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Beleaguered Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga made spirited but futile efforts to save his allies from the Zanu PF political guillotine during Wednesday’s tense politburo meeting in which a titanic battle among senior party officials exploded into the open.
The most high-profile casualty from Wednesday’s meeting was Mashonaland East provincial affairs minister Aplonia Munzverengwi, who was demoted from the women’s league national political commissar position to become deputy secretary for lands in the influential wing.
Mashonaland West provincial vice-chairperson Dexter Nduna — also Chegutu West legislator — was demoted to a mere card-carrying member, prevented from holding any position in the party for a year, while Matabeleland North provincial youth chair Tamuka Nyoni suffered a similar fate.
They are all believed to be Chiwenga’s allies.
As reported by the Zimbabwe Independent in the past three years, there is a simmering power struggle between President Mnangagwa, who is also Zanu PF’s president and first secretary, and Chiwenga since the two men conspired to overthrow the late former president Robert Mugabe in a military coup in November 2017.
Chiwenga is widely seen as leader of a faction in Zanu PF and is reportedly itching to take over from the 78-year-old incumbent, who is planning to seek a second term in 2023. Zanu PF has roundly endorsed Mnangagwa as the party’s presidential candidate in the 2023 election.
Since the November 2017 coup, Mnangagwa’s camp has been working to decimate Chiwenga’s power base by weakening his influence on the military and other state departments. Mnangagwa has been making sweeping changes in the military and reassigning those perceived to be loyal to the Vice-President.
However, the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, who orchestrated the coup, remains influential in the military and in Zanu PF.
Tension between the two has escalated dramatically over the past few months amid intense jostling for positions during the ongoing restructuring exercises, particularly the upcoming District Coordinating Committee (DCC) elections.
Having dealt Chiwenga a decisive blow by neutralising his military influence, sources said, Mnangagwa has now firmly set his eyes on decimating his political power base and this explains the decision during the Wednesday’s politburo meeting to purge Chiwenga’s political allies.
The Independent’s politburo sources said Chiwenga personally tried in vain to save both Munzverengwi and Nduna from facing stiffer penalties but successfully managed to convince the politburo to rescind the national disciplinary committee (NDC)’s decision to expel Nduna from the party.
Nduna was accused of attempting to use his influence as provincial deputy chair to impose candidates for various DCC positions, against the provincial executive’s resolution.
Sources however alleged he was punished for frequently clashing with his superior, the provincial chairman Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is also Justice minister.
Ziyambi is widely considered to be Mnangagwa’s right hand man.
A politburo member said during a discussion on his issue, Zanu PF secretary for security Lovemore Matuke suggested that Nduna must be suspended from the party for five years and forced to enroll in the Chitepo School of Ideology.
Chiwenga, sources said, quickly shot down the proposal saying the sanction would be too harsh.
“The province (Mashonaland West) had recommended that he should be suspended for five years and when the matter came up for discussion, Matuke suggested he should also be enrolled at the Chitepo School of Ideology. However, the vice president quickly dismissed the suggestion saying it would be an abuse of the facility. He declared that there was no way Nduna would be sent to the ideological school and in the end it was agreed that he should be suspended from holding a leadership position in the party for just one year,” the politburo member said.
Insiders further said the issue of Munzverengwi took much more time as some of the politburo members sympathetic to Chiwenga felt she was being treated unfairly.
According to the NDC report presented by Zanu Pf national chair Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Munzverengwi was accused of bringing the name of the party into disrepute after a nude picture of her went viral on social media last year.
However, it emerged during the deliberations some politburo members reportedly rubbished the allegation saying she was actually being victimised by women’s league boss Marble Chinomona, with whom she has had bad blood since early 2019, well before the picture was circulated.
Munzverengwi comes from Wedza district, a stone’s throw from Chiwenga’s rural homestead. She is also a former senior assistant commissioner in the police and is perceived to be one of Chiwenga’s most ardent supporters having made several appearances at his private functions in Wedza.
“The general feeling in the meeting was that she was being treated unfairly. Again it was Chiwenga who leapt to her defence first. He clearly stated that there was nothing immoral about the photograph, which only showed her body from the chest upward. He actually left the meeting in stitches when he suggested that there were some very senior party members who had done much worse things and no such punishment had been imposed on them,” a source who attended the meeting said.
“So basically, it was agreed that since she had accepted her demotion during the hearing, it should not be altered,” the source added.
Nyoni was punished for attending meetings organised by shadowy pressure group, #tajamuka and receiving payments ahead of the thwarted July 31 protests.
“On being quizzed by the NDC, he said he had been sent by the provincial chair Richard Moyo to infiltrate and spy on the pressure group and give information back to the party. However, Moyo denied the allegation, leaving us with no option but to recommend that he should be demoted to being a card-carrying member,” another source said.
According to inside sources, the party bigwigs also viciously clashed when debating the fate of former Zanu PF secretary for youth affairs Kudzi Chipanga who had applied to rejoin the party from which he was jettisoned at the height of the 2017 military coup.
While those in the Mnangagwa camp like July Moyo and Matuke reportedly wanted him to be readmitted as a card-carrying member ineligible to occupy any leadership position for five years, Chiwenga and party secretary for finance Patrick Chinamasa came out guns blazing saying there was no way he could be allowed back into the party since he was the chief instigator of their woes during Mugabe’s last days in power.
Chipanga traversed the length and breadth of the country rallying youths against Mnangagwa and his then Team Lacoste faction and promoting his bitterest rival at the time, former first lady Grace Mugabe against whom he fought for the right to succeed Mugabe.
As further punishment, Chipanga will lose his farm in Rusape, again at the instigation of Chiwenga and Chinamasa.
“Basically, Chiwenga and Chinamasa argued that readmitting Chipanga would be a mistake as it would imply tolerance for G40 and there was a likelihood that he could be their conduit,” a senior politburo member said.
“On the issue of the farm, July Moyo had actually said he preferred the issue to be referred to the ministry of lands since it was not a party issue but an administrative issue to be best addressed through government. But Chinamasa and Chiwenga sharply disagreed saying the politburo had the right to make a determination on the case and in the end it was resolved that he should be asked to vacate the property,” the politburo member said.
Sources further said the politburo referred the cases of other G40 acolytes Tapiwa Matangaidze and Makhosini Hlongwane back to the Midlands provincial coordinating committee after strong objections from Sibusiso Moyo, Joram Gumbo, July Moyo, Tsitsi Muzenda and Simbarashe Mbengegwi, who argued that their applications had not been deliberated on at provincial level.
“The five, who are the most senior members from the Midlands province, accused secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana of misrepresenting to the politburo that their case had been deliberated on by the provincial PCC. The five then said they did not remember any such PCC meeting being converged and this resulted in the meeting referring the case back to the provincial structures,” a source said.