The rift between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga that was exposed by the July 31 protests against the deteriorating economic and political situation in the country is said to be widening following revelations by a Zanu PF politburo member that the divisions have been simmering since the beginning of the year.
Cleveria Chizema, who was suspended after a dramatic politburo meeting on the eve of the protests where it emerged that some senior ruling party leaders backed the “uprising”, told The Standard in an exclusive interview that she had been caught in a cross fire.
Chizema was frozen out from the ruling party after she was allegedly found in possession of flyers and placards promoting the July 31 mass protests allegedly rooting for Chiwenga to take over the leadership of the country.
Opening up for the first time since the highly-charged politburo meeting that suspended her, the long-serving Zanu PF leader yesterday said she felt betrayed.
She said after the posters were dumped at her home in Harare, she wanted to inform senior party leaders including Oppah Muchinguri and July Moyo, but failed to do so as they were busy.
At the politburo meeting, Moyo confirmed that Chizema tried to meet him, but Muchinguri did not defend her.
“The truth is I kept those papers in good faith,” Chizema said.
“And the message that was delivered by (Zanu PF acting spokesperson) Cde (Patrick) Chinamasa that I was found with papers with subversive messages, which were delivered at my house made it look like there was a van that brought those papers.
“I was very disappointed I tell you. I have 50 years in the party. Since it was formed in Highfield — my father was active in the party.
“I never had any misconduct for the past 50 years, 40 years of independence, nothing, and 10 years of struggle, nothing, It’s only today. I am disappointed.”
Chizema said the placards were dumped at her house soon after her birthday in March this year and she kept them as she wanted to present them to Muchinguri and Moyo.
She, however, failed to meet both of them as they kept on saying meetings were not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“The day I was suspended, I did not sleep,” she said.
“People thought I had been arrested and they were calling and calling.
“The way Cde Chinamasa announced made it appear as if bags, boxes or sacks full of flyers had been delivered at my house for yesterday [Friday]’s demonstration.
“The message gave an impression that I have loads and loads of the papers here.
“The papers were very confidential to me and I wanted to give them to Amai Muchinguri.
“I told her I had a bone to chew with her. “But that was the time Covid-19 broke out and she kept saying ‘Mai Chizema, I will see you, I will come’ and you know, time flies, five months went past.
“In the meeting [politburo], I told them everything and also that I tried to see July Moyo. He confessed that I looked for him twice.”
Sources who attended the meeting said Muchinguri said she did not know anything about Chizema’s request for meetings.
The insiders said the politburo meeting was meant to checkmate Chiwenga who allegedly leads a faction that is dissatisfied with Mnangagwa’s leadership.
Zanu PF’s security chief Lovemore Matuke submitted a report that was allegedly meant to prove that there was a plot to topple Mnangagwa from within.
His submissions were corroborated by Central Intelligence Organisation boss Isaac Moyo.
Chizema said she suspected that her long-time maid was involved in the plot as she left immediately after the posters were dumped in her yard.
“There was another day I could not sleep, the alarm kept ringing. I think this was definitely a plot against me,” she said.
“Six years together, no notice, no nothing. I suspect she was the one who knew I threw the papers under the carpet.”
Zanu PF insiders said there was a witch-hunt to weed out Chiwenga’s sympathisers and there could be more victims in the coming days.
Three years ago, Chiwenga played a crucial role in Mnangagwa’s rise to the presidency after he led a coup that toppled long-time ruler Robert Mugabe.
A few months later reports started surfacing that the two had fallen out as Mnangagwa insisted on running for a second term in 2023 despite an alleged pact that he would rule for one term only and make way for his deputy.
— The Standard