A power struggle that has been simmering for months between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ambitious deputy, retired General Constantino Chiwenga, has intensified over the past two weeks, with factions said to belong to them fighting bitterly over control of re-introduced District Coordinating Committees (DCCs).
Mnangagwa and the former Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander are fighting for the heart and soul of Zanu PF and control of the levers of state power.
The differences between the two emerged after the November 2017 coup over several issues, such as type of transitional arrangement, key appointments, including cabinet posts and Mnangagwa’s tenure.
Insiders say initially the coup deal was that Mnangagwa would come in as a civilian face and serve one term and go, leaving power to Chiwenga.
However, Mnangagwa’s repeated talk of two terms is said to have widened the rift between the two. There have also been differences on critical appointments, dismissals, especially in the security sector, business deals and the direction of the administration, sources say.
Mnangagwa was recently endorsed by party provinces and organs as Zanu PF’s sole 2023 presidential candidate. However, insiders say Chiwenga is not prepared to wait for ten years of Mnangagwa’s rule to come in, setting the stage for a bruising power struggle ahead.
The party resolved to re-introduce the DCCs in its structures last year, claiming they were the missing link in the coordination of its programmes.
DCCs were disbanded in 2012 after they became the centre of terminal factional fights among bigwigs. The party felt DCCs were, during that time, being used to foment divisions and fan factionalism between camps led by Mnangagwa and then vice-president Joice Mujuru. Mujuru and Mnangagwa were angling to succeed the late former president Mugabe. According to the Zanu PF constitution, there are 60 rural DCCs and 29 in urban areas that must be constituted.
When fully constituted, the DCCs form part of Zanu PF’s congress — the supreme decision-making body mandated to elect the party president. Accordingly, whoever controls DCCs has greater potential of sustaining power in Zanu PF.
Party insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent in off-the-record briefings this week that vicious campaigning is currently underway in all 10 provinces ahead of the DCC elections set to be conducted over the next two months. The campaign is reportedly being held on factional lines, as bigwigs line up proxies for influential positions amid intense skulking and skulduggery.
“There is commotion all over the country. People are burning the midnight oil plotting. The elections themselves are promising fireworks,” a Zanu PF politburo member said.
“There are widespread allegations of vote-buying and imposition of candidates by senior officials who want to assert control of the lower structures and it’s getting messy.”
According to party insiders, the factional fights are more intense in the three Mashonaland provinces.
Party officials in Mashonaland East, particularly in Chiwenga’s home district of Wedza, alleged that the Vice-President was involved in the selection of candidates. They also alleged that he was working with former deputy minister of transport Michael Madanha — now Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (Zinara) board chairperson.
Allegations of vote-buying have also been levelled against Madanha, formerly Wedza South legislator. He is being accused of distributing food hampers, cellphones and cash to party members.
Madanha, who is the current provincial deputy chair, is said to have ambitions of becoming the next provincial chairperson, a position currently held by Joel Biggie Matiza.
“It was virtually early Christmas in Wedza. Soon after the PCC (provincial coordinating committee) held a meeting in Marondera to announce the return of the DCCs, Madanha dispatched, through his driver known as Mutete, products which we were told were donations from VP Chiwenga. Around 20 cellphones were handed out over the last two weeks, which they said were meant to help improve communication when the need arises,” a source from the province said.
“Mutete delivered groceries in Goneso ward 13 and when people asked, again he said they were from VP Chiwenga and Cde Madanha shall communicate to them later.
Madanha has been trying to consolidate power in Wedza district to show he has the qualities to take over the provincial chairperson position from Matiza, who is said to be loyal to President Mnangagwa.”
“People are spending nights here scheming,” the official said.
Madanha was not answering calls yesterday. He also did not respond to questions sent on his mobile phone via WhatsApp despite him having read them, as evidenced by the blue ticks used on the application to indicate that the recipient would have read the message.
Matiza said they had received reports of vote-buying, but denied that he suspended Madanha on Monday as Zinara chairperson to settle political scores.
“I am aware of those issues, they have been raised. What we are going to do as the provincial leadership is to ensure that anyone who has been proved to have violated rules will be dealt with according to laid down procedures. Zanu PF people know what to do and what not to do. If those allegations are proven to be true, the party has systems in place to deal with them,” Matiza said.
On Madanha’s suspension, Matiza said: “That has nothing to do with DCC elections at all, there are purely Zinara issues.”
In Mashonaland Central, daggers are out for provincial chairperson, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, with party members pushing for his disqualification after he reportedly violated rules by allegedly starting campaigning before clearance was given. Kazembe is reportedly facing stiff competition from businessman Tafadzwa Musarara. Sources said Kazembe held meetings with members of the youth and women’s leagues last week on Wednesday.
“The meeting took place at Kazembe’s office in Concession next to the Magistrates Court and was addressed by one Richard Chirongwe, the province’s war veterans leader. Kazembe was also in the meeting and took the opportunity to read the riot act against any district member who will campaign for Tafadzwa Musarara,” a source who attended the meeting alleged.
“What is surprising is that Kazembe started campaigning well before the party gave us the greenlight to do so and according to party rules, he should be disqualified on account of that along with all his proxies,” the source said.
Both Kazembe and Musarara were not reachable for comments as repeated calls went unanswered. They were also not responding to SMS and WhatsApp messages sent to them.
Zanu PF national political commissar Victor Matemadanda, said: “Those people should report the allegations to my office and we will take them up. For now I have not received any official complaints of vote-buying and candidate impositions, but once we get them we will take decisive action,” he said.
Addressing a Midlands Provincial Coordinating Committee meeting in Gweru on Saturday, Matemadanda said: “I heard that in Mashonaland West, there was a caucus meeting to shortlist candidates for DCC and say so and so will be chairperson, secretary, etc . . . that is nonsense. We are going to do proper elections there. In Chipinge, I heard that is what was happening also. In Mashonaland East, I heard there was a district which was doing that again. Let me tell them that they will achieve nothing. Here in Midlands, the same problem had started, but I shall not mention names,” Matemadanda said.
— Zimbabwe Independent