Suspended Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, who now also stands accused of sensational treason charges by the State media and his party enemies, says he is neither afraid nor losing sleep over the “trumped-up” allegations that he was involved in a plot to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.
And grounded former Cabinet minister Fay Chung, who is a mother to Gumbo’s daughter, weighed in on the burning issue yesterday, saying forthrightly that the treason allegations that were being levelled against the outspoken former Dare reChimurenga member were fictitious.
Speaking in an interview, Gumbo reiterated that he was now watching Zanu PF’s increasingly violent factional and succession wars “from the terraces”, adding that his only regret was that Mugabe had not approached him privately when he had been “fed lies” about him before the president launched a vitriolic attack on him in last week’s heated politburo meeting in Harare.
“I am not worried about being arrested because I have done nothing wrong,” he said when asked whether he was afraid, seeing how serious the allegations that were now being levelled against him were.
Gumbo also rubbished the purported recording that his party enemies say they have of him plotting to assassinate Mugabe, saying it was a clear result of malicious “voice morphing” — a technique also referred to as voice transformation and voice conversion, and that is used to modify speeches to sound as if this was spoken by a target speaker.
“They are using voice morphing. That is what is happening and they are now attributing their (morphed) recordings to people aligned to the Vice President (Joice Mujuru),” he said.
Gumbo, who is not new to the political wilderness, having been arrested and kept in inhumane dungeons by Mugabe during the liberation struggle in Mozambique in the late 1970s, said it was unfortunate that the president now believed the “lies that are being peddled by infiltrators” as well as the “desperate manipulation of voices of persons perceived to be loyal to Mujuru”.
The veteran nationalist was left in the firing line alone at last week’s tempestuous politburo meeting when Mugabe took deadly aim at him, with other pro-Mujuru members cowering in shock at the treason charges that the president levelled against him.
With Zanu PF’s elective congress now just two weeks away, the attacks on Mujuru and all her perceived allies have reached a crescendo, with the political careers of the majority of Zanu PF’s provincial chairpersons lying in choreographed ruins.
Asked whether he had attempted to engage Mugabe after his suspension, Gumbo said he felt that would not make sense as it was the president who had decided to lay the serious charges on him, in an open politburo meeting.
“I have not tried to talk to the president. The fact that he didn’t talk to me on the side shows that he believed hook, line and sinker all the lies. He should have asked me in private. But I’m not worried about it,” he said.
Chung, the former Education minister, who knows Gumbo very well since the days of the liberation struggle, said the allegations against her ex-partner were fictitious.
“I think they (Gumbo’s detractors) are playing political games. I don’t think I can see any evidence that he tried to kill anybody. This is clearly an exaggeration of the little evidence they have.
“He is a nationalist. He has devoted his whole life to Zimbabwean politics. When he made the decision not to return to Zanu and instead said he would support Zanu Ndonga that meant that he removed himself from the party, but he came back,” she said.
Asked whether Gumbo, who was kept in a pit, along with other members of Dare around 1978 was still bitter, Chung said he was never rebellious.
“He doesn’t have a rebellious streak. He supported the leader of Zanu at any given moment during the struggle. After the struggle, he supported Ndabaningi Sithole and I think this was because he was bitter that he had been arrested when he thought he was innocent. I do not think he has the capacity to assassinate anyone. If he has done what they say he did then he should be taken to court,” she said.
Chung said although she last met Gumbo two months ago, she sent him a message when she heard that he had been suspended.
The State-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper at the weekend fingered Gumbo and equally beleaguered Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa — perceived close allies of Mujuru — as having recently “spoken of assassinating” Mugabe.
The paper also said its “investigations” had revealed that another senior Mujuru ally and Cabinet minister from Mashonaland Central had allegedly “made contingencies for such a scenario (Mugabe’s planned assassination) during recent meetings with potential hitmen in South Africa and Israel”.
But Gumbo flatly rejected the accusations.
“Vanondipa mbiri yandisina (they are giving me fame that I don’t deserve). I will not do anything to harm anyone. Now I am suspended, what more can I do? All I can say is I dismiss the allegations with the contempt they deserve. My stance has always been the same, that the party has been infiltrated. I remain resolute and convinced that there are people destroying the party from inside. Now I will be watching from the terraces and see what will happen,” he said.
His alleged partner-in-crime, Mutasa, politely declined to comment on the matter.
But former Cabinet minister Dumiso Dabengwa — who also faced treason charges and was incarcerated by Mugabe’s government in the early years of Zimbabwe’s independence — said at the weekend that the accusations against Mujuru and her allies appeared designed to “cripple her chances” of retaining the VP post at Zanu PF’s December congress.
“I hope this is not being done to de-campaign her so as to disqualify her from retaining her position. If there was any truth in the accusations we would expect that she would have been charged already,” the Zapu leader said.
“When we were charged with treason, an arms cache was found at our farm, the whole idea being to destroy Zapu,” the former Home Affairs minister added.
Dewa Mavhinga, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher, said the very serious allegations “around Mujuru and business people perceived to be financing her amount to warning shots before drastic action is possibly taken”.
“Mujuru’s problems are mounting and things could get worse before they get better. Her perceived allies in the provinces have been purged and this latest round of troubles is an escalation of pressure for her to resign before congress,” Mavhinga added.
Giles Mutsekwa, an ex-soldier and former co-Home Affairs Minister in the unity government, said no one in Zimbabwe could ever contemplate assassinating the ever heavily-guarded Mugabe.
“It is not feasible that the vice president would ever contemplate that, and going by the kind of security that we have around the president it is absolutely not possible. They are just trying to soil the vice ahead of congress,” he said.
Pedzisai Ruhanya, a director of local political think-tank Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI), said people behind the smear campaign were “evil”.
“Those allegations are legally, coherently and politically very shallow. Zanu PF should do the honourable thing and fire Mujuru if it no longer wants her. To criminalise the VP in that manner is archaic and existed in medieval politics.
“If Mugabe wants to maintain the little left of his legacy, he is (better) advised not to criminalise that liberation war widow. That woman contributed much along with her family, for this nation to be where it is today,” he said.
Analyst Chris Mugaga noted that the likes of Joshua Nkomo, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole, Justice Dumbutshena, Patrick Kombayi, Morgan Tsvangirai and now Joice Mujuru had all, among many others, “been accused of treason each time Mugabe’s power had come under threat”.
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