HARARE – As long feared by political analysts and rational ruling party bigwigs, the deadly factional and succession wars devouring President Robert Mugabe’s post-congress Zanu PF turned fatal yesterday, after two people were axed to death in bloody intra-party ructions in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza.
When a crew from the Daily News on Sunday visited the sprawling township, the tension among the warring Zanu PF factions was palpable, amid real fears the brutal murders could spawn more faction-related deaths as the battle to succeed Mugabe within the bitterly divided party escalates.
GRUESOME: Two Zanu PF members were reportedly fatally axed by fellow party member in St Mary’s, Chitungwiza yesterday.
The Daily News on Sunday was told that the two men who were killed yesterday were only recently elected into the post-congress Zanu PF’s district executive and had been part of a group of members who clashed violently the previous night.
Police identified the deceased as Lloyd Jambawu (31) and Marko Masenda (37).
It was also claimed that the murder accused, Proud Mupambwa, went into a fit of rage after accusing the two of belonging in “the wrong basket” (Zanu PF code for factions) and blocking his ascendancy to the district vice chairmanship position.
“As Zanu PF, we condemn any form of violence, we are a democratic party. But I’m still to get full details of what transpired as I have not yet been briefed on what exactly transpired leading to people killing each other,” said ruling party national political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
Police confirmed the murders: “The brief circumstances are that the accused, Proud Mupambwa (30), arrived at House Number 3655 Manyame Park, which is owned by Elphas Chawira intending to collect his friend Abraham Chawira and go with him to a meeting.
“Whilst Chawira was still preparing to join him, the accused asked for an axe to help chop two logs that were in the yard for firewood.
“After a few minutes, the now deceased Lloyd Jambawu (31) and Marko Masenda (37), who were friends to the accused person, arrived intending to join him to go to the meeting.
“Suddenly, and without warning, the accused charged towards Jambawu and struck him once on the head, whilst Masenda took to his heels. The accused pursued Masenda and caught up with him a few metres away and also struck him twice on the head,” police spokesperson Paul Nyathi said in a statement.
“The accused has been arrested and is now assisting police with investigations. Police are warning members of the public against taking the law into their own hands.
“Rather, they should find amicable ways of resolving disputes wherever they arise,” Nyathi added.
Both victims died on the spot and their bodies were taken to Chitungwiza Central Hospital for post mortems.
With Mugabe looking increasingly frail and unable to stop the factional and succession wars devouring his party, analysts warned in interviews with the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, last week that Zanu PF’s ugly infighting could turn violent before, during and after its annual conference to be held in Victoria Falls next month.
While such gatherings have traditionally been uneventful and boring, this year’s is promising fireworks as bitterly-opposed factions linked to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and First Lady Grace Mugabe jostle to gain decisive advantage in the brutal succession war.
And with the opposing camps ratcheting up their rhetoric against each other over the past few weeks as tension rises, analysts said the threat of serious intra-party violence was becoming a distinct possibility, particularly given the ruling party’s tendency to default to violence when its hold on power was threatened.
The warnings came amid disconcerting threats within ruling party circles that unaccredited rival youth groups may be bussed to Victoria Falls, which if it happens, would further raise the chances of more violence breaking out at the conference.
The Zimbabwe Youth Action Platform (ZYAP) — a youth group that supports Mnangagwa — has already not only savaged the party’s ambitious Young Turks known as the Generation 40, who are opposed to the VP, they have also threatened violence against alleged G40 kingpins that include Kasukuwere and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao.
Another group calling itself the Children of Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association has also threatened the same party bigwigs.
The political analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday said given this “fraught climate” — as well as the fact that Mnangagwa had recently been reported to have upped his personal security, while some of the ruling party’s stalwarts such as Solomon Mujuru and Border Gezi had died in disputed circumstances — the spectre of bloody disagreements could soon be a common occurrence.
All this is happening as Grace’s allies are ratcheting up their efforts to “checkmate” Mnangagwa’s presidential aspirations at the ruling party’s annual conference next month.
Well-placed sources linked to the G40 — who are rallying behind Grace as the race to succeed Mugabe hots up — told the Daily News on Wednesday that the embattled VP would face his Waterloo at the increasingly-important Victoria Falls gathering.
“Everyone agrees that it is now time to end all these misguided plots by successionists (G40 code for Mnangagwa camp) that the president plans to retire soon and that their man will finally be king.
“We will end all this silly excitement once and for all in Victoria Falls, as it will be checkmate time. Just keep watching this space,” one of the sources, a senior Zanu PF official, declared boldly without giving details.
But further investigations by the Daily News showed that just like the VP’s allies, the G40 are also hedging their bets on the Victoria Falls gathering becoming an elective conference.
This would see constitutional changes catapulting Grace to the party’s vice presidency using Zanu PF’s abandoned women’s quota system — which would in turn see Mnangagwa relegated to a lower position, possibly that of party chairperson which was dropped last year.
Under this scheme, the G40 would push for Zanu PF to revert to its old constitution, under whose Article 7 (31) it declared that four members of the party’s central committee were supposed to be a president and first secretary, two vice presidents and second secretaries — “one of whom shall be a woman” — and a national chairperson.
On its part, the Mnangagwa faction is moving to push Mugabe to announce his retirement and anoint a successor at the party’s conference, with well-placed sources telling the Daily News on Sunday last week that the VP’s allies were sensing that they had “weathered the political storm” that had surrounded the camp over the past few months, and that they now needed to move with speed to press home their advantage.
All this comes as the warring ruling party is awash with talk about the possibility of Mugabe relinquishing power before the end of his current term, which ends in 2018 — amid a counter push by Grace’s supporters that the first lady should take over in that unlikely event.