Deposed Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has told the Daily News that President Robert Mugabe led an unprovoked attack on him in the party’s Politburo meeting last Thursday, accusing him of masterminding moves to topple him.
The paper quoted Gumbo as saying, “We were accused of attempting to overthrow the president and it was the president himself who led the charges. He says ‘we have done wrong and should leave the party’, but this is just a smear campaign to eliminate people who are standing by the vice president.”
The veteran politician was suspended for five years at the alleged instigation of President Mugabe (90), who has led the country since independence from British rule in 1980.
Gumbo told the newspaper that it was difficult for his peers to defend him, especially when he was accused of plotting to overthrow the president.
He said, “The issue was discussed in the context of the votes of no confidence that have been passed on some provincial chairpersons and I was contributing to the debate saying we should all unite as a party and this is when the president made the accusations that shocked everyone.”
The Daily News claims that the dramatic fallout between the two was engineered by an intelligence sting recording in which the veteran politician is allegedly heard saying Mr. Mugabe would be removed from power if he did not stop the vicious attacks on embattled Vice President Joice Mujuru.
Gumbo was quoted by the paper saying, “The president said ‘unoda kundidzinga’ (you want to get rid of me), and no one was prepared to leap to my defence. But don’t worry about that, it is nothing.”
Gumbo was not responding to calls made on his mobile phone Sunday amid reports that the police may soon move in to arrest him and Mrs. Mujuru on allegations of trying to topple the president.
There are also indications that the police may be ordered by the National Prosecuting Authority to investigate claims that Mrs. Mujuru allegedly abused investment funds obtained from her Asian business partners.
According to the state-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper, the state may move in to investigate the allegations leveled against the vice president if a complaint is filed by the vice president’s former business associates.
The newspaper cited a voice recording and reported comments as evidence of the alleged plot by Mrs. Mujuru and her allies in attempting to overthrow President Mugabe without attributing the information to any source.
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba and Mrs. Mujuru were not immediately available for comment.
The friction within the ruling Zanu PF party is stemming from what insiders say is a fight to fill the two vice presidential posts at the party’s elective congress next month.
Vice President Mujuru currently holds one of the posts and the other was left vacant following the death of Vice President John Landa Nkomo.
Mrs. Mujuru is believed to be fighting to keep her post but with the entrance of Mr. Mugabe’s wife, Grace, into the political limelight and her calls for the vice president to step down, her grip onto the seat appears to be diminishing each day as her supporters are allegedly being pruned from the party structures ahead of the congress.
Mrs. Mugabe alleged at her recent nationwide ‘Meet the People Tour’ that the vice president should step down as she corrupt. Mrs. Mujuru has not yet responded to these allegations.
Her suspected allies, including controversial war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, have been dumped or suspended on allegations that they are promoting factionalism in the party.
Mrs. Mujuru’s alleged bitter rival, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, is said to be fortifying her moves to occupy one of the two vice presidential seats through the disposition of party structures seen to be aligned to her.
The vice president and Mnangagwa are believed to be habouring presidential ambitions. They have over the years denied these allegations saying they do not even lead Zanu PF factions.
The two are noted frontrunners to succeed President Mugabe, who appears to be now turning to his wife for political advice as he inches towards his last years in office.