VICE President Joice Mujuru and Zanu PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa on Saturday took turns to attack the rival Emmerson Mnangagwa faction, accusing the ambitious group of attempting a coup against the incumbent President Robert Mugabe’s leadership within Zanu PF.
While Mujuru accused her rivals of trying to circumvent the party’s constitution by bidding for presidency from their lower party positions, it was Mutasa, a Mujuru ally, who went a bit further by telling party rivals the current Zanu PF top leadership was ordained to lead for life.
Mujuru was guest speaker at the Zanu PF Manicaland Women Inter-District Congress held in Mutare’s Marymount while a visibly ailing Mutasa, fresh from India where he had sought medical attention, seized the occasion to throw his own punches at party rivals.
Mujuru, on her part, described those harbouring ambitions of taking over from President Mugabe as “sell-outs”.
She denied the existence of factionalism within Zanu-PF, saying this was a creation of rebellious and power hungry individuals seeking to rewrite the party constitution.
Mujuru said her rivals must come out in the open and declare their interests.
“Those who don’t acknowledge the existing party structure are sell-outs,” she said without mentioning names.
“Don’t lie to people that it is a faction. Please come out in the open that you have rebelled. Please give us reference of what you are saying in the party’s constitution.”
The outcome of recent Zanu PF provincial elections placed Mujuru in a better position to become both party and State president.
Mujuru was not finished.
She accused her rivals of an attempt to topple President Mugabe as party leader.
“President Mugabe is still in charge. Ko iwe unoda kukwira pamusoro ko pauri wambogona here? What are you going to do with the current leader? Please let the people decide?” she said.
Mutasa, who is Presidential Affairs Minister, urged rivals to respect the party leadership which was installed at congress.
“We should respect the elected leadership until they say they want to retire. But we have not seen those who have said they want to leave office. They are retired by God. That’s how things are done in Zanu-PF,” he said.
Mutasa was honest enough to tell the guests he was not among those lined up to speak but felt the urge to stand up and “warn mischievous party members”.
He said Mujuru was personally nominated by President Mugabe at the party’s 2004 congress after he had been convinced of her leadership qualities.
“VP Mujuru was nominated by President Mugabe to lead the party during the 2004 congress,” Mutasa said.
“The president made it clear that the sky is the limit for Mai Mujuru. President Mugabe is still in power. He has not yet made public his intention to retire.”
Mutasa distanced Mujuru from any attempts to dislodge Mugabe while he was still in office.
In apparent reference to Justice Minister Mnangangwa’s faction, Mutasa described those angling to snatch the presidency during the next Zanu-PF congress as “rebels and fools”.
“Kana kuti pane vamwe vedu vane pfungwa dzekuti pacongress iri kuuya iyi vanoda kuva President ivo vanhu ivavo imhutsa (rebel),” said Mutasa.
He told party supporters to be wary of such party leaders, saying such tendencies have never succeeded in Zanu-PF.
The outspoken Zanu PF politician said those who know Zanu-PF’s history very well were aware that there are some senior party leaders who once tried their luck but failed dismally.
He was speaking in apparent reference to the foiled “coup plot” 2004, which saw Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, allegedly organise an unsanctioned meeting in Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North, to scuttle Mujuru’s nomination as Vice President.
The Zanu PF factions have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to position themselves for take over of the 51 year old liberation war movement when the aging Mugabe finally quits.
While the feared Mnangagwa has chosen a silent strategy, Mujuru has been the noisier of the two, at one point calling for a media blackout of the current salary scandal by company executives which she said was an attempt by internal party rivals to fan discord.
An agitated President Mugabe said early this month none of the two faction leaders were guaranteed of his job.
Mugabe, who is rumoured to be preparing former central bank governor Gideon Gono to take over his job, says it was up to ordinary Zanu PF members to decide who should lead them.
Zanu PF is due to hold its elective congress December this year.