PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s government has reportedly been hit by a bout of paranoia, with fear and suspicion amongst his lieutenants both in government and the ruling Zanu PF party reaching unprecedented levels.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
As the bare-knuckle fist-fights over 91-year-old Mugabe’s throne threatens to boil over, The Standard can reveal that the office of new Water, Environment and Climate minister Oppah Muchinguri was turned upside down with workers searching for listening devices.
“Sniffer dogs were brought in. Workers ripped apart the ministerial office. They were looking for recording devices [bugs]that could have been left or installed,” an insider told The Standard last week.
Zanu PF political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere is the immediate past minister of Water. He was moved to Local Government in a mini-cabinet reshuffle early this month. Kasukuwere and Muchinguri are said to belong to different camps in Zanu PF’s bitter tussle for control of the party ahead of Mugabe’s anticipated exit from the political arena.
Muchinguri was not answering her phone last week and did not respond to text messages sent to her mobile phone.
Kasukuwere could neither deny nor confirm knowledge of the incident.
“Ask her [Muchinguri]. I am of the apostolic faith and I do not like dogs,” he said.
Muchinguri is currently in the eye of a storm following the leaking of an audio recording in which she is reportedly heard plotting to use her political tricks to waylay other Zanu PF leaders on her way “to the top” in the on-going power struggles rocking the former liberation movement.
Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, appointed last December following a vicious internal struggle, has also reportedly refused to occupy the offices of his predecessor Joice Mujuru. Mnangagwa was supposed to move into Mujuru’s former office previously occupied by the late Simon Muzenda, but the VP is said to have refused.
“He has refused for as yet undisclosed reasons but as we speak, he is still operating from his office at the ministry of Justice. Mnangagwa has demanded that another office be allocated to him but that will be at the expense of the taxpayer because Mujuru’s former office is fully furnished and ready for use,” said a source.
In the current scenario, Mnangagwa has two secretaries, one ensconced at government’s citadel of power, Munhumutapa Building which also houses the offices of President Robert Mugabe and another at the New Government Complex — the Justice ministry offices.
Two weeks ago our sister paper NewsDay reported that one of Mnangagwa’s secretaries had confirmed the VP, who currently doubles up as Minister of Justice, had two operational offices.
“We are moved around because the VP has another office at Munhumutapa and one of us is always there,” the secretary told NewsDay during the investigation involving the embarrassing “cash for meetings scandal”.
In May another of Mugabe’s deputies, Phelekezela Mphoko appointed vice-president last December along with Mnangagwa, reportedly refused to occupy the offices which were used by the late Father Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo, Joseph Msika and later John Nkomo at Munhumutapa Building, and instead “evicted” Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Ray Ndhlukula from his offices which he then took over.
Although Mphoko, who is Zanu PF co-chairman, refused to respond to the issue, government sources revealed he refused to move into “offices which were previously occupied by the former VPs, who all died in office”.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba referred to the issue as “old”, saying it had already been dealt with.
Mphoko, according to sources, first requested that the offices be partitioned afresh and extended.
“But this was rejected because Munhumutapa offices cannot be tampered with as the building has been declared a monument site which cannot be changed physically, except for painting and minor renovations,” sources said then. “He pleaded not to use those offices because some of the former VPs believed in muti [black magic]and since he is a devout Adventist, he said he did not want to be associated with such things”.
Mphoko, who is also in charge of the National Healing and Reconciliation portfolio and head of government policy implementation, was initially scheduled to move into a government house left vacant by the late Msika in Mandara.
Superstition and use of magic (muti) is widespread in Zimbabwean political circles, with former VP Mujuru being publicly accused by Mugabe earlier this year of hiring sorcerers from Nigeria to bewitch him and seeking to take over his post using supernatural powers.
A devout Christian, Mujuru denied the allegations, but was nevertheless removed from office and fired from the ruling party on allegations of engaging in witchcraft, among other accusations.