Emmerson Mnangagwa ‘poisoning’ opens can of worms

THE reports that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was poisoned through ice cream supplied by President Robert Mugabe’s Gushungo Dairies have opened a can of worms in Masvingo province, where top Zanu-PF officials have accused Tourism minister Walter Mzembi of “falsely” implicating them in a desperate bid to curry favour with the ageing Zanu-PF leader.

Mzembi now stands accused of fronting a smear campaign against Zanu-PF leading figures in the politically volatile province and setting them up against Mugabe.

This came as Zanu-PF youths in Midlands province yesterday insisted that Mnangagwa was poisoned, contrary to the party’s position that he had reacted to stale food. Mnangagwa suffered severe diarrhoea and vomiting before he was airlifted to South Africa after reportedly ingesting food laced with poison at a youth interface rally addressed by Mugabe in Gwanda two weeks ago.

supposedly “intelligence report” told Mugabe that the First Family’s Gushungo Dairies had been fingered in the alleged Mnangagwa assassination bid.

The report alleged there was a sinister agenda against Gushungo Dairies being pushed by Mnangagwa’s top allies – Psychomotor Activities minister Josaya Hungwe, Zanu-PF deputy secretary for administration July Moyo, Zanu-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke, Masvingo provincial chairman Ezra Chadzamira, former Cabinet minister Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana and axed Zanu-PF secretary for youth affairs Pupurai Togarepi – as the chief culprits in the anti-Mugabe campaign.

But Matuke and Mangwana yesterday accused Mzembi of “playing to the gallery” as part of his plan to “re-integrate” himself into Zanu-PF after his failed international sojourn to land the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary-general post.

“Mzembi wants to get the President angry with the leadership in Masvingo. He is setting us up by trying to impress the President with pure fabrications. Mzembi attended Cde Mahofa’s funeral and actually donated $500 towards expenses. I did not hear anyone talk about Gushungo Holdings or ice cream. It’s a lie,” Matuke said.

“We are all fighting to unite our people and the province ahead of the elections, but he has negative intentions purely because he had abandoned his constituency in the last four years while concentrating on his failed UNWTO bid. He should instead come and join us to work for the party. The President should not listen to empty vessels.”

Mangwana threatened to sue Mzembi.

“If I find out that what is being said came from him, then he is exposing himself to possible litigation because those are pure lies. It’s opportunistic for anyone to try and set up the President against people who continue to work hard for Zanu-PF. Mzembi wants to create an impression in the mind of the President that the leadership in Masvingo is working against him,” Mangwana told NewsDay yesterday.

But, contacted for comment, Mzembi curtly said: “No comment.”

For decades, Zanu-PF Masvingo province has become a hot-bed of factional fights and the bitter internal power struggle in the ruling party has worsened the situation.

Matuke, Mangwana, Chadzamira and Hungwe are reportedly key Mnangagwa allies, while Mzembi represents another faction known as G40 opposed to the VP’s bid to succeed Mugabe.

Mzembi was reportedly behind Mugabe’s bid to quell tensions last year with a meeting in Chiredzi and State House failing to resolve differences.

“We know it’s all about the fight to take up the position left by Mahofa. Mzembi either wants to influence President Mugabe’s decision on who takes over or may as well be appointed himself,” NewsDay heard from another leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Matuke said the issue around Zanu-PF provincial commissar Jeppy Jaboon “speaks to Jaboon’s relationship with the late Mahofa and the youth league in the province”.

Yesterday, contrary to the party’s position that he ate stale food, Zanu-PF youths in Midlands province insisted that Mnangagwa was poisoned.

Speaking during an inter-district meeting in Gweru addressed by party youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga, the ruling party youths dismissed claims that their Midlands godfather fell ill after consuming stale food.

The youths occasionally disrupted proceedings as they sang and chanted slogans against party members allegedly bent on poisoning others.

National youth commissar Innocent Hamandishe had a torrid time trying to persuade the youths to chant official party slogans, but the youths remained defiant claiming Mnangagwa was poisoned by his G40 rivals.

Midlands youth chairperson Prosper Machando, provincial vice-chair Godwin Shiri as well as some top officials aligned to Mnangagwa, such as Gokwe-Kana MP Owen Ncube and provincial spokesperson Cornelius Mpereri, also chanted the “down with poison” slogan much to the delight of the youths. A top Mnangagwa ally, July Moyo, chose to be diplomatic and chanted “down with unscrupulous people” although the youths had demanded the “poison” slogan.

The meeting was in preparation for Mugabe’s next youth interface rally, whose date has not yet been announced.