Zanu PF militia issues threats to Econet

Last night, Econet issued a statement distancing itself from the text messages. 

Mugabe was due to be re-elected as president and first secretary of Zanu-PF at the party’s congress, which ends on Sunday.

The offending SMS message, purportedly from the Zanu-PF Youth League, urged party members to make leadership nominations "from the floor".

Regular announcements were broadcast on state radio warning delegates against following the SMS instructions.

Zanu-PF youths said they traced the SMSs to Econet. State TV compared the situation to the one in Iran where the opposition used text messages to rally supporters.

The multi-million dollar service provider issued a statement distancing itself from the text messages.

Last night a fresh wave of anti-Robert Mugabe text messages caused a stir in Harare with party’s rebel group urging party delegates attending congress to ditch him, amid reports of turmoil in the embattled party.

Police said they are investigating the messages which are being sent through the main mobile phone operator Econet, but all evidence is pointing to disgruntled party faithful who want to see the back of the aging Zimbabwean dictator.

The Zimbabwe Mail is reliably informed that there is a Mnangagwa faction command centre at the Kopje Plaza, fourth floor occupied by a company called Firstel Cellular, a NetOne intermediary siezed by Zanu PF from exiled businessman Mutumwa Mawere.

The SMS calls for Mugabe to be dumped as Zanu-PF president.

They also say the Zimbabwe Defence Forces will not recognize Vice President Joyce Mujuru.

Zanu-PF said this was the work of the enemy.

State TV compared the situation to the one in Iran where the opposition used text messages to rally supporters.

The storm erupted a day before Mugabe officially opens the Zanu-PF congress in front of more than 10 000 delegates.

Already there are signs tempers will be running high.

One Senior party member told our reporter that Zanu PF will never be the same after the congress as tensions threaten to tear the party into tribal divisions.

Mugabe has kept a tight grip on ZANU-PF since becoming party leader in the mid 1970s and spearheaded a guerrilla war against white minority rule. A personality cult has developed around him in the party, with some officials referring to him as the "second son of God" or the "supreme leader."

Sources said some members of the Zanu PF Youth League loyal to Zimbabwe Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and the Joint Operations Command, are alleged to have released mobile phone text messages claiming that the military is unprepared to salute Vice-President Mujuru and that provinces will ditch President Mugabe at the party’s congress.

In the last 48 hours, Zanu-PF has tried to down-play the mobile phone messages as a "hoax" and the work of the "enemy".

A ZANU PF spokesman, Ephraim Masawi, has dismissed the SMS messages he says are "purporting" to be from the Youth League "about the proceedings" at the ZANU PF Congress now under way.
The SMS are said to be telling people that the party has been hijacked from the people and they must use the floor to take it back, a reference to plots by disgruntled Provincial delegates to nominate rival candidates to party choices for Chairman and Vice President.

In a Press Conference yesterday at the party’s headquarters in Harare, Zanu-PF Secretary for the Youth, Absalom Sikhosana said the message was not coming from the party.

"It (message) is coming from the enemy. That is how the enemy operates.

That is not our project. It is a project of the enemy intended to cause confusion and chaos during the congress. Our people must just ignore them. The Youth League is looking forward to the congress to help in building the country."

Commenting on the same matter, Zanu-PF’s Secretary for Education, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, dismissed the messages as a charade.

"The so-called threat to dump President Mugabe is a hoax and it shows political inexactitude as Zanu-PF is united under its leader," he said in a statement released in Harare yesterday.

Although Mugabe has flatly refused to discuss his retirement plans, analysts have said he is unlikely to contest the next presidential poll — expected in the next two years or in 2013 if the current unity government runs a full term. Ordinary members are calling on Mugabe to hand over power to someone younger.

One faction led by Defence Minister Emerson Mnangagwa is reportedly circulating documents at the congress spelling out "a get-out plan".

It is believed that the faction will run parallel structures in Zanu-PF with a long term plan to form a fully fledged break-away political party whose Congress is scheduled for September 2010.

A 200 page detailed document authored by former Information minister Jonathan Moyo details the "sources of funding, recruitment of members from Zanu-PF as well as the two MDC factions and external support".