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Published On: Tue, Nov 18th, 2014

Pressure at the HQ

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Dr Alex Magaisa

Alex T. Magaisa

So finally, the lady has spoken. Yesterday, Vice President Joice Mujuru issued a statement in response to the co-ordinated, systematic and sustained assault upon her reputation carried out by her opponents through the agency of the State media. The Sunday Mail’s scurrilous report which alleged that she was linked to an assassination plot against her boss proved to be the last straw.

The story itself was a shoddy job which could not even be admitted in a kangaroo court. After reading the story and reading it again, it was hard to see how it could have been claimed that Mujuru plotted to assassinate the President. It is hard to understand how President Mugabe, as astute a politician that he is reputed to be, could fall for such badly constructed dossiers as represented by that story. If he believes that, then those behind such a story might as well convince him that he is now 50 years old again.

It’s a very loose story and even that is being too kind. The story presents no evidence whatsoever of what Mujuru actually did or said to warrant the headline that she is linked to an assassination plot. And yet the paper quotes all manner of ‘experts’ claiming excitedly and affirmatively, that she should be charged with treason. But does it matter whether or not there is a strong case? No, actually, it does not matter.

In fact, Mujuru would not be the first of Mugabe’s opponents to suffer that charge. In facing a treason accusation, she would be following a much travelled path. When Joshua Nkomo was dismissed from Government in 1982, Mugabe accused him of plotting a coup against his Government. He uttered the infamous words referring to Nkomo and PF Zapu as a cobra that enters the house, whose head needs to be crushed. Two of Nkomo’s lieutenants, Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku were charged with treason. They were kept in detention for long periods and eventually Masuku lost his life.

In the 1990s, after Ndabaningi Sithole returned from the United States and challenged Mugabe in the 1996 Presidential elections, he too was charged with treason for an alleged attempt to kill Mugabe. Sithole was convicted but insisted that the evidence against him was forged and obtained from witnesses through torture.

Post-2000, Mugabe’s main challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai went through a long treason trial, before charges were thrown out by the court. In 2008, Tendai Biti, then Secretary-General of the MDC-T, also faced treason charges on the basis of statements that he had allegedly made.

So that the treason accusation is being thrown in Mujuru’s direction is hardly a new tactic. It is all very predictable. It doesn’t matter if it is spurious and ridiculous. The idea is that if she is charged, it will keep her occupied and very busy for a very long time. The courts may eventually throw it out but she would have been distracted and taken out of the way of vaulting ambition.

But these newspaper accusations are designed to hit another target, which is believed to be one of Mujuru’s pillars. This accusation puts a huge amount of pressure on the law enforcement authorities and in particular, Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri. We have noted before that the police were forced a few weeks ago to refute claims that they were backing the Mujuru faction. Last week, we noted in our piece entitled “Trouble at the HQ?”, that a report in the State media seemed to be targeting Chihuri and that this signalled disquiet over his role.

As the week passed, Chihuri’s war-time ally, Rugare Gumbo, who one of Mujuru’s staunchiest defenders was fired at the Politburo meeting and we read that he had been called in by thepolice for questioning over the Baba Jukwa saga. We suspect these new allegations of treason will mean more trips to the police department.

The pressure is now on Chihuri. If there is no action, we might see some demonstrations this week or next – by the usual group of youths, women and war veterans – pressurising Chihuri to take action against Mujuru and her allies on the basis of these newspaper reports. This is the tactic of mobilising the mob that we referred to in our article, “How to ‘Kill’ a Political Opponent in Zimbabwe”. Similarly, we predicted that there would grand accusations made against Mujuru and her allies and this is coming to fruition with the corruption, Baba Jukwa and treason accusations all being put into use.

The treason accusations may read like a piece of fiction to most people. They are never intended to be serious. They are just a tactic to frustrate and to distract attention. They are designed to rouse the mob and increase pressure not only on Mujuru but on the police authorities. It is no wonder that this was the last straw and she had no choice but to make a statement. But now that she has spoken, and although she has spoken well, it has also opened the floodgates of attack from the gang that was waiting for her to say something. Congress is near but at this rate, the post Congress period may be just as dramatic.

wamagaisa@yahoo.co.uk

This article was originally published at http://newzimbabweconstitution.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/pressure-at-the-hq/

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