VICE-President Emmerson Mnangagwa hosted Zanu PF renegades and suspended party officials that have been linked to his so-called Lacoste faction at a Christmas party, reigniting claims that he is plotting to topple President Robert Mugabe, fresh details show.
Mnangagwa, who was pictured knocking back what is believed to be whisky from a mug written, “I am the boss”, was joined by at least two dozen activists who were either suspended or expelled by Zanu PF, among them former Zanu PF Matabeleland South youth chairman Washington Nkomo, Edmore Samambwa (Midlands), Tawanda Mukodza (Manicaland) and Vengayi Musengi (Mashonaland West).
The five, who were expelled from Zanu PF, were joined by other Zanu PF outcasts like the suspended former Zanu PF chairman for Masvingo Ezra Chadzamira and Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is serving a two-year suspension in Mashonaland West.
Also in attendance, according to sources, were the Zanu PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke, controversial National Railways of Zimbabwe board chairman Larry Mavima, youth chairman for Midlands Province Prosper Machando, a Manicaland businessman and Zanu PF politician Albert Nyakuedzwa, Primary and Secondary education deputy minister Paul Mavima and former Zanu PF provincial chairman for Manicaland Mike Madiro.
Some unnamed commanders from the security forces were also in attendance at the party.
Mnangagwa’s allies, citing Mugabe’s advanced age, are now publicly declaring that the Zanu PF strongman — in power for 36 years — will cede control to his deputy before 2017 is out.
“The year 2017 may see Mnangagwa being elevated to president and he is most likely to pick Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga [army commander] as his deputy and Kembo Mohadi [State Security minister] as second vice-president, while other security chiefs will be assigned to powerful ministries,” Energy Mutodi wrote on Facebook on New Year’s Eve just hours before he was snapped meeting the acting president at his homestead in Mapanzure, Zvishavane.
Mnangagwa “strategist” July Moyo, his vocal supporter Justice Mayor Wadyajena, Gokwe-Kana MP Owen “Mudha” Ncube, Masvingo senator Clemence
Makwaramba, and the suspended Harare women’s league provincial chair, Ratidzo Mukarati were also in attendance.
The hush-hush meeting, now dubbed the ‘Mug Declaration’, was called to “coronate Mnangagwa as the new boss in Zanu PF, who will succeed President Mugabe”, one insider said.
It came just a week after the British magazine, The New Statesman, carried an interview in which Christopher Mutsvangwa, the leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association who was sacked as a minister by Mugabe and later expelled from Zanu PF, said he was “100% sure” Mnangagwa would be the next President of Zimbabwe.
Jonathan Moyo, a key opponent of Mnangagwa, drew a link between Mutodi’s Facebook attacks on Mugabe and his meeting with Mnangagwa – forcing the acting president to issue a bizarre statement in which he appeared to suggest that musician posed as an MP to gain access.
Mnangagwa furiously protested that he was opening Christmas gifts, among which was the ‘I am The Boss’ mug.
Mnangagwa was also forced to denounce his war veteran allies such as Mutsvangwa as “rogues”.
Sources told The Standard this week that strategies discussed during the meeting included steps to silence the G40 faction – which so far poses the biggest hurdle in his path to the Zanu PF presidency.
Ziyambi is a former Home Affairs deputy minister and ex-Mashonaland West acting provincial chairperson who was removed from office on allegations of factionalism and working to promote Mnangagwa.
Nyakuendzwa, a convicted murderer who was linked to the death of war veteran Tino Wilson Mukono in 2005, is also linked to the Tea Lacoste faction.
Musengi is a former Mashonaland West provincial youth chair who was kicked out of the party on allegations of fanning factionalism and advancing the interest of Mnangagwa.
He was expelled from Zanu PF together with Nkomo, Godfrey Tsenengamu, Samambwa and Godwin Gomwe after a barrage of attacks on Mugabe, his wife Grace and other senior party officials while demanding that Mnangagwa takes over from the aged leader.
Madiro is a central committee who was once suspended from the party on allegations of pushing for Mnangagwa in 2004 and only bounced back after the 2014 controversial congress which saw the VP rise to his current post.
He is pictured seated with Mnangagwa while the VP is again holding the mug.
Chadzamira is one of the three provincial chairpersons barred from holding Zanu PF offices for undermining Grace while supporting Mnangagwa while Mavima is a central committee member and a strong Mnangagwa ally.
Matuke yesterday said only shallow minds found an issue out of a mug that costs a dollar at the expense of serious national issues.
He said he was not apologetic for attending the meeting, as he was free to associate with people he wanted.
“Only mad people comment about the cup. We did not ask whom those people were with on the New Year eve,” he said.
“There was nothing factional about the meeting. There was nothing bad said about the President except praising him. How does that form a factional meeting?” he asked.
On those expelled from the party over their factional links with Mnangagwa, Matuke said: “So if someone is expelled from the party and is your relative, do you disown them? For the record, this is the ninth straight year I have been at the VP’s house celebrating New Year with him. If VP Mphoko (Phelekezela) invites me, I will attend. I am free to make choices.”
Mugabe, currently on leave in the Far East, is thought to be weighing a Cabinet reshuffle in his first business when he returns from vacation.
Paralysis in his government caused by the unending succession drama may force the 93-year-old veteran leader into a realignment of his party, with an eye on the 2018 elections which his party says he will contest – although few believe he will be fit to run.