Police in Mutare had to be called in Friday to break up fights between Zanu PF youths from Harare and Manicaland provinces who exchanged blows ahead of First Lady Grace Mugabe’s “Meet the People Tour” at Sakubva Stadium.
Overwhelmed police officers had to call in the Dog Section for reinforcements but no arrests were made. Mrs. Mugabe said she was disappointed by the fighting and begged for unity in the ruling party.
The public fight apparently pitted youths from Harare and those from Manicaland province. The group from Harare wanted to control the sitting arrangements at the rally while the local youths felt it was their role.
The fight left the Zanu PF Manicaland provincial leadership with egg on their faces as they failed to control the youths who exchanged blows. The police, who intervened only managed to separate the warring youths briefly, before they were at back at each other’s throats.
Only the police’s Dog Section was able restore order.
Some say the differences are rooted in factional fighting as two camps, allegedly aligned to Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa and Vice President Joice Mujuru positioning themselves to succeed President Mugabe.
Manicaland leaders like Zanu PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, are sympathetic to Mrs. Mujuru while others like Monica Mutsvangwa are linked to Mnangagwa.
Police spokesperson for Manicaland province inspector Enock Chishiri refused to comment on the incident, insisting it was a non-event.
Chishiri could only confirm that no arrests had been made following the fracas.
Zanu PF Manicaland youth secretary for administration, Sheila Mutsenhu, said she was dismayed by some in her party who she accused of sowing seeds of disunity, disharmony and divisions.
She said this is much to the detriment of the party, adding that the youths are fully behind Mrs. Mugabe.
“As Manicaland province youth we are fully behind Amai (Mrs.)Mugabe and we will be backing her at the December congress. But we are unhappy about people who are moving around with her that are causing fissures in the party. We have to remain united and to amai we want her as youths,” she said.
Mrs. Mugabe said the moment she set her foot in Sakubva Stadium, she could feel there was animosity and divisions within the people. She called for unity of purpose among party members.
“It is nice to advice others where they go wrong. I have realised that factionalism is at play here. I have witnessed it here. It is a family dispute and we need to work on it as it destroys the family,” she said.
Without naming anyone, the first lady said some leaders in the province regarded themselves as demi-gods, adding she will do all she can to bring factionalism to an end.
“People fanning factionalism could be doing it out of ignorance as they need guidance. Such people think they know it all owing to their actualisation. Do you not hear me when I say let’s end factionalism.”
Mrs. Mugabe said she had also realized that ever since she came onto the political scene, some senior Zanu PF officials were trying to endear themselves with her and use her for to feather their political nests.
“In the short space of time, I have realised that if I am not careful some people are out to use me. I have seen that there are people who have scores to settle and they want to use me, but please don’t use me to settle those scores.”
Oppah Muchinguri, the outgoing Zanu PF Women’s League secretary, also bemoaned the growing rift between party members over the succession issue, warning it was unhealthy for the party.
She said corruption was also a major concern within the party, in addition to the factional fighting.
“When the president hands over goods to leaders to give to the people, some have chosen to give such things to their close friends and cronies; that is factionalism at play, people have not benefitted from maize grain food hand outs and fertilisers as factions chose who to give. That is not permissible, it should end,” said Muchinguri.
At least 5,000 people braved the mid-morning heat in Sakubva Stadium to listen to Mrs. Mugabe who is on a whirlwind tour of the country’s provinces ahead of the party elective congress in December where she is expected to be endorsed as the party’s next Women’s League boss.
Some Zanu PF officials including Ministers Jonathan Moyo, Local Government Ignatius Chombo, Agriculture Minister Joseph Made, Samuel Undenge and Supa Mandiwanzira, attended the Sakubva rally.