she was surprised that Grace, a person she regarded as a child, would make such scathing and ill-advised allegations.
Grace also attacked party supporters in Bulawayo, who walked out on her while she was still addressing them.
“You are disorganised Bulawayo. This is disrespectful. We are about to finish. Sit down. Where are those women going? Anyone who doesn’t sit down will not receive the farming inputs I brought,” she said in annoyance,” Grace said.
But Tshinga Dube, a politburo member, said organisers of her rallies were to blame for the chaos that took place in Bulawayo, since they started distributing maize seed packs while she was still speaking.
On the other hand, Rugare Gumbo, Zanu PF spokesperson, is said to have accused his fellow politburo members Emmerson Mnangagwa, Patrick Zhuwao, Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere of having hijacked the first lady’s rallies for their own narrow interests.
“Gumbo took no prisoners and accused Mnangagwa of plotting to denigrate Vice President Joice Mujuru. He accused the Mnangagwa faction of plotting another coup and when an angry Mnangagwa tried to stand up and defend himself, he was told by Mugabe to sit down,” said on one of the high level sources.
There was initially a feeling in the politburo that Grace’s first rallies were for the good of the party, but the events had degenerated into a factional project when Moyo, Kasukuwere and Zhuwao allegedly joined up with devisive elements in the Women’s League to hijack the rallies.
Our sources also said the politburo had noted the current “desperate ploy to banish outspoken war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda” — and had questioned the wisdom of such a move, which Mugabe appears to have already endorsed.
The concern was that the contrived expulsion of the outspoken Sibanda could further divide Zanu PF, not just only along factional lines, but also dangerously along tribal lines.