IN an article published today, 28 December 2014, by the Sunday Mail entitled: “Minister in Acting First Lady gaffe,” it is reported that the Minister of State for Mashonaland West, Mr. Faber Chidarikire – who introduced the Acting Vice President Hon. Mnangagwa’s wife as Acting First Lady at a party celebrating the recent appointment of Hon. Prisca Mupfumira to the Politburo and cabinet as Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Services – is reportedly to be in trouble for the remarks.
The reported storm arising from what Hon. Chidarikire said was a joke exposes the deep divisions in the triumphant team that was united in the so-called Mazoe Crush movement to remove the former VP Mujuru and her perceived allies. In victory, the team seems to be confused and unsure who should be the true beneficiary of the struggle. It is significant that in Zimbabwe, a republican constitutional state, founded on the principles of equality, a dispute of this nature would even be a headline news item in the state-controlled weekly newspaper.
It is reported in the story that an unnamed Politburo member said: “When Cde Chidarikire made the remarks, I couldn’t believe it. I really don’t understand why he thought of such a joke. He almost spoiled the celebrations that were going on well. We should respect the First Lady and such jokes border on disrespect.”
If the country was not Zimbabwe, one could easily conclude that the newspaper overreacted and this could easily be described as a “storm in tea cup”, but alas the events of the past few weeks have demonstrated that the First Lady is not just the wife of President Mugabe but a new player on the political stage. In as much as Hon. Mnangagwa can be Acting President, the role cannot and should not be transferrable literally to his spouse. He is an appointed and not an elected Vice President, and therefore, when he acts, it should be known that the acting is prescribed and the mandate is also limited.
It is significant that a nameless and faceless political commentator tried to connect the incident involving Hon. Hungwe who received a serious backlash from the state-controlled media and also from three key individuals of which two are state actors i.e. Hon. Prof Moyo and Mr. Charamba and the other Mr. Zhuwao who is the chairman of Zhuwao Institute. The message from the people who saw evil intentions in the manner in which Hon. Hungwe introduced VP Mnangagwa is that the appointment of the two VPs has to be correctly understood to signify nothing but President Mugabe’s assistants.Advertisement
The said commentator is reported to have remarked as follows: “Politicians should learn to restrain themselves in public because what they say has so many ripple effects.” Precisely what the ripple effects referred to could conceivably be is left to the reader’s imagination suggesting that there may very well be a need for induction courses to educate members of the party as to what kind of animals are the VPs.
Although the state constitution places them as successors to the President, the public is reminded by these events that what is in the state constitution is not necessarily what was intended by the new revolutionaries who it would appear have now taken control of the party. Ordinarily, one would expect the newly appointed Politburo member in charge of communication for the party, Hon. SK Moyo, to clarify the position but it would appear that he also is not part of the inner tank containing the ideas of the party’s new thought leaders.
Hon. Hungwe’s crime was to allegedly equate VP Mnangagwa to Jesus Christ. It is significant that when the same equation is applied to President Mugabe, the anointed one, there appears to be no dispute, suggesting some kind of deification of the First Family in a constitutional democratic order.
It is, however, important to highlight that the political morality that informed the recent Zanu PF constitutional changes places the First Family on a higher moral pedestal. Against this backdrop, anyone who would appear to ignore this cardinal fact that the congress only produced two elected individuals (Mugabe and his wife) is a treacherous person. If the above fact is well established and was entrenched at the congress, then why would Hon. Hungwe and now Hon. Chidarikire be so naïve as to attempt to undemocratically and unconstitutionally raise the profile of the VPs and their spouses?
What is obvious from the above-referenced story published by the Sunday Mail is that this time around, Hon. Hungwe zipped his mouth. It is obvious that Hon. Hungwe has been told to lie low lest the barbarians at the gate pounce not just on him but on his principal. By using people perceived to be aligned to Hon. Mnangagwa to send the warning shots to him, it would appear that a new regime of “minding your language” is now in play.
Although Hon. Mupfumira hails from Mashonaland West, the list of senior party officials who attended the party is pregnant with meaning. It was attended by three Politburo members i.e. Hon. July Moyo, Hon. Hungwe and Hon. Joram Gumbo. The point that Charamba made that VP Mnangagwa must act and behave as a national leader appears not to have been accepted as the three members are generally associated with him.
The fact that the party was attended by senior members of what has generally been described as Mnangagwa’s faction may very well have incensed the people who saw in Chidarikire’s choice of words yet another opportunity to limit the space for entertaining any notion that Mnangagwa is a chosen successor of President Mugabe.
Although the spirited attempt to disqualify Mnangagwa through intimidation and whatever methods from entertaining the idea of succession through the tactics that worked successfully in respect of Hon. Mujuru are being engineered by a few, the attendance register at the party has its own message. As they say, it is time to fasten seat belts and zip your mouth, for danger lies ahead for anyone who may think that they are eligible to harvest what they evidently have not sown.
It is clear that the battle is not over. The people are still at work to ostensibly rid the party of both factions. President Mugabe acknowledged the existence of two factions in the party. One is down and out but the other is still active yet not fully in control. The message in the bottle is that Mnangagwa is a marked man; so are his lieutenants. It also confirms that Mnangagwa may not have been the driving political force behind the movement.
In addition, one would have expected, at the very least, to see the Godfathers of the movement at the party. The fact that Prof Moyo, Hon. Kasukuwere, Hon. Chombo, Hon. Zhuwao, and Hon. Muchinguri were missing in action must be a cause of concern.