President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally Chris Mutsvangwa ranted against Vice President Constantino Chiwenga in a chance encounter with the MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa, ZimLive can reveal.
The shock development comes as the Zanu PF Youth League has recently become vocal against “cartels”, seen as a precursor to an all-out war with Chiwenga by first targeting his financial backer, Kudakwashe Tagwirei, an influential player in the petroleum industry.
Chamisa was at the Robert Mugabe International Airport on January 29 ahead of a trip to South Africa when he came across the chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association who was also at the airport on undisclosed business.
Two sources who witnessed the encounter said Mutsvangwa initially requested a photo to be taken with Chamisa, before launching into an unrestrained attack on Chiwenga, Mnangagwa’s ambitious deputy.
“He told Chamisa to disengage from Chiwenga, stating that the former army general was claiming influence that he did not have, both in the military and Zanu PF,” one source said.
Chamisa reportedly expressed surprise that Mutsvangwa was associating him with Chiwenga, remarking: “You are donating me to Chiwenga, and Chiwenga donates me to you. Which is which?”
Mutsvangwa did not care who was listening, another source who witnessed the encounter said. The war vets chief, said the source, appeared convinced that Chamisa was open to a political alliance with Chiwenga.
“He was particularly dismissive of Chiwenga, questioning his fitness for higher office,” the source, who had just walked over to greet Chamisa, told ZimLive.
Referring to Chiwenga’s nasty divorce from his former model wife, Marry Mubaiwa, Mutsvangwa told Chamisa: “Don’t be fooled by a man who has a pr0stitute running rings around him.”
Chamisa reportedly asked “who’s the pr0stitute, and who’s the man?” before the two men separated, both laughing.
The encounter reveals deepening divisions in Zanu PF, with two distinct factions – one led by Mnangagwa and the other by General Chiwenga – each seeking to take decisive control of the party before the next elections in 2023.
Chiwenga was the army general who led a coup against the former late president Robert Mugabe in November 2017. He recalled Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former deputy, from exile to make him president in a bid to sanitise the coup.
But the two men have differed sharply after Mnangagwa claimed victory in a presidential election in August 2018 by just over 35,000 votes. Chiwenga’s camp says the 76-year-old Zanu PF leader is unelectable and has failed to effectively run the country, imperilling their project with the lurking dangers of a popular uprising or annihilation in a future election.
Mnangagwa, through his son Emmerson Junior, has reportedly engaged the Zanu PF Youth League to push back against Chiwenga.
Youth League deputy secretary Lewis Matutu and Godfrey Tsenengamu, the political commissar, have taken to social media to launch thinly-veiled attacks on Sakunda Holdings boss, Tagwirei, believed to be Chiwenga’s moneyman.
Tagwirei, the local partner of global commodities trader, Trafigura, is accused of running a near monopoly in the petroleum industry and fleecing the state through the opaque Command Agriculture scheme run by Sakunda.
A parliamentary committee says agriculture ministry officials have failed to account for US$3 billion expenditure on the scheme, and Tagwirei has refused to testify before parliament.
Writing on Facebook on January 29, Matutu said: “How can a few individuals prosper on majority’s tears?”
Avoiding naming Tagwirei, he added in another post on January 31: “We will be judged by our deeds as a generation. Personally, l refuse to be amongst the cursed ones simply because l would have ignored evil things happening whilst watching and right now l have an opportunity to make things right #cartelsmustfall.”
Tsenengamu, also taking to Facebook, said: “We will pay the price, either for fighting the blood-sucking cartels or for smiling at them while they suffocate us. I choose to fight.”
Tsenengamu said Zimbabwe was being destroyed “not by those few who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing something positive.”
“Monday is the day #CartelsMustFall,” he wrote on January 31, hinting strongly that the Youth League would pursue some action soon.
Zanu PF sources told ZimLive that Matutu was also personally angry after recently going to the party’s secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, to demand that he be issued a Toyota Land Cruiser “like all other politburo secretaries”, and being rebuffed.
All Zanu PF secretaries in the politburo had Land Cruisers purchased for them by Tagwirei, and if Matutu had been granted his wish, the party would have turned to the Sakunda boss who has used his vast fortune to buy influence.
The convergence between Matutu and Tsenengamu has surprised some, who say the two men have rarely been aligned.
“It shouldn’t surprise anyone, however, because Tsenengamu will do anything for money or a voucher. He’s shamelessly unscrupulous. For a thousand dollars, he would slap the president, he’s that sort of guy,” a member of the Youth League said.
Mnangagwa’s son, Emmerson Junior, is reportedly pulling the financial strings on the Youth League to do his father’s bidding.
Mnangagwa has identified Tagwirei – whose accounts were temporarily frozen by the Reserve Bank last year over allegations that he was manipulating the local currency – as the power behind Chiwenga, and hopes by targeting him, he would leave his 63-year-old deputy financially weaker and unable to mount any challenge to his rule.
The Zanu PF leader has, since taking power in 2017, been reorganising the military top brass and retiring other senior officers in moves aimed at diminishing Chiwenga’s influence.
The Zimbabwe Independent reported on Friday that “an unsettled Mnangagwa” had made moves to “coup-proof” his regime by changing the commanders of the Presidential Guard, the infantry battalion which, together with the Mechanised Brigade, played a critical role in the 2017 military coup that toppled Mugabe.
The Presidential Guard, responsible for providing protection to the president and securing Harare, is a specialised force trained to fight in built up areas. It consists of two battalions, the 1 PG Battalion commonly known as State House Battalion, and the 2 PG Battalion situated in Dzivaresekwa.
Mnangagwa has named Lieutenant-Colonel Alison Chicha as the commander of 2 PG Battalion, replacing Lieutenant-Colonel Regis Mangezi, who moves over to command the 1 PG Battalion. Mangezi takes over from Lieutenant-Colonel Solomon Murombo, removed from the unit after he clashed with Mnangagwa’s wife – an incident caught on a leaked audio tape.
Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia, accused Murombo of spying on her and plotting to kill the president. Her outburst betrayed the first family’s fears and concerns about their security. Murombo has been shunted off to Zimbabwe Defence House, the military headquarters.
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