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Mnangagwa, Chiwenga in fierce battle to control Masvingo provinces





"Ladies and gentlemen the situation in our country has reached another level…," said the late army General Sibusiso Moyo while addressing the nation during  the November 2017 sanitized coup which resulted in the ouster of former President Robert Mugabe.

The Zanu-PF factional fights between Generation 40 (G40) and Lacoste then, forced the situation to reach another level with the latter, which supported Emerson Mnangagwa, successfully ousting Mugabe through a military-backed take over. The emerging factions and ever-growing tension in Masvingo if not well managed is definitely leading to a situation more or less the same as November 2017.

Those who care not to remember the history of politics and factional fights will be quick to dismiss the possibility lest they are reminded of how Masvingo has been the mastermind of many successful political settlements in both the ruling party Zanu-PF and the biggest opposition,  Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Masvingo therefore plays a pivotal role in the political matrix of Zimbabwe. The late Mugabe knew this and that was the reason he employed the divide and rule tactics choosing the late Simon Muzenda as vice president ahead of Jonas Mudadirwa Zvobgo. Muzenda was docile and senile – he was more of a stooge, no wonder why he spent most of his time rehearsing poems like Nehanda Nyakasikana forgetting to develop the province or even his rural home in Gutu.

On the other hand, Zvobgo was ambitious, too vocal and more importantly the voice of reason for Masvingo Province. Because Mugabe had chosen incompetence and loyalty over reasoning, two serious factions then emerged from Masvingo, passed on from one political generation to another and ultimately resulted in his ouster in November 2017.

Political factions are a sign of illness in a party; we have seen this in Zanu-PF as early as the turn of the millennium when Dzikamai Mavhaire publicly demanded that Mugabe be relieved of his duties and go! Similarly, when Morgan Tsvangirai was chased away by Joubert Mudzumwe, Robson Mashiri and team at Masvingo Civic Centre in 2005 leading to the MDC's split, the same year.

Thus Masvingo is the kingpin in the political matrix of any political party in Zimbabwe and whoever controls this province will eventually become the ultimate winner. Because of this reason every sensible politician would want to control Masvingo province and this is the battle between Mnangagwa and his deputy Constantine Chiwenga now. Though no one in Zanu-PF leadership would agree that there are factions in the party, the current developments in Masvingo bear testimony that there are factions threatening to tear apart the party.

Masvingo is so fond of factions and dirty politics that most of the time politicians are engaged in caucus meetings trying to find ways of out-manoeuvring each other. However, factionalism has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery in our politics thereby leaving our society very divided and warring factions wanting to devour each other.

Zanu-PF is going to have its elective congress in December next year where the party is expected to elect new national executive. The provinces are already preparing for their elections ahead of the congress, with all the leagues including the main, youth and women assemblies' elections are expected to be held by this October latest, and this is according to reliable sources in Zanu-PF.

These sources said ED is ploting to announce this date soon so that he manages the party from further divisions.

However, it is the main wing elections that have exacerbated the formations of factions in the province. So far, there are four candidates that are said to be readying themselves to battle it out for the position of provincial chair.

The most interesting of the four, however is the battle between Ezra Chadzamira and Robson Mavhenyengwa. The two are current chair and vice chairperson of the province respectively. Chadzamira is fronting for a faction loyal to Mnangagwa while Mavhenyengwa is said to have shifted allegiance to Chiwenga. Sources within the ruling party revealed that there is now serious tension and that it is going to be dog eat dog come the elections.

"The activities that are happening in the province are very telling that we are heading for interesting times. Factions are being created; some are forging alliances while others are dividing as we prepare for the elections ahead of the congress next year. We now have two clear factions, one supporting President Mnangagwa and the other one backing VP Chiwenga," said one Zanu-PF provincial member.

Four names have been thrown in the hat so far, and reliable sources have revealed to TellZim that all the four candidates are busy soliciting for votes and elections are expected to be conducted no later than October this year.  Of the four candidates two are said to be posing real threat and these are Chadzamira who is backing Mnangagwa and Mavhenyengwa allegedly supporting Chiwenga.

Ezra Ruvai Chadzamira

Chadzamira is the current Masvingo provincial chairperson who doubles as the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs. He is seeking re-election but is likely to face stiff competition from Mavhenyengwa who is from a rival faction. The other two candidates, Clemence Chiduwa and Rtd Major General Gibson Mashingaidze lack what it takes to compete for honours therefore talking about them is mere waste of time. Chadzamira was elected chairperson during the peak of G40 and Lacoste factional wars when he thwarted the G40s preferred candidate Rtd Colonel Mutero Masanganise in 2017.

Masanganise was Mugabe's preferred candidate but Masvingo dumped him for Chadzamira sending a clear message that they were backing Mnangagwa for presidency. Masvingo made it clear that it will never be intimidated or coerced into voting someone they do not want.

At some point Chadzamira, Lovemore Matuke and other Lacoste faction members were publicly denounced and humiliated by Mugabe and the G40 cabal, but they remained resolute and determined. They fought tooth and nail with the G40 until they prevailed. President Mnangagwa rewarded Masvingo by appointing more than five ministers from the province including Chadzamira and Matuke in 2018. However, a lot has happened between 2018 and now to an extent that the once united Lacoste faction is now heavily divided with some shifting their allegiance from Mnangagwa to Chiwenga. Of course no one publicly admits to the existence of these factions in Zanu-PF just like during the period of G40 and Lacoste when both factions claimed loyalty to the then President.

Chadzamira therefore, has lost some cadres who backed him in 2017 but certainly he has also managed to forge new alliances as he has remained consistent in supporting Mnangagwa. Backing him so far is Matuke, Ministers Winston Chitando and Yeukai Simbanegavi, Women's League chairlady Amai Mhlanga, Pupurai Togarepi, Masvingo, Chivi, Gutu and Zaka districts. He is also being backed by over 15 MPs in the province.

Chadzamira told TellZim in an interview that they are working tirelessly to ensure that the Mnangagwa and the party win resoundingly in 2023 general elections. He downplayed the issue of factionalism saying those who plan against Mnangagwa are planning to fail.

"President Mnangagwa has managed to resuscitate the economy; implemented a lot of developmental projects under devolution and unlocking investment for our country. He has managed to unite people regardless of political affiliations and because of his clear vision we are fully behind him. Those who are plotting against him are surely planning to fail," said Chadzamira.

"Elections will come and go; after that we remain Zanu-PF so I don't see the reason why fellow cdes are betraying the struggle by plotting against President Mnangagwa. I want to encourage the province to remain united and rally behind President Mnangagwa. For now we are concentrating on building the party until our leadership announces the dates for the elections," Chadzamira added.

Reliable sources in the party said Chadzamira is still maintaining grip in the province as five districts, except Bikita and Chiredzi, are fully behind him.

Robson Mavhenyengwa

Mavhenyengwa is the current vice chair for the province. He was co-opted early this year replacing Allies Baloyi who was appointed Chiredzi RDC chief executive officer. There is no love lost between Chadzamira and Mavhenyengwa as the latter was an alleged G40 loyalist before Mnangagwa came into power. Mavenyengwa is said to have then crossed the floor to join Lacoste faction after his G40 fellows (Jeppy Jaboon, Walter Mzembi, Daniel Shumba and others) started to support Phiona Riekert to take over his constituency. Phiona had lots of resources and Mavhenyengwa opted to cross to Lacoste because of frustration. Fortunately for him, G40 lost the battle and Phiona was eroded, a development which saw Mavhenyengwa retaining Zaka North Constituency in 2018.

Mavhenyengwa was then co-opted to become vice chairperson following Baloyi's resignation. However, checking his history of flip-flopping, it is not surprising that he now allegedly shifted allegiance to Chiwenga. He has since forged alliance with Gutu DCC chairperson Brian Munyoro and Gutu West MP John Paradza who is also vying for the youth league's chairmanship. Munyoro called for a meeting in Gutu recently soliciting support for Mavhenyengwa and he is said to have managed to convince Paradza after dangling the youth league post.

Mavhenyengwa is also reported to have forged a holy alliance with Mwenezi West MP Priscilla Zindari-Moyo who is also eyeing to chair the women's league. Amai Zindari–Moyo is the wife of Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) Director General Isaac Moyo. Mavhenyengwa being a former policeman seems to be getting all the support from anyone related to or with interests in the security sector.

However, Mavhenyengwa is facing challenges to fully penetrate Zaka district as he is clashing with the DCC chairperson Clemence Chiduwa who is also the MP for Zaka East. Chiduwa is alleged to have humiliated Mavhenyengwa at one of the meetings with the war veterans in the district when he publicly denounced Mavhenyengwa saying he was now selling out President Mnangagwa.

"Chiduwa openly said pasi naMavhenyengwa nekuti wakapandukira President Mnangagwa and that did not go well with the Zaka North MP. He asked Chiduwa to withdraw his words but he denied prompting Mavhenyengwa to take up the case to the Provincial Coordinating Committee (PCC) meeting," said a war vet from Zaka.

Mavhenyengwa is said to have demanded Chiduwa to apologise for his alleged utterances during a PCC meeting but sources said he refused and maintained that Mavhenyengwa had sold out the President.

Mavhenyengwa confirmed the development but vehemently denied being aligned to any faction. He said it boggled his mind how Chiduwa, whom he described as someone who came yesterday, would stoop so low that he thinks anyone who has interests to contest for any position in the province will be selling out.

"He (Chiduwa) told war vets that I have sold out simply because I am said to be interested in contesting for a particular position in the province. For your own information, I do not belong to any faction as they allege but I support our President and the party. I do not want to drag the names of our national leaders in these factional fights," said Mavhenyengwa.

"We started supporting the President before he even joined the party and Chiduwa only came recently after 2018 elections. I am busy working for the party as a provincial member and my constituency so I expect him also to concentrate on working for the party as the district chair and his constituency. We stand guided by the party and the party has not announced yet so there is no need to talk about the elections for now," Mavhenyengwa added.

Minister Davis Marapira is also believed to be supporting Mavhenyengwa because they do not relate very well with Chadzamira. Mavhenyengwa and Marapira are alleged to be covering a lot of ground in Zaka where they are reportedly undermining the authority of Chiduwa who is in charge of the district.

Clemence Chiduwa

Clemence Chiduwa is the MP for Zaka East and the deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development. Chiduwa was elected MP during by-elections held in 2019 following the demise of Calisto Ringisai Gumbwanda. His Curriculum Vitae (CV) was initially rejected during the Zanu-PF primaries in 2018. However, he was later accepted and contested the by-elections.

Chiduwa is then believed to have used his strong links with Christopher Gwatidzo, the principal director in the Office of the President to get appointed as deputy minister of finance. Gwatidzo and Chiduwa are tight buddies and their friendship dates back to the time they were lecturers at the Midlands State University (MSU).

At a meeting allegedly held in Chivi and chaired by Josiah Hungwe, Chiduwa is said to have initially agreed to contest for the chairmanship and some sources in the party confirmed the development.

"Chiduwa is in the race; he called me recently and said if you see my name on the ballot paper for provincial chair elections please vote for me. I think he is new and untainted therefore stands a better chance to win the election. Of course others are sceptical saying he is new so he must give those more senior to him a chance," said another party source.

However, considering that his friend Gwatidzo's relationship with Mnangagwa has since soured and is no longer having the same influence as he used to have as before, Chiduwa is likely not going to contest for the chairmanship. It would be best for him to maintain the relationships and alliances he has in the province than to ruffle feathers.

Chiduwa however, allegedly made it clear that he was not interested in contesting for the chairmanship saying he is rallying behind Chadzamira and President Mnangagwa. He is reported to have said he will not be swayed into supporting anyone else who is not loyal to Mnangagwa.

Gibson Mashingaidze

Major General (Rtd) Gibson Mashingaidze from Bikita is also said to be interested and is being backed by his home district and Chiredzi. Sources also told TellZim that Mashingaidze is backed by Rtd Lt. Gen Engelbert Rugeje who also hails from Bikita. Mashingaidze appears to be a very sensible person, very quiet and well-disciplined former soldier. It is difficult to accuse him of any wrong doing. However, his biggest challenge is that he is a perennial loser having lost several elections before. Bikita district is generally weak and that is one reason only a single MP was appointed deputy minister since 1980.

His backers are also being accused of fighting the Lacoste faction especially the MPs in Chiredzi who were said to belong to the G40 cabal then. Their decision to support Mashingaidze is allegedly because they do not want to align themselves with a faction that is known to support Mnangagwa. Rugeje is also said to be bitter with Mnangagwa following his unceremonious dismissal from the position of national political commissar hence his decision to support a faction loyal to his former army boss Chiwenga.

Mashingaidze is more likely to withdraw his candidature towards elections because besides him there are no other candidates to fill other positions from his faction. Chances are very high that the Bikita team will eventually join the Mavhenyengwa faction.

Indications are that the contest will eventually be between Chadzamira and Mavhenyengwa.

Chadzamira and his Mnangagwa faction seem to be in control at the moment.

The rift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga is said to be widening every day and whoever manages to control the provinces might strike gold at the party's national elective congress in December next year. Let us wait and see.

When factionalism becomes hot, many supporters become spectators; they will sit in the stands and watch the factions fight. At the end they will choose, wanting to associate themselves with the winning team. We saw it during the G40 – Lacoste factional fight and we are going to see it again during these emerging factions. Let us watch and see how it goes!

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Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka
Chuka (Webby) Aniemeka

Chuka is an experienced certified web developer with an extensive background in computer science and 18+ years in web design &development. His previous experience ranges from redesigning existing website to solving complex technical problems with object-oriented programming. Very experienced with Microsoft SQL Server, PHP and advanced JavaScript. He loves to travel and watch movies.

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