Mutasa Given Stay Of Execution

ZANU-PF’s Politburo yesterday established a six-member disciplinary committee to handle the case of its former secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, who was booted out of the party by the Manicaland provincial coordinating committee a fortnight ago.

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Under fire Didymus Mutasa.

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The move surprised many of the party’s own cadres as well as foes, as the Politburo was widely expected to endorse the expulsion after a ferocious attack of Mutasa by President Robert Mugabe when he returned from his annual vacation last week.

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The committee will be chaired by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, and will consist of first lady and secretary for women’s affairs, Grace Mugabe, still recuperating in Singapore after an operation during her husband’s annual vacation; national secretary for legal affairs, Patrick Chinamasa; political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere; secretary for defence and security Kembo Mohadi; and secretary for youth affairs, Pupurai Togarepi.

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The announcement was made by secretary for information and publicity, Simon Khaya-Moyo, who said the Politburo had instructed the committee to resolve the issue “as soon as possible”. It was not immediately clear why the party abandoned its vindictive approach under which it expelled former spokesman Rugare Gumbo and war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda without fair hearing or due process.

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But speculation was that President Mugabe, who left the Politburo in mid-session as he rushed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for an African Union (AU) Summit at which he is expected to assume the continental body’s chairmanship, may have wanted to prolong suspense over the fate of Mutasa and keep suspended and expelled party members guessing the ruling party president’s next move.

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Alternatively, the veteran politician could be anxious to allow the due process to take place now that he and his lieutenants have achieved their objective of consolidating power after purging perceived rebels whom they had accused of plotting his ouster.

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Mutasa had written to the Southern African Development Community, which President Mugabe currently chairs, as well as to the AU expressing displeasure over the conduct of the ZANU PF congress from which he and some colleagues emerged as ordinary members.

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Civil society groups have been mobilising against President Mugabe’s appointment to the AU’s chairmanship, arguing that his human rights record was not exemplary and could taint the standing of the organisation. Some critics thought this could have influenced the Politburo’s decision to allow the due process in Mutasa’s case.

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While Khaya-Moyo said the party wanted Mutasa’s disciplinary case dealt with as a matter of urgency, watchers said the inclusion of Grace Mugabe into the committee raised questions as she could take long before coming back or recuperating, jeopardising the process. The Politburo also endorsed the party’s candidates for by-elections set to be held in Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe and Mt Darwin West constituencies on March 29.

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These are Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxilia, and James Seremwe respectively. The Chirumhanzu-Zibagwe seat fell vacant after the elevation of Mnangagwa, while the Mt Darwin seat was only declared vacant after the dismissal of former vice president Joice Mujuru.

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Although the issue of the vacancy in Mt Darwin had never arisen during Mujuru’s tenure as vice president, it only became a major political issue after it was suggested she would become a backbencher in Parliament on account of her Parliamentary seat. That, apparently, would have given her the leverage to influence Parliamentarians, many of whom have been said to be her sympathisers.

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Constitutionally, one ceases to be a constituency representative when he or she is elevated to vice presidency.  Should ZANU-PF’s disciplinary committee recommend the expulsion of Mutasa, the recommendations would be taken to the Politburo which would take this to the party’s Central Committee, its principal decision making organ. This implies that the process will likely be a long one, considering that the Central Committee, which convenes quarterly, will only meet at the end of March or in April.

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If Mutasa is sacked from ZANU PF, the ruling party would then be able to recall him from Parliament and cause a by election in his Headlands constituency. The axe has been hanging over Mutasa’s head since late last year when he was said to be part of Mujuru’s cabal that was reportedly plotting to unconstitutionally remove President Mugabe from power.

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Since last month’s congress, which he skipped along with several other senior party members implicated in the plot, Mutasa has been vocal in condemning the congress, insisting he and his suspended colleagues did not respect the outcome of what he described as an illegitimate congress.

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Mutasa went on to lose his position as minister of State for presidential affairs after the congress. Mutasa also condemned the decision to amend the party’s constitution to enable President Mugabe to appoint his deputies and members of the Politburo, saying the decision reduced congress to a charade. He drew the ire of the volatile ZANU-PF youth and women’s leagues and war veterans when he made veiled attacks on President Mugabe and criticised his wife, Grace Mugabe along with the new party leadership that was sworn into office after the party’s congress held last month, referring to them as “political imposters.”

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For long considered as an unassailable veteran of the liberation war, Mutasa has not only diminished in status, but is also facing jail because of the numerous criminal charges ZANU PF wants to prefer against him. Mutasa could find himself before the courts to answer charges such as criminal abuse of office, rape and murder among others.

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Mutasa became a hero among blacks during the colonial era when he helped make Cold Comfort Farm, just outside Harare, then Salisbury, an agricultural training ground and a psychological liberation centre. It became a staging post on the long march to independence. It became the hub for a multi-racial cooperative where people freely exchanged farming skills and discussed political issues.

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According to some narratives, Mutasa had by then befriended Guy Clutton-Brock, the Welsh-born champion of black freedom, Zimbabwe’s only official white hero who is now buried at the National Heroes Acre. Mutasa was arrested in 1970, as the liberation war gathered momentum under Ian Smith’s emergency laws. He was locked in solitary confinement at Sinoia (now Chinhoyi) Prison for two years before being transferred to Salisbury (now Harare) Central Prison where he rubbed shoulders with President Mugabe and Edgar Tekere. – Financial Gazette