ZANU-PF politburo member Obert Mpofu was in the eye of a political storm yesterday over claims he “unilaterally and unprocedurally” oversaw a plot to withdraw Jacob Mudenda’s central committee nomination to aid his bid to land the post of national chairman.
Dozens of placard-waving Zanu-PF supporters from Mpofu’s Umguza constituency staged a demonstration in Lupane on Saturday denouncing Mudenda and Sithembiso Nyoni ahead of an inter-district meeting.
The inter-district meeting had been called to discuss preparations for the Zanu-PF congress which begins on tomorrow as well as draw up resolutions to be recommended to the congress.
Zanu-PF supporters demonstrate against Mudenda at Lupane Primary School (top) and those who were anti Dr Obert Mpofu are denied entry to the party’s meeting in Lupane on Saturday
Zanu-PF district officials from Hwange who arrived in Lupane to find Mpofu’s supporters in full force denouncing the Speaker of Parliament created their own placards targeting the Transport Minister, with some labeling him a “thief” and “part of gamatox” – reference to a conspiratorial group of senior party officials said to be behind a plot to oust President Robert Mugabe as party leader.
Fist fights broke out between the two groups and police had to be called, it is alleged by Mpofu and a senior state intelligence officer.
An “impromptu and unscheduled” provincial executive committee meeting, according to one local official, was convened by the Matabeleland North chairman Richard Moyo. Prior to the meeting, an emotional Mpofu declared that he was going to “get rid of some people” – his anger apparently stemming from the demonstrators who called him a thief and denounced him as divisive.
He called out the names of Cephas Mudenda, Cephas Malikwa and a Dube – all from Hwange – and ordered youths to eject them from the room.
“He would name them, one-by-one, and demand their removal. It was a savage ejection of members from Hwange who continued shouting ‘thief!’ as they were dragged out. It became a chaotic meeting with no purpose or order,” said one witness.
After the meeting, the secretary for administration Clifford Sibanda emerged to tell journalists that they had withdrawn the central committee nominations of Fathi Mpofu and Elias Mavule. Mavule was replaced by Esau Dube while Mpofu was replaced with Jonathan Mathuthu, the husband of politburo member Sithokozile Mathuthu.
They also resolved to recommend to the politburo that Mudenda and Nyoni be withdrawn from the central committee, it was alleged because Nyoni “led a campaign to oust President Mugabe” and Mudenda “sponsored a demonstration during the congress accreditation process” three weeks ago in Hwange at which Obert Mpofu’s wife, Sikhanyisiwe Mpofu, presided.
The Hwange protest of three weeks ago, The Chronicle heard yesterday, was over the accreditation of Patrick Utete who is alleged to have stated that the party had lost because of President Mugabe, following the 2008 elections in which Zanu-PF suffered a first round defeat.
Yesterday, Mpofu – who is reportedly angling for the Zanu-PF chairmanship in a race with Mudenda to replace the incumbent Simon Khaya Moyo – faced accusations that he was trying to clear his path by getting Mudenda sidelined.
President Mugabe will appoint his two deputies and the national chairman at the congress, and failure to land a central committee seat would be a fatal blow for any aspirant.
By their actions, Mpofu and Matabeleland North chairman Moyo, some senior party figures said yesterday, had created an impression that they misled First Lady Grace Mugabe when she visited recently that there was no factionalism in the province.
“This whole farce that took place on Saturday was unilaterally authored by Mpofu and his district mainly as well as elements of Lupane district and Bubi district. He was acting alone, unilaterally and using an inappropriate body to deal with members whose nominations for the central committee were received and accepted by the politburo,” one senior official said.
Other politburo members from the province, who did not attend Saturday’s meetings, were said to be “outraged” by what happened.
Mudenda was away in Namibia where he is observing elections, Professor Jonathan Moyo was in Harare, Cain Mathema was in Victoria Falls with SADC health ministers while Mathuthu and Nyoni’s whereabouts could not be established.
The politburo members, it is understood, have resolved to “make their views known” during a politburo meeting slated for Tuesday just before the start of the congress.
Mpofu could find himself answering charges of “gross misconduct for acting unilaterally and unprocedurally with clear pre-meditation in full view of the media which he invited”, said one official familiar with the developing political furore.
The charge against Nyoni, the official said, was led by the province’s legal secretary Stars Mathe, a former MDC councillor who has previously tried unsuccessfully to dislodge the Nkayi North MP.
Only last week, Mpofu earned praise from President Mugabe after telling the politburo about Matabeleland North’s political unity, “and yet two days after the meeting and three days before the congress he has changed tune and is now telling everyone who can listen that Mudenda and Nyoni are ‘gamatox’ and pretends he has booted them out of the central committee”, blasted one politburo member from Matabeleland South.
“This is unacceptable. Mpofu needs to take himself seriously if he wants us to take him seriously. This is disgusting and will not be accepted. Perhaps he’s right, there’s no factionalism but individualism by someone who wants to create a fiefdom in Matabeleland North.”
Last night, Mpofu dug in, insisting that the correct procedures had been followed.
He said the inter-district meeting endorsed the ouster of the senior leaders and the decision stands as the province had condoned their actions for a long time.
“There’s no factionalism, the talk about factionalism was misrepresentation to the media by frustrated people whose agenda was to destabilise the province. For your own information, there’s a report where the joint provincial council resolved to recall some people from congress,” said Mpofu.
“That report was taken to members of the Provincial Coordinating Committee, politburo and central committee where it was unanimously endorsed. Anyone suggesting that this was irregular isn’t only ignorant of the rules but mischievous.”
He said the demonstrators at the inter-district conference were the same people who staged protests in Hwange recently, where his wife was accrediting delegates for congress.
Moyo could not be reached for comment but the provincial secretary for administration Sibanda said when the First Lady was told that there was no factionalism in Matabeleland North, the province had not realised that there were “pockets of divisive leaders”.
Sibanda alleged that Fati Mpofu held meetings with the demonstrators at his offices before they staged the protests.
Ironically, Obert Mpofu is accused of using his York House offices in Bulawayo throughout last week to plot demonstration against Mudenda and Nyoni.
Some of the protesters seen on Saturday were reportedly seen coming out of York House carrying placards.
“We always thought there was no factionalism until the inter-district conference where members of the party mobilised and bussed people from the lower structures of the party from Hwange to come and demonstrate in Lupane,” Sibanda said.
“This is a sign that someone is sponsoring people to destabilise the party. Maybe their colleagues from other provinces ruled by chaos were pestering them on their non-action. It’s the height of mischief for a senior member of the party to sponsor chaos. It points to factionalism.
“For one to be a member of the politburo, they’ve to be members of the central committee and voted for by provinces.
“They don’t vote for themselves, so they’re subjected to the provincial inter-district conference.”
He said after the meeting of the provincial executive committee (PEC), the motion to sack the senior leaders was tabled before the inter-district conference, an organ he insisted was empowered to elect, and adopted.
The Zanu-PF constitution, though, says a body can only suspend or take action against a member who is part of that body.
The PEC and inter-district meeting, under the current rules, have no authority to take action against central committee and politburo members.
Nyoni yesterday said she would only comment after the meeting of the politburo tomorrow.
“From what I read in the media, I think the procedures that should be followed have been raised. I will not comment until the meeting of the politburo on Tuesday,” she said.
Mudenda also declined to comment, saying curtly: “Ask Obert Mpofu. He’s the person you should direct those questions to. I’ve no comment.” – See more at: http://www.bulawayo24.com/index-id-news-sc-national-byo-58562.html#sthash.fadPHvvm.dpuf