- Published: 01 December 2014
- Written by Herald
ZANU-PF Politburo member Cde Obert Mpofu was in the eye of a political storm yesterday over claims he "unilaterally and unprocedurally" oversaw a plot to withdraw Cde Jacob Mudenda's Central Committee nomination in a bid to aid his campaign to land the post of national chairman.
Dozens of placard-waving Zanu-PF supporters from Cde Mpofu's Umguza constituency staged a demonstration in Lupane on Saturday denouncing Cdes Mudenda and Sithembiso Nyoni ahead of an inter-district meeting.
The inter-district meeting had been called to discuss preparations for the Zanu-PF congress which officially opens on Wednesday as well as draw up resolutions to be recommended to congress.
Zanu-PF district officials from Hwange who arrived in Lupane to find Cde Mpofu's supporters in full voice denouncing the National Assembly Speaker, drew up their own placards targeting the Transport Minister, with some labelling him a "thief" and "part of gamatox" – reference to a conspiratorial group of senior party officials said to be behind a plot to oust President Mugabe.
Fist fights broke out between the two groups and police had to be called, it is alleged by Cde Mpofu and a senior state intelligence officer.
An "impromptu and unscheduled" provincial executive committee meeting, according to one local official, was convened by the Matabeleland North chairman, Cde Richard Moyo. Prior to the start of the meeting, an emotional Cde Mpofu declared that he was going to "get rid of some people" – his anger apparently stemming from the demonstrators who called him a thief and denounced him as divisive.
He called out the names of Cdes Cephas Mudenda, Cephas Malikwa and a Dube – all from Hwange – and ordered youths to eject them from the room.
"He would name them, one by one, and demand their removal. It was a savage ejection of members from Hwange who continued shouting ‘thief!' as they were dragged out. It became a chaotic meeting with no purpose or order," said one witness.
After the meeting, the secretary for administration, Cde Clifford Sibanda, emerged to tell journalists that they had withdrawn the Central Committee nominations of Cde Fathi Mpofu and Elias Mavule. Cde Mavule was replaced by Cde Esau Dube while Cde Mpofu was replaced with Cde Jonathan Mathuthu, the husband of Politburo member Cde Sithokozile Mathuthu.
They also resolved to recommend to the Politburo that Cdes Mudenda and Nyoni be withdrawn from the Central Committee, it was alleged because Cde Nyoni "led a campaign to oust President Mugabe" and Cde Mudenda "sponsored a demonstration during the congress accreditation process" three weeks ago in Hwange, at which Cde Mpofu's wife, Cde Sikhanyisiwe Mpofu, presided.
The Hwange protest of three weeks ago, The Chronicle heard yesterday, was over the accreditation of Patrick Utete who is alleged, following the 2008 elections in which President Mugabe suffered a first round defeat, to have stated that ‘'the party had lost because of President Mugabe''.
Yesterday, Cde Mpofu – who is reportedly angling for the Zanu-PF chairmanship in a race with Cde Mudenda to replace the embattled incumbent Cde Simon Khaya Moyo – faced accusations that he was trying to clear his path by getting Cde Mudenda sidelined.
President Mugabe will appoint his two deputies and the national chairman at the congress, and failure to land a Central Committee seat would be a fatal blow for any aspirant.
By their actions, Cde Mpofu and Matabeleland North chairman Cde Moyo, some senior party figures said yesterday, had created an impression that they misled First Lady Cde Grace Mugabe when she visited recently that there was no factionalism in the province.
"This whole farce that took place on Saturday was unilaterally authored by Cde Mpofu and his district chiefly as well as elements of Lupane district and Bubi district. He was acting alone, unilaterally and using an inappropriate body to deal with members whose nominations for the Central Committee were received and accepted by the Politburo," one senior official said.
Other Politburo members from the province, who did not attend Saturday's meetings, were said to be "outraged" by what happened. Cde Mudenda was away in Namibia where he is observing elections, Professor Jonathan Moyo was in Harare, Cde Cain Mathema was in Victoria Falls with the Sadc health ministers while Cde Mathuthu and Cde Nyoni's whereabouts could not be established.
The Politburo members, it is understood, have resolved to "make their views known" during a Politburo meeting slated for Tuesday, a day before the start of the congress.
Cde Mpofu could find himself answering charges of "gross misconduct for acting unilaterally and unprocedurally with clear pre-meditation in full view of the media which he invited", said one official familiar with the developing political furore.
The charge against Cde Nyoni, the official said, was led by the province's legal secretary, Cde Stars Mathe, a former MDC councillor who has previously tried, unsuccessfully, to dislodge the Nkayi North MP.
Only last week, Cde Mpofu earned praise from President Mugabe after telling the Politburo about Matabeleland North's political unity, "and yet two days after the meeting and three days before the congress he has changed tune and is now telling everyone who can listen that Cde Mudenda and Cde Nyoni are ‘gamatox' and pretends he has booted them out of the Central Committee", fumed one Politburo member from Matabeleland South.
"This is unacceptable. Cde Mpofu needs to take himself seriously if he wants us to take him seriously. This is disgusting and will not be accepted. Perhaps he's right, there's no factionalism but individualism by someone who wants to create a fiefdom in Matabeleland North."
Last night, Cde Mpofu dug in, insisting that the correct procedures had been followed. He said the inter-district meeting endorsed the ouster of the senior leaders and the decision stands as the province had condoned their actions for a long time.
"There's no factionalism, the talk about factionalism was misrepresentation to the media by frustrated people whose agenda was to destabilise the province. For your own information, there's a report where the joint provincial council resolved to recall some people from congress," said Cde Mpofu.
"That report was taken to members of the Provincial Co-ordinating Committee, Politburo and Central Committee where it was unanimously endorsed. Anyone suggesting that this was irregular is not only ignorant of the rules but mischievous."
He said the demonstrators at the inter-district conference were the same people who staged protests in Hwange recently, where his wife was accrediting delegates for congress.
Cde Moyo could not be reached for comment but the provincial secretary for administration, Cde Sibanda, said when the First Lady was told that there was no factionalism in Matabeleland North, the province had not realised that there were "pockets of divisive leaders".
Cde Sibanda alleged that Cde Fathi Mpofu held meetings with the demonstrators at his offices before they staged the protests. Ironically, Cde Obert Mpofu is accused of using his York House offices in Bulawayo throughout last week to plot the demonstration against Cdes Mudenda and Nyoni. Some of the protesters seen on Saturday were reportedly seen coming out of York House – Cde Mpofu's high-rise building in the Bulawayo CBD – carrying placards.
"We always thought there was no factionalism until the inter-district conference where members of the party mobilised and bussed people from the lower structures of the party from Hwange to come and demonstrate in Lupane," Cde Sibanda said.
"This is a sign that someone is sponsoring people to destabilise the party. Maybe their colleagues from other provinces ruled by chaos were pestering them on their non-action. It's the height of mischief for a senior member of the party to sponsor chaos. It points to factionalism.
"For one to be a member of the Politburo, they've to be members of the Central Committee and voted for by provinces. They don't vote for themselves, so they're subjected to the provincial inter-district conference."
He said after the meeting of the provincial executive committee (PEC), the motion to sack the senior leaders was tabled before the inter-district conference, an organ he insisted was empowered to elect, and adopted.
The Zanu-PF constitution, though, says a body can only suspend or take action against a member who is part of that body. The PEC and inter-district meeting, under the current rules, have no authority to take action against Central Committee and Politburo members.
Cde Nyoni yesterday said she would only comment after the meeting of the politburo tomorrow.
"From what I read in the media, I think the procedures that should be followed have been raised. I will not comment until the meeting of the Politburo on Tuesday," she said.
Cde Mudenda also declined to comment, saying curtly: "Ask Obert Mpofu. He's the person you should direct those questions to. I've no comment."