Intense jostling for control of the ruling Zanu PF between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantino Chiwenga is escalating into public fights between backers of the two heavyweights amid claims of counter plots.
Zanu PF youths set the cat among the pigeons a fortnight ago when they declared that Mnangagwa was the party’s undisputed presidential candidate for 2023.
The statements were seen as being targeted at Chiwenga, who has been touted in some circles as Mnangagwa’s successor, with suggestions that the Zanu PF leader will only serve one term.
Mnangagwa allies Pupurai Togarepi, who is also the Zanu PF youth secretary, and Zanu PF Harare youth provincial chairman Godwin Gomwe told The Standard that their names were being dragged into the alleged fight between the president and VP by bitter people.
“A false, unfounded and malicious message has been circulating on social media lately.
“The nefarious and misleading message states that: I Godwin Gomwe have verbally attacked the Honourable Vice-President Cde Constantino Chiwenga and Zanu PF chairperson Cde Oppah Muchinguri at Machipisa flea market in Highfield,” Gomwe said.
“Bitter people are hurt by the current unity prevailing in the party; they have resorted to penning falsehoods to achieve evil goals. The said message is merely a figment of someone’s imagination.”
Togarepi said he was not aware of any factions in the ruling party and that Zanu PF youths supported both Chiwenga and Mnangagwa.
“It’s all hogwash from overzealous cyber criminals. What was said during our youth assembly is on record and those keen on knowing the truth can get what was said verbatim,” he said when asked about the alleged infighting.
“The youth league respects and supports the president and his vice-presidents.
“I haven’t seen any divisions among the members of the youth league and should that happen in the future, it will be my duty to correct any mistaken ideas or contradictions.”
Togarepi said there were characters who spoke recklessly about Zanu PF and government policies.
Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo also described the allegations that there was a rift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga as “wishful thinking”.
However, Zanu PF insiders said outbursts by Mnangagwa’s advisor Chris Mutsvangwa about alleged state capture were the culmination of serious fights that have been happening behind the scenes.
They said the declaration by Togarepi and other Zanu PF youth leaders Godfrey Tsenengamu and Lewis Matutu that Mnangagwa could not be challenged had angered Chiwenga’s backers.
“After the meeting by the youths where they launched the 2023 ED Pfee slogan, Chiwenga’s lieutenants became bitter because they thought it was an indirect attack on their leader,” a party official revealed.
“Chiwenga’s supporters are now feeling betrayed. They think Mnangagwa would not have been president without Chiwenga.
“They are bitter that Chiwenga and most of those loyal to him are being side-lined by a clique close to Mnangagwa led by his relatives and allies.”
According to the source, Chiwenga backers are also bitter that Mnangagwa seems to be only rewarding those from Midlands and Masvingo provinces with senior party and government positions.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Eldred Masunungure said Mnangagwa needed to be careful in handling Chiwenga.
“He needs to be cautious when dealing with Chiwenga, youths were used by G40, but we all know what the outcome was,” he said.
“The youths must not regard themselves as usable tools in the dirty games being fought by their elders.
“Mnangagwa should be wise enough to know that he has to move very cautiously with Chiwenga.
“The war veterans are divided and we know real power resides in the military rather than the youth wing of the party, or war veterans who are not armed.
“One with control of the military will win the battle for supremacy. Mnangagwa should play his cards carefully rather than have the political illiteracy that [former president Robert] Mugabe had last November.”
Mnangagwa and Chiwenga were instrumental in Mugabe’s ouster in a coup last year