A war of words that erupted between President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s propagandists could be indicative of a major turf war among key actors in his administration.
Last week, Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba took a dig at officials in the ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services for insinuating that his boss was ready to dialogue with the opposition.
Apparently, the Information ministry manages Mnangagwa’s official Twitter account, which made the claims.
Charamba who, before the November 2017 soft coup was both the spokesperson of former president Robert Mugabe and the permanent secretary in the ministry of Information was not amused by the post, which contradicted his earlier statement, dismissing prospects of dialogue between Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa of the main MDC party.
“The President was drawing my attention to an attempt to as it were, to put words into his mouth using his Twitter account. So, don’t always believe that which is coming through,” he said.
But officials in the ministry have stood their ground, insisting that Mnangagwa is really the man behind the Twitter account where he communicates with thousands of his followers.
Nick Mangwana, the permanent secretary in the ministry, shot back saying while there may be many fake accounts in Mnangagwa’s name, @edmnangagwa is the legitimate voice of the President.
“Nothing goes on there but that which represents his views and positions on issues and that which he has explicitly cleared,” he said.
Asked if he still stands by his statement yesterday, Charamba was blunt.
He said: “I speak for the President and no one else does, that is what everyone has to know and understand, I speak of what I would have heard from the President”.
The turf wars over Mnangagwa’s tweets are planting doubts over their authenticity.
For instance, a post by Mnangagwa condemning the beating of a man in handcuffs by a policeman and a soldier which was captured by Sky News and has since gone viral on the Internet, was dismissed by his followers, including prominent ex-banker Nigel Chanakira.
The former banker said it is difficult to believe that it is Mnangagwa who runs the account because the views posted on the platform are totally removed from what is happening on the ground.
“Respectfully, President Mnangagwa we have many wounded whom we may show you. Are you honestly so uninformed about what is going on in our country? It’s difficult to believe that it is you who runs this account. I’m very willing to engage you on this matter with a few braves,” said Chanakira.
Mnangagwa had condemned the conduct of the police and soldiers saying “I was appalled by today’s @SkyNews report. That is not the Zimbabwean way. I have instructed that the individuals behind this be arrested and encourage all those impacted to contact the authorities and file an official complaint”.
The army and the police stand accused of dragnet arrests, breaking people’s homes, assaulting people and also raping women.
An estimated 12 people died during the clampdown that Charamba described as a foretaste of things to come but which Mnangagwa had described on Twitter as regrettable.
All has not been well between Mnangagwa’s propagandists since September when new brooms took over the Information ministry.
To start with, officials in the Information ministry have never really spoken with one voice with the deputy minister of Information Energy Mutodi often at loggerheads with his superiors.
Mutodi has publicly clashed with both Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa and Mangwana and does not hide his nonconformist attitude towards them.