By A Correspondent- Blows were nearly traded at a Zanu PF restructuring exercise in the volatile Mashonaland West province on Sunday, forcing riot police to disperse party officials to avoid a mass brawl in a development signalling the escalation of divisions in the faction-ridden political formation.
Zanu PF is currently conducting a nationwide restructuring exercise in preparation for its elective congress next year.
The restructuring exercise is meant to reorganise its structures, from the cell — the lowest — all the way to the central committee.
The restructuring exercise has escalated the factional fights, with heavyweights now getting involved in the political skullduggery that normally punctuates the process.
The party is currently sharply divided between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his highly ambitious deputy Constantino Chiwenga, whose presidential ambitions were laid bare by his estranged wife Marry in court papers in their acrimonious divorce case.
Although Mnangagwa appears to enjoy an upper hand, making full use of the power of incumbency, Chiwenga and his allies continue to lurk in the shadows.
The restructuring exercise is critical in that bigwigs would want to fill lower structures with their proxies, who would, in turn, constitute congress delegates and vote for officials in the higher echelons of the party.
Currently, much of the fighting is taking place in the three Mashonaland provinces and Manicaland.
The situation in Mashonaland West has been particularly dramatic.
The Sunday incident took place in Banket, where the area’s district chairperson, Never Hutepasi, was targeted for assault at a restructuring meeting.
Sources who were at the meeting said Hutepasi, who is also Ward 22 councillor, is believed by his colleagues to be sympathetic to Chiwenga.
He was almost beaten by district youth league chairperson, Steven Zidana, whose charges were foiled by police officers.
“Zidana was not happy with the conduct of Hutepasi, who is widely regarded as an ally of the VP. Zidana accused Hutepasi of working to undermine the party and sabotaging the president ahead of the 2023 elections. That is when tempers flared.
“Zidana also accused Hutepasi of hiring MDC people to carry put public works in the area in his capacity as councillor, but he responded by saying what he did was fair and he could not have been partial in selecting those who would do the work,” a Zanu PF official said.
“This response greatly angered Zidana who hurled all sorts of insults towards Hutepasi and accused him of being a thief. Police officers arrived on time to disperse the crowd before the situation deteriorated.”
Zanu PF officials in the province are currently involved in a major turf war which has exploded over the position of provincial chair vacated by Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is accused of turning himself into a provincial godfather and imposing one Abia Mujere as his heir through co-option.
Ziyambi is now a politburo member.
Following complaints, Zanu PF’s acting national political commissar Patrick Chinamasa responded by banning all co-options, arguing they were divisive.
“It has come to the attention of the (commissariat) department that some provinces are conducting co-options to fill in vacant posts in their branches, districts and provincial executive committees. Provinces are aware that the party is currently conducting a restructuring exercise which should usher in new leadership for the same organs by October 2021,”
Chinamasa said in a circular dated 3 August 2021.
“This restructuring exercise will naturally redress the issue of vacant posts. Provinces are, therefore, prohibited from carrying out co-options and VONC (vote of no confidence) in any of the above-mentioned party organs. In respect of the above, it is directed that all co-options and VONC conducted from April 2021, which marked the commencement of the current restructuring exercise to December 2021 are null and void,” he said.
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka has emerged as a front runner for the position and enjoys cordial relations with Mnangagwa through her brother Temba.
Her camp was last month accused of threatening to violently resist Mujere.
Also involved in the tussle for the chairmanship is the combative Vengai Musengi who, as current provincial youth chair, commands the foot soldiers.
Sources in Mashonaland East, Chiwenga’s home province, said fights have emerged over the chairperson’s post left vacant following the death of Joel Biggie Matiza in January.
Matiza’s son Batsirai has emerged as the hot favourite to land the youth league chairmanship post and has been moving around some of the districts, especially Goromonzi, canvassing support ahead of the looming elections.
The current provincial youth chairman, Kelvin Mutsvairo, is one of those seeking to replace the late Matiza as the provincial chairperson.
According to a letter dated 8 August, addressed to provincial youth league political commissar Lincoln Matare and signed by Goromonzi district coordinating committee youth chairperson Arthur Chidenhe, Batsirai is being accused of breaching Covid-19 rules as well as violating the party’s directives on campaigning.
“He disrespectfully entered Goromonzi district and called the youths for a meeting without my knowledge as the incumbent youth secretary for the district. Not only is he disrespecting me, but the entire Zanu PF leadership as well as violating the Covid-19 restrictions put in place by the government of Zimbabwe in order to curb the pandemic,” Chidenhe wrote.
In Manicaland province, war veterans and their affiliates say they have dumped Zanu PF Manicaland provincial chairperson Mike Madiro, accusing him of ineptitude and failing to unite the party.
This came after Makoni district endorsed the candidature of its district co-ordinating committee chairperson Albert Nyakuedzwa to contest for the Manicaland provincial chair Nyakuedzwa appears to be in the driving seat, although facing stiff competition from Chipinge South legislator Enock Porusingazi and Information Communication Technology minister Jenfan Muswere.
Business mogul James Makamba leads a stellar cast of influential Zanu PF officials fighting to wrest the Mashonaland Central provincial chairmanship from Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe.
The list includes another businessman, Tafadzwa Musarara, Kazembe’s long-term nemesis, former Education minister Lazarus Dokora, who is seeking a new lease on life following years in relative pollical obscurity, the belligerent provincial war veterans chairman Sam Parirenyatwa and the current Provincial Affairs minister, Monica Mavhunga — widely considered a rank outsider.