Zanu PF in quandary over Mutasa

HARARE – There is apparently serious disagreement among Zanu PF hardliners on how to deal with the dissenting former Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa, a factor that may have caused President Robert Mugabe to unexpectedly postpone action against him at Wednesday’s politburo meeting in Harare.

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Well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that while some of the hawks were agitating for Mutasa’s summary dismissal from the party — as had happened with former war veterans’ leader Jabulani Sibanda and former spokesperson Rugare Gumbo — others were not sure that this would serve the warring party’s interests.

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“Nyati’s (Mutasa’s) case is proving to be a hot potato, with even Mugabe himself unsure of how he should proceed, hence the decision to postpone any planned action against him until the party is sure how things might pan out.

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“Even the weevils (hardliners) are not agreed among themselves on how to proceed on the matter and were therefore not able to assist the president, who has had a close relationship with Nyati over the years, with a definitive position on him as he (Mutasa) also knows so much about the party and its leaders,” one of the sources said.

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Another senior party official said it was clear that Zanu PF had now learnt its lesson from the way it had bungled the cases of Gumbo, Sibanda and the party provincial chairpersons who had been irregularly ousted from their positions.

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“This (handling of Mutasa’s case is the way to go as no matter the allegations members face, the party needs to bring the concerned people before proper internal disciplinary processes before such people are fired willy-nilly like was done before congress.

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“What this all means as well is that Mutasa has proven that he has a valid case at law which even president Mugabe recognises. What remains to be seen now is how both the party and Mutasa will move from here and what it will mean for everyone,” the official said.

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The comments by the officials to the Daily News followed Mugabe’s unexpected decision on Wednesday to set up a six-member national disciplinary committee (NDC) to look into Mutasa’s alleged misdemeanours, amid calls by some party hawks such as Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and Saviour Kasukuwere to have him expelled from the party forthwith.

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The disciplinary committee, to be chaired by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, includes politburo members Patrick Chinamasa, Kasukuwere, Kembo Mohadi, Mugabe’s wife Grace, and Pupurai Togarepi.

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Addressing the media after the politburo meeting, party secretary for information and publicity, Simon Khaya Moyo, said the committee was advised to “expeditiously” deal with Mutasa’s case, although no concrete timetable for this was given.

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Commenting on the matter yesterday, the outspoken Gumbo pooh-poohed the suggestion that Mutasa would be dragged before what he called “an illegal disciplinary committee”.

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“How can he be dragged to a disciplinary committee by people who are illegal, those are their ideas, some of the people who have been included in the disciplinary committee have already made statements on Mutasa and it does not make sense.

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“Anyway that is the way they operate,” Gumbo said.

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Pedzisai Ruhanya, director of political think tank Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said the failure by Zanu PF to expel Mutasa, as championed by hardliners, not only demonstrated disunity in the ruling party, but also the fact that Mugabe, who he said had a soft spot for Mutasa, was in charge.

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“Zanu PF will never be a democratic party. The difference though between Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo or Jabulani Sibanda, who were summarily dismissed from the party, is that the (disputed December) congress is over and the cabal running Zanu PF is now comfortable and wants to consolidate power.

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“Another thing is that Mutasa is not a pushover as a former minister of State Security. He has lots of State secrets and knows the criminal architecture of the State under Zanu PF,” Ruhanya said.

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“Mugabe has a soft spot for Mutasa, look at the pre-congress phase where he was trying to remove him from the Mujuru camp even when he knew the truth. There is thus a disconnect between the Gang of Four and Mugabe.

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“The outcome of the politburo meeting also shows that Mugabe is still in charge. If it was not for Mugabe then Mutasa would have been dismissed long back,” Ruhanya added.

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Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, said the divided Zanu PF had, by establishing a disciplinary committee to hear Mutasa’s case, attempted to reach out to disgruntled supporters of former vice president Joice Mujuru.

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“I think it’s just an attempt to project an image that due process was followed and thus an endeavour to gunner sympathy from Mujuru supporters after what happened last weekend in primaries.

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“But the people in that committee make anyone able to predict the verdict, hence the political party gimmick will not work. Sympathisers of Mujuru are not likely to be fooled by this process,” he said.

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Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said Mugabe could not afford to wantonly discard Mutasa, a man on whose wise counsel he had relied upon for a long time.

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Chan said in as much as Mugabe would want to appease the Gang of Four, he also needed to strike a balance with the disgruntled old party guard.

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“There is a very real need for Mugabe to secure the services and support of the Young Turks, but the Old Turks are still very important.

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“Many people will be watching how Mutasa is treated. He was a minister within Mugabe’s own office. Suddenly, treating him too badly will raise questions about Mugabe’s own judgment in relying so heavily on Mutasa in very recent times,” Chan said.

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In the meantime, a defiant Mutasa has contemptuously dismissed allegations that he stole critical documents from Zanu PF, describing such claims as “unadulterated nonsense”.

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Mutasa spoke to the Daily News on Wednesday as the ruling party’s ugly factional and succession wars turned violent again, and hardliners threw the kitchen sink at him — including ominous threats to incarcerate him for the alleged thefts of party documents.

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The strong-headed Headlands legislator also revealed that the court action, that he and other liberation struggle stalwarts were planning to launch to try and reverse the outcome of Zanu PF’s disputed damp squib “elective” congress that was held in Harare late last year, would proceed soon.

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Apart from the allegations that he stole party documents, Mutasa is also accused together with Mujuru and other former party bigwigs of plotting to topple and assassinate Mugabe.

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A former senior Cabinet minister and long-time ally of Mugabe, Mutasa is also accused by party hardliners of having engaged in nepotism, corruption, abuse of office, as well sensational rape allegations while he was still in office.

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But sounding unfazed by the litany of serious allegations against him, the former Speaker of Parliament said he was not afraid of being thrown into jail.

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“Why don’t they arrest me? They always talk nonsense. I am tired of hearing their nonsense,” he said.

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The heightened assault on Mutasa by party hawks follow last week’s deadly petrol-bombing of the Chiredzi offices of a prominent party official linked to Mujuru, as the ruling party’s factional and succession wars get nastier by the day — amid renewed fears that the ructions could soon claim lives.

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Admore Hwarare, the under-fire secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Sugar Milling Workers’ Union (ZISMWU) and a former Zanu PF provincial political commissar, told the Daily News at the weekend that he had been shaken by the bombing that had reduced his offices to ashes.-Daily News