HARARE – Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko has literally taken the gloves off on his counterpart — Emmerson Mnangagwa — insinuating on Tuesday that the 75-year-old politician was lying that he was poisoned on August 12 while attending a Zanu PF youth interface meeting in Gwanda, the Daily News can report.
In an unprecedented move, Mphoko, who is the acting president, released a statement in which he implied that Mnangagwa could be pursuing an agenda to undermine the authority of the president after he told his loyalists in Masvingo over the weekend that he was poisoned.
Mugabe, who is in South Africa where he is co-chairing the Bi-National Commission — along with Jacob Zuma of the “Rainbow Nation” — has also dismissed the notion that Mnangagwa was poisoned while in Gwanda where he was part of delegates who attended the Matabeleland South Zanu PF youth interface meeting headlined by the Zanu PF leader.
The Zanu PF first secretary based his statements on accounts by Mnangagwa’s doctors at his State residence recently after the vice president had returned from South Africa where he had gone to seek treatment.
In a scathing statement, Mphoko who has the ear of First Lady Grace Mugabe, said claims that his counterpart was poisoned were “surprising”.
“Over the weekend, and apparently using the background of unproven but persistent allegations and claims that the late national heroine Shuvai Mahofa was poisoned at the Zanu PF people’s conference in Victoria Falls in 2015, VP Mnangagwa told an emotionally-charged memorial service for Cde Mahofa in Gutu that what happened to her in 2015 in Victoria Falls, is also what happened to him on August 12 in Gwanda. Contrary to his statement, his medical doctor, while briefing . . . Mugabe in the presence of Mnangagwa, confirmed that . . . Mnangagwa was not poisoned,” reads part of Mphoko’s statement.
“At the Gweru presidential youth interface rally . . . Mugabe revealed that, three days earlier, he had met with Mnangagwa’s medical doctor in the presence of Mnangagwa and that the doctor, who has been attending to Mnangagwa for 20 years, told the president that his long-standing patient had not been food-poisoned.
“It will be recalled that on the eve of the Midlands presidential youth interface rally held in Gweru on September 1, 2017, . . . Mnangagwa issued a statement categorically stating that he did not eat any ice cream in Gwanda. This was after widespread false claims that he had been poisoned after allegedly eating ice cream from Gushungo Dairy,” said Mphoko in a statement released by his office late on Tuesday night.
Apart from having the ear of Grace, Mphoko usually fights in the corner of the Generation 40 (G40) faction that also includes within its ranks Higher and Tertiary Education minister Jonathan Moyo and the party’s political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
Mnangagwa, on the other hand, reportedly leads the Team Lacoste faction and when he addressed his loyalists in Gutu at a function, he claimed he had been poisoned.
“I have come to tell you that what happened to Mai Mahofa in Victoria Falls is what also happened to me.
“I am making tremendous recovery. Those who wished me dead will be ashamed because when God’s time for one to die is not up, he will not die. I still have many years to live and the truth will come out,” Mnangagwa reportedly said.
Mnangagwa fell sick in Gwanda in August this year and was immediately airlifted to South Africa with his loyalists concluding that he had been poisoned by rivals in the deadly race to succeed Mugabe, who turns 94 next year and is now showing signs of frailty.
But Mphoko said it was none other than Mnangagwa who disclosed that he had not been poisoned and for him to tell his supporters now that he was poisoned is a direct challenge to Mugabe.
“No one else other than Mnangagwa himself confirmed this position at the last Zanu PF central committee meeting held on September 8, 2017 where he emphatically said he was not poisoned. This was after he made the same disclosure to the politburo the previous day.
“In view of the above, Mnangagwa’s latest claim that he was poisoned in Gwanda cannot go unchallenged not least because everyone can see that it is a calculated after-thought challenge to president Mugabe’s public account that Mnangagwa’s medical doctor ruled out poisoning as the cause of Mnangagwa’s traumatising vomiting and diarrhoea in Gwanda.
“It must be said that Mnangagwa’s statement that he was poisoned, when his medical doctor has authoritatively said he was not is disappointing.
Political analysts said it was unprecedented that such as statement could be issued to rebuff a serving vice president when the issue could have easily been discussed behind closed doors.
They said it was now too clear that relations have broken down within the top echelons of Zanu PF, warning of an imminent purge of top officials and possible chaos in the aftermath.
This comes as Mugabe recently claimed that within his Zanu PF, he has “Judas Iscariots” who are impatient for his departure and are whipping up emotions among their loyalists.
Analysts were unanimous yesterday that the centre cannot hold in Zanu PF and that Mnangagwa was now walking on very thin ice.
Dewa Mavhinga, a political analyst, said for now, Mnangagwa has stakes raised against him and he might face the same fate which befell his predecessor Joice Mujuru who was expelled from the ruling party rather unceremoniously after being accused of plotting to stage a coup against Mugabe in 2014.
“Mphoko’s statement and Mnangagwa’s lawsuit against Moyo show clearly that a decisive factional showdown is imminent and indications are that Mugabe may not be on Mnangagwa’s side,” said Mavhinga.
“In the short-term, the succession battle is likely to be decided in favour of G40 with Mnangagwa facing a similar fate to what Mujuru was subjected to in 2014,” he said.
United Kingdom-based political expert Stephen Chan said although Zanu PF was far from collapsing, the ruling party’s dominance for close to four decades was now in danger.
Chan said the statement by Mphoko reveals an intensification of in-fighting within Zanu PF, although the ruling party is far from collapsing.
“The Zimbabwean economy will collapse first and, if the party is seen to have prioritised its internal feuds over and above the needs of the country and its people, then the party will be in danger from the outside not the inside,” observed Chan.
“Can president Mugabe control this anymore? He can when he’s inside the country. It’s a case of when the cat’s away the mice come out to play,” opined Chan.
Despite the widening cracks in Zanu PF — the party’s spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo claimed on Monday that relations between Mugabe and his deputy were still normal and dismissed any likelihood of a split.
In a Tuesday statement that was apparently provoked by the Daily News story “Mugabe, ED fight . . . Zanu PF headed for split” Khaya Moyo accused the media of championing a regime change agenda.
Yesterday, the Zanu PF spokesperson was not taking calls from the Daily News which wanted to inquire about the latest statement by Mphoko.
In his statement on Tuesday, Khaya-Moyo had said: “You may agree that the story infers that the relationship between the president and first secretary of Zanu PF Cde R.G. Mugabe and Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has gone unsavoury and is almost severed.
“For the benefit of those who want to live by the truth, the story cannot be anything besides being one of those many wishful and hogwash smear campaigns often peddled against Zanu PF and its leadership by regime change agents under the guise of journalism. The relations between the president and first secretary of the party and his deputy are as solid and as cordial as ever and, all prophets of doom shall always be put to shame,” he said.
“It should be noteworthy that amid these concerted media vilifications, the revolutionary party is emerging even stronger. Zanu PF will remain undeterred in pursuit of its people-centred objectives, policies and programmes as set out under ZimAsset and the 10-point plan as enunciated by the president. There is no doubt that Zanu PF is already set in pole position ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections and that is what may also be triggering this gutter journalism.”
Khaya Moyo warned: “Those misinforming the public by writing falsehoods shall live to regret. That conduct is abhorred in the strongest terms.”
While the Mugabes have lambasted the provinces of Midlands and Masvingo for being cradles of factionalism that threatens the foundations of Zanu PF, Mnangagwa said over the weekend that the provinces were sovereign and were free to pursue tribal politics “by standing with one of their own”.
But that was apparently lost to Khaya Moyo, who claimed in the statement that the relations between Mnangagwa and Mugabe are still “solid”, notwithstanding the public shellacking of the former and also humiliations by First Lady Grace Mugabe.