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Ministers' feud rocks Mnangagwa's government

by Staff reporter
14 May 2020 at 08:08hrs | Views
WITH the unity and credibility of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's under pressure administration suffering a fresh blow this week — after his ministers were involved in an unseemly public quarrel — it seems inevitable that something will have to give soon.

This comes as Zanu PF insiders have told the Daily News that the damaging stand-off between Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo and garrulous deputy Information minister Energy Mutodi, pictured, manifests rising factionalism in the ruling party.

At the centre of the tiff is a tweet that Mutodi posted last week, which appeared to take a dig at Tanzania's handling of the coronavirus pandemic vis-à-vis Zimbabwe's.

"His Excellency John Pombe Magafuli's Tanzania now has 630 Covid-19 cases with prayers but without a lockdown, while His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa's Zimbabwe only got 31 cases with a lockdown and masks.

"An insight into how managers can be game changers," Mutodi's May 4 tweet, which subsequently obliged the Foreign Affairs minister to censure him publicly, read.

But the free-spirited Mutodi was not done, firing off an angry letter to Moyo yesterday, in addition to suggesting on Twitter that the Foreign Affairs minister — who is his senior — was allegedly working with former Cabinet minister and war veterans' chairperson Christopher Mutsvangwa, in a plot that could endanger his life.

The tiff between Moyo and Mutodi is the first known case of a public brawl within the top echelons of Mnangagwa's government — a development which political analysts said yesterday was confirmation of the worsening ructions at both State and Zanu PF levels.

In addition, the analysts also warned that Mnangagwa and his government risked being paralysed by the deepening fissures if these ructions were not dealt with expeditiously.

Other observers warned that the latest row had similarities with the dressing down and public-haranguing of both senior Zanu PF and government officials during the late former president Robert Mugabe's last few years in power — which presented "many challenges" for Mnangagwa.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, was among those who said that the spat between Mutodi and Moyo revealed escalating factionalism in Zanu PF and the government.

He also implored Mnangagwa to nip this in the bud before it paralysed government operations, as was the case during Mugabe's last days in power.

"Factionalism never departed from Zanu PF on occasion of the November 2017 coup. It was simply suspended and very briefly.

"Factionalism is like a dormant volcano and it depends on what happens underground. Now, we are seeing the explosion of this factionalism again," Masunungure told the Daily News.

"It is reflective of the deepening fractures … and remember, these fractures begin in the ruling party and then spread to the government.

"What is clearly happening is that there is an attempt to reconfigure the factions, but the question is around whom?" he added.

"It is unusual for a deputy minister to chastise a senior minister as we are seeing. It's also worth noting that what is happening in Tanzania falls within the jurisdiction of Foreign Affairs.

"If a minister says something that smears another country, the Foreign minister is within his rights to reprimand that minister because that is diplomacy and he is the country's chief diplomat," Masunungure further said, as he backed Moyo's censure of Mutodi.

"The question now is, is the president (Mnangagwa) aware of all this? Why is he silent? Is he enjoying this?

"He should nip this in the bud because there could be others who would want to play the same game," he added

On his part, political analyst and rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said Mutodi's attack on Moyo was a sign that he was possibly "getting encouragement from powerful forces that are behind him".

"The public spat between Mutodi and SB Moyo appears to confirm major fault lines within Zanu PF.

"What remains to be seen are the identities of the key players in the different factions and the related political clout of each.

"Mutodi is too junior a minister to write such a letter to SB Moyo and we may be up for an intriguing battle that will pit the military against civilians," Mavhinga told the Daily News.

All this comes after Mutodi shook Zanu PF and the government last week when he went on Twitter to heap Mnangagwa with praise over his tackling of Covid-19, while appearing to mock Magufuli over his handling of the same in Tanzania.

This apparently did not go down well with the Tanzanian government, which took umbrage at Mutodi's characterisation of Magufuli — forcing Moyo to disown the maverick deputy minister's comments.

However, and staggeringly, Mutodi has gone on to accuse Moyo in his letter of yesterday, of acting like a prime minister — further inflaming the issue within both Zanu PF and the government.

"With due respect to your highly regarded office, I wish to remind you that our two ministries operate on a divergent yet complementary role, with your Foreign Affairs ministry outward looking while my Information ministry is inward.

"While my ministry is worried about the public perception on the national leadership, its image, electability and the public approval ratings of the president, your ministry focuses on foreign co-operation and diplomatic engagement, otherwise our two ministries should have been merged if they served the same purpose.

"Your public statement, which could have been sufficiently dealt with by a diplomatic correspondence to the Tanzanian embassy, if it mattered, has divided public opinion, first on the definition and meaning of government and whether you had become its Prime Minister in charge of the two ministries," Mutodi let rip at Moyo in his rejoinder, a copy of which is in the possession of the Daily News.

Mutodi further went back to Twitter yesterday, to suggest that Moyo was working with Mutsvangwa in a plot to endanger his life.

"Living in fear of the Chris Mutsvangwa-SB Moyo coalition. I hope it won't resort to wartime tactics. Appealing for prayers," he defiantly said in his tweet.

Moyo — who was fondly referred to as "General Bae" when he announced the 2017 military putsch that dethroned the late former president Robert Mugabe from power, and which was widely celebrated by many Zimbabweans — was not available for comment yesterday.

On his part, Mutsvangwa dismissed Mutodi's claims as "rank madness".
"The conduct is rank madness running amok on a Zimbabwe Cabinet platform. As for the aspersions, they do not deserve the dignity of a comment," Mutsvangwa told the Daily News.

Zanu PF was split right through the middle towards the end of Mugabe's era, with Mnangagwa's supporters involved in a hammer and tongs tussle with the vanquished Generation 40 (G40) faction over the ruling party's then unresolved succession issue.

Then, Mugabe had studiously refused to appoint a successor, with the matter only being resolved by the dramatic coup, which ended his ruinous 37 years in power.

Source - Daily News - newsday

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