Special Report: ZANU PF Mashonaland Central leadership wrangle under the microscope

By Own Correspondent

On  October 15 2019,we carried a teaser headlined “ZANU PF Mashonaland central leadership under fire”.

In that article, it was observed that ZANU PF Provincial members were up in arms with current Provincial Chairman, Kazembe Kazembe, who they labelled as imposed and inept, following a stream of allegations inclusive of failure to convene regular Provincial Co-ordinating Committee (PCC) and Provincial Executive Council (PEC)Meetings, failure to mobilise attendees to Presidential gatherings, perceived pomposity, disrespect for Party structures, and absence from his Constituency since he was appointed to Cabinet.

Zim Morning Post dispatched a team to Mashonaland Central Province, to investigate the growing tensions within ZANU PF, and found a party riven by factional bickering, underhand gamesmanship and power struggles, portending highly divisive Provincial, District Co-ordinating Committee (DCC) elections to be held soon.

During the excursion, Zim Morning Post unravelled the dynamics pertaining to the ongoing massive and wholesale restructuring of ZANU PF in the Province, particularly regarding the attractive Provincial Chairmanship post, currently occupied by Kazembe, but projected to be hotly contested.

By his own admission, Kazembe has publicly declared that he will contest for the post in the forthcoming elections, and reportedly threatened physical harm to anyone who dared contest him. Whether said in jest or seriousness, that fully captured his ambition.

Kazembe enjoys the advantage of incumbency, and is known to be using every ZANU PF gathering in the Province to market himself for re-election. It is his argument that such re-election will promote continuity and cement the Lacoste element in the Province.

Noteworthy, Kazembe played a pivotal role leading to the toppling of the Mugabe regime and was a constant thorn in the flesh for then Provincial godfather, Saviour Kasukuwere, and then Provincial Chairman, Itai Dickson Mafios. That role marked Kazembe as a champion of change and renewal in the Party. To date, Kazembe milks capital from his efforts at that time.

More tellingly, Kazembe enjoys the active support of senior Politburo members in the Province, except for Kenneth Musanhi. As such, Kazembe has often used his close working relationship with the new provincial supremo, Perrence Shiri to bat away any challenges to his chairmanship ambitions. ZANU PF grassroots members alleged that Kazembe was always quick to warn any rivals that his Provincial godfather, Shiri will simply annoint him into office, should anyone seek to topple him.

Since the 2018 elections, Kazembe has been touting the fact that under his Provincial leadership, ZANU PF won all the eighteen constituencies in the Province. He ,thus, views himself as a “super chairman”.

Significantly, Kazembe has been reported to claim that his affiliation with Shiri means he has the blessings of the military, which at the moment is a significant power broker in ZANU PF. Sources close to Kazembe also revealed that as Provincial Chairman, Kazembe enjoyed fortnightly briefings from the CIO which gave him an advantage in the run up to the Provincial elections. His personal, cordial relationship with the head of CIO in the province, one Peter Kundiona is well-known. During our visit to the Province, a number of ZANU PF members noted that Kazembe depends too much on his military and intelligence friends to pose any genuine leadership.

However, since his appointment as Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services, Kazembe has generally been too busy and has had to neglect his provincial responsibilities. Senior ZANU PF functionaries observed that there has been widespread disgruntlement arising from Kazembe’s inability to call for regular PCC and PEC meetings. resultantly, very few Party stalwarts are able to account for the state of the party in the Province. Similarly, the grassroots feel alienated and that has become an albatross around Kazembe’s neck. Kazembe is viewed as haughty and pompous, often ignoring the grassroots and protocol to pursue and protect his narrow political ambitions.

Increasingly, those plotting against him point out that while Kazembe may have led the lacoste push during the upheavals, he does not represent the desired future leadership of the Party.

Increasingly,  Kazembe’s rivals have latched on to his perceived “weakness”, that he is an alien. Fact is, Kazembe is of Malawian extraction and the product of agrarian, migrant labour. Lately, his nemesis have been harping on the “chinhu chedu” mantra, which calls for only those who originate from the Province to take up leadership positions in the Party. Dangerously for Kazembe, our investigations revealed that barring imposition, this view was generally popular.

When the Zim Morning Post team visited  the Province, it came across flyers denigrating Kazembe.

According to sources, much of the push against Kazembe is coming from local war veterans, led by the militant Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) Provincial supremo, Sam Parirenyatwa. Like Kazembe, Parirenyatwa was pivotal in driving the anti-Mugabe moves in the province, and feels that  it is time that he be rewarded with the Party provincial post.

Like his ZNLWVA colleagues, Parirenyatwa is reportedly banking on ZANU PF resolution that seeks to ensure that some senior Party positions are reserved for war veterans. Observers noted that Parirenyatwa is using this caveat as basis for his latest political ambitions. Given the vibrancy and militancy of the ZNLWVA, Parirenyatwa has found allies that are championing his cause, with the expectation that if he lands the provincial post, those allies would reap political and economic benefits.

Parirenyatwa is alleged to be one of those championing the “chinhu chedu” mantra and has registered dislike for Kazembe. Notably, both politicians are based in Mazowe District, and their competing political interests have potential to split the Party in that district, with provincial ramifications as well.

Despite the foregoing, Parirenyatwa is viewed in ZANU PF circles as lacking gravitas to lead the Party in the new dispensation, given his limited grasp of economic issues. While he is a formidable mobiliser and speaker, his limited education means that his interpretation of economic trends is weak.

Sources within ZNLWVA also pointed out that Parirenyatwa was likely to face resistance from a war veterans clique that is siding with Kanhanga of Guruve,  the current ZANU PF Provincial Vice Chairman, who reportedly enjoys grassroots appeal. this has potential to split the war veterans’ lobby for posts.

During our stop over in Mt Darwin, youths were excited at the mention of Godfrey Tsenengamu, who is currently ZANU PF National Youth Secretary for the Commisariat. Tsenengamu is former Provincial Youth Chairman, and was unceremoniusly booted out by Mafios, allegedly at the behest of Kasukuwere. According to some youths, Tsenengamu played a key role in the ouster of Mugabe, is an eloquent speaker who thrives in rabble-rousing and youth mobilisation.

However, more seasoned ZANU PF members claimed that Tsenengamu would lose if he vied for the Provincial chairmanship, on account of his chequered past. They noted that Tsenengamu had flirted with every faction in the Party and has often been hired as a battering ram, if need be. According to Provincial executives privy to his chameleonic tendencies, Tsenengamu was at one time an ally of Kasukuwere, but turned against him. He was also a willing tool for Mugabe but turned against him. The same sources alleged that Tsenengamu had previously received financial support from Nicholas Goche while publicly attacking the latter.

It is public record that Tsenengamu briefly resigned from ZANU PF and flirted with Themba Mliswa’s YARD, and actively introduced ZIPP to the Province. According to sources, ZANU PF in the Province has a long memory, thus such behaviour will not easily be forgiven and forgotten.

While the names of Kazembe, Parirenyatwa and Tsenengamu were being bandied about during our interviews, a visit to Mazowe revealed a more clandestine angle to the race. Enter Sydney Chidamba, who is a ZANU PF Central Committee member based in Mazowe. Chidamba formerly deputised Mafios but was kicked out for undermining Kasukuwere’s political ambitions. According to sources close to Chidamba, he has been plotting a path back to the helm of the party in the Province, allegedly supported by Goche. Apparently, Chidamba and Goche are related via marriage into the Gwindi family.

Having been Minister of State Security in the past, Goche is generally perceived in the Province as a strategist who, even outside ZANU PF mainstream politics, continues to influence discourse within the Party in the Province, through proxies who previously benefitted from his generosity and patronage.

The same sources claimed that Chidamba, Goche and Musanhi had formed a triad against the current powers; Shiri, Kazembe and Monica Mavhunga, who is the Provincial Minister of State. Sections of ZANU PF in the Provincial Women’s League, to date, believe that Mavhunga benefitted from her close relationship with Shiri and Kazembe to land the ministerial post, for which she lacks appropriate educational background and sophistication.

As a strategy, key businesspeople in the Province, Musanhi and Goche included,have deliberately starved the Party of “donations” of fuel and food to capacitate Presidential events. Observers identified this “starvation” as a key factor leading to the poor attendance at First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa’s “Fun Day” held at Chipadze Stadium, Bindura early this October 2019. According to media reports, Mavhunga and Kazembe were roundly chastised by a fuming First Lady for the poor attendance.

Meanwhile, sources also intimated that the fallout from that Chipadze event is being felt, with Provincial Head of CIO, Kundiona being transferred, allegedly for, particularly but not exclusively, failing to forewarn the First Lady of the embarrassment.

Sources also intimated that Musanhi has vowed never to bow to any of Shiri, Mavhunga and Kazembe. Musanhi holds a substantive post in the Politburo, while Shiri does not have a specific post, thus Musanhi claims he is senior to the latter.

Ominously, Musanhi recently erected a high security wall around his residence in Bindura, ostensibly to keep out prying eyes, after surviving poisoning which he blames on his rivals.

Interestingly, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has had to postpone two visits to Mashonaland Central Province because of poor organisation. That is beside the fact that the Province is a ZANU PF stronghold and used to enjoy bumper crowds during the Mugabe era. Observers point to the poor organisational abilities and self-centredness of the Kazembe leadership which has alienated the Party rank and file, especially those who have the resources to bank-roll ZANU PF gatherings.

One very irate Women’s League member alleged that massive looting of donated fuel and food by Party executives , as well as the teethy economic challenges, were also dampening morale and Party members were choosing to stay at home than be coralled to meaningless, unproductive addresses by leaders.

A case in point, Zim Morning Post came across two different records for the same fuel allocation for one of President Mnangagwa’s aborted events, indicating looting of fuel and falsification of records. After calling some of the listed numbers, it was established that some of the vehicles that were allocated fuel were actually broken down at the time, and some of the drivers listed did not receive any fuel. according to sources, the ZANU PF Administrator for that specific area refused to sign the falsified records.While factionalism continues to bite at the ZANU PF fabric in the Province, things are projected to get worse ahead of the elections to choose a new provincial executive and DCC. apparently, a whisper campaign dubbed “Zimbabwe needs a Saviour” is gaining some traction in the Province. That whisper is a subtle nod to the sceptre of Saviour Kasukuwere and the G40 element, which refuses to die.

Recent DCC elections in Harare Province, where numerous pro-G40 elements were elected into office mean only one thing……The ZANU PF saga continues.