Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa's embarrassing about-turn at the weekend over the senatorial prospects of former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono was apparently made at the behest of a miffed President Robert Mugabe.
Highly-placed sources said yesterday that Mugabe had voiced concern with Mnangagwa for allegedly misleading the nation on the outcome of a key politburo meeting last Wednesday regarding Gono's senatorial bid.
Interviewed by a partisan State media after the heated politburo meeting, Mnangagwa said pointedly that Gono's Senate bid was now a "closed chapter" as the party would go by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's conclusion that Gono could not be appointed senator for Buhera.
However, party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo insisted even then that Mnangagwa was offside over the issue, explaining further that a committee had been set up to ensure that Gono would be appointed a senator once the legal challenges had been looked into and dealt with.
The seat that Gono has been nominated for by Manicaland Province was left vacant following the death of former liberation war hero Kumbirai Kangai.
Mnangagwa's utterances are said to have irked Mugabe who reportedly went on to order the party strongman to publicly correct his misinformation.
"President Mugabe was not happy at all that Mnangagwa was choosing to mislead the nation, yet the politburo had ruled very clearly that the legal committee had to ensure that Gono was made senator but without breaking the law cited by Zec. This is why Mnangagwa performed his embarrassing somersault, bizarrely blaming journalists and insulting them as being uneducated yet he deliberately told the media that Gono's issue was now a closed chapter. Everyone is watching how all this will pan out, as events have still to fully play out," the well-placed source said.
Describing Mugabe's unhappiness over the matter as a possible turning point, another source said the president had insisted that he believed an agreement was possible regarding the ex-central bank governor's senate seat. The president FROM P1
apparently demanded to know the "real" obstacles for the politburo's resolution on the matter to be realised.
This matter is being played out as Zanu PF is currently engulfed in bitter factional and succession contests between supporters of Mnangagwa and Vice President Joice Mujuru. This war of attrition has become dirtier and uglier in recent months, involving deceit, lies and skulduggery.
Reports indicate that the Mnangagwa faction wants ex-CIO boss Shadreck Chipanga to replace Kangai as they allegedly fear that Gono is too close to Mugabe for their comfort.
The Mnangagwa group has also allegedly been battling to link Gono to the Mujuru faction, although the former RBZ boss insists that he remains loyal only to Mugabe.
The storm started when Zec chairperson Rita Makarau claimed Gono was not qualified to be senator because he was not a registered voter for any ward in Manicaland as demanded by the law.
But Gono said he duly transferred from Harare to Buhera West on December 5, 2013.
Makarau said in a letter to Zanu PF: "There is an original party list which was submitted from Zanu PF during general elections last year to Zec which had names of their candidates, namely Kumbirai Kangai, Mike Nyambuya and Shadreck Chipanga."
Makarau said further that Gono's registration transfer from Harare to Buhera West was done by the registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede when at law, Mudede had ceased to conduct such duties on July 20, 2013, and which duties she claimed had since been transferred to Zec.
But legal experts said Zec was attempting to usurp the power of the Constitutional Court and make a judgment not only on the constitutionality of the registrar of voters' conduct, but also on the existence of a legal framework for voter registration.
Law expert Alex Magaisa said: "In my opinion, Zec has overstepped its mandate. It is not its job to determine whether or not laws or legal frameworks have expired.
"In my opinion, as long as the Electoral Act's provisions on voter registration have not been amended, a person who is registered by the registrar of voters has a prima facie case that he or she is legally registered unless someone successfully challenges that in a court of law."
Information minister Jonathan Moyo also vented his ire at Gono, reacting to the latter's accusations that the stonewalling of his senatorial seat was because of Zanu PF factionalism.
While the Justice minister was unreachable for comment yesterday, he claimed at the weekend that the media failed to properly interpret the statement by Makarau concerning Gono's bid.
"The problem with our press is that they are very uneducated and were not able to correctly interpret what Justice Makarau said with regards to the issue of Dr Gono," Mnangagwa was quoted in the same State media that had carried his original interview and which he was now slating.
"Justice Makarau said there was a lacuna, a vacuum that needs to be looked into. She said there is necessity for the vacuum in Dr Gono's bid to be corrected. Dr Gono still has very high chances of landing the Senate seat, absolutely high chances, but the problem with our media is lack of education."
In the meantime, Mugabe reportedly wants quick resolution to the Gono issue after several party officials expressed frustration over the damage the stand-off was creating for the party.Minister accused of twisting party decision on Gono.