HARARE – A bitter feud between President Mugabe’s nephews and members of the Zanu PF Central Committee is brewing following a scathing attack by Patrick Zhuwao in the state weekly, The Sunday Mail, on businessman and politician Philip Chiyangwa.

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Robert Mugabe and Patrick Zhuwao

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Patrick Zhuwao is the son of Sabina Mugabe, the late sister of President Mugabe. Chiyangwa is a flamboyant businessman who rose to fame on the back of black empowerment movement in the 1990s and has long been described as a nephew of President Mugabe.

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Writing in the Zhuwao Brief, a weekly column in The Sunday Mail, Zhuwao describes Chiyangwa as ‘infantile, stupid, foolish and a thief’. He also distances President Mugabe from Chiyangwa, saying they are not related as portrayed in the media. Their only connection is “totemic” says Zhuwao, trying to distance and defend his uncle, President Mugabe from Chiyangwa’s antics.

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This is the first time that a close member of the Mugabe clan has sought to distance and disown Chiyangwa, who for years has been regarded as Mugabe’s nephew. This follows a video that has gone viral on social networks in which Chiyangwa brags that he does not obey police instructions to stop at roadblocks.

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Zhuwao describes it as an “infantile video”, calls Chiyangwa stupid and foolish and bemoans the damage it has caused to his party’s and President’s standing. The video has been picked up by international media and used as an example of the impunity and lawlessness promoted by Presodent Mugabe’s government.

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“Unfortunately, the stupidity of one member of the Zanu PF Central Committee is then extrapolated to mean that we are all stupid and foolish …” moans Zhuwao in his column. “This is symptomatic of the problems of politics of nepotism, where a leader surrounds himself with relatives.

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It’s now looking like a chieftainship, with members of Mugabe’s family now feuding openly to gain and protect the favour of the chief. Zhuwao wants to be seen as protecting his uncle. The problem is that Mugabe allowed these silly boys to have some political claims and now they are opening their dirty armpits in public”, said an analyst who preferred to remain anonymous.

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“The message here is that there is a big factional fight, even though Zhuwao is denying it in his brief. While, he is attacking Chiyangwa, the main targets are in fact the big politburo politicians like Ignatious Chombo who is also described as another relative of President Mugabe. Remember Chombo was sponsoring Mavis Gumbo in Harare East and he is Zanu PF’s Secretary for Administration.

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Zhuwao and his friends were backing Terrence Mukupe. Chiyangwa has been going around with Chombo and this attack is an indirect salvo at Chobo and company,” said another commentator who is close to Zanu PF. It is clear that the succession war in Zanu PF is escalating, especially with Zhuwao signing off with the dreaded Zanu PF slogan, “Pasi nembavha” (Down with thieves) in his attack against Chiyangwa and his backers. It’s an ominous sign. Efforts to get a comment from Chiyangwa were fruitless, although a source close to him indicated that he was preparing a blistering response.