Through coercion, pay-offs, divide and rule tactics and swift manoeuvring to fill the power gap created by the fortuitous death of Zvobgo in 2003, Mugabe and his agents appear to be now in charge of what remains of their depleted support base here.
The current brutal campaign of intimidation and terror by defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s military allies and a faction of war veterans led by Isaiah Muzenda in the province is seen as a blatant attempt to completely neutralize the Zvobgo faction. This would give the Mnangagwa group an upper hand in case Mugabe dies or retires.
But Mnangagwa is facing a formidable challenge from remaining Zvobgo faction members, who have roped in disputed national chairperson of war veterans, Jabulani Sibanda to lead an offensive to regain lost ground.
As the infighting gathers pace, many senior Zanu (PF) officials now fear that the party’s fortunes could further plunge, playing into the hands of the MDC, which now controls 12 of the 26 parliamentary posts in the province, including former rural strongholds of Mugabe’s party, such as Zaka.
Masvingo is a swing province that has often determined the outcome of national elections since 1980 because of its huge population and high level of political awareness. The outcome of many political battles within Zanu (PF) has often been decided here. For instance, Mugabe’s choice for vice president after Simon Muzenda died, Joice Mujuru had to endure a bruising battle to secure power after Masvingo mischievously nominated Oppah Muchinguri to oppose her. Mugabe had to
personally visit Masvingo and whip local politicians into line before they backed down.
A flamboyant, Harvard-trained lawyer, Zvobgo was once reputed to be one of the few politicians who could stand up to Mugabe. As the man credited with crafting, in 1987, the sweeping changes to the Lancaster House constitution adopted shortly before independence in 1980, Zvobgo was keenly aware of his own power and vulnerability. The constitutional changes gave Mugabe a virtual monopoly on power and allowed him to perpetuate his brutal dictatorship.
When Zvobgo drafted the constitutional amendments which have kept Mugabe in power for so long, many suspected he was doing it to benefit himself if he came to power.
Within Masvingo province, Mugabe was represented at the time by then vice-president Simon Vengayi Muzenda, who often complained that the swashbuckling Zvobgo was too powerful and independent-minded, once predicting on state television that Mugabe would be deposed like Bribes
Mugabe has rapidly advanced the careers of key Zvobgo faction members in a move which, some say, is meant to keep them in check and water down their influence in this rebellious province.
The heir-apparent to the Zvobgo throne, Dzikamai Mavhaire was recently appointed Zanu (PF) politburo secretary for production and labour. He was also made a senator. This was after he spent two years in the political wilderness after being suspended from the party for asking Mugabe, during a central committee meeting, to tell the nation when he
would step down as president.
Another official who called for Mugabe’s resignation, Willard Zororo Duri of Manicaland province died in a mysterious car crash after attending independence celebrations in Harare on 18 April 1996. His allies claimed he had been assassinated by Mugabe loyalists but the charges were never proved.
Zvobgo, who is known never to have fired a gun in anger during the 1970s independence war, was considered a liberal who was ready to compromise, even though he did not agree with opposing views. Once, when Mugabe and the hardliners in Zanu (PF) over-reacted to reports that the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) was writing it’s own
constitution and opposing the official draft, Zvobgo is said to have told the dictator that he should just leave them alone as any group of people could sit under a tree and write their own constitution.
That, he said would not make it a national constitution as the people would eventually decide what was good for them.
Mugabe later removed Zvobgo from constitutional business, accusing him of pandering to the wishes of the opposition, and put the radical Jonathan Moyo in charge.
Sources in Zanu (PF) said the post given to Mavhaire was first given to the youthful Mzembi, who was out-manoeuvred in the party’s dog-eat-dog politics. The sources said the politburo post was meant to keep the unpredictable Mavhaire ‘buisy doing nothing’ and ensure he was properly monitored by Mugabe’s spies.
Looting of farms
Importantly, however, the post ensures that Mavhaire, a moderate former teacher, becomes unpopular as he takes an active part in the party’s continued looting of commercial farms and companies. According to the Zanu (PF) constitution, the production secretary is supposed to establish co-operatives, commercial farms, estates and other productive undertakings of the party.
Mzembi, a relative to Zvobgo and one of the so-called Young Turks, has apparently been silenced with a ministerial post by Mugabe. He is now minister of tourism and hospitality management, a portfolio that ensures he is usually out of the province and the country on government business.
Mzembi allegedly previously teamed up with the likes of dethroned Mashonaland West provincial chairman Phillip Chiyangwa and Saviour Kasukuwere to demand a revamp of the party, retirement of the old guard and infusion of new blood into the top ranks.
Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, from the same Mwenezi district as the respected Zephaniah Matchaba-Hove, is said to have damaged his reputation irreparably as he has been used by the army and CIO to co-ordinate violence in the district, where he is MP.
With the virtual disappearance of key members of the Zvobgo faction, the Mnangagwa faction appears to be on the ascendancy, aided by senior army officers such as Brigadier Engelbert Rugeje, the commander of 4 Brigade and war veterans provincial head Muzenda.